Saturday, December 29, 2007
Top to bottom: Booker T. Washington head coach Tim "Ice" Harris, Ely cornerback Patrick Johnson and Northwestern quarterback Jacory Harris
The 2007 high school football season was perhaps the greatest ever in South Florida history. Three local teams won state championships--Northwestern in Class 6A, St. Thomas Aquinas in Class 5A and Booker T. Washington in Class 4A. USA Today recently named Northwestern as its national champion and Booker T. Washington finished 8th nationally.
But as great as the teams were, the individual talent in South Florida is as good as it's ever been. But who were the very best players in South Florida? Here's a look at the best senior high school football players in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. This is the first annual 2007 MiamiSouthPaw South Florida Dream Team--hopefully the beginning of a great tradition. Remember these names. Most of them will be playing college football in the next four years and a few of them will be playing in the NFL.
QB Jacory Harris (6'4, 171) - Northwestern: Offensive Player of the Year, Harris led Northwestern to its second consecutive Class 6A state title and a mythical national championship. He holds every career Dade County passing record including 6,365 passing yards and 86 touchdown passes and a 30-0 career record as a starter. This season Harris threw for 3,445 yards, 49 TD passes and only 6 interceptions...has verbally committed to the University of Miami.
RB Mike Barasch - University School: Set a Broward County record with 2,071 yards rushing and 24 touchdowns during the regular season. Led University to the state playoffs for the first time in school history...Will attend Florida Atlantic University.
RB Jeremiah Harden - St. Thomas Aquinas: Rushed for 1,316 yards and 18 touchdowns. Led St. Thomas Aquinas to the Class 5A state championship and had an 84 yard touchdown run against Kissimmee Osceola in the state championship game--the longest run ever in a state title game. Harden currently has scholarship offers from Syracuse, Wisconsin and South Florida.
RB Aaron Winchester - North Miami Beach: A one-man gang for the North Miami Beach Chargers, Winchester rushed for 1,996 yards and also intercepted 6 passes on defense as a cornerback. He led NMB to an undefeated regular season (10-0)...verbally committed to Western Michigan University.
WR Aldarius Johnson - Northwestern: Named 2nd team All American by USA Today and one of the nation's top rated receivers. Johnson led Northwestern with 76 catches for 930 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2007. Johnson had over 1,000 yards receiving last year as a junior. Caught a 29 yard touchdown pass in the state championship game against Orlando Boone...will attend the University of Miami.
WR Davon Johnson - Booker T. Washington: Considered one of the fastest and most explosive receivers in the nation, Davon Johnson caught 27 passes for 628 yards and 7 touchdowns. Johnson also returned 2 punts and 2 kickoffs for touchdowns. He help Booker T. Washington to the Class 4A state championship...verbally committed to the University of Miami.
WR Tommy Streeter - Northwestern: At 6'5 and 200 pounds, Streeter is a physical mismatch for short defensive backs. He caught 36 passes for 676 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2007. Streeter had 3 touchdown catches in a victory over Texas power Southlake Carroll during the season. Heavily recruited, Streeter has yet to choose a college or university.
TE Bo Reliford - Dillard: A physical speciman at 6'6 and 235 pounds, Reliford is also one of Broward County's top basketball players and one of the state's best tight ends. He has a chance to play either football or basketball in college. Reliford currently has scholarship offers from Central Florida and Ole Miss.
OL Andrew Datko - St. Thomas Aquinas
: At 6'6 and 267 pounds, Datko anchored an offensive line that led Broward County in total offense and was a key member of the Class 5A state champs...has verbally committed to attend Florida State University.
OL Mike Goodman - Columbus: One of the state's most heavily recruited offensive linemen, Goodman helped teammates Jaren Jones and Jakhari Gore rush for over 1,000 yards and was a key member of a Columbus's 10-0 perfect regular season...verbally committed to Boston College.
OL Benjamin Jones - Northwestern: Made the smooth transition from defensive line to offensive line this season. Big and powerful at 6'6 and 270 pounds, Jones also benches 320 pounds and squats 485 pounds...has been offered scholarships by several schools including Miami, Florida, FSU, LSU and Ohio State.
OL Greg Shaw - Monsignor Pace: Two-time all state offensive lineman who stands 6'6 and 280 pounds. Shaw is the younger half brother of former Carol City star Willie Williams. He has scholarship offers from Florida, Georgia Tech, South Florida, LSU and West Virginia.
OL Brandon Washington - Northwestern: Massive guard who stands 6'4 and 314 pounds and is considered an excellent run blocker. Transferred to Northwestern from Edison High and anchored the Bulls offensive line to a state championship...verbally committed to the University of Miami but also has offers from Clemson, LSU and Florida.
ATH T.Y. Hilton - Miami Springs: One of the best all-around athletes in South Florida, Hilton starred at wide receiver, defensive back and returned kicks. Hilton had 785 yards receiving and 14 touchdowns this season. He's also one of Dade County's best basketball players as a point guard. Hilton has scholarship offers from Florida, Ole Miss and South Carolina.
DL Marcus Forston - Northwestern: Considered one the nation's best defensive tackles in the nation and the best in the state. Forston was named All American by USA Today. This year he registered 19 quarterback sacks and was the MVP of the Clas 6A state championship game...has already committed to the University of Miami.
DL Johnathan Jackson - Booker T. Washington: Undersized at 6'3 and only 215 pounds, Jackson overwhelmed his bigger opponents with quickness and technique and anchored the best defense in Dade County that allowed only 3.2 points per game. Jackson had 4 sacks in the 4A state championship game against Ponte Vedra Nease.
DL Corey Liuget - Hialeah: A pass rushing machine, Liuget had 15 sacks and 50 tackles despite missing a few games due to injuries. The 6'3, 270 pounder is currently verbally committed to the University of Illinois.
DL Andrew Smith - Monarch: A sleeper prospect who blossomed his senior year and dominated Broward County with 80 tackles and 15 quarterback sacks. Smith was named All-Broward County by the Sun Sentinel and verbally committed to the University of Miami.
LB Marcus Robinson - Homestead: Blessed with great speed and instincts, Robinson is rated as one of the nation's best linebackers. He was chosen to play in the U.S. Army National All Star Game and runs a 4.5 in the 40 yard dash. He is currently committed to the University of Miami.
LB Etienne Sabino - Dr. Krop: One of the nation's top rated linebackers, Sabino was chosen to play in the U.S. Army All American All Star Game. The 6'3, 235 pound Sabino will play his college football at Ohio State.
LB Sean Spence - Northwestern: Instinctive linebacker who excells against the run and pass. Spence is a rare 3-time All Dade County star and was chosen to play in ESPN's All American All Star Game. Spence started 41 games in his high school career and led Northwestern in tackles every year since his sophomore season....will attend the University of Miami.
LB Kambriel Willis - Booker T. Washington - Despite his small stature (5'11 and 181 pounds), Willis was statistically the most dominant pass rushers in South Florida. He terrorized Dade County quarterbacks, registering 20 sacks during the regular season. Willis will play his college football at Florida International University.
DB Stephen Atkinson - Cardinal Gibbons: Hard hitting safety and a team leader, Atkinson intercepted 4 passes this season and is an outstanding tackler. He will attend Boston College.
DB Brandon Harris - Booker T. Washington: Perhaps the most versatile high school player in the state, Harris played cornerback, receiver, returned kicks and even saw action at quarterback. He is the son of his head coach Tim "Ice" Harris who is the Coach of the Year. Brandon intercepted 4 passes, returning 2 for touchdowns and helped Booker T. Washington win the 4A title. He was named Gatorade Florida Player of the Year and has a 3.9 grade point average in the classroom. He is currently undecided on where he will attend college.
DB Patrick Johnson - Blanche Ely: Defensive Player of the Year, Johnson did everything for the Ely Tigers. At 6'1 and blessed with 4.37 speed in the 40, Johnson intercepted 7 passes and returned one for a touchdown. He had three other interception returns for touchdowns nullified due to penalties. On offense, Johnson accounted for 9 touchdowns. Johnson has been named to virtually every All American team and was chosen National Defensive Player of the Year by USA Today. He is verbally committed to the University of Miami but is also considering Florida, LSU and USC.
DB Jerral Stewart - Deerfield Beach: Standing only 5'8 and just 160 pounds, Stewart is the smallest player on the South Florida Dream Team. But his talent is as big as anyone's. He intercepted 8 passes to lead all Broward County big-school players and led the Deerfield Beach Bucks to the Class 6A semifinals, losing a heartbreaker to Northwestern.
ATH George Baker - Archbishop Carroll: Great athlete who played running back and defensive back. Baker led his team to the Class 2A semifinals, the best finish in school history. Rushed for 1,010 yards and 10 touchdowns on offense and made 50 tackles on defense...verbally committed to Auburn University.
KR Phillip Pierre-Louis - St. Thomas Aquinas: One of the fastest athletes in the state, Pierre-Louis returned 4 punts for touchdowns and was also the leading receiver on the Raiders Class 5A state championship team.
P Chad Saladrigas - Cypress Bay: Blessed with a strong leg, Saladrigas averaged 45.1 yards per punt on 24 punts and had a long of 70 yards. Named All Broward County by the Sun Sentinel.
K Blair Walsh - Cardinal Gibbons: Considered the best place kicker in the nation and has extraordinary leg strength and accuracy. Walsh, made a 57 yard field goal and narrowly missed a 65 yard attempt during the season. He also had a 58 yarder his junior year. Walsh was named to the USA Today All American team and will attend the University of Georgia.
Head Coach Tim "Ice" Harris - Booker T. Washington: Led Booker T. Washington to a perfect 15-0 record and the school's first FHSAA Class 4A state championship. Since taking over the Booker T. program in 2003, the Tornadoes are 62-7 under Harris and have reached at least the state semifinals in all five seasons. Harris was named National Coach of the Year by USA Today. His son Brandon Harris was chosen as a defensive back to the South Florida Dream Team.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
They're the best high school football team Dade County has arguably ever produced and now they're officially the best in the nation. Congratulations to head coach Billy Rolle and the Miami Northwestern Bulls. USA Today officially named Northwestern its national champion after capping off a perfect 15-0 season and a second consecutive Class 6A state title. The Bulls become the first team from South Florida to win USA Today's title since the paper began its national high school football poll in 1982. Northwestern also becomes the third team from Florida to win the national championship, joining the 1988 Pensacola Pine Forest Eagles and the 2005 Lakeland Dreadnaughts.
But the Bulls were not the only Miami-Dade County school ranked in USA Today's Top 25. Booker T. Washington High School in Overtown finished 8th in the nation. Both teams won the state titles in their respective classifications. Two weeks ago, Northwestern crushed Orlando's Boone High School 41-0 in the Class 6A championship game, while Booker T. Washington beat Ponte Vedra Nease in the 4A title game. Broward's St. Thomas Aquinas won the 5A championship beating Kissimmee's Osceola High School. It was truly a year to remember for South Florida high school football.
How good is Northwestern? The Bulls have won 30 consecutive games dating back to 2005. Nineteen seniors are expected to attend college on football scholarships next year and 30 players on the roster are considered legitimate college prospects. Six Northwestern players have already verbally committed to attend the University of Miami. They include quarterback Jacory Harris, who set virtually every passing record in Dade County history. Harris threw 49 touchdown passes this season and had a great trio of receivers including Aldarius Johnson, Kendal Thompkins and Tommy Streeter. Johnson and Thompkins will join Harris at UM, while Streeter remains undecided on his college choice. Offensive lineman Brandon Washington, defensive tackle Marcus Forston and linebacker Sean Spence will also attend UM.
While few followers of South Florida high school football are surprised by Northwestern's championship season. It almost never happened. Miami-Dade School Superintendent Rudy Crew nearly cancelled Northwestern's season in the wake of a coverup of a sex scandal involving former player Antwain Easterling.
Former school principal Dwight Bernard along with head coach Roland Smith were fired after they failed to report Easterling to the police for having sex in the school bathroom with a 14 year old student. Easterling was 18 years old at the time. Not only did the they fail report the crime, Bernard and Smith gave Easterling permission to play in last year's state championship game. Easterling rushed for over 100 yards and a touchdown to help the Bulls win last year's 6A title.
In the wake of the scandal, Billy Rolle and new princicpal Charles Hankerson were brought in to clean up the program. So far, so good. Rolle had coached Northwestern from 1997 to 2000 and led the Bulls to the state title in 1998. He also coached at Killian High from 2001 to 2006 and won a state title in 2004. Under Hankerson, Northwestern's enrollment has improved dramatically with 90 percent attendance. But the Liberty City school continues to face the unique challenges most inner city schools continue to struggle with. Northwestern is located across the street from the infamous Pork and Beans housing project--one of the poorest and most economically depressed areas in Miami. The students at Northwestern overcome obstacles just to graduate from school. They're surrounded by gangs, drugs, violence and poverty. Hankerson became Northwestern's fourth principal in just the last two years.
Despite all the obstacles, Northwestern is seen as a beacon of hope in Liberty City. Football has always given the school a unique sense of pride. Northwestern has won 4 state championships. But for the first time, the Bulls can say they're the best in the nation. It's a crown all of Liberty City and the Northwestern community will wear proudly.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Happy 61st birthday to former Miami Dolphins fullback Larry Csonka. During the 1970s, Csonka was pro football's most powerful running back who often trampled and knocked over defenders like a Mack truck through bowling pins. He was the face and personification of the great Dolphin teams of the early 1970s--including the 1972 undefeated team.
Born Lawrence Richard Csonka in Stow, Ohio, he grew up on a farm as one of six children from a Hungarian family. Csonka was always unusually large and strong. He weighed 10 pounds when he was born and weighed 150 pounds by the age of 12.
His football career began at Stow-Munroe Falls High School where he played defensive end as a sophomore. His transition to running back came as an accident. In the final game of his sophomore year he was sent in as a substitute as a kickoff returner. He returned the kick almost for a touchdown and nearly ran over the entire opposing team. From that point on, it was obvious Csonka had a gift for running with the football. By his senior year, Csonka led his high school team to the Metropolitan League Championship in Akron, Ohio. He graduated in 1964 and earned a football scholarship to Syracuse University.
In his three seasons on the Syracuse varsity, Csonka broke school records that were previously held by great players like Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, Jim Nance and Floyd Little. He finished his college career with 2,934 yards, 14 100-yard games and was named consensus All American by his senior year in 1967. He finished 4th in the Heisman Trophy voting and was selected in the first round by the Dolphins in the 1968 NFL Draft.
Csonka was the workhorse of Dolphin teams that dominated the NFL in the early 1970s. He led the Dolphins to three consecutive AFC Championships in 1971, 1972 and 1973. He surpassed 1,000 yards rushing in all three seasons with his best production--1,117 yards--coming during the Dolphins' perfect season in 1972. All AFC three straight seasons (1971-73) and All Pro in 1971, Csonka was selected to play in five consecutive Pro Bowls from 1970 to 1974, although injuries forced him to miss two of those games.
His most memorable performance came in Super Bowl VIII, when he was selected most valuable player. Miami's powerful rushing attack was at its best with Csonka carrying 33 times for a then-Super Bowl record 145 yards and 2 touchdowns as the Dolphins beat the Minnesota Vikings 24-7. He finished his pro career with 8,081 yards rushing and fumbled only 21 times in 1,997 career ball handling opportunities.
Csonka startled the pro football world by playing out his option with the Dolphins in 1974 to join the Memphis Southmen of the World Football League, along with Dolphin teammates Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield. When the WFL folded, he joined the New York Giants as a free agent in 1976. He enjoyed moderate success with the Giants before returning to the Dolphins fo a final 1979 season.
After his football career, Csonka has become a motiviational speaker and has hosted several hunting and fishing shows on the old Outdoor Life Network. He once worked as the General Manager of the Jacksonville Bulls of the United States Football League and even co-hosted the TV show American Gladiators from 1990 to 1993. He currently lives in Anchorage, Alaska.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Happy 53rd birthday to tennis legend Chris Evert. A Fort Lauderdale native, Evert was most dominant female athlete to ever come out of South Florida and one of the greatest tennis players to ever pick up a racquet. During her illustrious career, Evert won an amazing 157 singles titles including 18 grand slam titles along with 72 career runner-up finishes. During the 1970s and early 80s she was arguably the most decorated tennis champion--male or female--in the world.
Born Christine Marie Evert in Fort Lauderdale, she started playing tennis at age five. Her father Jimmy Evert was a well-known tennis coach who taught many of South Florida's best youth players at the public tennis courts at Holiday Park in Fort Lauderdale. Jennifer Capriati was one of Jimmy Evert's students. By 1969, Chris was the #1 ranked girl in the United States among ages 14 and under.
She went on to attend St. Thomas Aquinas High School and began competing profesionally at the same time. By age 15, she beat Australia's Margaret Court, who was the #1 women's player in the world at the time. She was so good and so young, she skipped her senior prom to compete in Wimbledon. By the early 1970s, she burst onto the tennis scene as a tall, slender blonde with ribbons in her hair filled with a fierce competitive spirit. She began to develop a reputation as an intense competitor and was nicknamed "The Ice Maiden" by the media. She rarely showed emotion on the court and was always in control--often intimidating her overmatched opponents.
By the mid 1970s, Evert was by far the best women's player in the world. By 1976, she had won all four gland slam tournaments. (Wimbledon, French Open, U.S. and the Australian Opens). For a brief time she was engaged to Jimmy Connors, who was the number one men's player in the world at the time. The romance didn't last, but Evert's dominance just kept going.
But in the late 1970s another great player who defected from Czechoslovakia named Martina Navratilova burst onto the scene and became Evert's biggest rival. The Evert vs. Navratilova rivlary would eventually become the greatest in tennis history and arguably one of the greatest in all of sports. Evert dominated their early matches. But by the 1980s, Navratilova overtook Evert and became the dominant player in the world. Evert and Navratilova met an amazing 14 times in Grand Slam finals, with Navratilova winnning 10 of the matches.
Evert's career was remarkably consistant. She never lost in the first round of any tournament and never failed to at least reach the semifinals of the 34 grand slam tournaments she competed in. She retired in 1989 and set standards that have yet to be duplicated. Evert was voted Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year four times. Tennis Magazine ranked her 4th on the its list of the 40 greatest players of all time. She was the first female athlete to host Saturday Night Live. She is currently engaged to golfer Greg Norman and runs a tennis academy with Robert Seguso and his wife Carling Bassett-Seguso.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
I will never accuse Wayne Huizenga of not caring enough about his team. With Bill Parcells on the verge of signing a contract for a front office job with the Atlanta Falcons, Huizenga swooped in and made him an offer he couldn't refuse. When it was over, Parcells was signed, sealed and delivered to the Dolphins. He is now the Dolphins Vice President in charge of football operations.
If you're a Dolphins fan, you have to be ecstatic. Parcells' track record speaks for itself. As a head coach, he led the New York Giants to a pair of Super Bowl titles in 1986 and 1990. He led the New England Patriots to the Super Bowl in 1996. He also led the New York Jets to the AFC Championship Game in 1998. In just the last few years, he took a losing Dallas Cowboys team and has built it into the Super Bowl contender it is today. There is one common denominator to all of Parcells's jobs. He made every franchise he worked for better.
But Parcells will have his work cut out for him in Miami. This time he will be asked to rebuild a franchise that is in complete shambles. Never has he inherited a team in such bad shape. What's also different is this time he will not be the head coach. He will be making the personnel decisions, but not from the sidelines. Whoever coaches the Dolphins next year will have to swallow their ego and answer to the man known as "The Big Tuna".
For now, that man is Cam Cameron. But what is Cameron's future? My first reaction was this will probably be the end of Cameron as Dolphins head coach. Usually when changes are made in the front office, head coaches are replaced in favor of someone who fits the philosophy of the new management. But an intersting factor could keep Cameron in Miami. Parcells is a good friend of legendary and volatile college basketball coach Bob Knight. It just so happens, Cameron played basketball for Knight at Indiana University and got his first coaching job as a graduate assistant at Michigan thanks to a recommendation from Bob Knight to then Michigan head coach Bo Schembechler.
Now it's hard to imagine that Cameron could keep his job just because of Bob Knight. But don't underestimate Knight's close ties to Parcells and Cameron. There's a tremendous amount of mutual respect between Parcells and Knight. Right now Cameron is hanging on by a thread to keep his job. Had it not been for Greg Camarillo's overtime touchdown against the Ravens, the Dolphins would have likely gone winless this season. I doubt Cameron could have kept his job if the Dolphins finished 0-16.
The man who has the most to lose is general manager Randy Mueller. Let's face it. Parcells's job is to repair the mess created by Mueller and his predecessor Rick Speilman. Their horrible personnel decisions and blunders have sent Dolphins down to the dregs of football. Bottom line, Mueller better start packing his bags and cleaning out his desk.
While I'm excited about the Parcells hire, part of me has seen this act before. Just a decade ago, Huizenga hired Jimmy Johnson to be the savior of the franchise. But instead of taking the Dolphins back to the Super Bowl, Johnson's legacy will be remembered for his clash of egos with Dan Marino and his inability to improve the Dolphins offense. By his final year as head coach, Johnson had grown tired of coaching and retired for good in the Keys. More recently, Nick Saban was hired two years ago to be the savior. Well, we all know what happened with that experiment.
The truth is Parcells is 66 years old. He also has a history of heart problems. How much energy does he have left? This is not going to be a quick fix. It will take extraordinary time and dedication to put this franchise back on top. Parcells is a proven winner. But will that be enough to make Miami a winner again? We shall see.
For 26 years, Walt Frazier was an iconic figure at Miami Carol City High School. A strict taskmaster and known for wearing his trademark train engineer's hat on the sidelines, few high school coaches won more games, championships or sent more kids to college than Frazier. Frazier announced his retirement yesterday ending an amazing coaching career that ranks among the best ever in state history.
His Carol City Chiefs won three Class 6A state championships in 1996, 1997 and 2003 and were state runners-up in 1989. The 1997 team went 15-0, his only undefeated season and finished #5 in the nation by USA Today. From 1996 to 1997, the Chiefs won a then Dade County record 29 consecutive games. The record was recently broken by Northwestern High. His career record of 212-111 ranks third all time in Miami-Dade County history behind Coral Gables legend Nick Kotys (258) and Jim Kroll (213) who coached at Southwest, Miami Beach and Palmetto. Two weeks ago, the FHSAA named Frazier as one of the 12 greatest coaches in state history. He was one of 3 Dade County coaches named to the prestigious list along with Kotys and Nathaniel "Traz" Powell, who coached at Carver and Mays high schools during segregation from 1948 to 1968. St. Thomas Aquinas coach George Smith was the only Broward coach named to the list.
Before he arrived at Carol City in 1983, Frazier coached at Northwestern High School from 1975 to 1977 and was an offensive line coach at Hialeah-Miami Lakes. He started wearing his trademark hat as a tribute to his father who worked as a railroad worker and instilled in him the values of discipline and hard work. Contrary to popular belief, Frazier doesn't own just one hat. Over the year's he's worn many and has collected hats from friends and admirers.
While there is no official statistic, it's hard to imagine any coach in Dade County history ever sent more of his players to college than Frazier. His former players range from current NFL players like brothers Santana Moss and Sinorice Moss to rapper Rick Ross, whose real name is William Roberts and played offensive line for the Chiefs in the early 1990s. Frazier's teams were a reflection of his personality. They were simple, yet extremely tough. The Chiefs relied on a power running game and dominant defense.
It's easy to recognize a great coach for his won-loss record. But the true measure of Frazier's success was the impact he made on his player's lives and turning boys into men. I've never met or knew Walt Frazier personally. But I have met a couple of people who have played for him and you'd be hard-pressed to find a more respected and beloved individual. For those who love high school football everywhere, the game will never be quite the same without him.
Notable Carol City athletes who played for Frazier:
Rudy Barber - former offensive lineman at UM
Delvin Brown - former safety at UM
Teako Brown - former safety at UF
Ricky Jean Francois - defensive lineman at LSU
Donald Heaven - former offensive lineman at FSU
Aubrey Hill - former receiver at UF
Bradley Jennings - former linebacker at FSU
Willie Jones - former defensive end at FSU
Santana Moss - wide receiver at UM and the NFL
Sinorice Moss - wide receiver at UM and the NFL
Godfrey Myles - former linebacker at UF and the NFL
Tim Paulk - former linebacker at UF
Kenny Phillips - safety at UM
Williams Roberts - former All-Dade lineman, later became rapper Rick Ross
Stanford Samuels - former DB at FSU
Ethenic Sands - Great high school QB who became a receiver at UM
Kevin Simons - former offensive lineman at Tennessee and the NFL
Del Speer - former DB at UF and the NFL
Willie Williams - great high school linebacker who had stints at UM and Louisville
Monday, December 17, 2007
Greg Camarillo celebrates in the end zone after scoring the winning touchdown
A wise man once said, "even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then." It's taken the Miami Dolphins over a year to find their nut. But the drought is finally over. For the first time since December 10, 2006, the Dolphins can finally call themselves winners. Reserve wide receiver Greg Camarillo scored the winning touchdown in overtime to give the Dolphins a 22-16 victory over the Ravens.
I won't lie to you. The losing was really starting to take a toll on my mental health. For over a month, I stopped posting on this blog. It got to the point where I was not going to post anything until the Dolphins won a game. I figured it was easier to keep this promise than to rather stop shaving or showering until the Dolphins won again. Thank God I didn't resort to those extreme measures.
Every Dolphin fan should celebrate this victory. Nobody who calls themselves a Dolphin fan wanted to see this team go 0-16. But let's be honest. Cam Cameron tried his best to lose this game. He really did. Week after week, Cameron and the Dolphins would find ways to pull defeat from the jaws of victory. But this time Ravens coach Brian Billick decided he would top Cameron with a special blend of incompetance of Rich Kotite proportions.
After the Dolphins took a 16-13 lead on a Jay Feely field goal, Feely was instructed to boot a pooch kick on the ensuing kickoff. Unfortunately instead of executing the kick, Feely should have been executed after he kicked the ball out of bounds, giving the Ravens excellent field position. Baltimore quickly took advantage of Feely's mistake by driving down the field behind the arm of last year's Heisman winner Troy Smith, who replaced an injured Kyle Boller. The Ravens drove to the Dolphins 1 yard line. But with time for only one more play in regulation, Billick decided to kick a tying field goal rather than win the game with a touchdown. Consider this, the Ravens had Willis McGahee, who had rushed for 104 yards in the game. The Dolphins rush defense ranked last in the NFL. But despite those stats, Billick decide to bring in kicker Matt Stover who tied the game with an 18 yard chip shot field goal.
The Ravens won the coin toss in overtime and quickly drove deep into Miami territory again. But this time Stover missed a 44 yard attempt. Cleo Lemon finished off the Ravens by finding reserve reserve receiver Greg Camarillo over the middle. Camarillo found a soft spot in the Ravens coverage and raced 64 yards for the winning score.
Several people deserve game balls for this victory. First, let's give a warm round of applause to Brian Billick for his complete lack of balls and not going for the winning touchdown. Cameron should send Billick a gift basket for basically saving his job. If the Dolphins had lost, there's no doubt this team goes 0-16 and Cameron is kicked to the curb with a pink slip in his hand.
Secondly, Jason Taylor was not going to let the Dolphins defense lose. Taylor had a pair of sacks. The first came on a 3rd and goal at the 3 yard line and held the Ravens to a field goal. The second sack took the Ravens out of field goal range.
Thirdly, you gotta give some love to Greg Camarillo. When the season began, I didn't even know who this guy was. Apparently neither did Dolphins radio broadcaster Jim Mandich. When Camarillo crossed the end zone, Mandich screamed, "I love Rich Camarillo!" The problem is Rich Camarillo was a punter who played for the New England Patriots in the 1980s. Oh well. In a season of imperfection, it was only fitting Mandich would butcher the call of Miami's lone winning touchdown.
Another game ball should go to Wayne Huizenga. Through all the losing, no man had to feel more anguish than the Dolphins beleagured owner. There's no doubt in my mind the rumors of Huizenga selling the team would not exist if the Dolphins had won a few games. The tears of joy running down Huizenga's face after the game said it all.
But no game ball should go to Cam Cameron. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad the Dolphins won. But Cameron deserves absolutely no credit for this victory. The players rose up and won this game on their own--with a little help from the Ravens idiot of a coach Brian Billick. Thanks Brian. I hope you and Cameron are in the same unemployment line soon.
A special thanks should also go to the 1972 Dolphins, who were honored at halftime during the game. As a firm believer in kharma, I'm convinced just the mere presence of our perfect geezers helped raise the team to victory. Maybe Wayne Huizenga should invite the 72 Dolphins back again next week when the Dolphins travel to New England to face the unbeaten Patriots. Maybe the site of a pot-bellied Bob Kuechenberg and Larry Csonka on the sidelines will inspire this team and scare the Patriots. Somehow, I doubt it. In the meantime, enjoy this win Fin fans. You deserve it.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
UM players Jason Fox and Richard Gordon walk off the field after UM's 48-0 loss to Virginia inthe final game at the Orange Bowl
In all the years I've been watching University of Miami football, last night's 48-0 loss to Virginia in the Orange Bowl's fairwell was the worst performance I've ever seen. This is truly rock bottom. This is worse than the 47-0 loss to FSU in 1997. Back then, the program was on probation and lost over 20 scholarships. It's clear the talent level has significantly dropped off during the Larry Coker years. Randy Shannon inherited a mess.
But Randy Shannon and his staff also have to take a lot of blame for what happened Saturday night. This team was not properly prepared. The fact that they played with zero emotion really has me puzzled. With all the tradition, nostalgia and the presence of all the great players from the past, you would think every player wearing the UM uniform would be motivated to play their best.
I was especially embarassed for the great former players who came back and witnessed this desecration. An ESPN sidelline reporter interviewed Bennie Blades during the game. You could see the painful expression on his face. He wasn't angry. But he looked very sad. For a moment, I thought Blades was going to cry. All those great players left their blood, sweat and tears on that field. And to see this year's UM team play, they're not worthy of wearing that uniform.
I know it sounds harsh, but Kyle Wright and Kirby Freeman should turn in their scholarships. In fact, every player who participated in that abortion is not worthy of representing The U. The players and coaches should all be ashamed of themselves. They embarassed the university, the city and most importantly themselves. At the same time, I have to give Virginia credit for playing a flawless game. When you win 48-0, you are the better team. And there's no question the better team won last night. But you can't justify the margin of victory in this game. Can you believe the Las Vegas oddsmakers had the Canes as a slim favorite?
Randy Shannon has a lot of work to do. He must literally flush out the heartless and mediocre talent left behind by Coker. I like the recruiting class he's bringing in. Those kids and the next couple of recruiting classes will determine Shannon's legacy. But bringing in good talent is just part of the equation. Shannon's staff must do a better job of preparing that talent to play. I'm not impressed with Patrick Nix as an offensive coordinator. I didn't like him when he was at Georgia Tech and I certainly don't care for him right now. Tim Walton doesn't impress me as the defensive coordinator. The defense has clearly taken a few steps backwards under his watch.
As for Shannon himself, he needs to make sure these kids don't quit. I don't expect UM to win the next two games against Boston College and Virginia Tech. However, this team needs to at least put together better effort. Nobody associated with the current University of Miami team is blameless. We're going to find out what kind of heart--or lack there of--this team has. So far, the answer is the latter.
So along Orange Bowl. You deserved better.
Saturday, November 3, 2007
Happy 62nd birthday to former Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Larry Little. From 1969 to 1980 Little starred for the Dolphins and was one of the NFL's most dominant guards of all time. He was arguably the best pulling guards ever and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Born Lawrence Chatmon Little in Groveland, Georgia, he moved to Miami as young boy and grew up in Overtown during segregation. He began playing football at Booker T. Washington High School and learned the game from legendary Booker T. coach James "Dean Blue" Everett. Little played fullback on offense and defensive tackle. Like a lot of young African-American kids growing up in segregated Miami, Little dreamed of playing for the Florida A&M Rattlers. As a youngster he attended Orange Blossom Classic games at the Orange Bowl when coach Jake Gaither would bring his FAMU Rattlers down to Miami every first week of December. At the time Gaither could recruit virtually every top black athlete in the state he wanted.
However, Gaither and his coaching staff chose not to recruit Little. Playing fullback in high school, Little was considered too slow and never got the scholarship he coveted. Because Florida schools were segregated, there weren't many opportunities for black athletes. Universities like Miami, Florida and Florida State had no black athletes at the time. But Little's talents did not go completely unnoticed. He received a scholarship to play football at Bethune Cookman College in Daytona Beach.
At Bethune Cookman, Little developed into All-Conference offensive and defensive lineman and a team captain. While he was considered too slow to play fullback, he was extremely quick for an offensive lineman. His quick feet and powerful size made him the prototype pulling guard. Despite his fine college career, Little was undrafted coming out of Bethune Cookman in 1967.
He began his NFL career as an unheralded free agent with the San Diego Chargers in 1967 and enjoyed only moderate success during his two years in San Diego. In 1969, Little was traded to the Dolphins in exchange for defensive Mack Lamb, who was Little's teammate at Miami's Booker T. Washington High School. It turned out to be one of the most lopsided trades in football history. Little went on to become a perennial all-pro, while Lamb never played a down for the Chargers.
Little transformed from a project into a polished blocking machine under Dolphins offensive line coach Monte Clark. During the 1970s, when the Dolphins were a dominant team, Little became the epitome of the intimidating force of the vaunted Dolphins rushing attack. At 6-1 and 255 pounds, Little was also a superb pass blocker. Little was named all-pro and All-AFC seven consecutive years from 1971-77. He was selected to five Pro Bowls in his career and named the NFL Players Association AFC Lineman of the Year in 1970, 1971 and 1972. Along with fellow offensive linemen Jim Langer, Bob Kuechenberg, Norm Evans and Wayne Moore, the Dolphins won three consecutive AFC titles from 1971-73 and won Super Bowls VII and VIII. In 1972, Little and the Dolphins became the only NFL team to go undefeated.
Little displayed versatility, durability and dedication throughout his career. Dolphins coach Don Shula call him "a real inspiration, not just for the way he performs but also for his influence on our younger players."
Little wasn't the only talented football player in his family. His younger brother David Little was a linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1981 to 1992 and was an All American at the University of Florida. David Little is still the all time leading tackler in Gators history and passed away from a heart attack in 2005.
Following his playing career, Larry Little returned to Bethune Cookman as the school's head football coach during the late 1980s. He also coached the Ohio Glory of the World League of American Football. In 1993 he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and currently works as a specialist in the Miami-Dade County public school system.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Ted Hendricks shown chasing University of Florida QB Steve Spurrier in 1966
Happy 60th birthday to former University of Miami defensive end and NFL linebacker Ted Hendricks. Standing 6-foot-7 and 235 pounds, Hendricks was a lean and mean player known as "The Mad Stork" and is a member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame. He's the only 3-time All American in UM history and played 15 seasons in the NFL with the Colts, Packers and Raiders.
Born Theodore Paul Hendricks in Guatemala where his father was employed, he moved to South Florida as a young boy and grew up in Hialeah. He starred at Hialeah High School and was twice named All City by the Miami Herald as both an offensive and defensive end. Hendricks was also a gifted student. He graduated with a 4.0 grade point average and won the prestigious Silver Knight Award as Dade County's best student athlete.
Hendricks enrolled at the University of Miami as a freshman in 1965. After playing on the freshman team, he later became the first and only 3-time All American in Canes football history. Hendricks likely would have been a 4-time All American had freshmen been eligible during the 1960s. He made 327 career tackles and recovered 12 fumbles.--the most ever by a University of Miami defensive lineman. Hendricks was so dominant, he actually received Heisman votes as a junior and senior despite playing defensive end.
Despite his great college career, Hendricks slipped to the second round of the 1969 NFL Draft to the Baltimore Colts because scouts feared he was too thin to play defensive end in the NFL. But the Colts, who were then coached by Don Shula, switched Hendricks to outside linebacker where he could use his great speed to play in space and rush the quarterback. By his second season, he helped the Colts win Super Bowl V against the Cowboys at the Orange Bowl.
After an All-Pro career with the Colts, Hendricks was traded to the Packers in 1974 and then joined the Raiders the following year where he finished out his brilliant career. It was as a Raider where Hendricks had his best seasons. Henricks used his height to advantage in blocking kicks and in pass coverage. He intercepted 26 passes in his career and blocked 25 field goals and extra points--an NFL record. He also holds the NFL record with 4 safeties in his career. Hendricks helped the Raiders win three Super Bowls including his final game Super Bowl XVIII against the Redskins in January 1984.
He played in 215 consecutive regular season games, seven AFC championship games and won four Super Bowl rings. He was also selected eight times to the Pro Bowl. In 1990 Hendricks was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Four years later, he was named to the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team. The Sporting News named him as one of the 100 greatest players in NFL history. He currently works on behalf of ex-players as part of the Hall of Fame Player's Association.
Is it me or is Cam Cameron reaching for excuses not to play John Beck? The Dolphins are 0-8 and have now dropped their last 12 regular season games dating back to last year. Cleo Lemon has played okay. But he's coming off his worst start since taking over for the injured Trent Green. The Dolphins have lost their best running back Ronnie Brown for the season to injury. They've traded their best receiver Chris Chambers to San Diego. This season has spun so ridiculously out of control, there is a realistic chance the Dolphins could go 0-16.
It's time to take the training wheels off and give John Beck the keys to the car. The rookie quarterback from BYU has yet to play a down. But at this point, can the Dolphins play any worse than now? Beck was the team's 2nd round pick. The Dolphins bypassed Notre Dame star Brady Quinn who was unepectedly available with the fourth pick of the draft. But instead, the Dolphins chose receiver Ted Ginn with the hope of drafting Beck in the second. Beck was available and the Dolphins immediately grabbed him in the second round.
So why hasn't Cameron given Beck a chance to start? Back in 1994, Cameron was the quarterback's coach for the Washington Redskins. That year, the Redskins drafted University of Tennessee quarterback Heath Shuler with its first round pick. Eight weeks into the 1994 season, the Redskins threw Shuler into the starting lineup and he was clearly not ready. Shuler struggled terribly and never developed into a quality NFL quarterback. Cameron believes Shuler was rushed too soon, destroying his confidence and essentially his NFL career.
But the example of Heath Shuler is a poor excuse. First of all, Shuler never proved he could play in the NFL. It didn't matter when Shuler was thown into the starting lineup. He was never going to be a good quarterback. Shuler's poor career wasn't because he lost confidence from his rookie year. He just wasn't any good. Don't believe me? There have been plenty of great quarterbacks who struggled miserably as rookies and went on to great careers. John Elway had a terrible rookie year in 1983. Troy Aikman went 1-15 with the Dallas Cowboys as a rookie in 1989. Peyton Manning led the NFL with 28 interceptions his rookie year and the Colts were a pathetic 3-13. But going through those growing pains made them into the great quarterbacks they would eventually become. Do you think Aikman, Elway and Manning lost confidence after rough rookies seasons? Of course not. A good quarterback should have enough confidence to know he can play in the league. Otherwise, he shouldn't be playing.
Listen, I'm not saying John Beck is going to be the next Elway, Aikman or Peyton Manning. But you need to crawl before you can walk. The best way for Beck to develop into a good quarterback is to play. You don't learn anything sitting on the bench. You can't simulate the speed of the game in practice. The only way you learn to play quarterback is getting out there on the field and face a real NFL defense.
Beck is 26 years old and the Dolphins don't have the luxury of having him wait for a year or two on the sidelines before throwing him into the fire. I don't expect Beck to light it up and start looking like the second coming of Dan Marino. He's probably going to struggle and perhaps very badly. But that's okay. This team is not going anywhere anytime soon. The Dolphins need to find out what Beck can do.
Cameron obviously feels Lemon gives the Dolphins the best chance to win because of experience. But he's not the future. The Dolphins have a lot invested in Beck. It's time to put that investment into good use.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Congratulations to Panthers center Olli Jokinen for breaking the Florida Panthers franchise scoring records for both career goals and points. Jokinen scored two goals in the Panther's 4-3 win over the Philadlphia Flyers Wednesday night. He also set a team record with his 31st game winning goal.
Jokinen now has 355 career points and 158 goals to break the previous team records held by Scott Mellanby, who played for the Panthers from the expansion 1993 season to 2001. Mellanby was one of the signature players in Panthers history and a key member of the Florida's 1995-96 team that reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder will never be confused for a rocket scientist. But when Crowder asked a Sun Sentinel reporter whether people in London spoke English, you either had to wonder if Crowder was joking or if he's just plain stupid. I'm hoping its the former and not the latter.
Here's what Crowder said. "I couldn't find London on a map if they didn't have the names of the countries. I swear to God. I don't know what nothing is. I know Italy looks like a boot. I learned that. I know London Fletcher. We did a football camp together. So I know him. That's the closest thing I know to London. He's black, so I'm sure he's not from London. I'm sure that's a coincidental name."
Wow! This is just another example of how athletes should just keep their mouths shut. Crowder, who attended the University of Florida, probably didn't take any geography classes in Gainesville. If he did, it sounds like he slept through them.
Ricky Davis shown playing against the Heat last year
Miami Heat fans can finally say goodbye to the tippy-toe three-point shots of Antoine Walker. No longer will we have to endure another frustrating season of clanks from the free throw line and 3-point line from the notoriously inconsistant Walker. The Heat traded Walker along with Michael Doleac,Wayne Simien and a conditional first round draft pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Ricky Davis and Mark Blount.
This trade should make the Heat a better team for now. But not good enough to return to championship glory. The Heat will begin the season without Dwyane Wade who is still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. The Heat are hoping Ricky Davis can help fill the void during Wade's absence. When Wade returns, Davis will likely move from shooting guard to small forward. Davis brings instant offense and athleticism, having averaged 18.6 point per game in the last three years in Minnesota. With the loss of Jason Kapono to free agency, Davis also fills another void--a quality perimeter shooter from 3 point range.
Fans of both Miami and Minnesota are happy about the deal. Both Walker and Davis have talent and also have the ability to make their coaches rip their hair out. In addition to his inconsistant play, Walker showed up for training camp out of shape. His body-fat was way above the requirements of Pat Riley, who demands all his players conform to his strict standards of conditioning. A fed-up Riley barred Walker from practicing with the team. It was only a matter of time before Riley would completely run out of patience and dump the lazy Walker.
Davis is not without his faults. While gifted and athletic, he's been known to be somehwat of a ballhog who lacks the discipline to play team basketball. Looking at his track record, he hasn't shown the ability to make his teams better. His numbers are nice, but the victories don't seem follow. Davis is no stranger to Miami. He played for the Heat back in the 2000-2001 season. But he only played in seven games due to an ankle injury. He was then traded to Cleveland and feuded with Cavaliers head coach Paul Silas. Riley later admitted trading Davis was a mistake. But Davis was labled as selfish by fans and the media. In a game against the Utah Jazz in 2003, Davis missed a shot on purpose on his own team's basket just so he could get a rebound and reach a triple double. Now I gotta admit, that's pretty selfish. Since then, he's bounced around from Boston to Minnesota and now back to Miami.
But like any great coach, Pat Riley has an enormous ego. He obviously thinks he can get Davis to buy into his system. But this trade was much than just getting Davis. It was about dumping Walker's salary along with Doleac and Simien, who was a mediocre bench player.
The Heat also get Mark Blount who can play both power forward and center. Blount can basically do everything Doleac can and probably better. The 7-foot, 250 pound Blount averaged double-digits in points and gives the Heat a quality big man off the bench.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Happy 42nd birthday to former Florida Marlins pitcher Al Leiter. During his 19 year major league career , Leiter compiled a career record of 162-132 with a 3.80 ERA and 1,974 strikeouts. He had two stints with the Marlins from 1996 to 1997 and again in 2005. On May 11, 1996, Leiter became the first pitcher in Marlins history to throw a no-hitter after beating the Colorado Rockies. He is also remembered for having started game seven of the 1997 World Series, pitching 6 innings and giving up 2 earned runs while being credited with a no decision. The Marlins would go on to beat the Cleveland Indians in extra innings and clinch the team's first World Series title.
Born Alois Terry Leiter in Tom's River, New Jersey, Leiter came from an athletic family. His older brother Mark was also major league pitcher. But it was Al who was considered the best talent in the family. At Central Regional High School in New Jersey he began to carve a legendary career, attracting major league scouts with his lively arm and 90 plus mph fastball. Following his high school graduation, the New York Yankees selected Leiter in the second round of the 1984 Major League Draft. Three years later, he made his major league debut with the Yankees.
Over the course of the next 18 years, Leiter pitched for the Yankees, Blue Jays, Marlins and Mets. In April 2002, he became the first pitcher to defeat all 30 major league teams and was a two-time National League All Star. (1996 and 2000).
Leiter spent only three combined seasons with the Marlins during his two stints. His 1996 season was one of the best of his career. In addition to throwing a no-hitter, Leiter went 16-12 with 200 strikeouts. In 1997, he helped the Marlins win the World Series. Leiter also has a World Series ring as a member of the 1993 Toronto Blue Jays.
Following his baseball career, Leiter has gone on to a successful broadcast career. He currently works for the YES Network doing color commentary on the New York Yankees broadcasts. He has also done work for the Fox Network during the playoffs over the last several seasons. Leiter is also known for his charity work. He won the Branch Rickey Award in 1999 and the Roberto Clemente Award in 2000.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Randy Moss makes a leaping catch over Dolphins defenders Cameron Worrell and Will Allen
This game was worse than men vs. boys. Watching the Patriots beat the Dolphins was like witnessing a school bully taking away lunch money from the class nerd. Randy Moss should have been arrested for rape by the way he violated Dolphins safety Cameron Worrell. By halftime, Tom Brady had thown five touchdown passes and the Patriots led 42-7. The Patriots may be the most dominant team I've seen in a long time--if ever. They've destroyed every team they've played and are now 7-0. The Dolphins are now 0-7 and will next play the the hot New York Giants in London.
To make things worse, the Dolphins lost running back Ronnie Brown to a season ending ACL injury. Not only are the Dolphins losing games, they continue to lose key players. Two weeks ago, it was Trent Green. This past week, leading receiver Chris Chambers was traded to San Diego and now Brown is gone for the year.
I'm going to say it now. This team has a damn good chance to go perfect--as in 0-16. In fact, the Dolphins may have a better chance of losing all of their games than the Patriots do in winning theirs. By the way, the 1976 Tampa Bay Bucs are the only team in NFL history to go a full season winless. They went 0-14.
Every year, the 1972 Miami Dolphins reunite for a champagne party when the last undefeated team loses. I doubt the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers reunite to celebrate the last winless team getting in the win column. But look out '76 Bucs, you may have company soon.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Miami linebacker Colin McCarthy races 27 yards for a touchdown after recovering a Xavier Lee fumble. Canes backup tight end Dedrick Epps celebrates his game winning touchdown catch from Kirby Freeman
It may not be the most historic or longest running rivalry in college football. But whenever the University of Miami and Florida State meet on the football field, chances are you'll see a thrilling finish. Forget about the records or where the teams are ranked. (unranked in this case) I dare anyone to find a rivalry that has more close and dramatic finishes than this one. If you have a heart condition and are a fan of either of these schools, this rivalry can be hazardous to your health.
Trailing 29-24 to start the fourth quarter, the Canes were down to their backup quarterback Kirby Freeman, who had completed more passes to the Noles than to his own teammates going into the final drive. With under 3 minutes to play and trailing 29-24, Freeman led the Canes to a game winning 83 yard drive that will down as one of the best in the history of the UM vs FSU rivalry. Just a couple of minutes earlier, Freeman appeared to be the goat, when he was stopped on 4th down and inches quarterback sneak inside the FSU one-yard-line. Never has a quarterback played so poorly, yet been so brilliant when the game was on the line.
How crazy was this game? Throw out all logic and expect the unexpected. Canes backup tight end Dedrick Epps had yet to catch a pass all season. But he would be on the receiving end of Freeman's game winning throw. FSU kicker Gary Cismesia made all five of his field goal attempts. FSU even got a defensive touchdown when linebacker Toddrick Verdell ran back a Kyle Wright interception 45 yards for a touchdown. Miami was able to score 37 points despite losing its starting quarterback Kyle Wright to a severe ankle injury and only four completions by Freeman. But three of Freeman's completions came on the final drive. Miami kicker Francesco Zampogna threw 26 yard touchdown pass on a fake field goal.
But let's be honest. Both of these teams are nowhere near the level they once were in their heyday. Gone are the days when the Canes and Noles were playing for national championships or a top ranking. We're now in an era where the University of South Florida is a better program. Both UM and FSU are unranked. The two teams combined for 9 turnovers and 15 penalties.
It was not a well played game. But you couldn't have asked for a more breathtaking and unlikely finish. Brent Musberger and Keith Jackson weren't broadcasting the game. In fact, ABC didn't even send it's B or C team to cover the game. They sent Terry Gannon and David Norrie--who are probably the network's D team. The only hype going into the contest was the lack of hype. But don't tell that to 82,000 who packed Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahssee or any those who watched it on TV. It was a sloppy classic.
*Miami defensive tackle Teraz McCray was the game's unsung hero. The senior from Pompano Beach Ely High was constantly in the FSU backfield, forcing fumbles and tipping passes. McCray forced FSU quarterback Xavier Lee to fumble that led to linebacker Colin McCarthy to score the game's final touchdown.
*Darnell Jenkins has become Miami's go-to receiver in clutch situations. Jenkins caught 4 passes for 106 yards. Although he didn't score, two of Jenkins catches set up Miami touchdowns, including the game winning pass from Freeman to Epps.
*Randy Shannon is the eighth Miami head coach to face Bobby Bowden's FSU teams. All eight of Miami's head coaches have beaten Bowden at least once.
*Bobby Bowden's record against the Canes drops to 13-20.
*Miami won the game despite FSU scoring first on a Gary Cismesia field goal. Why is this noteworthy? Going into the game, the team that had scored first had won 15 of the last 16 games in this rivlary. Well, make that 15 out of 17.
*Darren Daly replaced Francesco Zampogna as UM's starting place kicker. However, Zampogna came off the bench and threw a touchdown pass to tight end DajLeon Farr on a fake field goal.
*It's quite obvious Graig Cooper is Miami's best running back. Javarris James played better, but is still struggling to duplicate his freshman season. Cooper was used almost exclusively on Miami's game-winning final drive. Cooper needs to get the ball more.
*Sam Shields might be Miami's most talented receiver, yet didn't catch a pass. However, Dedrick Epps, who hadn't caught a pass all year, pulls in the game winner. Go figure.
*The Canes injury problems continue to mount. Miami's defensive line is getting thinner. The Canes played without three defensive tackles Antonio Dixon, Dwayne Hendricks and Josh Holmes. Defensive end Eric Moncur and left tackle Jason Fox also left the game with injuries. Quarterback Kyle Wright was knocked out of the game with a sprained ankle and Kirby Freeman took a vicious shot to the ribs after he was sandwiched between two FSU defenders on his game winning pass.
*Kudos to safety Randy Phillips who had two interceptions on tipped passes. Phillips had begun the year as a starting cornerback. But he lost his job after a terrible performance against Oklahoma. Phillips made the switch to safety and had the best game of his career.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Happy 26th birthday to former University of Miami and current Baltimore Ravens running back Willis McGahee. McGahee has overcome two serious knee injuries to become one of the NFL's most productive and highly paid running backs. His 2002 season at UM is arguably the greatest individual season ever by a UM offensive player the best ever by a Canes running back.
Born Willis Andrew McGahee in Miami, he came from an athletic family. His father Willis Sr. was great high school player at both all-black George Washington Carver and Mays High Schools during segregation. The elder McGahee was a two-time Miami Herald All-City selection as a defensive lineman while playing for legendary high school coach Nathaniel "Traz" Powell and later played college ball at Texas Southern University. Those athletic gifts were passed down to his son Willis Jr.
The younger McGahee was destined to be a football star. He began his high school career at Miami Springs High School where he played for longtime coach Buddy Goins. When McGahee was in the 9th grade, Goins ran into then UM running backs coach Don Soldinger and told him McGahee is the best running back talent he ever saw come out of Dade County. Soldinger never forgot the conversation. He kept track of McGahee throughout his prep career. By his junior year, McGahee had established himself as one of the premier backs in the state. He rushed for 1004 yards, averaging 8.5 per carry, and scored 15 times. He did this despite missing a few games due to injury and earned second team All-Dade County from the Miami Herald.
McGahee transferred to Miami Central High School his senior year where he played for Tim "Ice" Harris. He was hyped as the best running back prospect in the state and one of the best in the country. In his first five games, McGahee lived up to the hype rushing for 677 yards, 11 touchdown and averaged 8.8 yards per carry. But he suffered a season ending knee injury. Despite the injury, college recruiters didn't back off. He was named 3rd Team All Dade County by the Miami Herald and named to the prestigious Parade All American team and Gatorade Florida Player of the Year.
Recruited heavily by Florida, Florida State and Ohio State, McGahee chose to stay home and play for the Canes. He sat out his freshman year while redshirting to rehab his knee injury. McGahee saw his first action in 2001 while playing behind Clinton Portis and fellow freshman Frank Gore. He started his first game in the 2002 Rose Bowl against Nebraska at fullback and helped the Canes win the national championship.
When Portis left UM for the NFL and Gore suffered a season ending knee injury in spring practice, McGahee was given the starting tailback job and ran away with it. In 2002 McGahee gained 1,753 yards and scored 28 touchdowns--both UM records. He finished 4th in the Heisman Trophy voting. He led the Canes to another undefeated regular season and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl to play Ohio State for the national championship.
Heavily favored, the top ranked Canes struggled offensively against the Buckeyes. McGahee was held in check until he scored on 9 yard touchdown run to cut Ohio State's lead to 17-14 in the third quarter. But early in the 4th quarter McGahee suffered a devastating knee injury that forced him to leave the game. Miami eventually lost 31-24 in double overtime due to a controversial pass interference penalty that allowed Ohio State to stay in the game.
Despite the injury, McGahee's agent Drew Rosenhaus used some shrewd maneuvering to convince NFL teams his client was first round worthy. The Buffalo Bills selected McGahee with the 23 pick of the 2003 NFL Draft. After sitting out the 2003 season, McGahee made a strong comeback with the Bills in 2004 rushing for 1,128 yards and 13 touchdowns. He followed that year with a solid 1,247 yards in 2005. After struggling in 2006 with only 990 yards, McGahee signed a 7-year contract worth $40.12 million with the Ravens.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Robert Marve has yet to play a down of football at the University of Miami. In fact, he won't play a down for the Canes until at least next year. But ask any hardcore UM football fan about Marve and they'll tell you how important this young 6-foot-1, 198 pound freshman means to the future of UM football. Marve may be the most highly regarded quarterback recruit to set foot on the UM campus since....well Kyle Wright. However due to injuries he sustained from a car accident over the summer, Marve will sit out the season and redshirt. Marve's injuries have yet to fully heal. He expect to be ready by next spring.
Blessed with a powerful right arm and known as a fiery leader, Marve has a great football pedigree. He is the son of former NFL linebacker Eugene Marve, who played for the Buffalo Bills and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A year ago, Robert led Tampa's Plant High School to a perfect 14-0 record and the Class 4A state title. He threw for a state record 48 touchdown passes and 4,380 yards, erasing the previous records held by current University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. Marve's incredible senior season earned him Florida's Mr. Football honors, given annually to best high school player in the state.
Marve had originally committed to play his college football for Alabama. But when Alabama fired Mike Shula, Marve began looking at other options. He eventually chose the Canes. Since the graduation of Ken Dorsey, UM fans have been starving for excellence to be restored to the quarterback position. They say good things come to those who wait. Canes fans are hoping Marve will return Miami back to where it belongs--on top.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Nobody knows Trent Green's physical condition better than Green himself. But yesterday during his radio show on WQAM, Green told Hank Goldberg he wants to return to the field sometime this season. Just the fact that Green wants to come back makes you wonder if he already has brain damage.
Seriously, what does Green hope to accomplish with a comeback? The Dolphins are going nowhere this season. One more blow to the head and Green's brain could turn into scrambled eggs. As a fan of the Dolphins, I would hope Cam Cameron and the Dolphins organization does the right thing and not put Green back on the field. It's just not worth it. I admire Green's competitiveness and his love for the game he's played since he was a young boy. Sometimes it's tough to let go. But what's more important--playing football or living a normal life? I hope for Green's sake, he makes the right decision.
Those of you who have read this blog have already figured out my dislike for new Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter. I didn't like him when he played for the Steelers. But at least he was a good player in Pittsburgh. Since signing a $32 million contract with the Dolphins, Porter has been more bark than bite. So far he has zero sacks and did not make a tackle in last week's game against the Browns. Porter has been the eptiomy of a payroll bandit.
Every week, Porter has made more headlines for what he says than what he does. Last week, he criticized Browns tight end Kellen Winslow for not being a true tight end. All Winslow did was catch 5 passes for 90 yards, while burning Porter over and over. Two week prior, he guaranteed the Dolphins would beat the Raiders. That didn't happen. In week one, he acted like a spoiled brat moping on the sidelines and in the lockeroom after yet another ineffective performance. Dating back to last year, Porter has not recorded a quarterback sack in his last 10 games.
This past Sunday, the Fox Network aired surveillance video from a Las Vegas casino which showed Porter and three of his "buddies" attacking Bengals tackle Levi Jones at a black jack table. Porter plead guilty to charges of misdemeanor battery and was fined for his actions by the NFL. It may have been the last time Porter actually hit somebody. I guess if you can't hit somebody on a football field, you might as well join your fellow thugs and attack somebody in a casino.
Since the Dolphins are 0-6 and have virtually no chance of beating the Patriots this coming Sunday, I'm waiting to hear what kind of verbal nonsense Porter has for this week. Maybe he'll say Tom Brady isn't a real quarterback because he's too pretty. Perhaps Porter will guarantee Randy Moss won't catch a pass. Whatever outlandish garbage comes out of Joey's mouth, it'll probably be more entertaining than his actual performance. My guess is Porter will once again finish the game with his foot in his mouth.
At the start of the season, Hallandale High School receiver Frankie Hammond Jr. was flying under the radar of most college recruiters. He didn't attend any football camps over the summer and was considered more accomplished in track. At 6'0 and only 150 pounds, he wasn't exactly a physical speciman. But through seven games, the senior speedster has now established himself as the best receiver in Broward County and one of the best in the state. College recruiters began converging on the Hallandale campus to court this late bloomer. Yesterday, Hammond verbally committed to play for Urban Meyer and the University of Florida Gators.
Hammond currently has 25 catches for 540 yards and 7 touchdowns to lead Broward County. His 21.6 yards per catch also is the best in Broward County. Schools like Miami and Boston College have also offered scholarships. In fact, Miami was considered the early favorite. Last week, a couple of UM fan websites had claimed Hammond was close to making his commitment to the Canes. But in a bit of a surprise and some effective recruiting by UF assistant coach Doc Holiday, Hammond gave his pledge to the Gators.
The screams of joy heard coming from the Dolphins training facility at Nova Southeastern University probably came from the mouth of Chris Chambers. Well, actually there are no substantiated reports of Chambers yelling, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty. I'm free at last!" But I wouldn't blame him if he did. The Dolphins traded the wide receiver to the San Diego Chargers for a second round draft choice. Personally, I think this a trade that should benefit both teams. The Chargers need help at wide receiver and the Dolphins just simply need help period.
All kidding aside, Chambers has been a quality player for the Dolphins for nearly seven seasons. You could argue Chambers and Ronnie Brown have been the only outstanding offensive players drafted by the Dolphins in the last decade. A month ago, I had written a blog entry on how I thought the Dolphins shouldn't trade Chambers. But after watching the Dolphins continue to lose game after game, it was clear Chambers wasn't fitting into Cam Cameron's system or the team's future plans.
The Dolphins are a team in a rebuilding mode in desperate need of more draft picks. To get more draft picks, you're going to need to let some good talent go. Chambers is a good talent. He made the Pro Bowl in 2005 and has led the Dolphins receiving yards and touchdowns each of his first five years. His production fell off dramatically in 2006 and through the first six games, he caught 31 passes for 415 yards and no touchdowns.
As a Dolphin fan I greatly appreciate Chambers contribution to the franchise. He was a second round draft pick out of Wisconsin in 2001. He's been a more productive player than virtually all the receivers who were drafted ahead him. He would sometimes frustrate you by making spectacular catches at one moment and then dropping easy passes the next. But also remember he never had the opportunity to play with a good quarterback. Over the years his Dolphin quarterbacks have ranged from Jay Fiedler to A.J. Feeley to Gus Frerotte to a damaged Daunte Culpepper and now a concussed Trent Green. Its a sad trail of mediocre and broken passers.
Chambers will now head off to San Diego and play for a team that finished 14-2 just a year ago. The Chargers have struggled under new head coach Norv Turner and have been looking to bolster their wide receiving corps. Chambers should help. But at 29 years old, you have to wonder if his best years are behind him. An NFL receiver only has so many good years in him--unless your name is Jerry Rice. Once you turn 30, it's usually downhill from there. Chambers' departure from Miami should help rookie first round pick Ted Ginn get more quality playing time. I'd like to think Ginn's play in practice was a factor in making this trade happen.
The Dolphins will now get a second round pick. That's all in good. But you can acquire all the draft choice you want. You still have to pick good players. Picking the likes of Jason Allen and Lorenzo Booker is not going to make your team better. Lets hope general manager Randy Mueller can pick the right players this time.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Ted Ginn returns a kickoff for an apparent touchdown. The play is nullified by a holding penalty against Derek Hagan.
The Dolphins quest for perfection continues as they lost yet another game--this time 41-31 to the Cleveland Browns. The loss drops Miami's record to 0-6. It's only fitting this game was played in a town known as "The Mistake By the Lake". It's getting to the point where being a fan of the Dolphins is like masochism. You know it's going to hurt your mental health watching this team. But yet, we all keep coming back for more.
The only thing that would have made this loss more humiliating is if Brady Quinn came off the bench and threw a couple of touchdown passes to run up the score. Fortunately for the Browns, Derek Anderson did just fine on his own. Anderson completed 18 of 22 passes for 245 yards, 3 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. If Anderson keeps playing like this, Quinn may never get off the bench. But then again Anderson won't get the chance to play against the Dolphins again this season.
The once solid Dolphin defense has become an absolute shambles. The pass rush has become almost non existant. Jason Taylor had one sack. But Miami is getting absolutely nothing from overpaid, loudmouth linebacker Joey Porter. The Dolphins are paying Porter $32 million to make game-changing plays.
During the week Porter opened up his mouth again and called out Browns tight end Kellen Winslow. He said Winslow was a wide receiver and didn't deserve the title "tight end" because he doesn't block. Maybe somebody should tell Joey he doesn't deserve the title linebacker because he doesn't make any tackles. How bad is Porter? He hasn't registered a sack in his last 10 games dating back to his final 4 games last year as a Pittsburgh Steeler. But he was right about one thing. Winslow is a tremendous receiver and burned Porter while he was in coverage. Winslow finished the day with 5 catches and 90 yards--many of it at Porter's expense.
Zach Thomas just continues to put his heart and soul into this sinking ship. He made 12 tackles and as usual threw his body all over the field. But words can't describe the sad state of the Dolphins secondary. I can't say that I'm surprised. After the injury to Yeremiah Bell in the season opener, fans had to wonder who was going to be the unit's playmaker. The answer is nobody. Browns receiver Braylon Edwards had a field day catching all three of Anderson's touchdown passes. Just the fact that Cameron Worrell is even playing for the Dolphins should tell you how bad the Dolphins defensive backs are. What's even worse is last year's top draft pick Jason Allen can't even get on the field. Why is he even on the roster? If Jason Allen can't beat out Cameron Worrell, then what good is he?
The good news is Ronnie Brown is playing awesome football. And while other running backs like Adrian Peterson get more headlines, Brown has quietly racked up over 100 yards in each of his last four games. Brown also leads the team in catches and receiving yards. He is the only player on this team worth watching right now.
I also have to give props to quarterback Cleo Lemon. I thought he did a good job moving the offense and managing the game. He threw for 256 yards, 1 touchdown pass and also ran for another pair of TDs. But the good play of Brown and Lemon could not cancel out Miami's ineptness on defense.
How sad was this loss? Not only are the Dolphins losing games, they're costing their fans money. How? During the radio broadcast, WQAM play-by-play announcer Jimmy Cefalo mentioned a woman who entered a contest by Texaco to win $25,000. To win the money, Ted Ginn must return a kickoff for a touchdown. Well, guess what happened? Ginn returned a kickoff for a touchdown, only to have it nullified by a holding penalty against Dolphins receiver Derek Hagan. The woman didn't get the money. Ginn didn't get the touchdown. And everybody who plays, watches or is associated with the Miami Dolphins loses. It's been that kind of season.
Oh by the way, the Patriots are next on the schedule. Anyone want to guess what happens when a 6-0 team plays an 0-6 team? Start punching holes through those paper bags Dolphin fans because it's going to be ugly next Sunday.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Georgia Tech running back Tashard Choice gains some of his 204 yards
Since beating Texas A&M 34-17 back on September 20th, it seemed Randy Shannon's Miami Hurricanes had turned the corner and were on their way to a successful season. Oh how the wheels have fallen off. The unranked Canes continue to flounder after losing to Georgia Tech 17-14 at the Orange Bowl. The loss was Miami's second straight and dropped UM's record to 4-3 and 1-2 in the ACC with the heart of its conference schedule coming up. Georgia Tech has now beaten UM the last three consecutive years.
For so long Miami's defense had been the backbone of the team. But with injuries to starting linebacker Colin McCarthy, defensive tackle Antonio Dixon and poor play from the secondary, this is the worst UM defense I've seen in a long time. Georgia Tech running back Tashard Choice rushed for 204 yards. It marked only the third time since 1986 the Canes defense had allowed a running back to break the 200 yard barrier. Choice got 152 of his yards in the second half and it was clear this Canes defense wasn't capable of stopping him. What's even more frustrating is Georgia Tech ran the same counter play time after time and the Canes could do nothing to stop it. That's just physical domination.
The offense wasn't much better. Quarterback Kyle Wright continues to take steps backwards in his senior year. He threw for a pathetic 56 yards. It wasn't because of a lack of trying. Offensive coordinator Patrick Nix called three long bombs on the Canes first three plays from scrimmage. All three times, Wright's passes missed their targets. In fact, the Canes threw 6 deep passes the entire game and completed none of them. On a couple of occassions receiver Darnell Jenkins was wide open for easy scores. Kirby Freeman even made couple of appearances and was just as ineffective.
Again, it's not a big mystery where Miami's offensive problems begin. The quarterback position is in an awful state. There's no other way to put it. The Georgia Tech game marked the third time this season Miami quarterbacks Wright or Freeman failed to throw for at least 100 yards. That should never happen once in a season--let alone three times. Watching Wright throw the deep pass is painful. He either underthrows his receiver or overthrows them badly. The only good thing I can say about Wright's performance is he didn't throw any interceptions.
If there was a bright spot, freshman running back Shawnbrey McNeal has emerged as a breakaway threat. McNeal had a 33 yard touchdown run on 4th down and 1. He also had another long run that was called back due to a holding penalty. McNeal finished with 48 yards on 8 carries. But as well as McNeal played, UM's offense was not able to muster enough consistancy. What's also alarming is the deterioration of starting running back Javarris James. James started the game, but didn't see any action after the first quarter.
By the way, is there is worse punter in the nation than Matt Bosher? His backup David Strimple wasn't any better. When your offense can't move the ball, you better have a good punter to give your team a decent field position.
But what disturbed me the most going into the Georgia Tech game was a quote by Randy Shannon. He said the players don't trust the coaches. It's easy to blame the coaches for Miami's recent regression. Shannon is ultimately responsible for the product on the field. But it's clear the talent level is the worst Canes fans have seen since the days of probation in the late 1990s. Shannon has tried disciplining players by taking away playing time and changing personnel. But nothing has worked so far and you have to attribute this to a lack of talent.
I'm willing to wait and see how Shannon's recruits develop when they enter UM. If you believe the recruiting experts, the Canes should bring in a great crop of new talent this coming signing day. UM currently has 17 high school players committed including some of the very best in South Florida. But let's not forget Kyle Wright was all-world coming out of high school. Shannon and his staff must prove they develop talent as well they can recruit it. Those are two totally different things. Success will not happen until this coaching staff can do both.
He's the starting quarterback of the nation's best high school football team. So setting standards of excellence has been nothing new for Northwestern High's Jacory Harris. Harris continues to rack up records and victories like no other QB in Miami-Dade County history. Last night, the 6-foot-4, 170 pound senior threw six touchdown passes to five different receivers in Northwestern's 63-0 victory over Hialeah-Miami Lakes.
Harris, who has verbally committed to the University of Miami, now has 23 touchdowns on the season and is on pace for 58, which would break the record of 48 set by former Tampa Plant High standout Robert Marve, who now plays for UM. His 6 touchdown passes last night is a Dade County record. The state record is held by Orlando Colonial's Mike Mitchell who threw 8 in one game. Current University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow once threw 7 touchdown passes while playing for Ponte Vedra Nease High School.