June 01, 2009

Haith named assistant for USA Basketball

Even before the Canes basketball season was over, we kept hearing rumors Frank Haith was going to go coach somewhere else. Monday, those rumors finally became a reality when Haith was named an assistant for the U.S. Basketball team at the World University Games in Serbia next month.

The games are held July 2-12 in Belgrade, Serbia. The head coach is Bo Ryan of Wisconsin. Wisconsin-Milwaukee coach Rob Jeter is also an assistant.

That's a pretty nice honor for Haith, who has led UM to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and NIT Tournament the past two seasons.

> Speaking of UM coaches, Jim Morris will be made available Tuesday morning to talk about the season and what's next for his program after their season ended Sunday night with a loss to the Gators in the regionals.

It's hard to blame Morris or his players for what happened this season. They lost six studs from the 2008 team then lost Eric Erickson before the year even began. This team simply never had the bats in the lineup to survive.

I'd be interested to see which juniors will decide to return. Other than closer Kyle Bellamy, I can't imagine any of the Canes' upper classmen are going to be draft worthy. Shortstop Ryan Jackson had a terrible season with his bat. First baseman Jason Hagerty could probably improve his stock considerably with a stellar senior season. For a change, it would be good to see this program actually keep some talent instead of losing it to the draft.

Think Adan Severino could have helped the Canes and himself this year? He got drafted in the 26th round by the Twins and is hitting .203 for the Beloit Snappers of the Midwest League.

May 24, 2009

Regional sites released: UM will be on the road

DURHAM, N.C. -- As expected, the University of Miami baseball team will not be hosting a regional next week. The NCAA just announced the 16 host sites and the ACC got four, but Miami is not among them.

The 16 sites: Arizona State, UC-Irvine, Cal St. Fullerton, Clemson, East Carolina, Florida, FSU, Georgia Tech, LSU, Louisville, Mississippi, UNC, Oklahoma, Rice, Texas and TCU. Most suspect UM will be going to Gainesville next weekend. The complete field will be revealed Monday at 12:30 p.m.

May 22, 2009

BC blows out UM 10-1

DURHAM, N.C. -- Here's today's live blog from the University of Miami's final game at The ACC Tournament against Boston College Friday at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

> UM starter Iden Nazario didn't get to stick around very long for the Canes. He's out after just 1 2/3 innings. He gave up four earned on three hits with three walks and three strikeouts. David Gutierrez replaced him.

> Another great start for the Canes on offense. The first six hitters get retired in order a day after they were able to get just one hit off FSU starter Brian Busch through five innings and two days after Georgia Tech pitcher Deck McGuire no-hit UM for 5 1/3 innings. The Canes enter today's game hitting a tournament worst .206 (13 for 63 in the series).

> At least today's stadium sound guy is keeping this entertaining. He's playing TV show tunes and has already thrown out the tunes from Night Court, Melrose Place, Dallas, Everybody Loves Raymond and The Jefferson's.

> If there's one thing UM might have gotten out of this tournament its having David Gutierrez recapture some of his confidence. He picked up the win against Georgia Tech Wednesday with three solid innings of relief. He's done a good job again so far today. That could loom large in the regionals next week. I'll have to ask Morris if he might consider moving Gutierrez back into the rotation.

> Ted Blackman picks up UM's first hit with a one-out single to center in the third. UM can't do anything with it. By the way, I never realized how dumb the lyrics to the Who's The Boss intro really was until now.

> By the way, being Cuban-American I had a hearty laugh at this internet commercial filmed here in North Carolina. I found it appropriate to share. By the way, the guys who filmed this commercial are the same ones who created the Red House commercial Dan LeBatard was playing last week on his show on 790 The Ticket.

> Another 1-2-3 inning for David Gutierrez in the fourth.

> Canes blow another golden opportunity to get on the board with a run. With runners on first and third, Harold Martinez can't come through with the clutch hit. Instead, he swings and misses at strike three. BC starter Pat Dean has looked like Randy Johnson today. Dean is BC's No. 3 starter. He came in with a 5-4 record and 3.54 ERA.

> It's only fitting we'd hear the sappy theme from Hill Street Blues as UM finds itself in a nasty situation here in the fifth with the bases loaded and nobody out. John Housey replaced Gutierrez, gave up a hit and walked three -- including BC's fifth run -- before leaving. Sam Robinson will now try to save the Canes' behind.

> Maybe Jim Morris can bring in Jacory Harris next. Canes trail 7-0 here in the fifth and could use one of those Harris touchdown passes to Laron Byrd or Aldarius Johnson to get back in the game. Speaking of the football Canes, did you see Bruce Feldman's interview with Randy Shannon earlier this week?

> Another first and third situation produces zilch for the Canes when Ryan Jackson grounds out weakly to the mound to end the fifth.

> Looks like Morris has thrown in the towel. He's made a few defensive substitutions here in the seventh to give some of his bench players some work. I'm throwing in the towel too.

> Scott Lawson saves UM the embarrassment of being mercy-ruled when he singled home Dave DiNatale, who started the inning with a double, with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.

Canes haven't given up hope on hosting

DURHAM, N.C. -- Experts say there is no probably no way Miami, Florida and Florida State will all get to host regionals next week. They say there is no way the NCAA would award three of the available 16 host sites to teams from the same state, not when the sport is making an effort to make teams from the north feel like they have a fairer shot at getting to Omaha.

But that hasn't stopped UM coach Jim Morris from keeping the dream alive -- even after his team was eliminated from the ACC Tournament by FSU on Thursday. Morris believes Friday's game against Boston College still matters for that reason.

If you overlook the current rankings (Baseball America has UM 23rd) and pay attention to UM's body of work, Morris has a strong case. His team swept the Gators in Gainesville earlier this year, split the season meetings with the Noles, and finished finished fifth in the toughest conference in the country (but not by much).

Unlike college basketball, there is no official RPI or Joe Lunardi around to provide us with serious insight as to what the selection committee will likely do when it announces its field Monday at 12:30 p.m. on ESPN. But, Morris and most college baseball coaches believe the pseudo-RPI system used BoydsWorld.com is extremely accurate. Even after Thursday's loss to the Noles, BoydsWorld has Miami ranked 8th in the country. That's good enough to not only host Regionals, but Super Regionals too.

MORRIS, MARTIN LIKE ACC TOURNAMENT FORMAT

You may not like the fact that the Seminoles have already locked up a bid to Sunday's ACC Title game after just two games. But Morris and FSU coach Mike Martin have no problem with it or the format of the ACC Tournament, which splits its top eight teams into divisions and let's them play three games in a round robin format before the top two teams advance to a championship.

Both coaches say its the best way for their teams to compete for a title and save their pitching for the tournament that really matters -- the one that ends in Omaha.

“I like the format and I’d have a very hard time voting for something else,” Martin said. “I remember a while back when Georgia Tech had to play three games in one day in Winston Salem. That really put them behind the eight-ball next week [in regionals] and for what they really started playing for in August. This is the only way I think is best for the schools that are trying to get to Omaha.”

Morris agrees. "Whether you like this scenario or don’t like this scenario, it’s the best scenario in my opinion because it prepares you for the NCAA Tournament," Morris said. "It determines the true champion of the ACC with two brackets. I think it’s the best scenario even though people can argue the double elimination. But if you do it that way you blow out your pitching staff. Every team that goes to the NCAA Tournament is going to have three of their pitchers get a start and at the same time you are getting a champion that’s going to be in a one game playoff. This is not for the national championship, its for the ACC Tournament, which is big after we won it last year. But the bottomline is you have to get ready for the next tournament."

May 21, 2009

Canes blow golden chance in 7th, Noles win 4-2

DURHAM, N.C. -- Unfortunately, today's ACC Tournament game between the Canes and Seminoles isn't available locally on TV. But WQAM does have the radio broadcast. I will be here to provide thoughts and highlights at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

FSU scored four runs in the first off UM starter Chris Hernandez > UM gambled Wednesday by saving ace Chris Hernandez for the Noles and throwing their bullpen at Georgia Tech. It paid off Wednesday with a 8-6 win against Georgia Tech. We'll have to see if the second part of the gamble pays off today. FSU got to Hernandez early in his last start.  

> Six pitches in and FSU is up 2-0. After Tyler Holt smacked the second pitch he saw from Hernandez for a single to right center, Stephen Cardullo drilled Hernandez's third pitch of the game for a double off the Big Blue Monster for a run scoring double. Three pitches later, Mike McGee hit nearly the same exact spot for another run scoring double.

> FSU's Tommy Oravetz drills a 1-0 pitch into the empty seats in right field to make it 4-0 Noles in the top of the first. Think the Noles are sending a message?

> Turned out to be a far less stressful inning for FSU starter Brian Busch. He retired the Canes in order and threw less than 10 pitches.

> Much better second inning for Hernandez, who retired the 8, 9, 1 part of FSU's lineup in order.

> Chris Herrmann's one-out double in the second turned out to be meaningless. He was stranded at second when Brian Busch got Harold Martinez to line out hard to left and Dave DiNatale to groundout to short to end the inning. At least UM isn't being no-hit. Yesterday against GT, they waited until the sixth to get a hit on ACC PItcher of the Year Deck McGuire. Back in April, they waited until the sixth to get a hit on Busch.

> Hernandez's second trip down the FSU order is going much better. He's retired six in a row since his rocky first inning.

> UM had the man they wanted at the plate with two outs in the third and runners on first and second base. But Jason Hagerty just couldn't come through. He came up a few feet short of wall in center field. UM still trails 4-0 after three.

> Got to give Chris Hernandez props for getting out of major trouble in the fourth. He walked the leadoff man then had Oravitz reach when the ball squirted out of shorstop Ryan Jackson's glove on a tailor made double play. But Hernandez battled back -- even after the Noles pulled off a double steal -- to strike out the next three hitters.

> UM is starting to hit the ball hard of Busch. They just don't much to show for it. Yasmani Grandal, who reached on a hard single to right, finally put UM on the board when he came in to score on Harold Martinez's line drive sacrifice fly to deep left. But FSU still leads 4-1 after four innings.

> Chris Hernandez's pitch count after five innings is around 90. UM is probably going to get just one more inning out of him before the bullpen is going to have to come in and try to keep this close.

>  That's two errors now in this game for Ryan Jackson. He had seven all season. Maybe he can make up for it by bringing his bat to life here late in the game.

> Ryan Jackson just missed on a home run and ended up getting thrown out at second. Yasmani Grandal, however, didn't miss on his big swing. His solo blast off the porch of a condo behind the wall in left field has trimmed FSU's lead to 4-2 after six. It was Grandal's 16th blast of the season.

> Chris Hernandez's day is over after six innings. Michael Rudman has replaced him in the seventh. Hernandez gave up four earned and five hits, but kept Miami in the game after that horrid first inning.

> Tough break for the Canes in the seventh. They load the bases on walks and bring Ryan Jackson, who is due a break, to the plate. But he never gets a chance to swing. A ball gets away from FSU catcher Rafael Lopez, but not far enough to allow Dave DiNatale to score from third. Instead, DiNatale gets rung up by home plate umpire Randy Harvey when relief pitcher Geoff Parker applied the tag a moment before he reached the base.

Canes must beat FSU AND BC to play Sunday

DURHAM, N.C. - Even if UM beats top-seeded Florida State later this afternoon, the Canes will still have work to do in the ACC Tournament if they hope to reach Sunday's championship game. That's because Boston College just added another road block to UM's path when it beat Georgia Tech 7-3 this afternoon.

FSU second baseman Jason Stidham hit a two-run home run off UM starter Chris Hernandez earlier this year. By virtue of that win, Miami, seeded fifth, must now beat the Eagles (32-24) Friday at noon or they'll be eliminated from title contention. If BC (1-1) were to beat Miami (1-0) and FSU (1-0) were to beat Georgia Tech Saturday, it would create a three-way tie between the teams, one that would favor the Noles because they are the top-seeded team in Division A. Even if FSU were to lose to the Yellow Jackets, it still wouldn't help UM. BC would own the first tiebreaker -- head-to-head -- and advance to Sunday's title game in front of Miami.

I know it all could become moot if UM loses to FSU in a couple hours anyway. But at least now you know that even if UM wins today, they still have to win Friday to play on Sunday.

As for their matchup with the Noles...

> Just because the Seminoles are going with No. 2 starter Brian Busch this afternoon, don't mistake it for being a much easier situation for UM than had Sean Gilmartin been scheduled to pitch. Busch pitched five hitless innings against UM in his previous start in Coral Gables before Jason Hagerty belted a two-run home run in the sixth inning to break it up. The big blast pushed Busch out of the game with a 4-3 lead. UM eventually came back and won the game 6-4.

But it wasn't easy. UM starter Chris Hernandez labored early and fell behind 4-1. Jason Stidham hit a two-run homer off Hernandez in the first and Stuart Tapley added a two-run double before Hernandez settled down. Hernandez would strike out 11 while scattering six hits in 6 2/3 innings to improve to 3-2. Kyle Bellamy pitched the final 2 1/3 scoreless, hit-less innings, while striking out five to earn the save.

> UM beat FSU the next day 14-8 to take 2-of-3 in the series. But FSU has been red hot since, going 23-4. They lost twice at Georgia Tech and at home to Florida and North Carolina. But that's it.

THURSDAY'S LINEUPS
> FSU (41-14): 1. CF Tyler Holt (.403), 2. SS Stephen Cardullo (.374), 3. LF Mike McGee (.365), 4. 2B Jason Stidham (.344), 5. 3B Stuart Tapley (.303), 6. DH Tommy Oravetz (.262), 7. RF Ohmed Danesh (.269), 8. 1B Jack Posey (.217), 9. C Rafael Lopez (.291). Pitching: LHP Brian Busch (5-2, 4.38 ERA, 57 Ks, 31 BBs).
> UM (36-18): 1. 2B Scott Lawson (.345), 2. SS Ryan Jackson (.263), 3. 1B Jason Hagerty (.320), 4. C Yasmani Grandal (.301), 5. LF Chris Hermann (.342), 6. 3B Harold Martinez (.286), 7. RF Dave DiNatale (.314), 8. DH Ted Blackman (.259), 9. CF Nathan Melendres (.278). Pitching: LHP Chris Hernandez (7-3, 4.31 ERA, 82 Ks, 26 BBs).

A FEW MORE NOTES...
- Courtesy of UM sports information director Rob Dunning...
> Chris Hernandez is 3-1 with a 1.97 ERA in his last five starts.
> UM is averaging 7.9 runs per game over their last 15 games. Five Hurricanes are hitting .350 or better in the last 10 ACC games. Chris Hermann is hitting .550 with five HRs, 16 runs and 18 RBI. Yasmani Grandal (.405), Scott Lawson (.357), Dave DiNatale (.350) and Jason Hagerty (.350) all have at least 14 hits over that same span. The rest of the starters are hitting over .300.
> UM's bullpen has allowed just 14 earned runs in their last 68 1/3 innings (1.96 ERA). Kyle Bellamy, Michael Rudman, Rene Guerra and Kevin Youst have allowed just one earned run between them in their last 36 innings combined. 

May 20, 2009

Morris' gamble pays off

DURHAM, N.C. -- Jim Morris has been around college baseball enough long to know it takes more than a star-studded lineup or one dominant pitcher to win in the postseason. It takes something else, too -- luck. 

Jim Morris That's exactly what UM had on its side Wednesday in its 8-6 win over Georgia Tech. You don't go 5 1/3 innings without a hit, have the opposing team load the bases twice and still find yourself only down 2-1 in the sixth inning without it. But while a lucky bounce or two can change the outcome of a game, I'm a firm believer you create some of your own luck, too.

And the honest truth is nobody at UM, no coach of any current team, is better at it than Morris. That's not a slight on Randy Shannon or Frank Haith or any of UM's other coaches. It's just the truth. Morris has two rings to prove it. 

In my opinion, he just knows how to put his athletes in situations better than anyone else to overachieve, to bounce back, and to orchestrate a little magic.

Morris knew his team needed an emotional lift if it was going to have any chance at defending its crown in this tournament and hosting a regional next week.

So, he rolled the dice against Georgia Tech when he decided to hold ace Chris Hernandez from pitching against ACC Pitcher of The Year, Deck McGuire. The idea: save his ace for Thursday's tough game against the Seminoles and let some guys earn their wings. Maybe, it might just create the fire his team needs to get going.

Somehow, Morris not only had a hunch his trio of freshmen (Travis Miller, Sam Robinson and Danny Miranda) were going to do well against the Yellow Jackets' potent offensive attack, but he knew David Gutierrez, the coldest arm on the team, was due to snap out of his funk. Together, those four pitched seven innings and got an 8-6 lead to closer Kyle Bellamy, who obviously did the rest Wednesday.

The result: Miami won and now Hernandez will pitch against FSU, which already pitched its ace Wednesday. Morris could have played his cards differently. He could have pulled the Johnny Wholestaff against Boston College or FSU. But he didn't because he knew better. And now the Canes still have a chance to really win this tournament.

“I think you could probably say we were rolling the dice,” Morris said. “But, with that said, our bullpen has been pretty good. We’ve had some injuries with our pitching staff and I knew we were going to have to piece together a game somewhere to make it happen. All our guys were fresh. They did a good job at Wake Forest in the same type situation where Miller started. I felt like it was the best opportunity for us to win in this tournament to do that and we came out very fortunate."

Canes hold on for 8-6 win over Georgia Tech

DURHAM -- Here's today's live blog from the ACC Baseball Tournament where UM is taking on Georgia Tech at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

My view from the press box > It turned out to be a long first inning for freshman Travis Miller. But he got out of it relatively unscathed. He gave up two hits and walked in a run with the bases loaded, but struckout three.

Deck McGuire struckout Ryan Jackson swinging and Jason Hagerty looking after giving up a leadoff walk to Scott Lawson in the top of the first. The Canes have yet to really hit a ball hard off McGuire, who retired UM in the second in order.

> What happened to those bats that pounded Wake Forest this past weekend? Guess it ws the pitching. UM has sent 10 batters to the plate through three innings and has yet to produce a hit, much less solid contact off ACC Pitcher of the Year Deck McGuire. GT leads 1-0 in the bottom of the third.

> Freshman day continues. Left-hander Sam Robinson comes in to pitch for UM with nobody out in the third and a runner on first. Miller gave UM two decent innings, striking out four, walking three and giving up three hits and one earned.

> The story so far has been McGuire. He hasn't given up a hit through four innings. UM, however, was able to tie the score at 1 when Jason Hagerty was able to come around and score from second on a failed double play attempt and throwing error.

> Sam Robinson's day has ended and now David Gutierrez enters with the bases loaded, one out and the meat of Georgia Tech's lineup up to bat in the fourth. Georgia Tech got three hits before Derek Dietrich walked with the bases loaded to give the Yellow Jackets a 2-1 lead.

> It almost feels like this game has been perfectly scripted for UM to steal it. UM has used three pitchers in four innings. The ACC Pitcher of the Year has a no-hitter. And the Canes trail by 1 in the top of the fifth.

> Still no hits for UM entering the sixth. But a big part of this story has become David Gutierrez. Talk about a guy who went south. Gutierrez started the season 2-0 and has gone 0-6 in his last 10 starts. Now, he's come out of the bullpen in a key situation, bases-loaded, one out, and gotten out of it easy. Then, he gets out of the fifth relatively easy. If Miami can get another two, three solid innings out of him they've got a chance to steal this game and some innings for closer Kyle Bellamy.

>  McGuire's no-hitter is finally ended in the sixth when Jason Hagerty drilled a one-out double down the right field line.

> Deck McGuire got decked. The Canes have batted around here in the top of the sixth to take a commanding 6-2 lead, forcing the ACC Pitcher of the Year out of the game after he carried a no-hitter into the inning. UM has pounded out six hits in the inning -- including four doubles. The big stroke came off the bat off Chris Hermann, who doubled opposite field off the wall in left to tie the score. 

> Georgia Tech has come back with two runs in the sixth and seventh innings to trim UM's lead to 8-6 here at the start of the eighth. Can you say Kyle Bellamy time?

> Kyle Bellamy is there to save the day again. Big pitching performance by UM's Mr. Clutch. He records the final six outs to keep UM in contention for its second straight ACC title. I'll have more later.

Hernandez to start vs. FSU

DURHAM -- If you turn on the TV at noon and can't find Chris Hernandez on the mound for the University of Miami, don't worry he's not hurt.

UM's ace has been scheduled to pitch against top-seeded Florida State Thursday at 4 p.m. According to UM sports information director Rob Dunning, coach Jim Morris has decided to give Hernandez an extra day of rest -- to keep him on pace with his usual week off between starts. Instead, Miami will send Johnny Wholestaff to the mound this afternoon against Georgia Tech (34-15-1).

The Canes will start freshman right-hander Travis Miller (2-0, 4.91) against ACC Pitcher of The Year Deck McGuire (10-0, 2.63 ERA). It's a gamble Morris hopes will pay off if UM's bats can stay hot. The Canes pounded out a boatload of runs (46) and hits (61) against Wake Forest last weekend.

The task will obviously be a lot harder against McGuire. He pitched six strong innings against UM in Coral Gables back in late March, giving up just four earned while walking four and striking out seven.

Dunning said there is a good chance if UM is still in the game in the middle innings you could see closer Kyle Bellamy come in as early as the fifth or sixth inning.

LINEUPS

> UM: 1. Scott Lawson 2B (.347), 2. SS Ryan Jackson (.265), 3. 1B Jason Hagerty (.316), 4. C Yasmani Grandal (.305), 5. LF Chris Hermann (.346), 6. 3B Harold Martinez (.288), 7. RF Dave DiNatale (.317), 8. DH Ted Blackman (.248), 9. CF Nathan Melendres (.282).

> GT: 1. CF Jeff Rowland (.357), 2. SS Derek Dietrich (.320), 3. RF Luke Murton (.376), 4. 1B Tony Plagman (.347), 5. C Jason Haniger (.323), 6. DH Chase Burnette (.384), 7. 3B Matt Skole (.303), 8. 2B Thomas Nichols (.284), 9. LF Chris House (.316).

May 14, 2009

Can the Canes get back to Omaha?

Mid May has traditionally been the time of year on the South Florida sports calendar when the UM baseball team suddenly begins to draw interest from folks that didn't really care about them except during those early season FSU or Florida series.

Kyle Bellamy and Yasmani Grandal celebrated an ACC title last year. Now, they're just hoping UM can get hot and make it back to Omaha. Right about now is when coach Jim Morris and his team begin popping up on nightly sports telecasts, and the fairweather fans who no longer have the Heat or Panthers to watch in the playoffs -- or are tired of the up-and-down struggles of the Marlins -- begin wondering how their team is doing in the old "ping league." Even UM football diehards who are glued to Canesport's football recruiting wire will lift their heads up from their computers for five minutes to ask: How many weeks until Omaha?

It's what Morris and his team has gotten us South Floridians accustomed to. They've spoiled us really. What we expect is for the most reliable team in the sports market -- the one that always has that hefty national ranking, the slew of big home run bats, and that combo of left-handers who bring the heat -- to be ready to deliver excitement for about three weeks, to have us on edge and suddenly yearning for that sound (PING!)

Sorry to break it to you casual observers, but the forecast for the pinging Canes doesn't look good. Unless the Canes turn it around big time and in a hurry, the milkshake guy at The Light has served his last Omaha Express. And fans who were hoping to watch Scott Lawson do his stanky leg dance are going to have to hope TV cameras catch it.

Earlier this week, I caught up with the Canes before they left Wednesday in must-win mode for their final regular season ACC series at Wake Forest. Miami, ranked 24th by Baseball America, has gone 8-10 over the past month. The Canes have had plenty of icky losses. North Florida beat them. Bethune-Cookman took two of three from them last weekend at The Light no less.

Players know the only way they'll get to play at home again is if they get hot and stun everyone at next week's ACC Tournament in Durham. So can they do it? And more importantly, can they get back to Omaha? Ask closer Kyle Bellamy that question and he might spit venom at you.

“Of course we can get hot,” said Bellamy who with a 3-1 record, 1.15 ERA and 14 saves has been the only consistent arm on the staff Miami has had all season. “We were No. 2 in the nation for awhile. We’re definitely capable. We just have to get that mentality back we had when we swept the Gators in Gainesville and we took 2 of 3 from FSU. I think we just need to get that chip back on our shoulder – the one we had when were trying to prove to everyone we were a pretty good team."

The problem for Miami is that it's going to take more than an attitude adjustment. It's going to take a major overhaul. Only three hitters -- Scott Lawson (.348), Chris Hermann (.314) and Jason Hagerty (.313) -- are batting better than .300. While ace Chris Hernandez has gotten his act together (he's now 6-3 with a 4.24 ERA after a horrendous start), No. 2 starter David Gutierrez is still looking for his first win since March 7th.

Morris had loftier expectations when the season began despite the fact he lost three first round picks and a boatload of talented players from a team that went 53-11 and entered the College World Series last year expecting to win a fifth national title. But despite the recent setbacks Morris hasn't lost hope. Heck, if Fresno State did it last year why can't the Canes?

“We’ve proven we can beat some of the best teams in college baseball and we’ve proven if we don’t go out and play well we’re not going to win,” Morris said. “We’ve put our backs against the wall no question about that. But I know we can respond. I think we’ve swung the bats really good against some good teams, and any team in the Top 25 has a chance to get hot this time of year. Fresno State was 82nd last year and they won it. We have a lot of young players who can grow up quickly over the next few weeks."

As it stands, even if Miami were to win next week's ACC Tournament, the likelyhood remains they could be on the road in the regionals because the NCAA isn't likely to grant more than two in-state teams the right to host. Both the Gators and Seminoles are ranked higher than UM at the moment and both have had much better regular seasons to this point. As it stands, Baseball America projects Miami will be making the trip to Gainesville.

That doesn't bode well for UM. When the Canes have reached Omaha in the past, they've usually done it playing at home. Of their 23 trips to the CWS, only four were achieved by winning a regional on the road (2006, 1996, 1989, 1984, 1974). Morris said this team in his eyes compares a lot to his 2002 team, which won a regional in Gainesville, but then loss a heart breaker to South Carolina in the Super Regional a week later.

“It’s very important for us to host regionals,” Bellamy said. “There was a lot of inspiration we got our own fans last year in those tight games. Sometimes traveling and being in the airplanes and the hotels can wear on you. Hosting Regionals would definitely be a huge lift. Hopefully, it’s not too late and we can turn it on.”

JUST A FEW QUICK NOTES...
> After spending the past month on Marlins detail, I will be going on the road with the baseball team to Durham next week. So, if you want to talk baseball while I'm there, shoot me some questions on the blog or email. I'll probably be live blogging the games.

Eduardo Clements > This week with the Marlins on the road and Clark Spencer on the beat, I got a chance to make my rounds to a few local high schools to catch up on the recruiting front. For those of you interested, I posted three videos -- including an interview with Booker T. Washington running back Eduardo Clements.

While I'm still very skeptical UM will be able to get any of the Tornadoes' top recruits, you should know the Canes at least have a new constant presence on campus. Tim Harris Jr., the son of former coach Ice Harris and a star in track at UM, has begun his high school coaching career this spring at Booker T. He's coaching the quarterbacks. That alone should help Miami stay in contention for Clements, receiver Quinton Dunbar, and defensive end Lyden Trail, who recently picked up an offer from USC.

> As for Miami Springs highly-touted receiver Willis Wright, Miami has definitely offered Wright and is intered in him. But they aren't nearly as interested as Florida State, which has already had five coaches come down to meet with the 6-3, 200-pound receiver in the past year. Miami Springs coach Alex Pacheco told me Monday Wesley McGriff visited the school last year, but no one from UM has been out there yet this spring. Wright got his formal offer from UM in the mail. Physically, Wright is one of the most impressive receivers I've ever seen in Miami-Dade. I'd throw him in the same category as Aldarius Johnson, Dwayne Bowe and Andre Johnson.

> For those of you still on edge over Frank Haith's chase of John Wall, Miami is definitely in the race for the nation's top available recruit. The people I spoke to this week on Wall's behalf told me UM is in his top three and under serious consideration. Wall, by the way, is apparently considering stretching his decision making process past the May 20th deadline.

> In case you missed it, our live weekly Q&As on MiamiHerald.com have been shut down until the start of football season. I'm now doing Marlins Q&As on Tuesdays at 2 p.m. If you want to shoot me questions, feel free to email them to me or place them on the blog. I'm thinking of starting up a Monday Mailbag session if I get some good questions from you.

April 02, 2009

FSU series has evolved into real dislike

Florida State and Miami are rivals when it comes to every sport. But there may not be more real hate involved in any of them moreso than in baseball. At least that's what it seems like.

Ryan Jackson Thursday, with UM set to host the Seminoles in a three-game series at The Light, I caught up with several players and coaches to see exactly where the rivalry is at. After last year's heated battle in Tallahassee, which saw the Seminoles refuse to shake hands (and fans get ugly) after the Canes escaped with a series-clinching Sunday win, consider the rivalry on orange alert.

"It was definitely more of a fun rivalry for me when I played," said pitching coach J.D. Arteaga, who pitched for the Canes from 1994 to 1997. "I had players I knew on their side. Mickey Lopez and Doug Mientkewicz were my high school teammates. We went to dinner after it was over. I don't know if we have that anymore because we usually don't recruit the same kids. It's a little more different rivalry now after a few things that have happened over the past six, seven years. It's a little hotter to say the least."

Hot for even the two guys are supposed to be setting the example, Jim Morris and Mike Martin. Morris got his first coaching job under Martin. But each year their relationship has higher levels of stress, especially after Morris beat Martin to win the 1999 national championship.

"That's part of the reason why I don't like to schedule friends," Morris said. " People think it's a game - it's a game to people in the stands. But to me it's my life. To Mike Martin, it's his life. I think about it all the time. It's my life. It's not just a game."

Players agree, especially when it comes to this series. Shortstop Ryan Jackson said he got sprayed with Sunkist and middle fingers by FSU fans last year at the end of Sunday's wild finish. He says while players from both sides don't like each other, playing in atmosphere where you don't like your opponent jacks up players and makes the games even more excting.

"I'm not going to beat around the bush. We don't like them. They don't like us," Jackson said. "I'm sure they're saying the same thing up there. We're looking forward to playing good, clean baseball and hopefully come out on top."

David Gutierrez SOME HELP FROM BIG BRO: Earlier this week, David Gutierrez found out he would be making the move from No. 2 starter to Friday night ace. The redshirt junior right-hander didn't have to think twice about who would be the first person he'd call to share the news with -- his big brother, former Hurricanes closer Carlos Gutierrez.

Why big bro and not mom and dad? Because it was big bro that taught him that new pitch this summer past summer -- a hard sinker -- that has helped David put together a 2-2 record and the lowest ERA (1.51) in the ACC the first half of the season.

"We worked on it a lot this offseason while he was training down here," the younger Gutierrez said Thursday. "That's what's helped me take the next step. Last year, I didn't throw it all. Now, I use it on every batter at least once. It's an effective pitch because it looks like a fastball and dies. They'll roll over it and I get groundouts."

As for the elder Gutierrez, drafted in the first round by the Twins last June, David says his older brother expects to begin High-A ball in the coming days.

WHAT'S SLOWING DOWN CHRIS HERNANDEZ?: While Gutierrez has thrived for UM this season, last year's ACC Freshman of the Year and ace, left-hander Chris Hernandez has hit a hard sophomore slump. In six starts and 33 2/3 innings, Hernandez has given up 22 earned runs and walked 12 batters. He gave up 18 walks and 34 earned runs all of last year.

Arteaga said the difference is while Hernandez is throwing harder, he has less command. Morris said Hernandez is trying to be "too fine," and is losing two strike battles he won with opposing hitters last year.

"The first thing we talked to him about was not worrying about duplicating what he did last year. And that's exactly what he's trying to do. He's trying to be perfect," Arteaga said. "This game is to hard to be perfect. As soon as one bad thing happens, it kind of multiplies because you're waiting for the next [bad thing to happen]. Like I said, he's throwing the ball better. But it's nowhere near where he was last year. I didn't expect what he did last year to happen again. He's 2-2 right now. If he ends the year 11-3 with a 3, 4 ERA, it's still a great year."

OUT OF THE SLUMP?: Jackson began the season hitting third in Morris' lineup. But a first half slump ultimately has had him moving all over the place, from 1, 2, 3 to 7, 8, 9. Thursday, Morris said Jackson put too much pressure on himself to start the year and was hitting too many flyballs. But both Morris and Jackson see signs the .283 hitter could be on the verge of turning the corner.

"In my last 10 at bats, I think I've hit seven balls hard," Jackson said. "I feel like I'm getting back on track, staying positive.

"I came out of the shoot trying to do too much. I had a good spring and fall and sometimes when you do that you come out trying to do more than you can. My stride was a little too big. Sunday's game versus Georgia Tech was kind of the turning point for me in terms of how I felt my season was going to go. I hit some balls hard in every bat. I carried it over against Barry. I'm optimistic about the rest of the year. I know what I can do. That's why I got the second half."

A chat with Kirby Hocutt & more

Two weeks ago when the University of Miami was on the road in the NIT at Providence, I got a chance to catchup with athletic director Kirby Hocutt and pick his mind on a few hot button issues. I figured the highlights of our discussion might be the best way for me to start sharing a boatload of notes I've collected in the past week since the end of the spring football.

Kirby Hocutt > UM football coach Randy Shannon has two years left on his current contract. Entering his third season after going a combined 12-13, Hocutt said he has yet to broach the subject of a contract extension with Shannon and didn't share a timetable either when negotiations might begin. But he didn't sound like an athletic director whose begun looking yet for Plan B either. 

"We haven't talked yet," Hocutt said. "But that's no indication of our support for Randy. He's done an excellent job. There's an excitement around the program as well as optimism for next year. Miami football is on the right track. Randy has a plan and we're going to continue to support him and he's going to be the leader of the program for a long time. I'm confident of that."

> One thing that Shannon did that pleased Hocutt was the way he handled the recruitment of running back Bryce Brown, who went from longtime UM commitment to signing with Tennessee two weeks ago after Shannon decided not to renew his scholarship offer.

"He made the right decision in my opinion and I respect him for handling it the way he did. We're going to be fine moving forward," Hocutt said. "[Recruiting] has changed. Is it concerning? Yes it is. You would hope you can work directly with the parents and the young people involved. You hope the third party influence is not as involved as it is today, especially in the sport of basketball. This honestly was the first time I saw a third party involved in a football situation to the degree it was. And it's something I think we need to start talking about at the conference level and maybe moreso on a national level."

> One of the things Hocutt said he has become more involved in since taking over has been the future scheduling of opponents. He wants to get UM involved in big-time games including playing Notre Dame again and getting Florida on the schedule. Right now, Kansas State is looking to get off UM's schedule for 2011 and 2012. Hocutt said he and Shannon have agreed that as long as UM finds a comparable opponent for the series they would let the Wildcats out of their agreement. According to Hocutt, ESPN is trying to find a replacement to create a marquee TV matchup. Hocutt would not mention any names, but said it would be another Big 12 opponent. I've heard rumblings the possible home and home series could come against either Texas, Texas Tech or Missouri.

"We're going to make sure the opponent makes sense for Miami and what we're trying to accomplish," Hocutt said. "We'll see what opportunities present themselves and move down the road."

Speaking of down the road and opportunities, Hocutt seemed more confident there could be a future meeting with Miami and Notre Dame than with the Canes and Gators, who are currently scheduled to meet for the last time in football at Dolphins Stadium in 2013.

"If there is any way whatsoever to get [a series with Notre Dame] done, we'll get it done," Hocutt said. "I don't want to lead people on or sound too optimistic, but there has been an initial phone call and another conversation through a mutual relationship [TV]. There's definitely interest on both sides. If it's something we can get done in the future it sounds like we're both committed to it."

> When it comes to Frank Haith, consider Hocutt a huge fan of UM's 43-year old coach and a coach Hocutt would probably willing to fight for financially should Haith receive an offer to leave the program. Haith, who last week told reporters and his team he has no interest in leaving UM, has once again had his name resurface this week in filling a possible job opening. FOXSports.com reported Wednesday Georgia has Haith next on its list of candidates after Oklahoma's John Capel. Ten months ago, Hocutt and Dee extended Haith's contract at UM through 2014. Hocutt, who said he speaks to Haith on a weekly basis even during the offseason, said nobody has formally asked UM to speak with Haith.

"Frank and I spend a lot of time talking and its all focused around the future of Miami basketball, what we can continue to do to elevate this program," Hocutt said. "We have a great relationship. He knows we don't want anybody in this country to be our head basketball coach except Frank Haith. You hope you are in position as an athletic director and athletic department thatr people are coming after your coaches, your staff members. That's what you want. That means you got the right person in place and you are doing good things. I think it's a complement to UM that Frank's name is mentioned out there so much."

MORE NOTES, QUOTES & THOUGHTS...

This week I spent two days covering the McDonald's All-American festivities and got a chance to not only speak to a few big-time players, but pick the brains of high school basketball recruiting gurus on a variety of topics.

> UM's quest to land John Wall, the nation's No. 1 available point guard, should probably be considered what has been for a long time -- shaky at best. With John Calipari leaving Memphis for Kentucky this week, many gurus believe it won't necessarily stop Wall from following him. As I was told by SI's Andy Staples last night, Kentucky is probably the most ideal situation because they are desparate for a point guard. Wall has told several publications he plans to take an official visit to UM on April 24. But like Dwayne Collins told me last night when I bumped into him in the BankUnited Center parking lot at around midnight, "if I was him or anybody else living up in that cold, I'd want to take a trip to Miami, too. But that don't mean he's coming here."

> Speaking of Dwayne Collins, although there have been reports that the 6-8, 240-pound forward is considering leaving UM after this season to enter the NBA Draft, I'd consider the likelyhood of Collins leaving about the same as Wall coming to Miami. "Really, I'm just waiting on Coach Haith to tell me what he thinks," Collins said. "If he thinks I should go, I'll go. If he doesn't, I'll be back." NBADraftexpress.com ranks Collins 37th among the nation's Top Juniors. That's not close to being a first round pick.

> Jack McClinton's NBA Draft stock, meanwhile, remains up in the air -- especially after a knee injury slowed him toward the end of the year. McClinton will get a chance to make an impression on NBA Scouts again, however, when he participates in the Three-Point shootout of the State Farm College All-Star festivities Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. at the site of the Final Four in Detroit.

> Florida-bound and local guard Kenny Boynton Jr. had a pretty good night (10 points) in Wednesday night's McDonald's All-American Game at the BankUnited Center. I asked Boynton Tuesday if there ever really was a bone in his body that considered playing at Miami, in front of his friends and family.

"There definitely was," Boynton said. "They did recruit me. Coach Jorge Fernandez recruited me real well. Coach Haith recruited me also. But I didn’t think he put more into it like Duke and Florida. I think coach Haith didn’t show me he really wanted me. He came to see me a few times. But he never called a lot. I think it would have been a good situation [coming to Miami]. It’s close to home, Miami is on the rise. I think I could have helped. But it’s a good situation where I'm going too. I like Florida a lot."

> Coming off their second series loss in 23 series in the ACC, UM's baseball team will open a three-game homestand against Florida State this weekend at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field. The biggest news, though, is UM has decided to move No. 2 starter David Gutierrez into the Friday night starter role in place of the struggling Chris Hernandez Gutierrez is 2-2 with a 1.51 ERA. Hernandez is 2-2 with a 5.88 ERA.

By the way, the Canes will honor the 1999 National Championship team before Saturday night's game at 7 p.m. Get there early if you want to catch it.

March 02, 2009

Dunbar just the start at Booker T?

Unless you forgot to pay your monthly subscription to InsideTheCanesportTimes or were out enjoying two days off on South Beach like I was this past weekend (leading my best friend's bachelor party), you probably know by now the Canes picked up their third football "commitment" of the 2010 class Sunday in Miami Booker T. Washington receiver Quinton Dunbar.

Booker T. Washington receiver Quinton Dunbar committed to UM on Sunday. Monday night, I caught up with Dunbar and Booker T. receivers coach Andre Brown (who handles most of the recruiting talk between colleges and the Tornadoes). Dunbar, a 6-3, 177-pound All-Dade First Team selection last season, is obviously a nice get for the Canes and a tremendous talent. But the bigger story is he might just be the first of a handful of talented Booker T. players in the 2010 class who decide to make their way down the road to UM from Overtown next February. 

"The first thing I thought when I got back this weekend and heard Quinton had committed was 'Alright, whose next?," said Brown, who coached current Canes Davon Johnson and Thearon Collier at receiver at Booker T. "It's obvious having Ice over there [former Booker T. coach Tim Harris] helps Miami a lot. They're very aware what we've got coming out in our next class."

What Booker T. has next season is arguably the best class in Miami-Dade County, which by all accounts is absolutely loaded with talent. Dunbar is rated the 13th best player in the county according to our Larry Blustein's Pre-Spring Top 30 list. Other Booker T. players included on the list: talented running back Eduardo Clements (7th), defensive end Lynden Trail (18th), receiver Ted Meline (20th) and offensive lineman Jose Jose (24th). Brown said UM has already offered all of them, except Meline. 

Clements, the MVP of the Class 4A state championship game in 2007, is the prized recruit. At 5-11, 175-pounds there isn't a more complete running back in South Florida in my opinion. I've been told UM considers him its No. 1 running back target for 2010 and another reason coach Randy Shannon doesn't feel so bad about losing out on Bryce Brown. "He's just as good a pass catcher, if not better than Bryce and has played against tougher competition his entire life," one recruiter told me. "Miami wants him badly."

The Canes were the first school to offer Clements and according to Brown, who is Clements brother-in-law, it means a lot. But the roadblock for UM appears to be Florida State, whom Clements grew up rooting for. According to Brown, the Seminoles decided to finally drop Clements an offer Monday. "He's a Florida State guy at heart," Brown said. "The situation is going to be real tough. We've had a lot of family gatherings to talk about everything, but we're allowing him to make up his own decision."

As for Dunbar, consider him about as sound and committed a Canes recruit as there can be. He grew up rooting for UM and living down the street from the Orange Bowl. He wears No. 5 because his favorite player, Andre Johnson, wore it (he said Shannon already promised it to him after Javarris James leaves). His second cousin is UM cornerback Chavez Grant. And, his best friend is Collier. Brown said he expects Dunbar, who has a 3.0, to be a full qualifier.

"The thing that makes Quinton special is that he has just a great knack for getting to the football," Brown said. "When that ball is in the air, he gets into attack mode. He might not run a 4.3, but he has great game speed. We're going to work a lot on catching the ball and knowing what to do in open space. He can get better at route running too. But it's utilizing head fakes, those hips so he can be more like Larry Fitzgerald after the catch."

THIS AND THAT

> Got to give some props to the UM baseball team for their series sweep of Florida this past weekend, especially the 16-2 pounding the Canes delivered on Sunday. It marked the first time under Jim Morris UM swept the Gators in Gainesville, and it helped move UM up in the polls. The Canes are now ranked as high as eighth in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' poll (there are too many college baseball polls). David Gutierrez, by the way, earned ACC Pitcher of the Week honors for his seven scoreless innings in Saturday's 2-1 win.

> Among my many phone calls Monday, I caught up with one of the weekend's heroes in left fielder Jonathan Weislow. I don't want to give away too much about Weislow, but there might not be a player whose gone through more excruciating injuries than this guy. It's a good story I'll share with you later this week as UM kicks off a 12-game homestand against Rhode Island on Tuesday at 6.

> It turns out Jack McClinton will not have his jersey number retired this weekend after all. Coach Frank Haith said during his weekly ACC teleconference with media on Monday morning that UM wants to be bring Jack back next season and honor him during another game. It's a smart move. Saturday's noon tip-off against N.C. State is going to be emotional enough. Not only will it be senior day, but if UM beats Georgia Tech Wednesday then the Canes will have the opportunity of getting back to 8-8 in the ACC (likely what they need to reach the NCAA tournament). The last thing you want is an extra distraction at a time like this.

> ESPN's Joe Lunardi has the Canes still in his bracketology report. Right now, Lunardi (who hit on all 65 invitees last season) has UM seeded 12th and facing UCLA in the first round. I think the highest seed UM will get if it wins out this week and wins at least one ACC Tournament game is 10th. But I'd like to ask Lunardi, who is supposed to have a teleconference with the media Wednesday, what he thinks the best case scenario for Haith and the Canes is if they accomplish that or better to get in.

> Since some of you have been asking, I finally got around to uploading several audio bites from spring practice, baseball and basketball from the last two weeks. Just visit the usual place to find them.

February 16, 2009

Questions abound for UM baseball at start of '09

The 2008 Miami Hurricanes had one of the best lineups in all of college baseball, a talented collection of power hitters who could light up the scoreboard and send balls flying out of the park on a nightly basis.  Barring a few unexpected surprises, coach Jim Morris knows his 2009 Hurricanes will not be that kind of team when they their new season at their newly reconstructed and renamed ballpark Friday night against Rutgers.

So what will the Canes do to win games this coming season? Morris is banking on pitching, defense, timely hitting and being the complete opposite of what his lineup was last year -- a successful small ball unit.

Despite the loss of six first-day MLB draft picks, Jim Morris says the goal for 2009 is to get back to Omaha "We're not going to be a team that hits for power like last year," said Morris, whose 2008 team belted 106 home runs and drove in 517 RBI en route to compiling the fifth highest winning percentage in UM history with a 53-11 record before sputtering in Omaha. "Our team last year bunted the least of any team since I've been at Miami. This team might be one that bunts more than anybody. We got to sac bunt. We got to be very fundamentally sound. We got to play good solid defense. We’re not going to be a big inning club – unless I’m surprised."

Expecting the Hurricanes to duplicate what they did a year ago with the number of superstars who left would be insane. One look at the roster tells you all you need to know about how much work the Canes have in front of them. Of the team's top 11 hitters, only four are back. Gone from UM's lineup: 78 of team's 106 home runs and 358 of the team's 517 RBI last season.

There are several All-American candidates back: shortstop Ryan Jackson (.360, 50 RBI, 4 HRs), left-handed ace, freshman pitcher of the year Chris Hernandez (11-0, 2.72 ERA) and budding relief pitcher and newly annointed closer Kyle Bellamy (6-0, 1.86 ERA). But aside from those three, there are simply a lot of questions. Morris could not complete a lineup when asked about it on two different occassions Monday, instead giving reporters a rough draft of where some guys will likely be playing.

"This is probably the team where I have the least number of starters returning in my college career," said Morris, who had three players (first baseman Yonder Alonso, second baseman Jemile Weeks and pitcher Carlos Gutierrez) taken in the first round of the June draft and three more (outfielders Dennis Raben and Blake Tekotte and third baseman Mark Sobolewski) take on the first day.

"With that said, I keep telling myself and reminding myself when we lost [Pat] Burrell, [Aubrey] Huff, [Jason] Michael and [Alex] Santos that the next year nobody gave us a chance and we won it [1999]. That’s how I go to sleep every night. This club is like that club. It’s a very young club, even though we did have a few more veterans returning in 1999 than we do this year. It’s still exciting."

> The first four spots in the order appear to be locked in at least according to what Morris told us. He said he envisions freshman Nate Melendres leading off and playing center field followed by JUCO transfer Scott Lawson batting second and playing second base, Jackson batting third and playing short and JUCO transfer Chris Hermann hitting cleanup.

After that, it gets a little hazy. Morris mentioned senior Jason Hagerty (who could play first base, catcher or left field) next, followed by freshman Harold Martinez (a corner infielder) and catcher Yasmani Grandal in the seventh or eight spot. It looks like senior Dave DiNatale (the team's top returning power hitter with nine home runs and a .295 average) will be starting in right field. Ther other spot -- left field -- is a coin flip. Morris said senior Jonathan Weislow, used primarily as a pinch-runner last season and with six career starts, would likely get the first crack at the spot Friday. But Hagerty and senior Ryan Perry, a utility player, would also get a look.

"There’s going to be a lot of combinations to try and figure out how to get those guys in there," Morris said. "We got to get our best nine players in the lineup."

THE PITCHING STAFF

Pitching coach J.D. Arteaga seems a little less worried about his group, which obviously returns one of the best in the country in Hernandez. Despite the loss of No. 2 starter and left-hander Eric Erickson (who will miss the season recovering from Tommy John surgery), Arteaga told me he's confident UM will find somebody very good to fill his spot in the rotation.

Right now, it looks like last year's alternate starter, senior right-hander David Gutierrez, is ready to assume the role. Gutierrez went 5-0 last season in seven starts with a 4.75 ERA. "After that we have a group of freshman that I feel are going to be very good, just guys who haven’t done it yet," Arteaga said. "But the ability is there without a doubt."

Arteaga mentioned four guys with the potential to fill the next two spots. They are: redshirt freshman left-hander D.J. Swatscheno, freshman left-hander Danny Miranda and freshmen right-handers Kevin Youst and Travis Miller.

“Danny Miranda and Kevin Youst are the same pitcher,” Arteaga said. “One is left handed and one is right-handed. Both have outstanding changeups. They both locate their fastball very well. Both are very competitive. The change is up what really sets them apart from other guys. DJ is a little different. He’s a left-handed power guy, who was the highest ranked left-handed pitcher in the state before he had an arm injury. We’re just getting him healthy, getting him ready. I think before they’re done they will all have very good careers here. It’s just a matter of getting them going.”

The closer's role as I mentioned earlier will belong to Bellamy. But it's not a position he has locked in. "He closed a few games last year," Arteaga said. "But it’s a big jump. Just because you had a great year as a setup guy doesn’t mean it’s going to translate. Pitching the eighth inning and the ninth inning are two completely different animals. He did it in the ACC championship game. He has done it. I have confidence he’s going to do it."

If Bellamy struggles, his most likely replacement would be newcomer and JUCO transfer Taylor Wulf. The 6-0, 235-pound junior right hander was a starter as a sophomore at Alvin Community College, but was a closer as a freshman. He has strong curve ball as a strikeout pitch and has the full backing of Arteaga. "He's got the mentality for it," Arteaga said.

> I'll have more to share with you in the coming weeks from baseball including interviews with the Canes' three biggest newcomers: the Texas trio of JUCO players, who are being counted on heavily to deliver right away. Plus, some good stuff from Ryan Jackson and Ryan Hagerty.

November 19, 2008

Recruiting analyst: 'Miami basketball is relevant'

When it comes to basketball recruiting, there isn't a guy more knowledgeable in the country than Scout.com's Dave Telep. He's been in the business more than a decade and is on the board that chooses McDonald's All-American's, the Naismith High School Award winner and the Gatorade Player of The Year. So, when I called him moments after Durand Scott picked Miami on Wednesday and he gushed about the job Frank Haith has done building Miami's basketball program I made sure to listen closely.

Here's what Telep, Scout.com's National Recruiting Director, had to say.

Q: What does landing Scott mean to Miami basketball?
Dave_telepA: "It's an enormous addition. It comes to this: they won a long recruiting battle with two of the best programs in the country. It's a big deal. They played their cards right. Miami doesn't have the tradition of being a traditional powerhouse program. They've got to scratch and claw for everything they get. But they're in a position now to sustain from success. Frank Haith will be the first person to tell you none of this comes easy. It's a constant grind when you are battling the line you are in the ACC and you are competing with Connectictut and Pittsburgh for a kid like Scott. That's a grind. I can't say enough what a victory this is for Frank Haith."

Q: Is this the big-name, landmark signee they were looking for to put them over the top, for this program to pound its chest and say we're getting the big-time guys now? Or, has that day already come and gone in your eyes?
A: "I think every year is just another chapter in the book. If you look at Miami's basketball program right now, you see a program on the rise that's not going to be a one-hit wonder. It's built for the long term. Bringing in Durand Scott, Garrius Adams, Donnovan Kirk and a Lisandro-Ruiz Moreno [who still has not signed], it's another foundation for another strong basketball team. Miami basketball is past those days of being on the outside looking in. Miami basketball is relevant now."

Q: What kind of player is Scott? What does he give Miami on the court?
Durand_scott_2
A: "He's a very good defensive player. He has a lot of pride in playing defense and in high school that's a rare treat. He's a streaky shooter, so he's got to improve on that. But he can be a secondary ball-handler. He can shift in, rebound, pass, be a Jack of All Trades wing player. At the end of the day, though, what makes him special is he is wired to win. Winning matters to Durand Scott. Sometimes, you got to teach a guy to want to win. You don't have to with him. He wants to win in AAU season. Garius Adams is the same way. You can't put a price on what that means to your team. You already have a winning culture in Coral Gables and now you are bringing in guys who feed the monster. He should not be labeled as a savior, just another very good player."

Q: After this season, Miami is set to lose All-ACC guard Jack McClinton, Lance Hurdle, Jimmy Graham and Brian Asbury. How do you see this team next year with all the new additions with a guy like DeQuan Jones and a guy like Malcolm Grant in the mix?
A: "I envision a tempo and a pace that is basically an aggressive team that can guard you 94 feet, up and down the length of the floor and run, run, run on offense. They are going to be very athletic and very good."

Q: This class could still have one more huge chip added to the mix -- the No. 1 player in the country in North Carolina point guard John Wall. What do you think are the realistic hopes Miami fans should have in also getting Wall?
John_wall
A: "Miami is in its infancy stages with John Wall right now. All you can do is sell your program and see what direction it goes in. John Wall is the equivalent of getting Manny Ramirez in free agency. You make your best pitch to him and hope he bites. That would be the highest profile recruit to ever commit to Miami. But we're a long way -- probably five months -- away from that one."

September 10, 2008

This and that: Bryce, Bowling, Baseball

With UM taking some time off this week before resuming practice and preparation today for next week's trip to Texas A&M, things slowed down a little bit here at Eye On The U. But we're ready to get rolling again.

In case you missed it, since I didn't have a blog Tuesday, I had a live Q&A yesterday at 1 p.m.  -- my new time slot for the rest of the season. Most of the questions I fielded were about offensive coordinator Patrick Nix, Florida's decision to kick a late field goal, Miami's game-plan against the Gators and UM freshman linebacker Arthur Brown. Here's a link to the chat transcript.

Bryce_brown> Before I get to what UM coach Randy Shannon talked about during the ACC Teleconference Wednesday, I wanted to share with you what I learned from my conversation with Miami's most prized 2009 recruit, Rivals.com's No. 1 running back Bryce Brown. The younger brother of Canes freshman linebacker Arthur Brown doesn't talk to the media much. So, getting him is a rare treat.

I already shared with you Monday Bryce's excitement about the way Miami played Florida last weekend, but here is what else we talked about.

Q: When are you planning to visit UM officially? And are there any other trips lined up?
A: Well, I was supposed to head down there this weekend during UM's off week. But I talked to Coach Barrow this week and he told me it would be better if I came later in the year. So, I'll take it in December to help out with more recruits. I'm going to take my trip this weekend instead to TCU.

Q: Are there any other schools you'll visit? And are there other schools you are seriously considering besides UM?
A: It's really Missouri, Oregon, Clemson and Miami. The two main schools I really want to consider (aside from UM) are Clemson and Oregon, but more Oregon. I'm very impressed with their offense and the way coach [Chip] Kelly coaches The way he runs his offense is amazing. He's always getting balls to his playmakers.

Q: How often do you get to talk to your brother?
A: I talk to him every now and then. He's been busy. And I've been busy with trying to graduate early. I'm trying to get finish with a 4.0 [GPA]. I always strive to be the best. Right now, I'm taking five glasses. Normally, seniors around here take two. I've got Sociology, Modern Lit, English Comp, Psychology, Chemistry. So, it's a challenge. But I really want to finish with a 4.0. That's what I got right now and that's my goal.

Q: What have UM coaches telling you lately?
A: I talk to coach [Tommie] Robinson and coach Barrow after games. He's always calling me to talk a little bit about life. They just want me to come in prepared, ready to go. I told them that after the season, I'm going to take a week off. And then, when I come down, I'll be ready to go.

Q: What is your goal when you get to UM?
A: My goal is to actually start. I know Graig and Javarris, they definitely showed me a good time when I was down there. They're very respectful and great guys. But they know when I come down, I'm not coming to sit on the bench. I'm going to play hard and try to get on that field right away.

Q: Arthur isn't playing a whole lot right now. Is he still happy with UM?
A: He loves it. He says the atmosphere is amazing. It's really a family there. He'd rather be no other place.

Q: Is there a chance you could really end up somewhere else other than Miami?
A: If I had to say a school, I'd say Oregon. But I've never seen it. It's a free trip, a good opportunity to check it out.

>As for Shannon, he stayed away Wednesday from picking anymore at Florida or coach Urban Meyer during his 10 minutes on the ACC Teleconference. I'm glad he did. I just wish he had done the same Sunday and again on Tuesday when he went on the Joe Rose show. Maybe now, we can move on.

As for news, all Shannon did Wednesday was confirm running back Javarris James has a high ankle sprain and that he he expects him to miss 2 to 4 weeks. He also expanded a little bit on how much the Canes missed JJ in its running game. "Javarris is our big back that can pound it," Shannon said. "... Florida did a good job coming off blocks when we didn't finish the blocks, diving and making a lot of good arm tackles, hitting the backs of legs and things like that. With Javarris he might have kept his footing. This week we'll work on guys continuing to do their leg drives."

Shannon said to look for Coop, Derron Thomas, Shawnbrey McNeal (who is from Texas) and Lee Chambers to get the majority of reps against a bad Aggies team (that lost to Arkansas State in its opener at home). Shannon, by the way, didn't mention converted running back Damien Berry at all.

Shannon also said he'd like for the Canes to play at 8 p.m. Right now, the team will either play at 3:30 p.m. or 8 p.m. on Sept. 20. The game will be carried on ABC.

> COME BOWL WITH THE CANES: I know it's almost against the law at UM to break up any football conversation with talk of basketball or baseball, but I figured you might let me get by since this is an off week.

For those of you in South Florida, UM coach Frank Haith and his team will be conducting a team fundraiser this weekend from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Lucky Strike Lanes (located at 1691 Michigan Avenue) in Miami Beach.

Frank_haithGuests will have the opportunity to meet and mingle with the team and coaching staff, and participate in an auction for prizes, including a game experience package with travel to Lexington, Ky., to watch the Hurricanes play at Kentucky on Dec. 6.Tickets for guests are $100, while tickets for children 12 and under are $50. Admission includes food, beverage and a UM gift. For additional information or to register for the University of Miami Men's BasketBowl, please contact Stephanie Mansdorf (305-284-5240/smansdorf@miami.edu).

I'll be there to talk to a few players and coach Haith before the event kicks off. As for Haith, his team as you know had a pretty good season last year. Earlier this week, ESPNU announced it will air three ACC road games for the Hurricanes -- Jan. 10 at Boston College, Jan. 27 at N.C. State and Feb. 18 at Florida State. UM will make 10 national TV appearances this coming season. Not bad for the Canes.

> BASEBALL ANNOUNCES CLASS OF 13: Since we're already in trouble for talking basketball, why not go the extra mile and share with you some baseball news. After their spectacular run to the College World Series, UM announced its 2008 Signing Class Tuesday.

The list includes five players who were drafted. Here are the names with some short bios.

Ted Blackman, OF, 6-0, 180, S/R, Fr., Altmonte Springs Lake Brantley High, Fla.: Hit .380 with one homer and 12 stolen bases during his senior year in 2008. Named to the Seminole Athletic Conference first team as a senior and MVP of the Florida State Game his junior and senior seasons Led lead Lake Brantley to a 20-4 record and a 6A state championship.

Gerry Gonzalez, OF, 5-10, 170, L/L, Fr., Coral Gables Ransom Everglades High: Hit .470 with two homeruns, 25 RBI and five stolen bases his senior season and .420 with 18 RBI and six stolen bases his junior year.

Chris Herrmann, 3B/C, 6-0, 182, L/R, Jr., Tomball HS/Alvin CC, Tex.: Drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 10th round (296 overall) of the 2008 MLB Draft. Hit .442 with 14 home runs and a .711 slugging percentage at Alvin Community College and named to the NJCAA Division I All-American Team in 2008. Honored with the NJCAA Rawlings Big Stick Award

Scott Lawson, 2B/INF, 5-10, 185, L/R, Jr., Colleyville Heritage HS/Grayson CC, Tex.: Drafted by the Houston Astros in the 40th round (1,202 overall) of the 2008 MLB Draft. Led Grayson to the Junior College World Series Championship as a sophomore, hitting .468 with six homers, 40 RBI and 22 stolen bases on the season.

Harold Martinez, INF, 6-3, 200, R/R, Fr., Miami Braddock High: Drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 19th round (573 overall) of the 2008 MLB Draft. Hit .410 with eight homers and 27 RBI as a senior and .500 with three homers and 23 RBI as a junior at Braddock. Named first-team all-county as a senior and led his team to a district championship in 2008 and 2006. Played on the USA Junior National Team (18U) and the USA Youth National Team (16U).

Nathan Melendres, INF/OF, 5-10, 185, R/R, Fr., Miami Florida Christian: Named second-team All-Dade his senior season after hitting .398 with four home runs, 30 RBI and 15 stolen base. Brother Nick is a pitcher at Florida Atlantic University.

Travis Miller, LHP, 6-2, 210, L/R, Fr., Jupiter High: Had a combined record of 6-3 with 62 strikeouts in his two seasons at Jupiter HS. Helped team to a combined record of 44-11 (23-6 in 2008; 21-5 in 2007).

Daniel Miranda, LHP, 5-11, 220, L/L, Fr., Miami Killian: Drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 50th round (1,490 overall) of the 2008 MLB Draft. Earned third-team All-Dade his junior season after going 7-3 with a 1.94 ERA and 83 strikeouts.

Vickash Ramjit, 1B-3B-OF, 6-3, 200, R/R, Fr., Miami Columbus: Named all-county as a senior after hitting .387 with two home runs and 37 RBI in 2008.

Sam Robinson, LHP, 6-2, 175, L/L, Fr., Miami Killian: Named first-team All-Dade his senior year, earning a record of 5-2 with a 1.11 ERA and 50 strikeouts. Went 4-1 with a 2.14 ERA and 45 strikeouts as a junior in 2007, earning third-team All-Dade.

David Villasuso, C/1B, 5-10, 198, R/R, Fr., Miami Florida Christian: Hit .365 with seven home runs and 30 RBI as a senior and .375 with 11 homers and 33 RBI as a junior at Florida Christian.

Taylor Wulf, RHP, 6-0, 235, R/R, Jr., Santa Fe HS/Alvin CC, Tex.: Drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 39th round (1,180 overall) of the 2008 MLB Draft. Went 10-1 with a 3.82 ERA and 74 strikeouts his sophomore season at Alvin and was a unanimous all-conference selection in 2008 and served as the team's closer in 2007.

Kevin Youst, RHP, 6-3, 200, R/R, Fr., Plantation American Heritage High: Missed his senior season due to injury. Went 1-0 with a perfect 0.00 ERA as a junior.

> Ok, I'll be out at practice Wednesday and Thursday and will share with you what I learn.

August 16, 2008

Yonder signs with Reds

It's official. Yonder Alonso will not be returning to the University of Miami. The left-handed, power-hitting first baseman signed a $4.55 million deal late Friday night, an hour before the midnight deadline, to officially end his career as a Hurricane.

Yonder_alonso Alonso's agent Mike Maulini called me at 11:15 p.m. and had Yonder talk with me for about 10 minutes. Both are definitely relieved. I can't say it's a surprise. Even though Yonder told me last week there was a 50-50 chance he'd return for his senior season because contract negotiations weren't going well, the Reds weren't going to let him get away. They were supposedly $4 million apart (Yonder was asking for $7 mil, and the Reds were looking at $3). 

Alonso, who led UM to the College World Series in June, says he plans to finish school at UM and get his degree in Criminology. I got to say I'm happy for Yonder. When he came out of Coral Gables High as the All-Dade Hitter of the Year, he was drafted and offered $170K to sign a pro contract.

Instead, he went to UM and made the most of it. Included in his $4.55 million, 4-year deal is a $2 million signing bonus. "My family doesn't know what to do," Alonso said. "They're on cloud nine."

Maulini, who also advises UM signee Harold Martinez, said the former Braddock shortstop will be a Cane. Maulini said contract negotiations with the Texas Rangers broke off earlier this week.

August 07, 2008

Could Yonder return? There's a 50-50 chance

From the world of unlikely scenarios, one regarding the return of All-American first baseman Yonder Alonso to the University of Miami is quietly becoming a situation to watch. (READ THE UPDATED STORY)

Yonder_alonso_mugAccording to our Marlins beat writer Clark Spencer, and now UM coach Jim Morris whom I spoke to this afternoon, negotiations between the Cincinnati Reds and Alonso (who was taken 7th overall) are not going well and there is a chance the star slugger could elect to return to the Canes for his senior year.

"I haven't talked to Yonder in about a week or so, but I know he's got a figure in his mind and I know they're a long way aways from that figure," Morris said Thursday afternoon. "If it doesn't work out, I think we could fit him in our lineup."

Alonso's advisor, Brian Peters, told Spencer recently Yonder is looking for "Pat Burrell money" -- or about $7 million and that if he didn't sign, Yonder would probably either return to UM or go to the Independent League, likely the latter. Alonso is currently working out in Miami with a trainer to stay in shape.

Yonder_alonsoAlonso is one of eight first round draft choices currently unsigned, who must be under contract by the official deadline of August 15th. Otherwise, they can return to school or elect to play in the independent minor leagues.

The Canes, who were ranked No. 1 in the country before being bounced at the College World Series, were decimated by the draft. Morris expected some damage, with Weeks, Gutierrez, Raben, Tekotte and Garcia's signings not a surprise. But Sobolewski signing was somewhat of a surprise as was outfielder Adan Severino, who probably could've become a top-round pick in 2009 but opted to sign for $65,000.

"It's going to come down to the deadline of August 15th," Morris said. "If they've talked to Yonder in the last day or two, I'm not sure what's happened. He's got different alternatives. He can sign. He can come back to school or go to that northern league like J.D. Drew did. A good decision would be to come back to school.

"A guy like that coming back would be a big boost for anybody. He was arguably the best hitter in college baseball."

While Morris admits he's been intrigued by how long the negotiations have taken, he's not going to get overly excited or anxious. Still, he knows how much fun Alonso had at UM and how much it hurt him when the Hurricanes lost int he College World Series.

"Guys have signed at 11:59 p.m. on that last day, so I try not to get my hopes up too much because so many things happen on that last day," Morris said. "I don't know how many of the first rounders who have not signed yet, but I'm sure they're will be some that sign at the last minute.

"But we'd be more than ok if Yonder decided to come back."

July 17, 2008

Another 2 QB system?

University of Miami coach Randy Shannon didn't give reporters at Thursday's Florida Sports Writers Association meetings in Tampa any insight into who will be the starting quarterback this fall (I say its Robert Marve). But he did say something that might not sit well with fans of the U -- there's probably going to be another two quarterback system this fall (which I was counting on).

Marve"Whichever quarterback that we name, we're going to play the other one," Shannon said without specifying any of the quarterbacks by name (as if Cannon Smith or Taylor Cook really have a shot). "We need depth at every position on the field and that's the one position that we don't have depth at because they're young. They're good quarterbacks, but they're young."

Shannon explained it won't be a platoon situation and said the way he envisions it, one person will emerge as the clear starter, and another will play at certain times to get a feel for game action -- in case that person gets called upon for a bigger role, for injury or any other reason.

Jacory_harris_actionCan't say I'm surprised. It's the only move that makes sense. While Shannon probably made a mistake last year by putting Kirby Freeman in the starting spot, he's got four guys who have never thrown a pass in college available to play quarterback. He's got to play at least two, one more than the other to develop rhythm (Marve) while letting the other (Jacory Harris) feel important and ready should they need them.

While all Canes fans might not like the move, they can at least take solace in this: at least its not Kyle Wright or Freeman who will be behind center. I know it was just the spring, but Marve and Harris looked so much better than their predecessors I honestly believe either one would have beaten them out last year for the starting job if they were around.

* In other tidbits from the meetings, Shannon confirmed defensive end Courtney Harris will miss the season and expects defensive end Allen Bailey (who is now up to 290 pounds) to recover from his pectoral injury in time for the start of the season. That's great news since I think Bailey is probably going to be the best defensive player Miami has this coming season.

J-MAC STILL GRINDING: As much as I'm itching for football info just like U (because getting basketball interviews are easier than football interviews) I was able to catch up with Jack McClinton Wednesday Mcclinton2after his whirlwind camp tour this summer which included hook-ups with Chris Paul, Steve Nash and LeBron James. Jack, who is taking this week off from workouts to rest his tired knees (he's got tendinitis), told me he's become so close with Paul, an All-NBA First Team selection, he can call him whenever he wants to talk hoops. Paul named him the MVP of his camp in June after McClinton outplayed Florida's Nick Calathes, Davidson's Stephen Curry, Boston College's Tyrese Rice and about a dozen other collegiate studs at the camp. I'll have a full fledged story on Jack's travels in Friday's paper and maybe a full Q&A with him later this week... as for his teammates, McClinton told me all of them are excelling. But he -- like Julian Gamble -- pointed to freshman DeQuan Jones as impressive. "I saw highlights of him in high school, but it's his athleticism, how hard he goes that's impressive. He's really impressing me. We've never really had someone as athletic on the wing as him."

Joe_mercadanteMERCADANTE PROMOTED: If getting basketball news four months before the start of the season bothers you, then this baseball night is going to send you off the deep end. Thursday, Jim Morris promoted Joe Mercadante (a former volunteer assistant the last four years) to fill in one of his vacant assistant coach spots. Mercadante will continue working with hitters and catchers, but now he'll get to recruit. Mercadante was basically Gino DiMare's right hand man when it came to hitting. Mercadante is a 2003 graduate of Florida, where he played catcher.

* NEW PODCAST: And lastly, I've finally recorded a new podcast of The Countdown with Larry Blustein, Rudy Rodriguez-Chomat and Andre C. Fernandez. It's mostly high school talk, but I do talk to Larry about some Cane recruits as well with Rudy about some of the basketball players UM is recruiting.

July 14, 2008

Back from Vacation

I don't know about you, but I was completely blown away last night watching Texas' Josh Hamilton belt 28 home runs in the first round of the All-Star Game home run derby. It's probably one of the most amazing athletic feats I've seen in sports -- right up there with those amazing rounds Tiger Woods puts together or those nights when Michael Jordan just seemed unstoppable. It was total domination not for a brief moment or a run, but for an extended period of time. It's only a shame Hamilton didn't finish the job and win the crown (the New England Patriots come to mind).

Our Miami Hurricanes -- the football Canes you care most about -- are nowhere near that kind of excellence yet. They're about as far off as Hamilton's eye-opening 519-foot blast was from home Ryan_braun plate when it landed in center field. As I make my return from vacation this week, the only reason I bring up Hamilton is because one of the guys he overshadowed last night was former Canes standout Ryan Braun (one of the few Canes currently in action during this college offseason break). As impressive as Hamilton was last night, you have to throw Braun (the 2007 NL Rookie of The Year) in the argument when it comes to the best young players in baseball today. Braun finished tied for third in last night's contest with 14 homers and he's currently hitting .286 with 23 homers and 66 RBI on the season and will start for the NL tonight in left field. And the bottomline is he's not getting enough love! So, here's to you Brauny, the first official winner of the new Eye On The U Bad-Ass Award, which will be given out once weekly this coming year here at Eye On The U. Nominees of course are always welcome for Canes past and present.

--> A DATE WITH THE GOLDEN DOMERS? If there was a runner-up award, new Hurricanes athletic director Kirby Hocutt would be the recipient. After hearing the complaints last week from Canes fans angry about possibly not having The U at midfield, Miami's new, young athletic director stepped up to the challenge and gave Canes fans what they wanted. Now, as our Barry Jackson reports, Hocutt is interested in approaching Notre Dame about scheduling a game in the future once it hires an athletic director. It's probably not going to happen, but if Hocutt can some how pull that one off Canes fans are at least in the early stages going to love this guy. I don't know about you, but I grew up loving every second watching the Canes destroy the Irish. And that would be the No. 1 game on my wish list... here's one for all you that remember those old Convicts vs. Cathlolic days.

--> TWO FORMER CANES IN ARENABOWL CHAMPIONSHIP: Baseball isn't the only sport going on during these boring sports months of summer. For those of you in need of a football fix and Canes action, two former Canes from the 2001 national championship team will meet this weekend in ArenaBowl XXII Sunday at 3 p.m. Receiver/linebacker Jason Geathers will represent the defending champion San Jose Sabercats and lineman Martin Bibla will start for the Philadelphia Soul. Geathers had two TD catches, a touchdown run and returned an INT for a score in last weekend's playoff game.

--> ANOTHER DEQUAN FAN: University of Miami coach Frank Haith told reporters on numerous occassions last year he's predicting big things for incoming 6-6 freshman swingman DeQuan Jones. Dequan_jones After catching up with Julian Gamble last week for a story I'm doing on his trip with Athletes in Action to Africa, all reports say Jones has been tearing it up against his new teammates during the team's offseason pickup games twice a week. Gamble told me Jones knows how to get to the basket and score and was a bit surprised by how advanced Jones was. My question is if Jones is as good as everyone says he is, who goes to the bench for UM -- Lance Hurdle or James Dews? It's not a big deal and it's actually a nice problem to have... also according to Gamble, redshirt sophomore Adrian Thomas is showing great signs after coming back from his second season-ending injury in a row. He said Thomas has shown better shooting touch than he's ever seen from him and demonstrating consistency hitting three-pointers.... Jack McClinton, meanwhile, shined yet again at another basketball camp -- this time LeBron James' camp in Ohio. The All-ACC First Team selection was supposedly praised so much by All-Star Chris Paul earlier this summer at Paul's camp that Paul insisted on calling Haith afterward to tell him how impressed he was with McClinton's work ethic.

--> RECRUITING UPDATE: Among the many phone calls I fielded during my "vacation" last week was one from one of my buddies over at The U, who breathlessly told me to expect the news that the Antwan_lowery Canes had landed a commitment from Columbus defensive tackle Antwan Lowery (ranked fourth by the Herald among Dade recruits). The call never came and when I tried to reach Lowery later that night, his high school coach told me Lowery was going to wait until August 1st to decide between either UM or Rutgers. Lowery's older brother Antonio is a linebacker at Rutgers. But after interviewing Lowery last month, I got the sense he's going to be a Cane in the end. Miami, desperate for talented linemen (on offense or defense), could definitely use him... if Lowery commits, he'll likely be one of the few local players from Dade or Broward who end up at UM this year. Miami is no longer interested in Dade's No. 1 recruit, running back Lamar Miller and has only one Dade or Broward commitment in American defensive end Olivier Vernon (who is visiting other schools). The only other players who say UM is genuinely recruiting them are Pace defensive back Kayvon Webster, Plantation cornerback Brandon McGee and American Heritage offensive lineman Jared Wheeler. McGee has told our reporters he will announce August 11th and has the Canes in his top five.

* Alright, that's enough from me for now. I'll be back periodically this week as we in the media wait for football access. Coach Randy Shannon will speak this Thursday morning at the Florida Sports Writers Association meetings in Tampa. I'm still not sure if The Herald will be sending me or not, but Jeff Shain will be there to report for us.