Ryan Ragone making the field as a Hurricane walk-on should be celebrated

Ryan Ragone joined the Miami Hurricanes this year as a walk-on after redshirting his freshman year at Arkansas State. He went on to play his way onto the field for a few snaps here and there before playing most of last week’s game vs. Georgia Tech in place for the injured Michael Pinckney. 

The tackling from the defense was subpar overall and the Yellow Jackets were able to rush for 207 yards and beat the Hurricanes 28-21 in overtime, but Ragone got the brunt of the fans frustration on social media.

That led to teammates and coaches defending him soon after.

“I thought Ryan Ragone went in and did a heck of a job,” Miami defensive coordinator Blake Baker said. “If he was struggling maybe that was something we could’ve discussed but he went in there, he played 31 snaps, we had him down finding his way around the ball 10 times from either an assist or a solo tackle. There’s some plays that I’m sure just every kid that walked on that field would like to have back but I tip my hat to him.”

The consensus from fans, blogs and media alike was that freshman scholarship linebacker Sam Brooks should’ve filled in at weakside linebacker. However he is middle linebacker Shaq Quarterman’s backup. If he was in that position, he would be going in green. 

“He’s moving from defensive end, what he played in high school, to linebacker, so he’s learning a new position,” Diaz said. “It would be unfair of us to expect him to understand how to play Mike [middle linebacker] and Will, right? That’s why he didn’t feature defensively on Saturday.”

Fans typically don’t care about the players on a personal level because there’s always a great distance between the two. College football is not a professional sport but since it’s on TV and in a venue that holds more people than towns across America, it might as well be. The brand and uniforms are professional even though the kids are not, but they are treated as such in their criticism.

Linebacker is a position of historic pride at the University of Miami and for Ragone to position himself for playing time in an ACC game as a walk-on is an accomplishment worth celebrating.

“It’s one of those deals where his number was called,” Baker said, “and I thought he answered it.”

But the fans are so blinded by the rewards of the score to have any interests of who he or any other student-athlete is as people. Whether or not it’s any fault of their own, is for another column.

Miami Heat Predictions: Five Reasons Sports Network

The Miami Heat start their 2019-20 season with the most optimism in at least four years… and perhaps longer.

They have a real star, a streamlined roster and an intriguing group of young players.

What do some of the Five Reasons Sports Network contributors expect?

 

Zach Buckley (@ZBuckleyNBA): This Heat team has sneaky-good upside to climb as high as No. 3 in the East. Jimmy Butler might be my favorite surprise top-five MVP finisher, with a leap similar to (if a bit more subdued than) the one Paul George made last season. If Miami has a finalist for both Rookie of the Year (Tyler Herro) and Most Improved Player (Bam Adebayo or Justise Winslow), it could sneak its way into 50-win territory. My crystal ball sees the Heat riding a top-five defense to a 48-34 finish and the conference’s No. 4 seed.

Alejandro Villegas (@AlejandroVG32): The Miami Heat season is finally here and we’re all excited.  No more Hassan Whiteside whining (though now we have Dion Waiters filling up that role), and finally a superstar who needs to win now. Jimmy Butler is in his 30s already and there is no time to be wasting his time. So we’ll probably see his best version from the go, with a bunch of exciting young guys. I see the Miami Heat winning 50 games this season, with a solid defensive season and hopefully a set productive rotation (and Erik Spoelstra not trying to figure it out the entire season). Hopefully they make it to the East Conference semifinals at least.

Greg Sylvander (@LeftyLeif): The arrival of Jimmy Butler should do wonders for the scoring challenges this group faced in recent seasons. Just how big of a leap Bam Adebayo and Justise Winslow take in starting roles will be the crucial element in how far this team can go this season. If Tyler Herro is as good as advertised, it further elevates the trajectory in a big way. Having flexible depth that should allow the team to survive the occasional injury bug, and a combination of expiring contracts and young players to remain in position to execute a trade for another frontline player, I see 50 wins.

Paul Austria (@PaulAustria_): The addition of Jimmy Butler is enormous, especially when you consider that the Heat “culture” is what drew him in versus staying with a better contender in Philadelphia.  I’ve always felt like what Miami was lacking these past two years was a wing player that can create his own shot, aka a guy that can just “get buckets.” Now they have two in Butler and Herro. Winslow seems to be getting more and more confident playing point guard by the day and Adebayo as well. I think the addition of Meyers Leonard is slept on, but what ultimately will decide the success of the Heat this season will be how well they rebound, as they lost an elite rebounder in Hassan Whiteside. The cohesion the team showed in the preseason is absolutely noteworthy and a 52-30 record with a 4-5 seed in the playoffs is surely within reach for Spo and company.

Ethan Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick): Well, here we are, back to relevance. It seemed like everyone (but Dion Waiters and James Johnson) has been smiling since the summer. Erik Spoelstra has been freed from his major malcontent (Hassan Whiteside) and has interchangeable parts that he can deploy countless ways. The hype train may have gotten a little ahead of itself locally, but this is a good team with a chance to improve significantly after a rough early schedule stretch. Oh, and don’t rule out a trade prior to the deadline. I’ll conservatively say 47-35, which should be good for third or fourth in a shallow East.

Michael Sonbeek (@Dutchbeek): The Heat field a team that they haven’t had in a long time……a high upside young team. Adding Jimmy Butler to the mix should put an end to their recent mediocre streak — especially now that they have realized their mistakes from summers past and have begun to clean that up. I’ll say 48 wins and a second round loss, possibly better if Tyler Herro turns out to be legit.

David Friedman (@TacoBoutSports): As we move into a new era of Dwyane Wade-less Miami Heat basketball, the fresh faces of Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro have Heat fans feeling cocky once again. Butler oozes Heat culture and it feels as if it’s contagious in the locker room. Herro has gone from a “huh?” draft pick to someone that Heat fans view as untouchable. The Heat should continue to make moves during the season, maybe a little Philly cheese special, and will push for a top 4 seed. Let’s say 47-35 and a third spot.

Ricky J. Marc (@RickyJMarc): After finally acquiring that bridge star to move Miami into a new, post-Flash era, the Heat finally have direction again. Most players’ roles are going to be clear now, and Erik Spoelstra looks to be rejuvenated after a tough go at it these last few years. Jimmy Butler and the Heat look to be a attitudinal match made in Miami, and with the ever-improving Justise Winslow as the team’s future PG, Bam Adebayo as the team’s center of the future (now that Hassan Whiteside is finally gone), and Tyler Herro looking to be Miami’s starting SG of the future, this team looks good again. Expect a scrappy defensive squad that will look like a 55-win team on good nights and a 44-win team on bad ones. If there’s one thing to know, it’s that this team won’t give up at any point this season. They’ll make some noise this year, and could very well sneak into the Eastern Conference Finals if one of the East’s contenders aren’t careful. I think 48-34 sounds about right.

5 Minute Dolphin Lead: the best time of our lives

For five minutes the Dolphins lead the Bills and it was the most hopeful moment of the entire Miami season.

The Buffalo Bills put up two field goals. In an act that surely scared the hell out of Brian Flores, the Dolphins marched right down the field to score a run-it-in backfield touchdown. In bright red flashing numbers on the screen: 7-6. I choked on air. What was happening.

I’ve said all year, there’s the team- then there’s management. The players want to win. Tanking only works for the coach, GM, and owner. There is no benefit as an Offensive Line Coach for my team to under perform. It’s even worse for players. Recovery is gruesome. Making them placeholders for your draft picks while they sustain injury is asinine. In week one when they were calling their agents, screaming get me outta here, like the Dwayne Wade T-Mobile commercial.

I watch every week for the players. Not for Stephen Ross or his New England hire. As happy as I was to see that touchdown, two minutes later you’re angry because you know this isn’t a management that wants to win. Wasting an entire year on a method that doesn’t work for unproven rookies. As happy as I was to watch them take the lead, sheer rage followed. The Dolphins don’t just have to beat the team on the field, they have to beat their own organization.

Relish that 7-6 lead all year long. Winning isn’t something you stop doing this year and magically turn on next year. Just ask the Cleveland Browns.

Miami’s kickers should learn from Jose Borregales’s example at FIU

The Week 8 slate of college football in Miami felt like a famous quote from Charles Dickens’ novel “A Tale of Two Cities”.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

It was a tale of two kickers.

Miami played Georgia Tech at noon and FIU followed it up with the 7 p.m. nightcap against UTEP. The Panthers’ kicker made all three field goals and won 32-17. The Hurricanes missed all three field goals between Turner Davidson and Bubba Baxa and they lost in overtime, 28-21. 

There was once a time this season where FIU kicker Jose Borregales was in the same slump that the Miami kickers are currently in. Through the month of September, the junior make 2-of-6 field goals. He made all but one extra point and his kickoffs mostly end in a touchback.

Through the first three games of October, Borregales made a perfect 6-for-6 FG and missed only one extra point. Against UTEP, he connected on his longest field goal of the season from 46 yards out.

“[Jose Borregales is] kinda getting back into what we expected out of him after last year,” FIU head coach Butch Davis said, “perfect in extra points and field goals. I think every one of his kickoffs, into the wind or with the wind, were all touchbacks with the exception of one.”

“He’s extremely reliable, obviously great to have,” FIU quarterback James Morgan said. “We know that every time we go down there we’re getting points, which is awesome. We always try to score touchdowns but having him as a resource and somebody who is consistently making them for you is great.”

The Panthers have won all three games this month. The bye week separated the best of times with the worst of times. So how did the change of fortune come about?

“Coming back from the seasons I’ve had before and then starting the way I have this season,” Borregales said, “you got to step back, look at your technique and just get back to basics.”

Boregales could relate to the plight in Miami. Every kicker feels the same way when their kick doesn’t make it through the uprights. In football, kickers are viewed at like machines. They are expected to work all the time but the second they don’t, fans want to toss them out or take their frustration out on them first.

“It’s the worst feeling ever,” Borregales said. “You’re in a hole. You’re thinking to yourself like ‘damn, I suck now. Where am I going? What am I gonna do?’ To get out of that, you got to get back to the basics, watch film, ask coaches that know what’s going on. So I just went and sent my film out to kicking coaches. They watched it and told me what I was doing wrong and all that. So I just go back to practicing that, do the little things and I think it’s working now.

“As a kicker, I know instantaneously when I hit my A ball,” he said. “If it’s good, I don’t even have to look and if it’s not, it’s the worst feeling in the world.”

An argument could be made if Miami had this version of Borregales, the Hurricanes would be ranked and on top of the ACC Coastal. Instead, Baxa has made 5-of-10 field goals and missed two extra points and Davidson went from a perfect effort against Virginia to missing both field goals against Georgia Tech. 

“All we know how to do is to manage the situation,” Miami head coach Manny Diaz said. “We continue to coach the guys, we give them all the psychological help that we can afford them and, as I’ve said from when this first became an issue, they are who we have. We do not have free agency, and we just have to continue to press on.”

There’s only one other kicker that they haven’t used but that might change. Cam Price was warming up during overtime and looked to be ready to kick the extra point should the Hurricanes have scored. Whether or not he will have his chance this Saturday at Pittsburgh will hopefully be addressed before the plane takes off.

Three Yards Per Carry College QB TRACKER

October 21st, 2019

Tua Tagovailoa vs Tennessee

Stats:

Justin Herbert vs Washington

Stats:

Jordan Love vs Nevada

Stats:

Jake Fromm vs Kentucky

Stats:

Joe Burrow vs Mississippi State

 

Stats:

All stats were from https://www.sports-reference.com/

 

Click HERE to listen to the latest episode of  3 Yards Per Carry.

 

Mike Gesicki has been giving the Dolphins better play at tight end in recent weeks. (Tony Capobianco for Five Reasons Sports)

Dolphins’ Walton, Gesicki show promise in entertaining loss to Bills

After committing an abomination to the game of football for most of this season, the ragtag Dolphins turned in a surprisingly entertaining effort Sunday at Buffalo.

The 31-21 loss was Miami’s best performance against a team with a winning record.

By staying in the game until the Bills sealed it in the final two minutes with a rare return of an onsides kick for a touchdown by Mincah Hyde, the Dolphins gained a measure of respectability.

And yes, by losing they kept pace with the Bengals, the other winless team, in the race for the first draft pick.

That is the ongoing consolation for long-suffering Dolphins fans that are banking on a path to a brighter future through a handful of high draft picks in the next couple of years.

The general perception of how quickly they can rise from the current depths to contention may be a bit lofty, though.

Who’s worth keeping?

Using those three first-round draft picks in 2020 for the right quarterback — hopefully Tua Tagovailoa — and a couple other immediate contributors will make the Dolphins better next year. But so much is needed to build this stripped-down roster back up.

The main focal point during the interminable march through an otherwise pointless season is for players worth keeping who may contribute when the talent level rises.

Two that stood out Sunday were running back Mark Walton and tight end Mike Gesicki.

Walton, in his second start, averaged 4.7 yards on 14 carries, totaling 66 yards. Like fellow former Miami Hurricane Frank Gore, who had 55 yards on 11 carries for Buffalo, Walton has the knack for popping through holes and the drive to keeping gaining yardage after contact.

The difference was evident when Kenyan Drake (six carries for 21 yards) had the ball. Drake is fast and shifty, which makes him effective as a receiver. But he doesn’t provide the impetus for a tough ground game.

The contrast with Walton’s ability as a ball carrier makes it understandable why the Dolphins are reportedly trying to trade Drake to enhance their cache of draft picks.

Second-year improvement

Meanwhile, Gesicki, the 2018 second-round pick who disappointed as a rookie, is emerging as a potentially vital component in the offense. Gesicki had his most productive day as a pro with four catches (on four targets) for 41 yards, and he made use of his rangy frame and athleticism that was touted when he arrived from Penn State.

Most impressive was an acrobatic catch on fourth-and-8 that kept alive the Dolphins’ final touchdown drive. Earlier, he adjusted to an underthrown pass, which he grabbed while falling backward for a first down on third-and-long.

Another 28-yard completion to Gesicki was wiped out by a holding call on tackle J’Marcus Webb.

Some encouraging performances

There were other positives to point to in the Dolphins nearly pulling an upset on the road against the Bills, who are now 5-1.

Rookie wide receiver Preston Williams continues to stand out with productivity — Sunday with six catches for 82 yards. And inconsistency — his fumble in the fourth quarter led to a touchdown that extended the Bills’ lead to 10 points.

DeVante Parker, the long under-achieving 2015 first-round pick, had five catches and showed tenacity in turning one into a touchdown.

Honorable mention to the much-maligned offensive line that provided some positive push for the running game against a tough Bills d-line and allowed only one sack, on a razzle-dazzle play with receiver Albert Wilson looking to pass.

Some designed rollouts and Ryan Fitzpatrick’s ability to escape rushers and get rid of the ball quickly helped him avoid being sacked. The line had Evan Boehm at center in place of injured veteran Daniel Kilgore and Shaq Calhoun in Boehm’s spot at right guard.

On defense, Raekwon McMillan continued to provide solid play at linebacker, with a team-high six tackles including one for loss. Taco Charlton and Vince Biegel had sacks.

The overall performance of the defensive was commendable considering that veteran defensive backs Reshad Jones and Xavien Howard were both out with injuries and rookie defensive tackle Christian Wilkins got ejected for throwing punches on the second play.

Flip sides of Fitzpatrick

The game was actually fun to watch, especially the childlike joy that 36-year-old Fitzpatrick played with in the return to the site of the most distinguished period of his career when he was the Bills quarterback for 55 games (53 starts) from 2009-12.

Fitzpatrick’s 11-yard scramble for a touchdown, punctuated by lowering his shoulder and bowling his way into the end zone, stands out as the highlight play of the season so far for Miami. It brought the Dolphins to within three points with 1:45 remaining before Hyde’s runback snuffed out hope.

It was also Fitzpatrick who threw the interception near the Bills’ goal line that turned the game around. The Dolphins were on the verge of extending a 14-9 lead after pulling off a successful fake field goal.

That’s Fitzpatrick’s career in a nutshell: moments of gritty brilliance offset by gut-wrenching mistakes.

It is also what happens to bad teams: They find a way to lose even while giving an inspired effort against a superior opponent.

The challenge of this season is for coach Brian Flores and staff to develop some players on this roster who can help alter that equation when reinforcements arrive next season via the draft and free agency.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns

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Dutch’s Night Cap

Mike “Dutch” Sonbeek starts his new video segment where he will give nightly recaps of the South Florida sports day. Today he dove into the Panthers big 6-4 win over the Devils and the Heat’s pre-season win over the Hawks.

 

 

Herro ball: Tyler’s a Big Bucket of Hope

Let’s cut to the chase and get right to what everyone is thinking. What on earth are we watching right now from Tyler Herro?

His latest performance against the Hawks was no exception, 23 points in 25 minutes, 9-14 from the field, 5-7 from downtown, 5 rebounds.

As someone who has followed every Heat rookie from Khalid Reeves to players who took the floor with DJ Khaled courtside, Tyler Herro looks different.

I’m not saying he is better than any previous Heat rookie, or even comparing his potential or career trajectory when I say Herro looks different.

Tyler Herro just has a mix of confidence, swagger and polish that is further developed than any Heat player his age ever. Yes, ever.

I asked him about that confidence.  After he almost blushed, laughing innocently at the question amongst his peers who were hyping him up in the background, he responded like this:

One teammate exclaimed “Tell him you’re a hooper T”

Herro instead modestly replied, “I put in a lot of work so I believe in myself when I’m out there”

Savvy answer from a 19 year old NBA rookie.

But his teammate was on point. Tyler Herro is a hooper indeed.

A hooper that, combined with the arrival of Jimmy Buckets, has Heat fans playing in traffic filled streets of hope.

Certain specific basketball functions do stand out when it comes to Herro hope. The unique mix of shooting accuracy, balance, play making, nifty footwork, I could go on and on. It all has been immensely impressive thus far.

Footwork that somehow translates into moves that while executing, make him look like he thinks he is significantly better than the opposing defender scrambling to keep up. I don’t know why it looks like that or what it means. It just does.

The swagger makes more sense when you know who Herro initially patterned his game after.

In his very early years:

“I liked Kobe, I looked up to Kobe all the time.”

Even Heat fans who have had one too many Wade vs Kobe debates have to appreciate studying Bryant in this context. Maybe that is where the polished footwork began to be cultivated.

As Tyler matured, the great players he studied evolved.

“Once I got a little older, I watched a lot of Lebron”

Perhaps where his underrated pull up jumper and playmaking chops, apparently suppressed at Kentucky, began to be developed.

However, he has his eyes on two current NBA players most when he looks for players to emulate. “Nowadays I’m watching Devin Booker, CJ McCollum, players like that.” See any similarities? I sure do. He has quite the gravitational pull to go along with a sweet step back move. Supremely fun to watch.

A player many people, including myself, were hesitant to get excited about initially, has shown more upside than any of the rookies the Heat front office was criticized for passing on back in June’s NBA Draft. The pick makes even more sense when you factor in the apparent inevitability of Jimmy Butler arriving in Miami a few weeks later.

I guess I’m obligated to say it’s only preseason and warn not to get ahead of ourselves when measuring levels of hope associated with what we’ve seen from Tyler Herro so far.

But this kid is special. Special in a way that makes Heat fans hope Herro ball is here to stay.

Right? Right.

Dolphins win by losing to Redskins

MIAMI GARDENS

Whew, that was close. Ryan Fitzpatrick nearly deep-sized the #TankForTua campaign with some fourth-quarter FitzMagic on Sunday.

There is no denying the overriding reality of this Dolphins season. A team that was constructed only to win in next year’s draft by losing on the field nearly mucked it up and pulled off an improbable comeback against an equally inept Redskins team.

Veteran quarterback Fitzpatrick came off the bench to replace an ineffective Josh Rosen and led two late touchdown drives only to fall short 17-16 when a do-or-die try for a two-point conversion failed.

The silver lining was that the 0-5 Dolphins stayed on track toward securing the first pick in next April’s draft after the Redskins emerged from the Winless Wonders Bowl 1-5.

The Bengals remained in the race by falling to 0-6, while the other winless team entering Week 6, the Jets, was threatening to upset the Cowboys in a later game.

Players not tanking, front office is

Of course, Dolphins players and coaches are doing their best to actually win the games, and they are to be commended for nearly pulling it off in this one. And you can’t fault coach Brian Flores’ decision to roll the dice and either win or lose by going for two with 10 seconds remaining.

“I was like, ‘let’s do this.’ I don’t want to play overtime,” Dolphins offensive tackle Jesse Davis said. “I think it’s a good call. I think we’ve got to be aggressive doing that. What do we got to lose? Go for it. … I like the call.”

Kenyan Drake dropped Fitzpatrick’s short pass in the left flat, though it is unlikely he would have gotten to the end zone had he caught it.

Nonetheless, for the first time this season it felt like watching a real game, at least in the final quarter.

Earlier, it was dreadfully dull as two dysfunctional teams slogged through a first quarter in which both teams had three possessions and punted reach time. The Redskins didn’t record a first down. The Dolphins allowed three sacks in their first two possessions.

0-16 far from a certainty

One thought kept recurring through the early entertainment vacuum: What number will Tua Tagovailoa wear for Miami?

He can’t keep his No. 13 from Alabama.

The Dolphins have spent two decades trying to replace their own legendary No. 13.

Tua won’t get the number. And as Sunday showed, it’s no certainty the talented Hawaiian will get the chance to fill the void that has persisted since Dan Marino hung it up in Miami.

The way things can change in the unpredictable NFL, the Dolphins may win a game or two over the next 11 weeks.

They had been outscored 91-0 in the second half this season before tallying those final 13 unanswered points.

“Everyone kind of knows the woes we have had in the second half throughout the season,” Drake said, “So for us to come back and give our team something to make sure that we put ourselves in a position to win; that’s all you can ask for, to continue to improve on a week-to-week basis.”

Tua worth tanking for

The team’s determination to win each Sunday and the organization’s strategy to lose in the best interest of the future are both understandable.

Tagovailoa has thrown 27 touchdown passes and only one interception while completing 73.6 percent of his passes this season. In his career at Alabama, he has thrown for 81 touchdowns with only nine interceptions.

For anyone questioning that tanking is the intent for Miami, the decision to make Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard inactive with knee soreness after he practiced through the week certainly looks suspicious.

Howard may have made the difference in a game in which the Redskins’ two touchdowns came on passes to Terry McLaurin, of 25 and 33 yards.

On the first, McLaurin easily beat someone named Ken Webster, who fell trying to keep up. (Webster was a seventh-round pick of the Patriots this year and released at the end of preseason.) McLaurin accounted for 100 of the Redskins 166 receiving yards on four catches.

The no-name secondary the Dolphins fielded Sunday actually turned in a respectable performance, and held up despite the pass rush putting no pressure on Case Keenum all day.

“I think our defense played really phenomenal and we just didn’t pick up our stuff [on offense],” Davis said. “Whenever the defense holds them to 17 [points], I think we should definitely beat that team.”

A few days after being declared the starter for the remainder of the season, Josh Rosen took a 180-degree turn in his quest to prove he is capable.

Rough day for Rosen

Rosen’s 32.9 passer rating certainly screamed Tua can’t get here soon enough. He threw for only 85 yards on 15 completions in 25 attempts and two regrettable interceptions.

He was often under heavy pressure, particularly in the first half. But the two interceptions were all on Rosen. He shouldn’t have attempted either throw. He had time and simply made bad decisions throwing to receivers who were covered.

The main thing the remaining games will reveal is which players may have value for the future. On defense, linebacker Raekwon McMillan continues to do a solid job as a run stopped. He had five solo tackles and four assists Sunday.

Former University of Miami running back Mark Walton got his first start and averaged 5.3 yards rushing (six carries for 32 yards) and added 43 yards receiving on five catches.

Second-year tight end Mike Gesicki is becoming more of a factor in the passing game. The 2018 second-round pick made a terrific catch over the middle for 30 yards that got the final touchdown drive going.

Then there’s Fitzpatrick, who was huddled with Marino in the locker room after the game. If the Dolphins aren’t careful, old FitzMagic just might put the kibosh on this whole #tankovailoa strategy.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns

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