University of Miami

UM star defensive players could face discipline

BY BARRY JACKSON

bjackson@miamiherald.com

Miami linebacker Jermaine Grace (5) runs through drills during football practice at the University of Miami on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016, in Coral Gables, Fla.
Miami linebacker Jermaine Grace (5) runs through drills during football practice at the University of Miami on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016, in Coral Gables, Fla. adiaz@miamiherald.com

At this point, people inside the football program will be surprised if defensive end Al Quadin Muhammad and linebacker Jermaine Grace are not disciplined for their role in taking luxury rental cars in exchange for unspecified benefits to the South Beach car rental dealer who gave them the cars.

So barring a change of heart (which can never be ruled out), UM people are expecting discipline in terms of a game suspension if not more. The question is how extensive the discipline will be.

Let's be clear here: I am not reporting they definitely will be suspended. I am reporting that people inside the football program are expecting discipline/suspension, though those people are not the very few making the final decision.

Both remained on the roster as of noon today, though AQM missed practice for what Mark Richt called a personal reason. Richt expects him back Friday.

Our Susan Miller Degnan reported that Muhammad and Grace met with UM's compliance office Wednesday. Though the Palm Beach Post reported the two players will have a hearing on the matter, AD Blake James told Susan that there is "no disciplinary hearing pending." Check out SMD's report here.

The issue apparently extends beyond receiving use of the luxury vehicles. It also concerns how candid at least one of the two players has been in discussing exactly what he did and who he knows and how much he knows.

As we first reported, the agency involved is South Beach Exotic Car Rentals. The company's owner, Juan Caballero, initially insisted to me, over several minutes, that he knows nothing about the UM football team and doesn't know the name of a single player.

Caballero hasn't returned calls since, but his social media messages - posted on Canes message boards - suggest at least a familiarity with specific UM players.

If Grace misses time, that could mean UM starting three freshmen at linebackers - Shaq Quarterman, Mike Pinckney and Zach McCloud.

Would that freak out Manny Diaz? "Since we've been here, we've had freshmen in our starting lineup," Diaz said. "To me, we don't have freshmen and sophomores. We don't have that luxury. On a normal college team, the difference with experience is they've been in a system for a long period. it's a unique situation for the young players to come into because everyone came in on equal ground."

Charles Perry, like McCloud, is also playing strongside behind Grace. And Darrion Owens and Jamie Gordinier are challenging Pinckney at weakside. Quarterman is the likely starter in the middle.

• Richt said "we plan on" receiver Dionte Mullins "being here." He's the only freshman who hasn't enrolled.

Freshman safety Cedric Wright arrived today and practiced. "It's going to be a crash course," Diaz said. "We need him because of our lack of depth [in the secondary]."

• Sheldrick Redwine told me that he is taking the majority of first-team snaps opposite Corn Elder, with Adrian Colbert also getting some. "We alternate a little bit."

• Richt singled out right tackle Sunny Odogwu. "Sunny looks very good; that's a little bit of news. He's healthy. He looks quick. He's energized."

• Manny Diaz said Richard McIntosh and Kendrick Norton remain the team's top defensive tackles after the scrimmage. "Those guys are really playing well." But he said Gerald Willis, Courtel Jenkins and Anthony Moten also are playing well.

• This was absolutely eye-opening today, more evidence of the dramatically improved coaching: Demetrius Jackson, playing with his hand in the ground at defensive end, said "I am able to do things with my hands I couldn't do last year. [Defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski] is bringing more skill to the game. He is a great coach exposing us to the next level. I trust him because of his resume."

Jackson said the previous staff never taught him how to use his hands. Stunning, and an indictment of that staff.

Diaz said today that "Demetrius has changed his body, can play more stoutly than he did in the spring."

• Though Jaquan Johnson forced two fumbles in the scrimmage, Diaz said he also made "two errors that kind of cost the framework of the defense. It's hard to make a mistake at safety and have the whole world not notice."

• Diaz said Ryan Mayes - competing for the No. 4 corner job - "has been performing every day." He had a pick in the scrimmage.

• Richt said on further review, Mayes did not return Brad Kaaya's interception for a touchdown. "Joe Yearby, of all people, turned and ran like a mad man and knocked him out of bounds."

• Diaz said defensive end "Trent Harris is smart, tough and relentless. He made plays yesterday sheer on his relentless effort."

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