This year’s event was set up much differently than it had been in the past. Over the last few we were all stationed in the Knight Sports Complex; the gym where the volleyball team now plays. Players were ushered in, maybe two or three different groups, and we’d have maybe an hour to get all the interviews we needed. They’d then be taken out and the next group would be brought in.
This year, the list of players available was limited to maybe 14 or 15, with the media separated in three different places.
Our allCanes Radio set up turned out to be better than expected, and for that we have to thank new associate athletic director Chris Freet. (For those who missed it, check the allCanes Radio archive from last Wednesday, for Freet’s first local interview.)
Chris gave us the go-ahead to stream live right from the bowels of Hecht. Writers and radio guys were set up in the Edgerrin James team meeting room, TV guys / online video guys were in the Tom Kearns Hall of Fame and we were pretty much solo in the Student Athlete Lounge – Phil D and I the only interviewers in our area, giving us great access to any player stopped to have their pic taken for the Herald or Sun-Sentinel.
Looking back, the list of players were had access to today was pretty staggering; Jacory Harris, Graig Cooper, Kylan Robinson, Colin McCarthy, Adawale Ojomo, Allen Bailey, Mike James, Joel Figueroa, Tyler Horn, Chase Ford, Travis Benjamin, Josh Holmes and ESPN analyst Bruce Feldman.
For those who’ve never see it in person, media day really is tough on thee kids. Most are asked the same questions over and over by two dozen different people. The goal of allCanes Radio was to try and avoid the same four or five questions they’d already been asked, keeping us from getting the same four or five canned answers. We weren’t looking for that same old boring ‘athlete speak’ you get in most interviews.
If the smiles we received were an indicator of some ‘outside the box’ questioning, we succeeded. Our take on the players:
H a r r i s – Smooth Operator. If he could handle the arsenal of question fired at him today, he can handle a zone blitz. I got a sense that Jacory really knows this team is special, but he’s not going to “go there”. Sitting across from him, I saw that look in his eyes. It’s one you see as a parent before giving your kid a birthday present, when they already know what’s in the box. Inside they’re jumping for joy, but they keep it in not wanting to ruin the surprise.
I’m still anxious to see a healthy Jacory Harris, but you absolutely can’t question his leadership. A teammate has referred to him as a “social butterfly” and it fits. Harris is the Pied Piper and if this team indeed gets to a special place, no mystery who will be out there leading the charge.
C o o p e r – As I stated during our interview, just sitting across from Graig Cooper this time of year was a surprise for me. After seeing what happened with Willis McGahee, Frank Gore and the slew of other torn ACLs in my sixteen years covering this team, you don’t expect a guy eight months removed from injury to be ready to play.
Coop’s determination is reason enough not to count him out. The running back position is stacked with guys working towards playing time and while #2 probably isn’t an every down back, he doesn’t need to be. There’s a role for him this season.
R o b i n s o n – I have to admit, I wrote off Kylan Robinson a few years back when he was a running back unable to crack the line up. I figured a move to linebacker was a formality and he’d remain a career special teamer. Based on where I sat today, I was wrong. Robinson absolutely has a chance to lock down starting middle linebacker. He’ll have to continue where he left off in spring, but don’t count him out. After speaking today, there’s a sense of maturity that wasn’t there in the past. This could be the difference-maker allowing him to take advantage of the opportunity at linebacker which he never had at running back. One last go around for the senior. Last chance to make something happen.
M c C a r t h y – Colin McCarthy has officially been around for a while. He’s made some plays, battled injuries and is absolutely ready to finish up his career with a bang. McCarthy has always stood out to me from a maturity standpoint. Entering his final season. the question remains – can he raise his play to that elite level? He wears #44, but hasn’t yet reached Dan Morgan status. With so little experience / depth at linebacker, McCarthy has no choice but to become a playmaker for Miami. After talking to him I got the feeling that he knows what’s on the line.
O j o m o & B a i l e y – We talked with Adawale and Allen together. Calling this an imposing duo is an understatement. Ojomo is on the mend from last year’s jaw injury and with the weight back on, finally looks like he belongs on the defensive line again. (With his weight down he almost resembled a linebacker or safety.) Miami needs Ojomo back in that 2008 zone. Big personality and a fun-loving guy off the field, but in his zone come game time.
Bailey looks intimidating but is down to earth and easy to talk to. I expect a big year out of him (less double teams with Ojomo back) and for #57 to be the highest drafted Cane next spring. With a monster year he’s a sure first rounder. There’s a quiet confidence about Bailey. Not outspoken and not cocky, but a sense that he knows he can get it done.
J a m e s – I love Mike James. This kid is constantly smiling from ear to ear. Mature, talented and he’ll find a way to make an impact this season. I’m ready to see him carry the ball, as well as returning kicks. He’s a hard runner with the determination and disposition to be consistently good these next few years. There are certain guys on this team you think you’d want to hang out with. James is one of those guys.
F i g u e r o a – Joel Figueroa seemed a bit apprehensive at first, but we had a smile on his face as soon as we let him know his quarterback was referring to his offensive linemen as “The Fat Boys”. He’ll retort by referring to Jacory as “Slim.
I imagine Figueroa is one of those much talked about guys who make the huddle a fun place to be. He’s excited about the move outside and he mentioned relying on Orlando Franklin for some pointers on how to handle the switch. Seeing both Figueroa and Frankin playing such a big role on this line is great after both struggled to get through a whole game early on. They’ve both come a long way and this is their time.
H o r n – Tyler Horn has a center’s mentality. He’s cerebral. He knows every call and he knows where every guy on that line is supposed to be. A great personality, but you can tell he means business. His biggest contention? These 305 boys don’t know good BBQ. Coming from Memphis, Horn’s earned the right to be an authority on the subject.
When you think of UM on the recruiting front, you talk about the State of Miami and focusing on South Florida talent. A guy like Horn, heading south from Tennessee, is a reminder that Miami’s image and brand permeate even in the deep south.
The Kilgore JC transfer reminds me of Jeremy Shockey a bit. Not on the field, as we’re yet to see him play a down – but in personality. Shockey came to Miami from NE Oklahoma JC and like Ford, brought that thick southern drawl with him. Shockey too was a good ol’ boy and we talked about his mom and back home often. He was a far cry from the tatted up guy we see today, partying with models in Vegas.
Ford has the same innocent Midwestern personality Shockey had. Curious to see how life in South Florida effects him.
B e n j a m i n – Travis Benjamin is all business – as are all the wideouts, for that matter. #3 wasn’t cracking too many smiles, but like J12 you could see that sense of excitement in his eyes. He and the rest of the receivers know the talent they have on that side of the ball. Fans worry about the numbers, but the players don’t. Those who work their tails off and get it done in practice, will have their chance to shine on game day.
Benjamin will have to up his game as a punt returning, with Thearon Collier gone. He showed what he could do as a freshman against Florida State in 2008. I have faith that he’ll provide some highlights this season.
H o l m e s – I like Josh Holmes a lot. He’s mature, well spoken, and at this point in his career one of the elder statesmen of on this team. Josh has battled the injury bug a lot, but I think he values the opportunity to give it one last go. He started nine games last year and I think there is an opportunity this year to add some veteran leadership to that group up front.
The last guest we had on the show was Bruce Feldman of ESPN. I’ve known Bruce a long time. He’s a Miami grad and somehow always finds a way to make his way down here.
Bruce is fortunate in that he gets to see a lot of teams during this time of year. He recent revelation that there’s more talent at Miami than there is at USC was pretty eye opening – especially after the drop off experienced at UM the past few years. As fans, we tend to live in our own little Coral Gables bubble, but when a national writer comes in and tells you that this team has the horses to get it done – the affirmation is satisfying.
Media Day was a blast for us. It was fun to talk to these kids without their pads on, holding their helmets and already thinking about a position group meeting or their next class. UM got it right this year and for that, a huge thanks to the Sports Information staff, especially our new friend Chris Fleet.
Special thanks to Kerwin Lonzo, Rob Dunning, Scott Zavitz, Bryan Harvey and Margaret Belch, as well.
Don’t forget allCanes Radio will be coming your way live from Smoket Southern Kitchen and Tap on Wednesday night. We have a big show lined up for you so don’t miss it. We’re live from 7-9pm ET and if you can’t make it for the live broadcast, log on to allCanes.com for all of the fun.