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Shannon, Petri, and Cassano Talk Canes


Welcome back to Miami.

It's been a while. 1995 was when I left. I would hope I've gotten better - with age you get better, isn't that what the saying is? I always try to get better every year, so I hope to do a better job now than I ever have. I'm going to always try to find something a little different to make the players better. That's my job.

What was the conversation like when Randy Shannon asked you to come back on board?

I said 'okay.' Randy and I have known each other since 1993. We've been close a long time. I trust Randy; hopefully he trusts me. I like to think that we're friends. He asked me to come. I called my wife, said 'This is the case.' She said, 'So you said yes?' I said, 'Yes.' She said, 'What you telling me about it for?' I said, 'Courtesy.' [laughing] Seriously, it was an easy decision. I was excited to come back. It was good timing for me.

Does it feel like you're coming home?

Anyone (coming back to) the University (it's like that), isn't it? The first thing I get, all of a sudden I'm getting texts, calls from some of the ex-players, people that have been around. Whenever you've been here, you've been here. You never leave. You're always a part of the program, a part of the University. It's not coming back, it's coming home. It's a different situation. I came back to Ole Miss. I didn't come back to Miami. I came home. That's the way I feel about it.

Where are you living?

I'm on campus right now (before house hunting). I've gone back to school [laughing]. I'm in an apartment in a dorm. It's been good, convenient. I did it when I went to Kentucky, too.

What do you think about the group that you have?

Very good. The whole situation has been very good. They're very bright eyed, big eyed, want to get better. It's always been that way here. That's what we talk about - getting better. They push each other to get better. I don't think we have a selfish person in the group. We've had two practices, no pads. This is football - everyone looks good with no pads on. We put the pads on, things get a little more interesting. Plus they're going to know a little more about what I'm trying to get done. They're going to get more comfortable, and it's going to be a good learning experience. They have a great attitude work ethic wise, learning wise. If you have that, you have a chance. We should be good.

Are there any expectations you have for the guys you are coaching?

What are the expectations here all the time on the defensive line? It's to be good, is it not? It was that way when I was here before, wasn't it? I don't think it's changed. That would be my expectation: we want to be good. How good? I don't know. But we want to be good. There's a long history in the football program at every position, and we want to uphold that tradition and carry on with that.

You've had kind of a nomadic coaching career.

Everyone has. It is what you make of it. It's fun, and it's not fun. It'd be nice maybe to pay on a house more than five or six years. But it's good. You live different places, you have friends all over the place. It's hard on families, though, more than on the coach. The families are the ones you have to uproot (Petri has two grown children, one in college and one that works as an engineer).

Do you have any early thoughts on some of the linemen?

It's really hard for me to make any evaluations on any players physically because we have two practices with no pads on. We are defensive linemen - contact is involved. I'm pleased with everyone. I'm still trying to learn names. I'm still trying to learn scheme. I've been here two weeks - they're trying to figure out what I'm trying to get done. So I'm pleased with their work attitude. They want to work, want to get better. That's all I can ask from them right now.



Are you excited with what you've seen out of the team?

We've got a great foundation to get this thing back to where it belongs, which is on top of the rankings. The guys are out here doing a great job, and I just want to be a part of that thing. It's been good - I love the direction coach (Randy) Shannon has taken the program and I'm real excited to be a part of it, win a championship.

What have you seen from the group?

It's early. It's good. You give the guys a clean slate. You watch the film, but you have to do a good job of opening things up, making sure these guys understand they start with a clean slate. Some kids really rise to the top when they feel some of the things that happened in the past are behind them. I've got a great room. I feel comfortable with all the guys in there. They all work hard. They've really, really dedicated themselves to being students of the game, which for young guys is not always the case. It usually takes a little game experience in order for them to go that route. But these guys really, really want to be great players. They know the tradition of running backs here, which is as rich as anywhere in the country.

Any observations on Damien Berry?

He's a kid that's a hard hat and a lunch box type of running back. He's a tough, physical guy that has deceptive speed, has what I call subtle shake in space, the ability to make people miss but he'll get those tough yards.

Have you spent time with Lamar Miller or Storm Johnson?

Lamar has just been in meetings - he's in the ACC track championships, hasn't been out here. I can't wait to see him. I love his track times, I'll tell you that.

Storm, he hasn't even been to his prom yet. He's 17 years old, is a hard worker with a tremendous amount of ability. He's a big kid with a great combination of size and speed. That's going to translate out there on the field, I'll tell you that.

The competition is going to be fierce for playing time this season.



When do you plan to make a decision on the backup quarterback?

Really don't know. A lot of things can happen between here and the first game, so that's why I don't like to make too many decisions on something. You always can say, `Okay, this guy is second team,' but then all of a sudden you come back in the fall and a guy can have a bad camp and the guy's not second team anymore. We don't put too much emphasis on it. It's a starting point, but I don't think you ever pencil anyone in to be the guy. It's just a starting point.

So you'll wait till fall to make a decision?

We might make a decision, but it's a starting point. You go back in the fall and have a bad camp, the week before camp we'll say (he's) No. 3. It's just a starting point, so be careful.

Does Adewale Ojomo look as strong as last year coming off his jaw surgery?

He's back to his same old weights. His weight is up, he's up to about 250 I think. He's strong like he was before.

Is he hesitant at all getting back into it?

Wale isn't ever hesitant about anything. He's always aggressive. It's just back to the same way. It's the same old Adewale.

Has Pat Hill been doing everything?

Everything, all the drills, team, everything he's supposed to do. We're not holding him back on anything. He's full go.

With Jacory Harris not playing this spring, what does he do?

Individual drills - throwing the football, no.

Other than Spencer Whipple, who is now on football scholarship, are any other of last year's walk-ons now on scholarship?


Talk about the development of Stephen Plein.

In the fall he moved over (to offensive line). He's put on a lot of weight. He's doing well right now. It's always a learning process, getting used to the grind of being an offensive lineman. It's a work in progress. He's young, but he's got a bright career ahead of him.

What have you found to be the biggest challenge for a tight end moving to offensive line, as Plein did?

The physical part of it. The physical part, the banging, that's what you have to get used to.