Barry Jackson

UM to get football game at Marlins Park. And several players enroll early

A six-pack of Canes notes on a Monday night:

FIU has decided that its Nov. 23 football game against UM will be played at Marlins Park, according to a source.

Though it’s an FIU home game as the second part of a home and home series, the contract with UM said it could not be played at FIU because the Golden Panthers’ stadium is too small.

That left FIU with a choice of Marlins Park or Hard Rock Stadium and FIU chose Marlins Park, which can accommodate about 38,000 for the game. UM’s other non-conference games for 2019: UF in Orlando, Bethune Cookman and Central Michigan — which are expected to be the first three games of the season.

Though Illinois-bound Jeff Thomas contradicted three published reports (including one in The Herald) and contradicted UM offensive coordinator Dan Enos and said he never considered going back to UM, two of his former teammates and a UM official said that is simply untrue and that Thomas contacted UM wanting to return. One teammate said Thomas badly wanted to return. Another said Thomas indicated that Diaz would not give him an immediate “yes” and Thomas then decided to return to Illinois instead of risking having nowhere to play next season. One former teammate said he could understand Diaz not giving Thomas an immediate yes because Thomas complained a lot last season and had a me-first attitude. Diaz is trying to purge selfishness from the program.

Five new UM players attended Sunday evening’s team meeting.

UM said those five are early entrants are K.J. Osborn (the senior receiver who transferred from Buffalo); Auburn transfer Asa Martin (the running back who is asking the NCAA to make him eligible to play in 2019 instead of sitting out a year) and three freshmen: receiver Jeremiah Payton, defensive end Jahfari Harvey and offensive lineman Zion Nelson.

Payton, Nelson and Harvey are enrolled. Osborn and Martin attended an orientation meeting Monday and are working their way through the admissions process.

Payton has a chance for early playing time and Harvey had a good shot to crack the defensive line rotation. Harvey likely will be competing with Patrick Joyner Jr. and others (including a potential grad transfer) for a rotation spot behind Jon Garvin, Greg Rousseau and Scott Patchan.

UM lost defensive end Joe Jackson to the NFL and Demetrius Jackson to graduation.

Count local recruiting guru Larry Blustein among those who like Osborn, the former IMG Academy player who had 53 receptions for 892 yards and seven touchdowns last season for Buffalo.

“He’s a quality player,” said Blustein, who has watched him. “Runs great patterns. He’s a much better version of Lawrence Cager because he catches the ball [more cleanly, without as many drops]. Really good hands.”

Osborn, incidentally, will also be an option for punt and kickoff returns. He has a 10.3 average on 33 career punt returns and a 19.3 average of 23 career kickoff returns.

UM basketball coach Jim Larranaga, who’s down to seven available scholarship players, asked UM defensive end Joe Jackson if he would be willing to join the basketball team, but Jackson declined, opting instead to enter the NFL Draft. Jackson played football and basketball at Gulliver Prep.

Fired UM assistants are beginning to find work elsewhere. Todd Hartley has re-joined Georgia’s staff as tight ends coach (there were some UM people who wish Diaz had kept him); Thomas Brown is South Carolina’s new running backs coach and Stacy Searels is North Carolina’s new offensive line coach.

Former UM receivers coach Ron Dugans and former quarterbacks coach Jon Richt haven’t reportedly been hired to this point.

Here’s my Monday post with details about some changes Manny Diaz is making and the latest on UM’s pursuit of several quarterbacks.

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