Here's a quick preview of what could be in store next Wednesday, National Signing Day.
> NOTE: I wore the old Cubs jersey in honor of the late great Ernie Banks.
Sorry for the gap between entries, but it's the holiday season -- you all should be in a giving mood (as in willing to cut me some slack).
Obviously, the biggest news of late surrounds the loss of offensive line coach/recruiting Jedi master Mario Cristobal (READ THE STORY). Here's the bottom line on what Cristobal's departure really means on recruiting: It will hurt this year's class, but not really too much. What exactly does that mean? Sure, in the long run it will hurt Miami not to have Cristobal around, but the impact will only be felt slightly as far as this year is concerned.
As good a recruiter as Cristobal is, his biggest tie-ins to the upcoming class were really only the Belle Glade Glades Central kids (WR Deonte Thompson, WR Taurus McKinley and S Damien Berry), OL Harland Gunn (from Nebraska) and DT Chris Perry (a soft commitment anyway) and a few other potential offensive lineman. I know what your thinking -- that's pretty significant.
But McKinley and Berry have both said they are solid commitments to UM anyway. Coach Randy Shannon saved himself the headache of possibly losing both of them when he went out to Belle Glade last week and solidified the commitments. Both have since said Cristobal's departure really isn't that big of a deal. As for Thompson, the nation's sixth-rated receiver according to Rivals, according to one of the assistants I know well he really wasn't going to base his decision on Cristobal being there or not anyway. My source said Thompson wants a big city atmosphere and if he doesn't pick USC, he think he'll follow his friends to UM. Gunn, who has basically shut himself off to the world since before Coker was fired, is still expected to attend UM regardless. And Perry in all seriousness was likely 50-50 to begin with.
Now, where I think Cristobal's loss will impact is where he had his his hand on other potential OL targets (Kevin Bryant, Matt Romine). But if Shannon, receivers coach Marquis Mosely and a few others can chip in and help out the situation UM might be able to get those guys anyway. The good news for UM is the holiday break is basically a no-contact period, which gives Shannon and company time to regroup.
One guy UM won't have to worry about at all is receiver Kayne Farquharson (READ THE STORY). I don't like to give ringing endorsements for kids I've never seen play beyond a highlight reel on YouTube but after meeting him and his family in the past couple of days I just got to say he seems like a great kid who will do great things at The U. For starters, he's a real Cane die-hard fan and sort of a throwback. He loves the history. He loves to win. And he has a huge swagger about him. Don't believe me check out the video interview (SEE VIDEO). Here's also a link to his YouTube highlight reel (SEE VIDEO). Hopefully for UM, though, that all translates on the field. The fact Kayne has already played two years of college football at the highest level of JUCO ball and come out a title game MVP tells you he's got real skill. And with the lack of playmakers on offense, getting a kid that can produce big plays is a huge get for the Hurricanes.
As for other future huge gets. Look for North Miami Beach receiver/cornerback Doug Wiggins (5-11, 180) to make his decision on Friday at his high school banquet. Wiggins, an early graduate, has been tripping of late. He's been to Michigan, Western Michigan and North Carolina in the past 10 days. According to the peeps we speak with close to the situation, it's really down to Michigan, North Carolina or Miami. Butch Davis has apparently made a real strong push in the last couple of days to get him. But my hunch is he'll still pick UM. Shannon has been on him for a long time and if he picks UM he'll likely end up being the best local talent the program picks up this year.
As for potential assistant coaches, I'd be silly not to report the fact Northwestern coach Roland Smith and Homestead assistant Michael Barrow have been seen regularly at UM practices of late. Barrow more than Smith, who was dressed a white suit and looked like he wanted to be seen. We know for sure both are good friends with Shannon and could potentially end up being among the assistants hired. Barrow could fill in perfectly for Shannon at linebackers and Smith, a former UM defensive back, could replace Tim Walton assuming Walton replaces Shannon as defensive coordinator. Those are just my thoughts.
As for the basketball team... tonight's game against Binghamton should just be a formality before improving to 8-4 and heading off to a big showdown with Louisville. Got to say I have mixed emotions so far as to how good this team really is.
The fact they are without Anthony King at center to begin with makes things so much tougher. I spoke with Haith for about 10 minutes yesterday and asked him what he expected for the first half of the season and what he expects for the second half. To listen to the interview (HAITH AUDIO). He basically told me he's hoping to surpass a 9-win total before conference play begins. After Binghamton, UM is at Louisville (5-4), home for Nebraska (6-2) and on the road at a really tough UMass team (9-2) before conference play resumes at home against Wake Forest.
A few things that came out of yesterday's practice: Look for Ray Hicks to continue to come off the bench the rest of the season. Haith believes Hicks can become the scorer they are looking for off the bench the rest of the season. Hicks said he just sees the floor better when he's not on the floor to start. Eventually, though, expect Jimmy Graham to get back in the starting lineup ahead of Fabio Nass at least until King returns. Once King returns (barring surgery on his wrist), the lineup will probably look like this: Clemente at the point, McClinton at the two, Asbury at the three, Collins at the four and King at the five. Also, there's a chance Adrian Thomas (abdominal strain) could return this season after all. Haith told us Thomas was out for the year earlier, but if he doesn't need surgery Haith thinks he might be able down the stretch. That's huge because Brian Asbury really doesn't have a solid backup at the three.
Anyway, I'm done. I'm sure this will be it until after Christmas. So, Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all of you. Feel free to chime in on whatever you like.
The past week has to have been probably the most exciting time all year for Hurricanes fans. Every day this week there's been a different kid committing to the program and to new coach Randy Shannon. After a 6-6 season, a bright future is about the only thing that feels good if you wear orange and green on Saturdays.
But I caution those of you who perform such rituals as painting a U on the side of your head or shouting for absolutely no reason "WE GOT SOME CANES UP IN HERE! WHOOSH! WHOOSH!" to slow your roll. Calm down. Even if its just a little bit. National Signing Day is still more than 6 weeks away. And a lot can change from here to then. I'm not trying to kill the buzz. Just trying to restore some reality.
Now, what Shannon and company have done in the past week is amazing. And the next couple of days might turn out to be even sweeter after he visits Belle Glade tonight and the home of star receiver Deonte Thompson. But nothing is a done deal until the kids sign on the dotted line. I've been to too many high schools on the first Wednesday in February the past 10 years to know just because a kid says I'm going doesn't mean squat. Before this is over, Florida State is bound to take someone from Miami. It always happens. Look up Antone Smith and a former Northwestern High defensive lineman whose name escapes me. Like I said, I hate to be a buzz killer. But I know sometimes you got to take a step back for a second a get a reality check.
That being said... while I know some of you spend your lives on Canesport.com and Canestime.com message boards reading up and seeing video of these prospective recruits, I know some of you prefer to save the monthly $10 and live off hearsay. I'm no expert and won't pretend to be. Rivals.com and Scout.com are the place to go if you want die-hard info on who these kids are and what they are thinking up to the minute. Those two websites do an excellent job covering every angle of recruiting and I've got a lot of respect for the guys that do the job -- Matt Shodell, Christopher Stock, Mike Bakas, Gary Ferman (and company). But if you would rather save $10, you can come here and at least get one person's perspective (I was the high schools writer for five-plus years in Miami-Dade) I'll provide what insights I can in the days leading up to Signing Day. But those guys I mentioned above are perfect for the die-hards.
First off, as of right now UM has exactly 10 oral commitments. Here's the working list with basic info with some notes added in. Note: The highest star rating by Rivals is 5. I'll throw in what I know from speaking to some of these guys, their parents and coaches afterward.
WR, Daniel Adderley, Simpsonville (S.C.). Southside Christina (6-6, 215, 4.5, 2-stars)
-- Of all the recruits Adderley is the biggest unknown. I spoke to his coach Dexter Davis when the kid committed two weeks ago and he said Adderley is the real deal and compares him to USC's Dwayne Jarrett. That's a big comparison, but Adderley's size and speed is something to like. He was being recruited by Tennessee before he ended his senior season five games in with a broken collarbone. A native of the Bahamas, who could end up being the biggest steal of the recruiting season.
DB, Damien Berry, Belle Glade Glades Central (5-11, 197, 4.46-speed, 4 stars)
-- Rivals rates him the No. 13 safety in the nation. Helped lead Glades Central to 3A state title. When I spoke to his coaches before the state championships, they told me he was a UM lock. I know when I spoke to Berry himself the day before the state championship game last week he told me having Mario Cristobal at UM was big for him. Cristobal recruited him. He told me he was planning on taking a trip to LSU before taking his final visit to UM. I think the Hurricanes end up with him. Joseph Goodman spoke with him on the day of the state championship game and he said he was going to UM no matter what. His father Kenny Berry is a former Hurricane. By the way, Berry played the second half of the season with a torn ACL. He will likely have surgery and need some time to recover. Recruiting analysts compare him to Ed Reed.
QB, Nick Fanuzzi, San Antonio Texas Churchill High (6-3, 200, 4.6, 3-stars)
-- Rivals isn't too high on Fanuzzi, but Scout.com rates him the 23rd best QB in the nation. I've spoken to his father numerous times in the last two weeks and get the sense his son really wants to come to Miami and is excited about some of the names the program has attracted recently. Thing is, a few other schools of late have entered the mix in contacting him Alabama, Arizona State and Kentucky, where Fanuzzi's father went to school. On film, Fanuzzi reminds me of Kirby Freeman. An athletic quarterback who can throw on the run. I think there's a chance Fanuzzi strays if UM gets Robert Marve from Tampa Plant. But we'll see how things shake out.
WR, Kayne Farquharson, El Camino, Calif. JUCO (6-2, 185, 4.4-speed, 4 stars)
-- Rated 6th best JUCO WR available. Led El Camino to JUCO state title in California. Spoke to him on Monday after he finally returned my call. I know some of the websites say Farquharson is a soft verbal, but the kid told me he was officially signing with UM on Dec. 20. He will come in as a junior and by my estimation will likely contend for starting time immediately.
OL, Harland Gunn, Omaha, Neb., Central (6-2, 300, 5.2, 3-stars)
-- Rated the 9th best center in the nation by Rivals.com although Scout.com rates him higher. I've never spoken to Gunn or his coach despite repeated phone calls to his school. But from all reports the kid looks like he'll sign with UM. I know some UM staff are excited about this kid and the prospects of him being an immediate contributor with Anthony Wollschlager gone.
WR, Leonard Hankerson, St. Thomas Aquinas (6-2, 185, 4.4, 3-stars)
-- Rated the 44th best receiver in the nation by Rivals.com but I suspect the kid is better than that. When I spoke to two state recruiting analysts, Charles Fishbein and Corey Long, both said Hankerson reminds them a lot of his coach, former Dolphin and Vikings star receiver Anthony Carter. Hankerson is the best receiver in Broward County hands down and might have the perfect pedigree to be a solid, consistent contributor over his career at UM. I think he's a lock.
WR, Jermaine McKenzie, Bradenton Prep (6-1, 170, 4.41-speed, 4 stars)
-- Newest commitment. Rivals rates 13th best receiver in the nation. Kid told me he was a UM lock because he grew up a Hurricanes fan. But when I spoke to his father last night, he said it was more like a 95 percent done deal. McKenzie will make a trip to UM in January. I think he'll end up a Hurricane.
WR, Taurus McKinley, Belle Glade Glades Central (5-9, 165, 4.6, 3-stars)
-- Rated the 57th best receiver in the nation by Rivals.com. Fishbein told me McKinley is a tremendous route runner -- kind of like Santana Moss -- and his speed is deceiving. I've never spoken to McKinley, but I have spoken to his coaches who tell me he is likely a UM lock. For starters, McKinley is the younger brother of current Hurricane Randy Phillips. While nothing is for certain, I know he is close with his teammates -- Deonte Thompson, Damien Berry and others. I wouldn't be surprised if ended up being a part of a package deal either for Miami or for someone else like LSU.
DE, Adewale Ojomo, Hialeah High (6-3, 225, 4.6, 3-stars)
-- Rated 28th best weakside defensive end in the nation by Rivals.com. I've seen the kid play twice and I can tell you he is a big, physical specimen. He's fast enough to play outside linebacker. But I think he's going to end up being a quick end, kind of like an Eric Moncur. He loves Randy Shannon and is a Cane lock told me so last week when he committed. His cousin is Dallas linebacker Akin Ayodele.
DT, Chris Perry, Keller, Tex. Fossil Ridge (6-3, 320, 5.1, 3-stars)
-- Rated the 25th best defensive tackle in the nation by Rivals.com. Kid has been hot and cold on Miami for months. I have never spoken to him and I've left messages unreturned. But reports are he recently took a trip to Nebraska where he liked it a lot. Miami at this point probably is 50-50 to land this kid although he is still reportedly set to visit UM in late January.
OK, those are the 10 commitments. Who else is Miami targeting?
If you read my story today (Bradenton star McKenzie commits to Canes) then you know UM is also apparently after Robert Marve whom I mentioned earlier. He is a talented kid who I got to see play twice and came away impressed both times. Great arm and accuracy. Small by QB standards at 6-1, 200 pounds. But big enough to be a playmaker and leader at UM. Might be the perfect arm for all of the new receivers UM is landing.
OK, beyond Marve these are other potential targets.
WR Deonte Thompson, Belle Glade Glades Central
RB Graig Cooper, Milford Prep, N.Y. (former commitment)
RB Antwain Easterling, Miami Northwestern
ATH Doug Wiggins, North Miami Beach
ATH A'Jami Guyton, Homestead
S Joseph Nicholas, Homestead
S Major Wright, St. Thomas Aquinas
WR Alphonso Bryant, Homestead
OL Kevin Bryant, Hallandale
LB Brandon Hicks, Jacksonville Forrest
Anyway, that's what I know for now. Here's what I want to get from you. More reaction to the recruiting news and other feelings and thoughts on the Canes.
For those of you wondering where I've been -- read the paper. Between UM hoops, Chris Rainey, Antwain Easterling, Randy Shannon, video, sound bytes and recruiting analysts I really haven't had a free minute. Which is not good!
Anyway, enough about my sleep deprived self. There's obviously a lot that's gone on at The U this week. First off, congratulations to Randy Shannon. Today's good news couldn't have come to a harder worker or more deserving person. I know some Hurricanes fans may be disappointed the search didn't net a bigger name with more head coaching experience, but being around the team this season I couldn't agree more with the decision to give Shannon a shot. He is exactly what this team needs. An injection of what the Hurricanes used to be -- a local product with fire, energy and driving desire to win. Obviously, the decision of who steps in to be offensive coordinator will be the other big part of this scenario.
But if you listen to UM players, the community of high school players and coaches (READ MY STORY), there isn't a more perfect fit for the Hurricanes. Randy is the epitome of the hometown hero. He's survived so much in his life (READ MICHELLE'S STORY). It's a life he shares so much in common with the kids that play for him, the kids in this community. Randy wants to win. And kids want to win for Randy. Aside from the fact he's a defensive genious, Shannon will eventually surround himself around the right people: Hurricane people who know what it takes to take this program back to the top. Whether that's Bernie Kosar, some of his former players now out of the NFL, or maybe even some of the former assistants here before, you've got to figure this will all begin happening soon.
But perhaps the best part of his hiring is what it will do locally. Last year, Susan and I wrote a story about how the University of Miami football program had begun making local recruits and teams feel unappreciated. Some laughed. Truth was the story was no fib. Coaches and local athletes were feeling a bit blue toward The U. Friday alone, I spoke with about a dozen local high school kids and coaches. All of them were ecstatic Shannon was named coach. Why? He's a 305 guy. Norland High. UM. Homestead receiver A'Jami Guyton told me he felt UM and Shannon were finally going to give him a serious look. Same for North Miami Beach do-it-all star Doug Wiggins. Same with Glades Central running back Damien Berry (a UM commitment who by the way has played nearly half the season with a torn ACL). Same with Hialeah defensive end Adewale Ojomo (who commited Friday). Same with Northwestern coach Roland Smith, who by the way has the sickest junior class in the nation and is likely to send his pal most if not all of that talent next year.
The bottomline: the Hurricanes have lost out on some major local recruits of late. Some were just flat out passed over or somehow got out of town for reasons to this day I have no idea why. Guys like Elvis Dumervil. Guys like Dwayne Bowe. Guys like Max Jean-Gilles. Check Ohio State, Tennessee, LSU, Auburn, N.C. State and plenty of other team's rosters. I could go on and on. Now with Shannon at the helm, the emphasis will be South Florida -- 561, 954, 305 (the three area codes UM has always done most of its winning with) and every other place south of Orlando.
Shannon shared one of his best recruiting stories with us Friday. He told us about how he found Santana Moss, stashed away at Carol City. Moss, who only caught 7 passes (6 for TDs), was deciding between a UM track scholarship and a football scholarship from Eastern Kentucky. Shannon went out and spoke to Carol City coach Walt Frazier. Trust me, Frazier told him, you want him. It's those type of recruiting success stories that made UM what it was. It's what is going to make UM great again. Check out the COMPLETE VIDEO Q&A SESSION WITH THE MEDIA.
Speaking of great. Friday night's finish between St. Thomas Aquinas and Lakeland was amazing. Aquinas was down 21-0, scored 35 points in the fourth quarter and ended up losing by 2 inches, 45-42 in double overtime. I think FSN will be rebroadcasting it on Christmas Day. Tune into the last 6 minutes of the fourth quarter. Chris Rainey is sick. 276 yards, 3 TDs, amazing speed and quickness. Talk about a great recruit for UF.
Since I've been back on the old beat a bit this week with the high school championships in town, I've got a few players I've heard UM could soon be looking into. Tampa Plant QB Robert Marve is one of them. Marve (6-2, 195) is the real deal Holyfield. A former Alabama commitment, I ran into one of his assistants in the hallway at UM and asked him if UM was going to be checking Marve out. He told me yes. Marve plays at 1 p.m. today against St. Augustine Nease. He's got 45 TD passes and more than 4,000 yards passing this season. The kid can play and would be a great steal for UM if they can get him. The assistant told me the kid has been getting looks from Florida State and LSU since Mike Shula got fired. He says Marve likes UM and is probably only a few phone calls away from giving UM some serious consideration. Might be worth it.
Other guys UM needs to land: How about St. Thomas safety Major Wright? Stud! Kid hits like a freight train. Even though he's likely to end up playing linebacker in the pros and maybe college, Shannon and company have to make sure Major doesn't skip town for Ohio State, USC or Michigan like he's rumored to be doing.
Oops. Before I forget. Not sure if this made the paper anywhere, but I spoke with linebacker Jon Beason about his future. Basically, Beason expects to hear back from the NFL next week. If it looks like he's going to get paid, he's out. If not, he's back in a heartbeat. Thing is he won't announce it until after the bowl game. Listen to the interview.
Anyway, I'm done. Time to go to sleep. Here's what I want to hear from you:
1. What are your thoughts on Shannon being named coach?
2. Is there a high school player you would like to UM chase after?
3. Of UM's current 11 commitments, who do you like best and why?
OK, so the guessing game about who the next coach at the University of Miami will be has finally made some progress. It won't be Greg Schiano, who we all knew was the No. 1 choice. Schiano officially spoke to UM Sunday night and said just hours ago he's not interested. Read between the lines and this is what it sounded like to me: "Sorry, but you did do enough to keep me around before and now I'm waiting for Joe Pa to move over at Penn State."
So who is next on UM's list? Reports would tell you its probably Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, an offensive mastermind who has been speaking through others that he's interested. I don't think it's Leach. Not that I've been putting in as much time as Susan or Barry Jackson for us into finding out who UM is targeting, but I got a call from a source and friend last night who is very much connected to college assistants through recruiting. He told me UM's Top 3 choices were 1. Schiano; 2. TCU coach Gary Patterson and 3. Titans coach Jeff Fisher. Anyway, my source does a lot of recruiting work with college assistants around the country and says he was with Mario Cristobal and another UM staffer (non coach) at the FHSAA State Football Championships at Dolphins Stadium over the weekend. According to my source, those are the three guys at the top of list. I still think current defensive coordinator Randy Shannon is up there, too. But my guess is he's fourth on the list. Take it for what it's worth.
Of the three, Fisher intrigues me the most. He is not under contract for next season. He reportedly was going to be receiving an extension from the Titans, but said he hadn't yet even after the Titans upset the Colts yesterday. My source said Fisher sought out and received advice from former Hurricanes coach Jimmy Johnson to take the UM job. According to the source, Fisher has wanted to get out of Tennessee and follow the footsteps of Pete Carroll, who has won two national titles with USC. The Titans have a team option for next season worth $5.4 million for next season. But I'm not sure they'd retain him if he's told them he wants out after this year. Fisher is in his 12th season with Tennessee and is the franchises' winningest coach with a record of 107-96. Again, that's what's on the rumormill.
Anyway, how about them basketball Hurricanes? Last night's home win over Georgia Tech was impressive. The Yellow Jackets are as good a young team as there is in the ACC according to most experts. UM not only beat them, but they did it with center Anthony King (the ACC's leading rebounder) on the bench for the second half. Got to give props to Anthony Harris for bouncing back and playing well with 21 points. While Jack McClinton has clearly become the team's best player, wins and losses ultimately hinge on Harris. When he is on, the Canes are on.
Anyway, the Hurricanes needed a win badly and thankfully got it. Those three ugly losses -- Buffalo, Cleveland State and Northwestern -- could eventually come back to haunt them. But at least with this win, UM avoids a 4-4 start and what looked like was going to be a long season of learning for coach Frank Haith's squad. UM's next four at home Lehigh (Dec. 9), Mississippi State (Dec. 11), Stetson (Dec. 16) and Binghamton (Dec. 20) are all winable games. The Canes should go 4-0, but even a 3-1 run wouldn't be so bad. That would put the Canes at 8-4 going into Louisville on Dec. 23.