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Cooper could begin contact drills next week

There was not a lot of big news that campe out of Canes camp Monday despite the fact it was the first day players were wearing full pads and hitting each other. But here are some notes and thoughts:

Graig Cooper > Running back Graig Cooper, who continues to recover from an anterior cruciate ligament tear in his right knee sustained in the Champs Sports Bowl on Dec. 27, could begin actually hitting somebody -- instead of practicing off to the side -- as soon as next week according to coach Randy Shannon.

"We're easing him into more drill work," Shannon said. "Now he's starting to bang a little bit on the sleds. We hit him with the dummies just to get the contact. As time goes on you expect him to do a little bit of contact drills next week, maybe some inside run stuff, some 7-on-7, not the team stuff because that can take a toll on you."

Cooper guaranteed on media day last week he would play in all 14 of UM's games this season. Yes, he's already counting the ACC Title game into the schedule. 

> Everybody knows UM's offensive line is going to be relatively young and inexperienced this season. The good news is Shannon doesn't appear to be taking things lightly preparing them for the season. He said defensively they are giving the offensive line a lot of different looks in terms of formations and fronts. "It's going to take time," Shannon said of the offensive line gelling. "We have three scrimmages to go. It's good we're making our mistakes now."

I asked Shannon if he planned to try and rotate more young guys in this season considering how much experience they lack. All he said was he would start his best five.

> Our Susan Miller Degnan asked Shannon point blank if receiver Thearon Collier was still on the team since he had yet to formally address it with the media since camp opened. Shannon balked at the question and simply said, "Nothing is going on with him."

I'm not sure why Shannon simply hasn't said Collier is no longer on the team. Today, he finally announced that the careers of offensive lineman Stephen Plein and defensive end Gavin Hardin are over.

> Freshman linebacker Kevin Nelson did a lot of talking before he got to UM about how he expected to come in and not only be the starting middle linebacker, but also be well on how on his way to ACC Freshman of the Year honors. Looks like Shannon made him eat a slice of humble pie upon arrival. Nelson was much more subdued when I spoke to him Saturday. 

"The first couple days have been a big transition from high school," Nelson said. "I'm just trying to get the pace of the game, practice speed. The coaches are much different than high school. Coaches in high school baby you because you're the star. But in college, everybody is good. So they're looking to get a man out of you."

Nelson said Shannon and assistant Micheal Barrow have been tough on him from the get-go, pushing him hard to be his best. As for his expectations? "I'm just doing whatever coach Shannon, coach Barrow, coach Lovett asks me to do," Nelson said. "If it's playing special teams, if it's playing second team, getting in there with first team, I just want to do what I got to do."

> I stopped by Miramar High's football practice after the Canes' morning practice today. The defending 6A state champions lost 18 starters from last year's 14-1 team. But man do they still have talent. Cornerback Tracey Howard (Class of 2012) is a beast. He's already got a verbal offer from the Canes and should land a written one on Sept. 1, the first day juniors can actually receive formal offers.

> More video from Monday below. But before you listen to Shannon's meeting with the media and my one-on-one with Olivier Vernon, check out former tight end Jimmy Graham making a great one-handed catch in practice with the Saints. Basketball coach Frank Haith tweeted the link Monday afternoon.