Every year, I make part of my summer vacation to get deeply rooted into recruiting. Not because I'm one of those sickos who hangs onto every word of a teenager, but because I like to get an idea of where Hurricane football coaches are spending their energy trying to bring in reinforcements. It's a good way to see where they think they need the most help and may not have enough talent.
So, for the past two days, I've made phone calls to my sources and scoured the two recruiting websites who spend the most energy on recruiting: Rivals and Scout.com to study up on the recruiting efforts. My goal is to create a recruiting cheat sheet for not only me, but for you to follow in the months and days leading up to the first Wednesday in February 2008. Yes, National Signing Day is a long time away. But when these names come up from now on, they will no longer be foreign to those of you who do not subscribe to the aforementioned websites.
By my count, there will be 16 seniors who will be leaving UM after the 2007 season. Through attrition and with what I expect to be the losses of juniors Calais Campbell and Kenny Phillips with early entry into the NFL Draft, my number of available scholarships for 2008 comes out to about 22. It's not a fact, just an estimate by my math. So far, the Canes have 10 early commitments. Some of them solid. Others not.
Instead of simply listing names here, I went ahead and broke down the recruiting picture by position based on the needs and info I was able to gather from reading up and talking to a few folks in the know. Today, I'll start with UM's focus on offense.
Quarterback: With Kyle Wright graduating after this season and Robert Marve waiting in the wings to take over, the Hurricanes have already netted two commitments -- Miami Northwestern High's Jacory Harris (6-4, 170, 4.8, No. 6 dual-threat QB according to Rivals.com) and Texas' Taylor Cook (6-7, 210, 4.63, No. 16 dual-threat QB according to Rivals). Other targets: None at the moment. The insight: Harris was The Herald's Offensive Player of the Year and led the Bulls to the Class 6A title last season. Just last week, he was invited to participate in the EA Sports Elite 11 Camp in California. Cook is considered more of a project although his size and arm strength are very appealing. My take: Miami appears to only want two scholarship quarterbacks and has filled the need already -- although Cook could end up straying. He recently told Rivals he isn't sure if he would take other trips and mentioned he was still being contacted by LSU and Rice.
Running backs: Charlie Jones is the only senior on the roster and player expected to be gone after 2007. Getting a big name here could be tough for the Canes considering their top two backs, Javarris James and Graig Cooper, are a sophomore and freshman. 2008 commitments: None yet. The targets: Texas's Sam McGuffie (6-0,l 88, 4.32, the No. 1 all-purpose back in the country according to Rivals.com) and Cyrus Gray (6-0, 190, 4.4, No. 8 overall running back according to Rivals) and California's Darrell Scott (6-0, 204, 4.4, No. 1 overall RB according to Rivals). The insight: Only Scott was recently quoted mentioning UM. Locally, there really isn't anything special. Locally, Chris Anderson, the leading rusher in Broward last season, has struggled to net many offers and could be tainted goods. My take: Considering how many running back scholarships were handed out in the last two-plus seasons, tailback really is not a pressing need. I wouldn't be surprised to see UM end up with only one recruit.
Receivers: With three seniors on the roster and the fact there is still a pressing need for a big-time playmaker until proven otherwise, look for the Canes to follow up last year's high volume scholarship spending with another big spending year in 2008. 2008 commitments: Booker T. Washington's Thearon Collier. The 5-9, 163-pound senior has 4.5-speed and is a deep threat. But he isn't the big NFL receiver the Canes have sorely missed since Andre Johnson was last seen hauling in passes from Ken Dorsey. The targets: The Hurricanes do not need to go far to fill their needs. Miami Northwestern's Aldarius Johnson (6-3, 200, 4.45, No. 6 by Rivals.com) and Tommy Streeter (6-5, 200, 4.6, No. 29 by Scout.com), Booker T. Washington's Davon Johnson (5-11, 161, 4.3), Pahokee's Martavious Odoms (5-8, 164, 4.57), Glades Central receiver Travis Benjamin (5-11, 160, 4.45) and Lakeland Kathleen's T.J. Lawrence (6-2, 190, 4.5, No. 37 receiver by Scout.com). Nationally, there is Alabama's Julio Jones (6-4, 215, Rivals No. 1 receiver), Mississippi's DeAndre Brown (6-6, 208, 4.62, Scout.com No. 7 receiver), Kentucky's Aaron Boyd (6-4, 195, 4.6, No. 40 by Rivals), Georgia's Josh Harboe (6-3, 195, 4.45, No. 14 by Scout.com). The insight: Aldarius Johnson could already be a silent commitment. Benjamin has a 2.8 GPA and scored a 17 on his ACT. I'd be shocked if UM just didn't take the four Dade kids. Outside of Dade, only Boyd currently lists UM high on his list. My take: There is a ton of talent available and interested in UM. Ultimately, I think UM will end up taking four receivers. To me, the local kids are the best ones.
Tight ends: The run of first round talent at The U from this position is likely over with the departure of Greg Olsen. UM has four underclassmen at this position in juniors Dajleon Farr and Chris Zellner sophomores Dedrick Epps and Richard Gordon, who moved back over to offense after spending the year on defense. 2008 commitments: None yet. The targets: Pennsylvania's Jonathan Baldwin (6-6, 225, 4.4, No. 2 by Rivals) and Mark Wedderburn (6-6, 235, 4.65, No. 21 by Rivals), California's Blake Ayles (6-4, 235, 4.7, No. 3 by Rivals) and Louisiana's Tyler Edwards (6-4, 238, 4.7). The insight: Baldwin told Canesport he would likely be visiting UM in July and listed the Canes in his Top 10. Ayles listed UM among Ohio State, Wisconsin, USC, Arizona State and California. Wedderburn's brother went to Penn State and the Nittany Lions are believed to be in the lead for him. Edwards visited UM last month and has the Canes among his top four alongside LSU, Alabama and Florida. Locally, the Canes also have a decent option in Coral Springs Academy's Bo Reliford (6-6, 235, 4.80). My take: Miami would love to get a big talent at tight end, but getting more than one tight end isn't necessary. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if UM didn't sign any tight ends in 2008.
Offensive line: Miami has 15 lineman on scholarship and six will be gone in the next two seasons, four of which are expected to be starters or play significantly next season -- center/guard Derrick Morse, guard Andrew Bain, tackle Reggie Youngblood and guard/tackle Chris Rutledge. Jason Fox, the only starting sophomore, could be gone too by 2009 with early entry to the NFL Draft. That being said the Hurricanes netted a potential three-year starter at center in Harland Gunn and have a talent in sophomore Matt Pipho. 2008 commitments: Miami Northwestern's Brandon Washington (6-4, 315, rated No. 6 guard by Rivals.com). Washington told me he still wants to take his trips and is not a done deal, although I'd be surprised if he didn't go to UM considering new assistant Corey Bell coached him at Miami Edison High. Other targets: While Lakeland Lake Gibson's Ricky Barnum (6-2, 260, No. 21 guard by Rivals.com) could end up being the second guard in the class, the Canes appear to be spending most of their efforts trying to land a tackle. There are two local big names in Monsingor Pace's Greg Shaw (6-5, 270, No. 12 offensive tackle by Rivals) and Miami Columbus High's Mike Goodman (6-5, 270, No. 28 offensive tackle by Rivals). Other big names with UM interest are Seffner Armwood's Matt Patchan (6-7, 270, No. 5 offensive tackle by Scout), Tennessee's Barrett Jones (6-5, 270, No. 17 by Rivals) and Preston Bailey (6-5, 315, No. 20 by Scout) and North Carolina's R.J. Mattes (6-6, 260, No. 29 by Scout) and Andrew Wallace (6-6, 260, No. 40 by Rivals). The insight: All are considered top 40 nationally by Rivals at their position. Shaw is the younger brother of former Hurricane linebacker Willie Williams, who is now at Louisville. Last month when I spoke to Shaw, he told me Miami had offered him and his brother's troubles at Miami would not scare him from staying home. Plus, the thought of staying home entices him because of his young daughter. But I suspect Shaw will end up following his older brother to Louisville. Goodman could end up picking Miami, but he strikes me as someone who is very interested in getting away from home. Wallace told Scout he grew up an N.C. State fan. Bailey recently mentioned to Rivals Miami among his offers, but didn't mention them when he talked about taking a visit. My take: Miami will end up taking at least three offensive lineman in this class. At least one tackle is imperative. Right now, though, it appears they have some work to do. None of the aforementioned kids were extremely high on UM.
OK, that's what I have on the offense. The defense will be coming tomorrow. Before I go, though, this was the second question I was asked to give my opinion on for the Rick George's blog. Figured it would make good topic for you to chew on too. FYI, he's asked reporters from all over the country to take part in talking college football and is running an interesting series on some of the country's top programs like Florida, Tennessee, USC, Notre Dame, Penn State, Auburn, LSU and Texas. So far, Nebraska and Ohio State. Check it out here.