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Props Slaps
 11 years ago '04        #1921
madness 16 heat pts16
$13,112 | Props total: 3598 3598
However, this one leaves no doubt for me. At 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, Aldarius Johnson will step foot on campus and be the next great Miami receiver. I’ll go one better. Aldarius Johnson will be the best receiver ever leaving Miami. Again, I said leaving Miami. Not talking about an NFL career, but in three years, he should have every UM record. He’s that good.
 11 years ago '04        #1922
madness 16 heat pts16
$13,112 | Props total: 3598 3598
Enjoy this Antonio Dixon Q&A. Just some background... Dixon is a kid from Miami Booker T. Washington High who I wrote about in The Herald his senior year. He's a junior currently competing for starting time at defensive tackle. He was alongside starting with Teraz McCray today. Dixon has a severe speech impediment and stutters. He bangs his chest or his leg to try and stop himself. He's still a sweet kid, who has overcome a lot including being homeless at times with his mother. I caught up with him Tuesday morning to update you guys on his story. Enjoy.

Q: How is the family doing?

A: Everybody is doing good. Everybody is doing better. My mom has moved to Dublin, Georgia. She got a nice apartment, a good job. She’s doing good. My younger brother is going to Dublin High, he’s 17. My little brother and little sister are still in elementary school. My older brother, he just got married. The situation is a little better. I miss them a lot, but I’m the type of person, I don’t get too worried because they’re going to be alright. I keep my mind on football.

Q: How do you think living on the streets, being homeless at times in your life in high school make you a stronger person, tougher for the college game?

A: I wasn’t like a bad, bad kid. I was bad when I was little. But I never really like sold no drugs or shot anybody, but I seen my friends who did it. Mostly, I just stayed in the house and played games all day. My coach asked me to play football and I did alright. At first, I didn’t know where it was going to take me because I never played any organized football before. I just grinded every year and kept working hard and it got me here. I’m grateful for that.

Q: I know you’ve always had trouble speaking, what is it that you have and how do you deal with it?

A: I have a speech impediment. I guess it passed on from generation to generation because my daddy stuttered. But he never stuttered as bad as me. He just stuttered when he got mad. His daddy used to stutter a lot. I’ve been stuttering all my life, but I’m getting better with it. I’m getting better. When I was little, I used to get picked on so much, I used to let it get to me. The freshmen, they never heard me talk before, I stutter and they start laughing. But I don’t let it get to me. I just slow down, talk and think about it a little more when I’m a little nervous.

Q: Who are your roommates and what are they like?

A: My freshman year it was Bruce Johnson and then my sophomore year I was single. But now, we got an apartment in The Villages with Courtney [Harris] and Spencer [Adkins]. We just moved it in there. It’s quiet right now. We didn’t clean, we really didn’t do nothing. We just go home and go to sleep. Life is pretty good right now.

Q: So, if we went to that apartment right now...

A: Y’all wouldn’t find nothing [laughter], it wouldn’t be dirty or nothing.

Q: How has camp been going for you? I know the knock on you has always been your weight, conditioning. How much weight have you dropped and do you feel a difference?

A: Bowl game I weighed in at 355 and I know I had to drop weight. So, I’ve been trying to drop. Now, I’m 325. I’m trying to get down to 315. I got to keep on pushing. I feel better. I feel way better than my freshman year. My sophomore year, I just got to keep on pushing.

Q: What’s the most you have weighed since you’ve been here and what was it – we’re you eating late at night, pigging out?

A: I was eating at nighttime and it always got me in trouble. Our running backs and wide receivers were doing it, so I thought I could too. I was eating everything, Chinese food, pizza. But for the last five, six months, I’ve cut that out. I’ve cut out breads out. The only time I really eat it is when I go to practice. I eat chicken. Coach Swasey said that if we do go to McDonald’s, we order like a burger or something, to eat the meat [only] and get a small milkshake. I try to control my eating more.

Q: So, you’re eating better. How is it resulting in your play? Are you playing better? I mean are you practicing first or second team?

A: I don’t even know because we rotate so much. We’ll probably won’t even know until game day with the d-line. But for the d-line, it don’t really matter who starts or who don’t start because you could start one game and not start the next. The whole d-line is just trying to push all of us to get better and that’s working now. It’s slowly working, but it’s working.

Q: I know the whole idea when you came here was to get yourself ready for the NFL or a career so you could take care of your family. Do you think your going to get to the NFL? Are those dreams really possible?

A: I feel like if I don’t get lazy and keep pushing and do what coach tells me to do when they need me I think I’ll get there. I just got to keep pushing. [Coach Hurtt] he wants me to be the man. He wants me to step up and my teammates tell met that too. I try to push, I mean mainly point out that I’m inconsistent. Mainly I’m trying to get better. One day I do bad, one day I do good. Two days I do good, two days I be bad. I’m just trying to change that.

Q: Is that the biggest hurdle for you? Is it consistency?

A: I think so. In high school, we didn’t have no film watching. We didn’t do all that. It is pressure on me and our whole d-line because the d-line is the heart of the defense. If they break through our d-line, that’s when touchdowns happen.

Q: I’ve got to ask you about the offensive line. Orlando Franklin is a guy who you battle against, a guy who has impressed coaches early. What impresses you about him?
A: Orlando is big. He’s strong, big. He’s got good feet and his fast. He’s impressed me a lot. He’s doing good.

Q: What about other guys? What’s it like to go against Derrick Morse? You hear about what a tough guy he is.

A: D-Mo is going to go 100 percent even when your tired. He tries to push me too. He tells me, I’m going to push you everyday. The whole line is doing way better. I think we’re going to be much better. Their bigger, stronger, faster and block good.

Q: Do you think Coach Shannon’s mentality he’s had with the defense really made its way to the offense and made them better?
A: Yeah because like at first, I was like I don’t want to be over here [with the offense]. My heart is with the d-line. But now, we all talk. I mean, it’s a good thing.

Q: Let’s talk about school. What do you hope to accomplish with school? What’s your major? What are your tough classes?
A: I’m a Liberal Arts major, but I’m going to change to Criminal Justice. I go to class every day and I try so, it isn’t hard as long as you apply yourself. I’ve been doing extra study hall since I’ve been here.

Q: You have a learning disability? How much did you know how to read before you got here?
A: Yeah. Dyslexia, a reading problem and some spelling problems too. I knew how to read like a small word, but when I might see a big word, I’d have to sound them through. But Ms. Christine is working with me.

Q: Is that the same tudor Frank Gore had?

A: Yeah. I mean a lot of us are working with her, a whole bunch of players. But she helps us and I think its good.

Q: So you want to be a police officer one day?
A: I’m not sure yet. But we’ll see.

Q: Got to ask you about Bryan Pata. I know you guys were close. Both of you came from the same streets in Miami, played the same position, and grew up together the way you did.

A: We were very close. I remember high school, I’ve seen him playing and I was like ‘That boy good.’ And when I came here on my first visit, he was my host. It was hard to see him [die].

Q: How much do you still think about that, seeing what he went through, seeing him die? Does that change your behavior? Do you go out and party as much anymore?

A: I did [party]. You know as freshman and sophomore, you want to party all the time. But when it happened, I just chilled. I was like we’re not invisible. A lot of us think we can’t get shot, we can’t get stabbed, we can’t get k!lled. But coach Shannon, he changed that now. We get caught we’re in trouble. When I do go out, I don’t drink that much or not really drink at all. I try to have a fun time, but I try not to start no f!ghts with anybody.

Q: Give me a good Bryan story? What was your favorite experience with him?
A: My favorite experience was after the North Carolina game. His last week before he died, the weekend before the Virginia Tech game. Me, him and Catfish [Dwayne Hendricks] went to his mama’s house and his mama cooked, his sister cooked, everybody cooked. The food was good. Creole and shrimp pasta. And then, three days later, he was gone.

Q: You guys spent a lot of time of time together?

A: He was [number] 95. I was [number] 96. We were right there together. Everytime after games, we’d go out to Hooters, we’d go out to Denny’s or go out to eat. I was very close to him. He was a good person off the field. Now, I heard stories about his freshman and sophomore years, he was pretty bad. But his senior year, he didn’t go to no clubs. He was pretty chill. He didn’t get in trouble with nobody that I knew of. He was chilling, I got to get my family out of the ghetto. He was serious about his family.

Q: How much do you guys still think about him? Do you still do anything to honor him?
A: His birthday was just the other day [August 12th]. We held a moment of silence. Our whole line, Josh, Chaz, the young people think about him everyday. We all looked up to him. It’s hard to see him pass away like that his senior year.
 08-15-2007, 02:41 PM         #1923
Hurricane Ra  OP
$n/a | Props total:  
August 15, 2007 Staff

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The offense moved the ball well at times in today's second scrimmage of the fall, but players said there were only two scores: A 41-yard Daren Daly field goal and a 30-yard Sam Shields catch in double coverage.

Shields ran a fade and caught the Kirby Freeman pass in double coverage.

"I went over the top and grabbed it," Shields said. "We were moving the ball, but that was our only touchdown. The offense did alright today, the defense was playing hard. We did what we were supposed to do."

The defensive star was end Calais Campbell, who had three official sacks.

But he expects that number to be upped to four after a review of the film.

"I had four sacks, but the referees only gave me three," Campbell said. "On the third one I touched him (there's no tackling the quarterbacks in pre-season), but the referee said nobody got him. I reached out and touched him. I know in my heart I had him. Coach will probably give it to me in the meeting room when we're watching film."

* There were some other notable plays.

- CB Carlos Armour did a great job of tipping a long Kyle Wright pass to safety Jared Campbell, who took the interception back inside the 20. Wright chased him down and actually forced a fumble that the defense recovered.

"I saw the quarterback looking, snuck over there because I knew Carlos was going to tip it up or pick it," Campbell said. "I got around the ball. Get around the ball and good things happen to you."

Of the fumble, Campbell said, "I didn't want to bulldoze the quarterback, so I cut in and he just punched the ball out. I'm a defensive player - I played offense in high school, but I still have to keep my offensive skills good."

- On the opening kickoff of the second half, Graig Cooper had an electrifying return that players say went for over 60 yards.

"I kicked it down to the four, and he took it back to our 40," Daren Daly said. "I tried to make a tackle and he cut back the other way and Richard (Gordon ended up making the tackle)."

Cooper said of the return that, "It was just good blocking. My teammates hustled, set up some good blocks. I just went off of them."

- DE Eric Moncur had a sack, and LB Eric Houston had a sack on a blitz.

- WRs Lance Leggett and Leonard Hankerson each had 25-yard plus catches today.

Of his catch, Hankerson (who was mostly with the second team today) said, "It was a post and I dragged and it was open two times before. I ran a good route, was wide open, caught the ball and ran another 15, 20 yards.

"It felt good to get in there and do what I can do."

Leggett said of his long catch that, "It was a third down play and Kirby just threw it up."

- Daly said of the special teams play that "We had a few penalties that we have to get cleaned up. Otherwise it went pretty smoothly."

- Richard Gordon had one KO return and took it back 25 yards to just past the 30-yard line.

"He's strong and he's fast," OL Derrick Morse said. "He just picks up that ball and just goes. He doesn't back down to anybody, and you just know he's not getting tackled by the first guy – I don't care who you are. You better take his legs out, and hardcore, because he's an athlete and he'll jump over you. He's a great player, explosive. And we've got Cooper, who is just fast."

- Javarris James had several 10-yard plus runs. Cooper was bottled up for most of the day in the offensive backfield.

"Javarris had the big runs," Cooper said.

* Some negatives from the scrimmage: There was a lost fumble early in the scrimmage, Matt Bosher missed a field goal try and David Strimple, who handled most of the punts (Daly did not get any work at punter), shanked one of them. He did well on the others. There was a roughing the kicker call on one attempt.

* Players say they were excited to see freshman RB Shawnbrey McNeal out there. McNeal was cleared to practice yesterday and has wowed already.

"He was on my team today, and he cuts so smooth," DE Calais Campbell said. "He's so explosive. I think he might even be faster than Reggie Bush - I won't like to you. You'll see real soon. He won the state 100 in Texas, so he's got speed. He's one of the fastest guys in the country. He's faster than Graig (Cooper). They're both explosive. (McNeal) played well today. If he runs hard, holds onto the ball ... the best backs will play."

Leggett added, "He's got some wheels, boy. Coming in we all knew he was fast, but we were just waiting to see him run. And now we've seen him run. Once he hits it, he hits it. That's another weapon we have in the backfield."

* WR Darnell Jenkins' take on today's scrimmage:

"We were mixing up the offense (with different personnel)," Jenkins said. "The defense was playing well. It was just a battle out there. I'm happy with how we did. We're making steps every day."

Of the offense only getting 10 points in the scrimmage, Jenkins said, "You can't put it like that. We practice with each other every day, have a feel for each other. All we do is just compete on both sides of the ball."

Cooper added of the offense's play today that, "We still have work to do. Every day we just have to get better. That's about it."

* Calais Campbell was pumped up for the scrimmage.

As he emerged from the locker room for the start he hollered, "Who's got that fire! Yeah!"

Campbell said of the day's work that, "The defense did well, but the offense played well, too. Sam Shields caught that nice ball in the end zone with double coverage, went and got it. I like that, seeing receivers going to get the ball. It was back and forth. The offense would make a few plays; the defense would buckle down and make plays."

* Jared Campbell told reporters today that he has plans to step out of big brother Calais' shadow down the road.

Told of his trash-talking, Calais said, "He's probably saying he's the best Campbell, `The Conclusion,' that's what he calls himself," Calais said. "He calls himself `The Conclusion' because he's the youngest out of all of us (there are several brothers in the family)."

* OL Derrick Morse, who played a lot of center today, said of the scrimmage that, "It was a pretty balanced day. The offense did a lot of good things, but sacks and penalties k!lled us. The defense did a lot of good things. The competition is just making everybody better. Everybody's finishing to the whistle. And our defense is five or 10 guys to the ball every time. We're trying to make that the same thing on offense. We're getting there."

* Leggett said of the day's work that "We still have work to do. The receivers, we know we need to block better, get better at that."

* Colin McCarthy has missed the last couple of days with injury.

"He's just a little nicked up," coach Randy Shannon said.

* The team practices tomorrow morning and then has its final two-a-day on Friday
 08-15-2007, 02:41 PM         #1924
Hurricane Ra  OP
$n/a | Props total:  
August 15, 2007 Staff

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First-year coach Randy Shannon doesn't want to leave anything to chance.

So he is making a real-game atmosphere down to every last detail for scrimmages.

In today's second scrimmage of the fall he poked his head outside the locker room door at one point to see how many more minutes the team had remaining in the locker room before the coin toss.

"Three minutes," an a.ssistant yelled.

Three minutes later Kenny Phillips emerged from the locker room wearing a white jersey. At the same time Lance Leggett emerged from a different area wearing an orange jersey.

They met at the center of Greentree Practice Field with a referee, who asked them to pick heads or tails. Then the referee flipped the coin.

Simultaneously offensive coordinator Patrick Nix rose into the air on a TV camera crane, with headset on. Simulating his spot in the press box, he called in plays from high above the field throughout the scrimmage.

Defensive coordinator Tim Walton was on the field – his preferred place during games – wearing a headset and making the defensive calls.

When the players came out they emerged through separate entrances. One team was in orange, the other in white – Shannon mixed up offensive and defensive players on each team (the quarterbacks switched teams at halftime; Kirby Freeman came out leading the white team with Kyle Wright leading the orange team).

Yes, there was a halftime.

There were even TV timeouts (no, obviously the game wasn't televised – Shannon simply wanted to simulate game day down to every detail). He said there were four TV timeouts called today.

Shannon even called for a television replay on one occasion.

"We had one review," Shannon said. "You have to put us in those situations in game time, substitutions and all that. We didn't have any substitution busts, which is great. We didn't have to call a timeout because we didn't have the right personnel on the field, which is great. The same thing on defense. If we keep putting them in situations, we'll be fine."

Players say they understand the point Shannon is trying to get across with the game day atmosphere at scrimmages. In past years the team would hold a spring-type scrimmage where there would be none of the attention to detail.

"We're just getting ready for game situations, that's it," RB Graig Cooper said. "You have to get used to it somehow."

DE Calais Campbell adds, "We have a lot of young guys that are inexperienced, so coach Shannon developed game situations with quarter breaks, halftime, a pre-game, everything. It feels like a game. It gets us prepared so when game time comes around everyone knows what they're doing."
 08-15-2007, 02:42 PM         #1925
Hurricane Ra  OP
$n/a | Props total:  
August 15, 2007 Staff

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Q: How was the scrimmage?

Shannon: It was fine. We got a lot of work done today, ran the ball pretty decent, had a couple of bad plays on special teams. That's why we practice special teams. Overall the offense and defense did a great job on both sides of the football. Special teams we made big plays, big runs, but some plays were called back by fouls that we cannot have on this team to be successful. Special teams, we have to correct – in the first scrimmage special teams was great. Now this one we have to improve on.

Q: How did Kyle Wright and Kirby Freeman perform?

Shannon: They did a good job today. Both of them alternated (between the orange and white team). So it was a good opportunity for those guys to work and compete. It was funny because when one of them scored a touchdown, the other one gave a high-five, jumped up. And when the other one had not a great series, the other came out and said, `Keep your head up.' So that's what I mean by developing a team. And that's what those guys have been (doing). They've been developing this team to be great.

Q: How did Graig Cooper and Javarris James look?

Shannon: They did okay, made some big plays but also got stuffed a couple of times. And that's why you scrimmage. It's almost like you have to treat it like a pre-season game. This is our second pre-season game. The next pre-season games it'll be a little different.

Q: Did the offense or defense dominate?

Shannon: No. We split them up, orange against white. It was fun out there. White has to bus the orange trays (because they lost the scrimmage).

Q: Did Kylan Robinson make any tackles today?

Shannon: He did. He looks good out there, is running around. He's a smart kid, and he's not busting anything. So that's promising - when you move a guy and he's doing great. The more he can pick it up, the more he can help us.

Q: Compared to the first scrimmage did anyone make big improvements?

Shannon: The thing we did, we moved the offensive line around. We kept three offensive tackles and played Derrick Morse at center, moved him back to guard. We're getting them prepared for the season, because you never know what's going to happen. We move those guys around like that, (it) will help us out a lot. That's one thing we did different from the last scrimmage.

Q: Any big plays on special teams?

Shannon: Graig Cooper had some runs, Shawnbrey McNeal had some runs, Chavez Grant. All those guys did a good job. They were better than the last time. We didn't have any muffs this time compared to the first scrimmage when we had muffs, which was great.

Q: How did the kickers do?

Shannon: Good. We had a field goal that was made, one miss. One miss, one made. That was a start.

Q: Talk about Calais Campbell and his leadership role on this team.

Shannon: Calais is just Calais. He likes the game. He likes enthusiasm, doesn't have an ego about anything. You don't have to worry about him.

Q: What similarities have you noticed between him and his brother, Jared Campbell?

Shannon: Really I don't know. One is tall, one is short. That's the only difference. But otherwise they're about the same. They're low-key, mellow type guys, fun-loving guys.

Q: How is Jared doing?

Shannon: He's doing well. We're going to play about five or six freshmen on this team that are going to help us out. Jared's doing a wonderful job for us right now. He's running with the second team. When he's doing that, that's the most you can ask for.

Q: It was Calais that first brought Jared's highlight tape to you last year?

Shannon: He brought it in, said, `My brother is interested.' I said, `Okay, I'll take a look at it.' And then I flew out there (to Denver, Col.) and there was snow everywhere. I talked to the family, the sisters, the brothers. And he was (committed) with the University of Washington at that time. I told him, `Don't make a decision just because your brother is here. Come down and visit Miami and see if this is a place for you academically and socially and things like that, see if this team has the same demeanor as you.'
 08-15-2007, 02:42 PM         #1926
Hurricane Ra  OP
$n/a | Props total:  
August 15, 2007

Gary Ferman, CaneSport Magazine

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Miami Booker T Washington High School CB Brandon Harris took an unofficial visit to Miami earlier this week to check out practice.

"It went well," said Harris, who visited with his father (who coaches the Booker T. team) and brother. "I was really excited. That was my first practice I saw in person. The intensity really impressed me."

Harris spoke with coaches Wesley McGriff, Tim Walton and Randy Shannon while on campus.

"They were telling me to stay focused in school and get my grades and let everything else just fall in place," Harris said.

Harris also spoke with former teammates Chavez Grant and Antonio Dixon while he was there.

"I talk to them often, they come to the school often," Harris said. "They don't try to sway me, just say don't let recruiting get to me, that they'll support me in whatever I do."

And Harris says he truly doesn't know what he wants to do right now.

Because he's graduating early, Harris must make a decision by the end of December.

"I'm going to take two visits in September - I'll have to check my team schedule after that for other visits," he said.

He says Miami will be one official visit.

He says he's also thinking about visiting Florida, LSU, Ohio State and Tennessee.

He's already visited UF three times over the summer.

"I have a good relationship with their staff," he said. "They're in the running.

"Rutgers I'm also looking at real strong, and Oklahoma and UCF."

Last year Harris played receiver and defensive back. He finished with 35 receptions for 650 yards and 12 touchdowns, adding 41 tackles, four sacks and six interceptions on defense.
 08-15-2007, 11:27 PM         #1927
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$n/a | Props total:  
Ferman Team Analysis

August 15, 2007

Gary Ferman, CaneSport Magazine

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Randy Shannon is setting the bar high in his first year as head coach
Nobody seems to be able to get a gauge on what the realistic expectation should be for the Miami Hurricanes entering the 2007 season. Vegas has lowered the odds of the Hurricanes winning the national title from 60-1 in the spring to the current neighborhood of 30-1, depending on which casino you poll. Randy Shannon hasn't tried tempering expectations, telling boosters that he intends to win every single game.

So where is the truth? On one side or the other? 12-0 or 8-4? Or somewhere right down the middle?

Let's be honest. Miami coming off a 7-6 season is the nation's greatest mystery team.

When you look at the Hurricanes' upgraded talent and attitude, you see a potential BCS team. But depth is just thin enough in a couple spots that you also can see how quickly it could unravel due to injuries or other variables such as dropped passes or uneven play from the quarterback or defensive tackle positions.

Here is a position-by-position look at what I see when I analyze the 2007 Hurricanes.

QUARTERBACKS: Kyle Wright looks like he is starting to benefit from the coaching of Patrick Nix, who to me is unquestionably the best of the quarterback coaches Wright has had in his career. He has been more steady in workouts and isn't making the same kinds of mistakes he made in the past. Nix has been working with him quite a bit on his deep ball and it looks like he is vastly improved in that area as well. But I continue to be bothered by the fact that Wright has not been able to distance himself from Kirby Freeman, who has stayed in the race by making big plays in scrimmage situations despite combining them with some major mistakes. If Shannon and Nix name Freeman the starter, it would not be shocking. A combination of the two throughout the season might be a more likely scenario.

When you look at Freeman, the one edge he has on Wright is the ability to make big plays with his feet. But I'm just not sure that a quarterback looking to take off and run all the time is the ticket to developing a long-term functional offense under Nix.

Regardless of who plays, there is the legitimate question of whether either of these quarterbacks is good enough to lead a 10 to 12 win season. The Miami road schedule is brutal and I simply don't believe a team can hold up under it without great play from the quarterback position. We'll see how things play out. But as a final verdict, I would say let's not a.ssume anything here. Performance from this position will be a week-to-week issue.

Graig Cooper should bring more explosiveness to the offense
RUNNING BACKS: I get excited every time I see Graig Cooper touch the ball, which is something we should see quite a bit this season if he stays healthy. Coopoer hasn't played a game yet, but already has established himself as the one guy on the Miami roster capable of changing a game with his talents. Could he be the next Devin Hester-type player at Miami? Absolutely. Look for him to get plenty of extra touches out in the open field in the passing game.

I'll go out on a limb here and say that if he stays healthy, Cooper will make a three-game difference over 2006 by himself.

Javarris James will continue to be a workhorse and should be the back of choice in goal line situations to take advantage of his power running style. Look for James and Cooper to be in the game together quite a bit. Charlie Jones remains a quality option off the bench. Derron Thomas looks better than he ever has this fall, but hasn't that always been the case. Thomas will light it up in a scrimmage and then disappear for six months. We'll see what role he plays this year. Freshman Lee Chambers was also quite impressive in the couple practices in which I watched him. I am not sure how much if any time he will see this year, but he will be an exciting weapon in the future. And fellow freshman Shawnbrey McNeal may have the most speed of any back and could emerge with some playing time this year.

Until we see the Nix offense in action, it is hard to get a finger on the role of fullback Jerrell Mabry. The fullback has essentially been removed from the offense, so Mabry essentially is competing as an H-back with Chris Zellner and Dedrick Epps. Mabry could emerge as a force in the short yardage offense. But we just don't really know how often Nix will use a fullback.

In general, I feel real good about the running back position as long as Cooper stays healthy. Nix will have a lot of options to creatively use the talent available to him and Miami now again has a gamebreaker on the roster in Cooper and maybe a second one developing in Chambers.

TIGHT ENDS: There is no question in my mind who the potentially-best tight end on the roster is. That's converted defensive end Richard Gordon, a physical freak who you might even see returning some kickoffs this season. Gordon can get down the field in a hurry and create serious match-up problems for a defense. What we don't know yet is how well Gordon will grasp the offense by opening day. Therefore, look for a lot of Dajleon Farr this season. Farr has very quietly worked hard on his game and is the best blocker among the tight ends. He also is very improved as a pass catcher, though he does occasionally still drop some balls. Chris Zellner is a valued versatile guy who will have a role as an H-back in the Nix offense. Dedrick Epps, who was touted for his route running, has been relatively quiet so far this fall and seems to be No. 4 in the pecking order right now at tight end while working as the No. 2 guy in the H-back role.

Leggett is looking to step up as a go-to guy this year
RECEIVERS: This unit has been fortified by the addition of a few freshmen and the return of Darnell Jenkins, who I expect to have a huge season this year. When we sit back in December and evaluate the performance of this group though, I see us focusing on one guy quite a bit. That's Lance Leggett. He has all the physical ability in the world, but has yet to get the most of it. Now he is running out of time. Can Leggett get his head straight and become a reliable go-to guy? Will he catch the football consistently? There is one thing I feel certain about. We will find out. I expect Nix to go to Leggett early and often. The level of Leggett's game will determine if the ball comes to him late. Another real key guy here is Sam Shields, who also has all the physical ability in the world. The knock on Shields as a freshman last year was that he wasn't tough enough. That year of experience should help him make strides in that area this season.

I have been extremely impressed by Jenkins this fall considering the time he missed last season and in spring practice. He learned the offense in the off-season and has been making big plays almost daily on the practice field. Monday, receivers coach Marquis Moseley said that Jenkins is playing like one of the top receivers in the country. Look for him to have a big role in the offense. Khalil Jones is a guy who has been vastly improved this fall. He always has had the ability to get open and now he is doing a better job catching the football. If he keeps it up, he will be on the field quite a bit.

Another guy who reported to fall camp looking very impressive is Ryan Hill. He clearly did his job in Andreu Swasey's conditioning program and has been doing a nice job in fall practices. George Robinson is a second-year guy who also appears to be taking a step forward this year. Jermaine McKenzie was the best of the incoming freshmen, but he is targeted for redshirt status after injuring his neck in a car accident prior to the start of training camp. So top freshman status now falls to Leonard Hankerson, who should get playing time this year along with another first-year player, Kayne Farquharson, who has been coming on in recent practices. Yet another freshman, Daniel Adderley, will almost certainly redshirt. In summary, I expect the receiver position to be significantly more productive and competitive than it was a year ago.

OFFENSIVE LINE: After several seasons of being one of the weak links on the team, it is finally starting to look like Miami has its act together up front this season. Quite honestly, I was shocked on the first day of practice when I eyeballed how well-conditioned the line looked top to bottom. Even perpetually overweight guys like Cyrim Wimbs, Ian Symonette and Chris Barney looked as if they had shed several pounds this summer and were prepared to compete through fall drills. Being in shape doesn't mean just yet that every scholarship is counting at a position that has suffered from poor recruiting at times in the last five years. But it certainly is a move in the right direction. Right now it looks like the Canes have seven linemen worthy of front line status. Tackles Jason Fox, Reggie Youngblood and Chris Rutledge, guards Derrick Morse, Andrew Bain and Orlando Franklin and center A.J. Trump. There is a chance that Morse can play at center if line coach Jeff Stoutland decides he likes Franklin or Bain in the starting line-up more than Trump. Another guy who is looking increasingly impressive is Joel Figueroa, who has been banged up in recent days but should start seeing game time this fall. There are several other guys in the wings still grappling for playing time like Barney, Matt Pipho, Tyrone Byrd and John Rochford. None are ready for the marquee just yet, but the word from the practice field is that the line is light years better this fall than it was last year at this time.

 08-15-2007, 11:28 PM         #1928
Hurricane Ra  OP
$n/a | Props total:  

Campbell should cause defenses fits this year coming off the edge
DEFENSIVE LINE: I'm going be honest with you right now. The biggest problem area on the team is right here. Teraz McCray and Josh Holmes are undersized defensive tackles. Antonio Dixon looks the part of a dominating player, but for unknown reasons began the fall with the second team. To me, Dixon would be the biggest key to the entire season if it weren't for the question marks at the quarterback position. The bottom line is that there isn't a single tackle on the team that the coaches know they can really count on to make big plays. And defensive tackle has always been a very critical position in the Miami defense. Give Miami a couple big-time tackles and you might be looking at a national title contender this season. Instead, you have a position that will have to be handled by committee with the defense starving for someone like Dwayne Hendricks, Luqman Abdallah, Chaz Washington or Joe Joseph to step up their game along with Dixon. Freshman Chris Perry has size, but he has been sidelined throughout fall camp because he has failed to pass his physical for an undisclosed reason, making an immediate contribution highly unlikely. On a positive note, defensive coordinator Tim Walton will know where opponents are likely to attack first. There are no such personnel problems on the outside, where Mr. Calais Campbell resides. Campbell seems poised to become the nation's top defensive end. I wouldn't be shocked if he was needed to line up at tackle at times, though I am sure that isn't the desired game plan. Obviously, we can look for Campbell to have a monster season. Eric Moncur should really benefit from all the attention that Campbell will be receiving and could have a surprisingly high impact year. Courtney Harris is having a real solid fall camp and is showing signs of developing into a quality player. Vegas Franklin and Steven Wesley will also battle for playing time. Freshman Adewale Ojomo has looked good since arriving in camp, but there is no word yet on whether he will play this year. So the biggest question is whether the quality at end can compensate for the deficiencies at tackle that have been created by bad recruiting at that position the last few years.

LINEBACKER: While I don't see a great player yet at this position, the team is solid here, even though depth has been weakened with the losses of Romeo Davis (expected to be out for the season) and Glenn Cook (likely out until week four). Staying healthy will be an issue. But look for two guys to have breakout years – Colin McCarthy and Daryl Sharpton. McCarthy probably should have cracked the starting line-up as a freshman last year and has a lot of Dan Morgan-like qualities when it comes to chasing the football. Sharpton got a great deal of experience last year and should really make a big impact as a sophomore. The veteran of the group is Tavares Gooden, who will be looking to fulfill the potential everyone has seen in him since he arrived on the Miami campus. If Gooden shows up big, this will be a phenomenal trio of linebackers. Spencer Adkins has been working hard this fall and should start to get some playing time. Eric Houston has been showing some improvement as a backup middle linebacker. It presently is unknown whether freshman Allen Bailey will play this year.

Kenny Phillips leads what should be a very strong secondary
DEFENSIVE BACKS: This might be the strongest position on the team. The Hurricanes are loaded with impressive athletes at both corner and safety. The starting safeties will be Kenny Phillips and Lovon Ponder, a rock solid and experienced duo. Behind them is quality depth in the form of Willie Cooper, who has played a lot, and freshmen Joseph Nicolas and Jared Campbell, who have been impressive in fall camp. The starting corners are likely to be Glenn Sharpe and Randy Phillips, but Carlos Armour and Chavez Grant continue to impress on the practice field and should play a lot along with Bruce Johnson. Freshman Demarcus VanDyke will also likely make a strong push to get on the field this year. Tervaris Johnson has worked at corner this fall as well after playing at safety last year. There seems little reason why the Hurricanes should not be one of the nation's leaders in pass defense.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Coaches haven't made a final determination on the kickers or the returners, but you have to be curious to see the debut of Richard Gordon as a kickoff returner. UM seems headed toward making Gordon one of two guys back on kickoffs so he can be utilized as a blocker when he doesn't have the ball and as a scary 260-pound return man with 4.5 speed when teams do kick to him. Several candidates are vying for a role here, including Ryan Hill, Demarcus Van Dyke, Doug Wiggins, Shawnbrey McNeal and Lee Chambers. Cooper seems to be the favored choice as a punt returner, but several other players have been getting a look there too including Bruce Johnson and Van Dyke. It is looking increasingly likely that Daren Daly will win the kicking job and that Matt Bosher will be the punter.

COACHING: The Hurricanes simply aren't good enough yet to just line up and win. The revamped coaching staff, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, is going to have to make a difference in a handful of ballgames this season for Miami to emerge as a BCS team. The brunt of that pressure falls on new offensive coordinator Patrick Nix, but he signed up for that by coming here from Georgia Tech for the lure of competing for championships and expanding his profile. The signs on Nix are really, really good, and his time under Chan Gailey had to help him a lot. But we won't truly know what kind of offensive strategist Shannon plucked from Tech until the Canes get into the heat of battle, which they will quickly at Oklahoma and then at home against Texas A&M. The thing I like the most of what I have seen from Nix is his inclination to creatively utilize the talent available to him and get the most from his roster. He is willing to utilize multiple guys at individual positions and move guys around to get what he wants, something we haven't seen here in several seasons. The other thing I expect to see from Nix is a willingness to take shots down the field to open up the defense. He has speed on the outside to work with in Lance Leggett and Sam Shields. Both guys will get opportunities to make big plays and also will be used as decoys to create gaps for players like Graig Cooper and Darnell Jenkins. Nix can't help but be an upgrade over the disaster that was Rich Olson's tenure last year. I really think this offense can get back in the 30-point a game range this season.

I have also been impressed by what I have seen of offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland. Stoutland brings the kind of intensity you would expect of a line coach, but he also has demonstrated in early drills that he is an excellent teacher. Look for a big step-up in performance from a more experienced offensive line that reported in the best physical shape I have seen from a Miami offensive line in several seasons. Mario Cristobal's vision of the quality of this line together seems to be coming to fruition.

With Shannon as the head coach, the transition of Tim Walton into the defensive coordinator role comes with some pressure of its own. Walton has been given the green light to inject some of his own thoughts and wrinkles, but you know Shannon will always be on the opposite end of the headset monitoring things very closely on that side of the ball. Shannon will not accept a drop off in Miami's performance on defense.

When you have a new coaching staff, you can expect some growing pains. They have to learn to work together on game day and their ability to make adjustments on the field will have an impact.

Shannon is also in his first go-around of managing games as the head coach. It will be interesting to see how he develops.

SUMMARY: This is clearly a Canes team taking a step in the right direction, but one that might be a year or two away from a return to the elite level of college football. There is a lot of young talent to work with and there is no question that the attitude of the team and the physical conditioning have been upgraded. That figures to carry over into game day.

Nobody around the country is respecting these Hurricanes. I haven't seen anybody even pick them to win the ACC, and they aren't in the Top 25 in the first coaches' poll.

It seems totally bizarre to me, but sometimes I wonder if maybe I am too close to it. For example, I never could have imagined last year's team finishing anywhere near 7-6.

I do feel strongly about one thing. There isn't a game on the schedule that Miami won't have a good chance to win at kickoff. So in the end, the way 2007 plays out will be dependent on how all the variables come together – the chemistry of the coaching staff, the quality of play at the quarterback position, Graig Cooper's health, Lance Leggett's hands and head, Richard Gordon's ability to learn the playbook, the offensive line's toughness, the emergence of a couple playmakers at defensive tackle.

That's a long list that I could probably stretch even more if I desired. Too long of a list for a national championship team, in my opinion.

But we are guaranteed a season with a great deal of intrigue and excitement. The future looks quite bright with the way that recruiting is going. I can't wait for September 1 to get here so we can see how it plays out.

 08-16-2007, 06:23 AM         #1929
Sh0wty  OP
$n/a | Props total:  
That was a great Article by Ferman.. Right on point.
 11 years ago '04        #1930
madness 16 heat pts16
$13,112 | Props total: 3598 3598
RB McNeal "Can Fly"

[pic - click to view]

Shawnbrey McNeal

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Freshman running back Shawnbrey McNeal has impressed his teammates so much since practicing with the team on Thursday he is drawing comparisons to New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush.

Like Bush, McNeal possesses incredible speed and explosive ability. He won back to back Texas 3A 100-meter titles in track as a sophomore and junior, with his best time clocked at 10.48 in the 100 and 4.28 in the 40.

As a senior at Madison High School, McNeal ran for 1,441 yards and 20 touchdowns while averaging 10.4 yards per carry.

“I like Reggie,” McNeal says with a laugh. “If the players call me Reggie Bush it is because they think he moves like me and they like my speed.”

McNeal figures to at least see playing time as a kick and punt returner this year for Miami. In yesterday’s scrimmage, just McNeal’s second practice, he was already working as the first team kick returner.

“Coaches are telling me, ‘keep working and doing what you are doing’ and the players are telling me ‘keep working and doing what you are doing,’ McNeal said. “Everybody knows I am fast, so before practices started they were asking me when I was going to get out there and show my Texas speed. When I went out there, it came pretty well and they were like ok.”

McNeal said he first realized he was fast when his father told him during little league baseball that he had great speed and he should use that to his advantage. At the time, McNeal says he didn’t understand what his father was telling him, but as he got older he knew his speed was a special gift.

“My dad was also my little league coach,” McNeal said. “He would always tell me, you have a God gift and to use that God gift. And [at that time] I was like God gift? Not really knowing [what he meant]. As I got older and he told me that, I was like ok cool and I started using my God gifts to my advantage.”

McNeal participated in his first practice Tuesday after dealing with NCAA clearinghouse issues during the summer because of his GPA and having to get cleared by the neurologist as part of the physical players go through before they can practice.

“I had to tell him the plays [today],” running back coach Tommie Robinson said. “I had to tell him what to do and the protection, things of that nature. But you put that ball in his hands and it became natural. He can fly now, he has showed some signs.”

Though McNeal wasn’t cleared before Tuesday to physically practice and run around with the rest of the running back unit, he did use that time to learn the offense.

“I was practicing with the offense. Before I started practicing on the field with the team, I was in the huddle getting mental reps,” McNeal said. “When I got on the field all the plays came to me, but I still had a lot of work to do. It feels great to finally [get on the field and] mingle with the guys and finally get a little camaraderie going. It feels great.”

McNeal, who originally committed to Texas A&M last October, says he will play anywhere the coaches tell him and anywhere he can have an impact.

“I am looking to be a key to the team to get where we need to get, which is New Orleans,” McNeal said. “Whatever I can do to get us to New Orleans, then that is what I got to do, no matter if that is on offense, defense, or special teams; it doesn’t matter.”
 08-16-2007, 02:04 PM         #1931
Hurricane Ra  OP
$n/a | Props total:  
August 16, 2007 Staff

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* The offensive and defensive plays of the day:

- WR Sam Shields went up and grabbed a 30-yard touchdown over Randy Phillips in 11-on-11 work.

"It was a great play – it was great defense," Phillips said. "We went up, I tipped it, he fell back and he caught it. I tried to roll him out of bounds … it was a great play. That's what we need around here.

"Sam, some days I get the best of him and some days he gets the best of me. He's making me a better player, I'm making him a better receiver."

- Phillips made his own big play earlier with a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown.

"The D line got great pressure like they always do and will during the season," Phillips said. "I just happened to be there. They made him scramble, I dropped the route and from there they blocked real well and led me into the end zone."

CB Carlos Armour added, "The defensive line got great pressure and forced a bad pass, and he was there to capitalize on it."

Armour said the defense had a great effort practice today.

* DB Damien Berry is back participating fully in practices coming off a torn ACL.

He isn't working at safety, though – he's playing second and third team nickel and hopes to get on the field as a true freshman.

"I've been out there, getting reps in," Berry said. "I'm working hard, trying to get bigger, stronger, faster. I'm 100 percent right now."

* RB Shawnbrey McNeal was held out most of today but says he's feeling fine.

Coach Randy Shannon said he just wanted to rest McNeal because he was coming off the long layoff while he was waiting for his physical to go through.

McNeal said it was frustrating missing time.

"It has an effect on you," McNeal said.

McNeal was cleared to practice on Tuesday after seeing a neurologist, and RB coach Tommie Robinson said today that McNeal is possibly the fastest player on the team.

McNeal was the Texas state champion in the 100-meter dash as a junior and senior.

"I'm looking to bring a good key to the team, whatever I can do to help us get to New Orleans is what I'm going to do – offense, special teams, it doesn't matter," he said.

RB coach Tommie Robinson said of McNeal, who is working with the second and third teams, "He can run ... he can fly. He has incredible speed and quickness. He's showed some signs of what we signed him for. He can run."

McNeal says he's been timed at 4.28 seconds in the 40-yard dash in high school (his personal best 100 time is 10.45 seconds), but he hasn't tested yet at UM.

"Everyone knows I'm fast, of course," McNeal said.

McNeal is also competing as a kickoff and punt returner.

"My dad was always telling me I have God's gift," McNeal said. "I'm using God's gift to my advantage."

* Robinson says he expects his backs to get a lot of action running the ball this season, pointing to how much Patrick Nix's backs carried the ball when the offensive coordinator was at Georgia Tech.

"Tashard Choice led the conference in rushing," Robinson said. "A few years ago P.J. Daniels led the conference in rushing at Georgia Tech. We're going to run the football."

* CB Demarcus VanDyke says he's been working as a first-team cornerback all week.

"I'm trying to get the feel of the ones," VanDyke said. "Randy Phillips, Kenny Phillips really help me out. I'm competing to start; hopefully I get a chance to start this year."

* The first team OL in coming out drills (from left to right): Jason Fox, Andrew Bain, John Rochford, Derrick Morse, Chris Rutledge. The first team receivers were Lance Leggett and Sam Shields with Darnell Jenkins in the slot.

The second team OL (from left to right): Tyrone Byrd, Orlando Franklin, AJ Trump, Matt Pipho (he's playing center and guard), Ian Symonette. The second team receivers were Khalil Jones and Kayne Farquharson.
The first team defense early in practice: DL Calais Campbell, Eric Moncur, Antonio Dixon, Luqman Abdallah. LB Tavares Gooden, Eric Houston, Spencer Adkins. DB Kenny Phillips, Willie Cooper, Carlos Armour, Demarcus VanDyke.

The second team defense included Randy Phillips, LBs Colin McCarthy and Kylan Robinson, tackle Chaz Washington and ends Adewale Ojomo and Vegas Franklin.

* Working on the side with the injured players today were Robert Marve, Jermaine McKenzie, Jerrell Mabry, Glenn Sharpe, Lee Chambers, Joel Figueroa, Demetri Stewart, Anthony Redd*ck, Steven Wesley, Chris Perry and Charlie Jones.

* Randy Shannon missed the start of practice because he was attending a Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce breakfast.

* WR Lance Leggett says he's up to 195 pounds.

"I just did what (strength coach Andreu) Swasey told me to do," Leggett said.

* The team holds its final two-a-day of the fall tomorrow.


"You won't hear nothing about Jacksonville. It's all about New Orleans." – RB coach Tommie Robinson

 08-16-2007, 02:04 PM         #1932
Hurricane Ra  OP
$n/a | Props total:  
August 16, 2007 Staff

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UM President Donna Shalala gathered the team around before Thursday morning's practice and spoke for approximately five minutes.

Part of her message - she told the team to be a family and said, "We love this team and this Hurricanes tradition. Carrying on this tradition I'm going to go to Oklahoma with you and watch you win there, but more importantly I'll see you around campus.

"We'll get you the best facilities we can build or buy for you. ... I look forward to working with you and cheering for you."

Shalala has good reason for being confident she'll watch Miami beat Oklahoma.

"I am," she said. "They always win when I travel with them. They never lose when I travel with them."

Of what she wanted to get across to the team in her talk, Shalala said, "That we brought them here to grow them, that this was family and we support them. I wish them well. I told them they're walking in the steps of champions and this is their time."

* Shalala said the Orange Bowl situation remains in flux, but she said a decision "might be" reached at the Aug. 21 board meeting.

"We're not there yet – I haven't turned the switch on whether that's going to be final, final," she said. "We're still analyzing, negotiating, talking to the mayor. Manny Diaz has been heroic in making an effort to keep us in the Orange Bowl. Whether it's going to be possible neither he nor I know right now. But I'll know soon, I hope.

"We've already been to the athletic board. It's all an executive board decision now."

* Shalala said all the incoming UM freshmen have been given a CD titled `Spirit of the U.'

"It's got a song on it called `In The Steps of Champions' written by Desmond Child, who gave it to us as part of our Momentum Campaign," Shalala said. "And we sent every freshmen a CD with all the University songs and all the cheers so that they can learn it."

The CD begins with a message from Shalala that starts, "Yo, students. This is President Shalala."

Shalala a.ssures that, "I don't walk around talking like that."
 08-16-2007, 02:05 PM         #1933
Hurricane Ra  OP
$n/a | Props total:  
August 16, 2007 Staff

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Opening statement: It was an easy practice (today), quick, short, just working on little special teams, corrections from the scrimmage the other day.

Q: How is Shawnbrey McNeal doing?

Shannon: He had a couple of plays in the scrimmage yesterday, did some special teams things. He did great. He practiced a little bit (today) – when you haven't practiced in a while you're a little out of shape, so we decided to rest him a little bit.

Q: How does that affect him, missing that time when he was awaiting being cleared through his physical?

Shannon: It doesn't affect him. We don't expect much out of him. We just have to ease him back into the flow of it because the humidity and heat get to you if you jump right back in.

Q: When do you start firming up who some of your starters are?

Shannon: We still have another week and another scrimmage. We'll probably announce everything on that Tuesday before Marshall.

Q: Is Patrick Smith practicing?

Shannon: Patrick hasn't practiced yet. He has to be cleared by the doctors.

Q: Glenn Sharpe and Charlie Jones have been out with the injured guys for a while. How are they doing?

Shannon: The guys who are practicing are the guys you have to worry about. You have to coach the guys you have on the field.

Q: How about Colin McCarthy?

Shannon: He practiced today.

Q: How have you seen Javarris James develop after the breakout season he had last year?

Shannon: He's coming around well. He's competing, is still doing the things he's supposed to do, and he's working hard. He's going to be fine.

Q: How do the running backs push each other to be better?

Shannon: Competition more than anything. Competition makes it easy for everybody. Guys push themselves because of competition.

Q: What are your thoughts on the future status of the Orange Bowl?

Shannon: I really don't have any. I'm worried about practice right now. The Orange Bowl is the Orange Bowl. Pro Player is Pro Player.

Q: Was Reggie Youngblood out there today?

Shannon: Yes. He was practicing today.

Q: What were things that stood out to you from the scrimmage after reviewing film?

Shannon: Just special teams stuff we had to correct, penalties on special teams. But, other than that, we were fine.

Q: What's your vision for the team that will take the field against Marshall on Sept. 1?

Shannon: That we go out there and play hard and win the game.

Q: Players are confident things will be different this year. Why are you confident that things will be different?

Shannon: Because of the way the guys are competing and practicing hard and the staff is gelling, they communicate all the time. Guys mingle with each other, different guys go home with different guys – offensive guys take defensive guys home, defensive guys take offensive guys home.
 08-16-2007, 02:35 PM         #1934
SteveSS  OP
$n/a | Props total:  
What is Glenn Sharpe, like 35 years old now?
 08-16-2007, 02:50 PM         #1935
Hurricane Ra  OP
$n/a | Props total:  
August 16, 2007 Top 10 Sleeper teams
1. Miami
It seems a bit odd to mention a team that has won five national titles since 1983 as a sleeper, but Miami fits the criteria after slumping to a 7-6 record last season. A closer look at that season indicates the Hurricanes aren't too far away from returning to Atlantic Coast Conference title contention. Miami returns 17 starters from a team that lost four games by three or fewer points last year. The return of All-America candidates Calais Campbell and Kenny Phillips will help make the defense as good as ever. We're guessing the promotion of defensive coordinator Randy Shannon to head coach will help add some life to an offense that's been dormant the last few years. Shannon might need a couple of years before Miami is contending for national titles again, but we're guessing the Hurricanes will emerge as Virginia Tech's top challenger in the ACC Coastal Division this year. Although Miami wasn't in the preseason coaches' poll, listed the Hurricanes as the No. 20 team in our own preseason Top 50. That lofty ranking offers enough evidence in our faith that Miami will bounce back this season.

2. Arizona State
Dennis Erickson has won at all of his previous stops (last season's one-year experiment at Idaho excluded), so it's only a matter of time before he has the Sun Devils moving into the upper reaches of the Pac-10. Arizona State has enough talent to challenge California and UCLA for second place in the conference this year. Now that Rudy Carpenter has regained his health after breaking each of his hands last year, the junior quarterback should return to the form he showed two years ago when he led the nation in passing efficiency. Carpenter's struggles last year helped explain why Arizona State struggled through a 7-6 season that resulted in the firing of Dirk Koetter. Arizona State also boasts one of the game's most underrated running backs in Ryan Torain. The Sun Devils should benefit from the fact that they play most of their toughest conference foes (Oregon State, California and Southern California) in Tempe.

3. Iowa
Perhaps no team underachieved quite as much as Iowa last year. After starting the year as a trendy pick to reach a BCS game, the injury-riddled Hawkeyes finished 6-7 with an Alamo Bowl loss to Texas. How are the Hawkeyes going to do better this year without Drew Tate, their starting quarterback for the last three seasons? Take a look at their schedule. Iowa doesn't have to face Michigan or Ohio State this season. The Hawkeyes could challenge for a Big Ten title as long as defensive end Kenny Iwebema - one of eight returning starters on defense - bounces back from the shoulder injury that hampered him for much of the 2006 season. Iowa also could use a comeback season from Albert Young, who rushed for 779 yards last year after gaining 1,334 yards in 2005. A big season from Young could take some of the pressure off first-year starting quarterback Jake Christensen, who should benefit from a promising receiving corps that features Dominique Douglas and Andy Brodell.

4. Alabama
The Crimson Tide has garnered plenty of offseason noise for a sleeper, but most of that attention has revolved around the guy on the sideline instead of the guys on the field. Alabama has more talent than its 6-7 record in 2006 might indicate. John Parker Wilson set a single-season school passing record and DJ Hall broke the school's single-season receiving record last year. Hall and Keith Brown give the Tide one of the nation's top receiving tandems. Alabama lost four games by seven or fewer points last season. The presence of first-year coach Nick Saban could help Alabama turn some of those close losses into victories this season. Alabama isn't quite good enough to contend for a Southeastern Conference Western Division title this soon in Saban's tenure, but the Tide should finish the season with at least eight wins.

5. Oklahoma State
Few teams in the nation can match Oklahoma State's talent level at the offensive skill positions. Bobby Reid and Zac Robinson return at quarterback to throw to All-America candidate Adarius Bowman. Dantrell Savage averaged 6.5 yards per carry last year, and he reached the 100-yard mark in five of his last seven games. The return of all those guys should a.ssure that Oklahoma State is more talented than last year's team, though the Cowboys' schedule could make it difficult for them to improve their win total by more than a game or two. Oklahoma State opens the season at Georgia and faces Nebraska, Texas A&M and Oklahoma on the road.

6. Michigan State
How much difference can a coaching change make? Michigan State could put that theory to the ultimate test this year. The Spartans displayed a penchant for wilting at the first sign of adversity the last two years under John L. Smith, who was fired last fall in the midst of a 4-8 season. New coach Mark Dantonio built Cincinnati into a bowl game winner and ought to give Michigan State much more mental toughness. Michigan State lost quarterback Drew Stanton to the NFL and also must replace its top three receivers and two starting defensive tackles from last year. The Spartans also play the Big Ten's most difficult schedule, which features road games with Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Purdue. Although the Spartans must overcome plenty of hurdles, we believe Dantonio's arrival and running back Javon Ringer's return to health will allow Michigan State to earn a bowl bid.

7. Arizona
Although the Wildcats' 6-6 record last year ended a string of six consecutive losing seasons, they still haven't reached a bowl game since 1998. Defense hasn't been the problem under Mike Stoops, who is entering his fourth year as Arizona's head coach. Arizona allowed 21 points or less in nine of its 12 games last year and features one of the nation's top cornerbacks in Antoine Cason. The Wildcats are hoping the arrival of former Texas Tech co-offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes will help Arizona's offense catch up to its defense. The first-year Arizona offensive coordinator is installing more of a pass-oriented attack, which should help Willie Tuitama bounce back from a disappointing 2006 season. Arizona might have to settle for a middle-of-the-pack finish in the Pac-10, but the Wildcats should do well enough to end their bowl drought.

8. Fresno State
Fresno State reached bowl games every year from 1999-2005 and caught the nation's attention two years ago when it threw a major scare into Southern California before falling 50-42 to the top-ranked Trojans. But the Bulldogs have gone just 4-11 since that USC game and ended their string of bowl bids with a disappointing 4-8 season last year. Fresno State now must pick up the pieces without star running back Dwayne Wright, who turned pro after his junior season. We remain optimistic about the Bulldogs because they still have coach Pat Hill, who built Fresno State into one of the nation's top non-BCS programs. Fresno State's late-season surge - the Bulldogs won three of their final four games last year - suggested they were on the verge of turning things around. The Bulldogs probably won't challenge Boise State or Hawaii for the Western Athletic Conference title, but they should have a winning season and contend for a bowl bid if quarterback Tom Brandstater plays with some consistency.

9. Virginia
Consider the Cavaliers the East Coast's version of Arizona. Both teams have solid defenses that couldn't quite compensate for their ordinary offenses last year. Defensive end Chris Long is a future first-round draft pick who leads a defense that allowed seven points or less in victories over Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Miami last year. Virginia still went 5-7 and missed the postseason because it ranked 100th or worse in every major offensive category. The offense should fare better this year now that sophomore quarterback Jameel Sewell earned some starting experience as a redshirt freshman. The defense has a chance to rank among the nation's best. That combination should add up to a bowl bid for the Cavaliers.

10. Illinois
Since Illinois stunned the recruiting world by signing five-star prospects Arrelious Benn and Martez Wilson, the Illini have become a trendy pick to earn a bowl bid. Those predictions may be a tad optimistic, but Illinois certainly has enough talent to improve upon last year's 2-10 finish. Benn could become an instant star at receiver. His ability as a home-run threat should make him a perfect match for quarterback Juice Williams, who displayed a knack for throwing the deep ball last year even while completing less than 40 percent of his passes. Linebacker J Leman returns to anchor a defense that showed its toughness last year during a 17-10 loss to top-ranked Ohio State. The Illini held the Buckeyes to their lowest point total of the regular season. Illinois isn't ready to challenge the Ohio States of the world for Big Ten supremacy just yet, but the Illini won't finish at the bottom of the league standings for a fifth consecutive year.

Steve Megargee is a national writer for He can be reached at .

 11 years ago '04        #1936
C.R.I.P. 3 heat pts
avatar space
$18,478 | Props total: 6117 6117
 SteveSS said:
What is Glenn Sharpe, like 35 years old now?

kid has been here forever..i mean damn its almost 2008...dudes been here for at least 6 years
 11 years ago '05        #1937
Deeangoe 2 heat pts
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$13,089 | Props total: 706 706
 C.R.I.P. said:

kid has been here forever..i mean damn its almost 2008...dudes been here for at least 6 years
hes the only player on roster that has championship game experience
 11 years ago '04        #1938
C.R.I.P. 3 heat pts
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$18,478 | Props total: 6117 6117
 Deeangoe said:
hes the only player on roster that has championship game experience
very true
 08-17-2007, 10:37 PM         #1939
Hurricane Ra  OP
$n/a | Props total:  
August 17, 2007 Staff

Talk about it in Gary Ferman's War Room
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Q: How was it out there today?

Shannon: The same as always, a summer practice. We got a lot of things done today and we went fast. It was a normal practice. It was an upbeat tempo and guys flew around.

Q: How weary are these guys after all these practices?

Shannon: They're not. They're fine.

Q: In prior years there was a point the team would tail off. Is that a mental thing?

Shannon: Last year is last year. I don't worry about that. What these guys are doing now, these guys are working hard. And that's all that matters right now.

Q: Was one of the intentions of having morning practices because of the early game times this year?

Shannon: Early games is one reason. And also because of all the afternoon thunderstorms. You have to get a practice in. If you wait till 3 o'clock, you know how it is in Miami, you get a lot of thunderstorms. We've got what, two early games and then a 3:30 game. So it's getting us prepared for the season also.

Q: Do you gain 3-5 practices by not practicing in the afternoon?

Shannon: You can lose some practices because of the thunderstorms. Once you hit the field it counts, and you can't ever make that day up. That's why if you can go in the mornings, get it done.

Q: How is the progress of Darryl Sharpton and Colin McCarthy?

Shannon: They practiced some today again. You can't bring anybody back into the heat of the battle coming off little nicks. You have to ease them into drills, into what they're doing, practice half the time, the other practice just watch and you'll be okay.

Q: Is Glenn Sharpe 100 percent?

Shannon: No. He's nicked up still.

Q: What have you seen from Damien Berry?

Shannon: He's playing well. He has a lot of intensity, a lot of enthusiasm. He's running around, had a great special teams this last scrimmage. He has to keep progressing, doing what he's doing to make this team better.

Q: Is the secondary as a whole one of the stronger units out there?

Shannon: I don't know if they're one of the stronger units. We have some depth there. The thing you know is you always have to keep developing, because injuries happen and things like that. The more you develop guys, the more you can be a sound team.

Q: How do things change when school starts next week?

Shannon: The one thing you have to do with student-athletes is make sure they set their priorities right. When it's time to practice, they'll practice. Practice is over, they go to study hall.

Q: How much time do you spend on special teams?

Shannon: Emphasizing special teams is most important. Sometimes on special teams you forget the little things and are always worrying about offense/defense. We try to attack every phase of special teams that we have. We've had a couple of hurry-up situations where the field goal team has to hurry up and go on the field, hurry up situations on punt. We've covered everything, worked on onside kicks this morning. You put them in adverse situations during practice, and when game time comes it becomes easy.

Q: Who are you using on kick returns?

Shannon: We're still trying to find the right combination. There are six, seven (players competing for the job).

* MLB Darryl Sharpton was back working with the first team early in the morning drills, as was safety Lovon Ponder. H-back Chris Zellner is still limping from a banged up knee and was with the injured layers.

Shannon said he's confident Zellner will be back in practice within a week.

* The team practiced in shells and will practice again this afternoon.
 08-17-2007, 10:38 PM         #1940
Hurricane Ra  OP
$n/a | Props total:  
August 17, 2007 Staff

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Defensive coordinator Tim Walton says not much has changed with UM's defense with him as the first-year coordinator.

And he says he's still not sure just how much input first year head coach Randy Shannon, the team's former defensive coordinator, will have on game day.

"Coach will have a lot (to say) because we're running the same stuff," Walton said. "We've had a lot of success here over the past six years with it, so we just have to keep it going and make sure the guys understand it and are flying around on Saturday."

Walton says the offense is throwing more looks at the defense at this point of the fall compared to recent years.

"We get used to seeing everything early, so it helps us adjust and handle things better," Walton said.

Asked how the defense is progressing overall, Walton said, "We've been up and down a little bit. We have a lot of young guys playing, a lot of freshmen taking a lot of reps with the ones and twos. They're playing hard and we have a lot of stuff in right now."

Of the play of his defensive backs, Walton said, "Those guys play hard. They have been down with numbers, have young guys playing. The mistakes they make, that stuff gets corrected. They're doing a great job effort-wise, are trying to learn."

Walton also said he's pleased with the play up front in practice.

"Overall those guys are playing hard and doing a good job with it," Walton said. "I think we'll be solid with the run and pass (defense) this year."

Asked if there are any positions that players have locked down as starters, Walton said, "We're not sure yet. We're not sure if guys may have to move, because we don't know who will be healthy."

Walton was asked about the play of Eric Moncur and said, "He's going to do a great job for us. Eric has a lot of experience, is a great pass rush guy. He plays hard and has great speed."

Walton said he's not concerned about the linebacker depth. The unit has lost Glenn Cook and is returning Colin McCarthy and Darryl Sharpton from injury.

"When you get all the guys back (from injury) there's not a problem," Walton said. "When guys miss practice young guys get reps."

Asked if MLB Allen Bailey might move to DL down the road based on his size, Walton said, "We don't know down the road. Right now we're getting through right now and this year. Right now he's a linebacker."

Walton said he will be up in the press box during games.

"I'll be upstairs," he said. "I'm excited about it, looking forward to it."

* DL coach Clint Hurtt says he's extremely pleased with the progress of ends Calais Campbell and Eric Moncur.

He has some bad news for opponents: "Calais is much better versus the run this year," Hurtt said. "Last year he had 29 tackles for a loss. This year he's going to have more than that."

Of Moncur, he says, "Eric Moncur has been magnificent this whole camp."

Hurtt compared Moncur's style of play to Jerome McDougle, adding that he has Calais Campbell's motor.

Hurtt also says he's very pleased at one tackle spot with the play of Teraz McCray, who has returned from injury and practiced well today.

"Teraz is a very key part of what we do," Hurtt said. "He had a very good practice today and I think he's going to have a great year."

Hurtt hopes Antonio Dixon will step up to man the other tackle spot. He said Dixon has enjoyed four consecutive strong practices and appears headed in the right direction.

"He's kicking butt right now," Hurtt said.

Dixon's poor conditioning in the past has earned him a nickname.

"We call him 2-play Dix sometimes," Hurtt said. He can't be (that anymore)."

Hurtt also praised the job the offensive line is doing against his group.

"Coach (Jeff) Stoutland has done an unbelievable job with that group," Hurtt said. "There's days they get the better of us. It's not like the last couple of years where we (always) do better than the offense.

"The offense and O line are vastly improved. They seem more technical, more fundamentally sound. I've been highly impressed with them. I know they're going to be one of the best O lines we'll see. I can honestly say that."

In two scrimmages the line's sack leaders are Moncur and Campbell, who have four apiece.

But there's another pass rusher who will also come into play this season.

"Courtney Harris might be the most natural rusher out of all the ends," Hurtt said.

* Tight ends coach/special teams coordinator Joe Pannunzio gave his first hint today as to the team's new punter.

"The guy that's kind of separated himself as a punter is Matt Bosher," Pannunzio said. "His biggest thing is he just hasn't had enough live stuff. He's a redshirt freshman and the first punt he's going to have as a collegiate is against Marshall. That concerns you a little bit. But I think he'll grow, get better. Thank God it's not against Florida State and Lawrence Timmons coming at you."

Overall Pannunzio says he's happy with the play of special teams despite some mistakes in the last scrimmage.

"We've put a lot of work into it," Pannunzio. "Coach Shannon from the minute I was here has always been one of those guys that understands the importance of special teams. We'll continue to get better. We should get better from here all the way through the season. I'm pleased with the progress."

Pannunzio said the placekicking competition between Bosher, Daren Daly and walkon Francesco Zampogna is ongoing.

"The one thing we have is three kickers with a lot of talent," Pannunzio said. "What we have to find is who is going to separate themselves, be the guy that can make those kicks.

"And, to be honest with you, until that guy actually makes it, this might be an ongoing process for a little while."

Asked if Daly has separated himself at kicker the way Bosher has in punts, Pannunzio said, "No, I think it's still wide open.

"The other option we don't write a lot about is the kickoff guy. They're all about the same there."

Pannunzio said "in a perfect world" he'd have each of the three doing a separate thing – one as punter, one as placekicker and one handling kickoffs.

"Whether that'll happen I don't know," Pannunzio said.

Pannunzio said those in the mix to handle kick returns are Richard Gordon, Ryan Hill, Bruce Johnson, Graig Cooper, Kayne Farquharson, Lee Chambers and Shawnbrey McNeal.

"We're looking at everybody back there that can help us and make us better," he said. "The best thing that's happened to us is coach Shannon has had these live scrimmages with special teams, which is unheard of. It's a help to me. You can see these kids in live action. This has really helped our special teams out."

Pannunzio also spoke about Gordon's progress at tight end.

"He has a lot of good days and some days where I'm wondering if I'm even a very good teacher – like all of the young guys," Pannunzio said.

After moving from defense, will Gordon be ready to play a lot at tight end by Game 1?

"Yeah, he'll play some," Pannunzio said. "He's got to play some. He's good enough.

"The thing about us at the tight end position, we have a lot of guys to choose from and they all bring different attributes to the table. We'll probably use all four in Dedrick Epps, Dajleon Farr, Chris Zellner (and Gordon)."


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