Chasing a rumor: Why Miami?

Why Miami? That’s a question I’ve been asking for the past couple days and I still don’t have the answer for it.

My job as a Gator Country Insider allows me to occasionally share some pretty interesting information with our subscribers and some of it is pretty juicy stuff. That’s the fun part of the job. One of the tougher aspects is chasing down rumors and innuendo and there is plenty of that. The internet is a great place to gather good information, but it’s also a place where a lot of folks feel compelled to take a rumor or partial information and inject a few of their own thoughts. Then they try to pass it off as serious information. You have no idea how much time I spend chasing down this kind of stuff and I do it because it’s important to make sure our subscribers have actual facts to work with.

The most recent rumor is one that has its origins in Miami. It seems rather silly to me, all things considered, but here goes. Sometime following Miami’s 23-9 win over Florida International, Coach Randy Shannon made reference to five players from other college teams that were trying to contact the Miami staff about transferring to Miami. The reference was made in part because Miami has had numerous of their committed football recruits show up on other campuses for visits this football season. On Saturday, the University of Florida hosted Davon Johnson, Patrick Johnson, and Lerentee McCray, all Miami commitments for a blowout win over nationally ranked Tennessee.

Shannon’s comments gave birth to a hot rumor that University of Florida freshman wide receiver Deonte Thompson, a Belle Glade native, wanted to transfer to Miami. According to the rumor, Thompson is unhappy and ready to transfer to Miami, which was his second choice. When I took a look into this, I really didn’t have to try and seek a response from any of my sources. All I can really do is shake my head and ask, “Why Miami?”

Why Miami?

We are talking about a team that had to settle for their current head coach. Randy Shannon might be a great guy, but he was far from Miami’s first choice. He wasn’t even the second or third choice. When the Miami job came open after the Canes won their bowl game in scenic, frozen Boise, the number one target was Rutgers Coach Greg Schiano. Rutgers isn’t exactly the garden spot of America even if the license tags of the state call New Jersey “The Garden State.” Schiano just said no, electing to stay at Rutgers where he has a chance to win the Big East Conference and go to a BCS bowl this year. Schiano’s rejection was followed by several others before Miami turned to Shannon, the defensive coordinator under Larry Coker, and one of their own. Taking the fifth or sixth or seventh choice when you’re Miami? That certainly sounds appetizing, doesn’t it?

In contrast, the Gators replaced a coach three years ago. Florida targeted one coach and that was Urban Meyer, only the hottest coach in the country after his two turn-around jobs at Bowling Green and Utah. To win big at Utah is an accomplishment. Nobody does that but Meyer did and that’s why he’s the one coach everybody had at the head of its short list. When the Gators came calling, it was enough of a lure that Meyer said no to Notre Dame. In two years at Florida, Meyer already has a national championship and a 3-0 start in his third season.

So that brings us back to the original question: Why Miami?

One of Shannon’s first hires was an offensive coordinator whose claim to fame is he took a four-year starter at quarterback in his last job at Georgia Tech and made a 44.4 percent passer out of him. They brought in a new offensive coordinator with the new head coach that took a fourth year starter at quarterback at Georgia Tech who completed only 44.4 percent of his passes and threw 55 interceptions in four years. He did throw 20 touchdown passes his senior year, but offset that with 14 interceptions and it’s not so impressive.

Now when you have a wide receiver like Calvin Johnson, only the number one wide receiver draft pick in the entire NFL Draft and one who’s already tearing it up in the NFL, you should be able to complete more than 44 percent of your passes, wouldn’t you think? Johnson netted 1202 yards last season but contrast that to Florida’s Dallas Baker who finished with 920 yards on 16 fewer catches. The Gators had five receivers that caught the ball for more than 350 yards while Georgia Tech had two.

And this offensive coordinator is a guy with enough magic in his play calling and ability to coach up quarterbacks that Deonte Thompson and other great wide receiver prospects would want to transfer? Florida is averaging almost as many passing yards (286 a game) as Miami is averaging TOTAL offense (302). The Gators average well over 500 yards per game. Miami averages an anemic 130 passing yards a game.

I see those numbers and my question once again is: Why Miami?

A further look at the numbers makes my question even more relevant. Miami is ranked number 99 out of 119 teams in the country in total offense and that’s with the advantage of powerhouse (sarcasm!) defenses like those at Marshall and FIU trying to hold that line! When the Miami offense went against a top defense (Oklahoma) it flopped. When the Gators went against a formidable opponent with a traditionally tough defense, the Gators racked up 59 points and 554 yards. That’s only eight points fewer than Miami has scored in THREE games.

So why would a receiver, even one that’s waiting his chance to play — and let us not forget a true freshman — feel the need to transfer from a prolific offense to one that anemic? And, considering what he’s seen of the Gators moving the ball down the field, he has to be salivating for a chance he knows he will get.

So again: Why Miami?

The Miami passing game is ranked 113 in the nation and Miami’s pass receivers have 292 total yards catching the ball, which is only six yards more than the Gators average passing per GAME.

You’ll love this. Florida’s wide receivers already have 669 yards in just THREE games. The numbers are going to be gaudy by the end of the year. The season’s only 25 percent over.

Now throw in the way the Gators use their wide receivers in the running game. Miami has ZERO rushing yards from the wide receivers. The Gators? Try 248 yards and two touchodwns led by Percy Harvin and his 156 yards. Harvin also has 215 receiving yards and he’s averaging 21.5 yards per catch.

I will concede to you that Deonte Thompson will have to wait his turn to play but he’s so fast and so talented. He will get his chances and when he does, he will thrive in the offense like all the other receivers. To know that’s true, all he has to do is stand on the sideline and watch one game. At Florida, he will have Tim Tebow throwing to him. Tebow is the number two passer in the country. At Miami? Nobody in the top 100 and they’ve already tried two quarterbacks. I can’t wait to see who gets the next shot.

If he’s TIVO’d a Miami game, he probably wonders what the heck they’re trying to do? Of course, nobody else can figure that out either. Deonte Thompson can stay at Florida, wait his chance and become a star, which is what he is going to do. Why would he even risk a transfer and have to sit out another year when there is nothing promising about Miami’s ability to put together a decent offense?

In all honesty, is Miami even a viable option for any star receiver right now? It does make you wonder, doesn’t it?