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Getting them in early

The University of Miami has done well for itself this season in recruiting despite the team's current record and struggles. The Hurricanes have netted more than 20 early commitments since the summer, including many of the top local players from the nation's No. 1-ranked high school team at Miami Northwestern.

The goal now for Randy Shannon and his staff? Getting as many of those recruits to enroll early as possible. The Hurricanes will have the maximum alloted 25 scholarships to use on National Signing Day in February. But if the Canes can manage to get a few to sign in December and enroll in classes by January at the school , it will only open up more spots for this team because none of the scholarships would go toward the maximum 25 in February. Those scholarships used in December would be counted against this past season. My understanding is the team has as many as eight open slots they could use for potential recruits in December.

“Huge," said UM recruiting coordinator Clint Hurtt when asked how important it was for the Hurricanes to sign more kids in the early period. "We need to get in as many guys in here as quickly as possible. We have a certain number we can bring in at midterm. That’s something we’re working on now. There’s no doubt about it. We can bring in as many as we can. We’re going to have a lot of guys here in January. You can write that up just like that."

The early targets -- the kids who have the grades to get in -- include Northwestern quarterback Jacory Harris, defensive tackle Marcus Forston and linebacker Sean Spence are all players who could potentially enroll early at UM. Same with Ely cornerback Patrick Johnson and another current non-UM commitment, Booker T. Washington cornerback Brandon Harris.

As for Miami's image in the eyes of recruits following the last two losses, several recruits told me Tuesday they actually feel more encouraged to join the program. Hollywood Chaminade High linebacker Jordan Futch, a UM commitment, told me he's spoken to current UM targets who now seem more eager to attend UM because they've seen freshman play this season and the potential to play next year.

“They all feel like they’re going to be the ones to bring us back," Hurtt said when asked about the way recruits are reacting toward him and the program. "It’s almost like they’re creating a union among each other. Guys from Dade, Broward and Palm Beach – all those guys are recruiting each other. They’re saying we got to get things back together and get the rings back on. We got some talented guys now. But we need to be 85 strong."

- For those of you wondering what's going on with Miami's defensive line and linebacker issues, the Canes are basically in trouble right now. They've been mauled by injuries at defensive tackle. Hurtt joked Tuesday about trying to sneak into a uniform. Right now, the only healthy Canes at defensive tackle are Teraz McCray and Joe Joseph. With Antonio Dixon not expected to return until the end of the season or a bowl game, Dwayne Hendricks out for the season and Josh Holmes dinged up, Miami will rely on undersized Vegas Franklin to rotate in at defensive tackle as the No. 3 man. Luqman Abdullah and Steven Wesley could be used in emergency situations. But that's it.

- As for linebacker, Colin McCarthy's return this week should help. McCarthy has done a good job on the strong side. But Miami needs Daryl Sharpton, who is starting at weakside, to be in better positions to make plays. Eric Moncur told me coaches spent a lot of time Tuesday "slowing things down" in practice so guys knew where they had to be in running lanes. The Hurricanes gave up a combined 450 yards and five touchdowns on the ground in their last two games. Before that? A total of 485 and one touchdown in the previous five games combined.

- Some of you have pondered if freshman Allen Bailey could or would be switched to defensive line. Hurtt told me UM's coaches promised Bailey he'd stay at linebacker and the only way he would play defensive line is if Bailey asked for a switch. Of course Bailey, who is 6-4, 270, could eat his way into moving into the line. Shannon hinted Tuesday that Bailey needs to maintain his current weight: "If he goes up to 320, he won't be a linebacker."

- Javarris James' recent struggles in the backfield (he's had 16 carries for 21 yards in the last two games) could possibly be the result of a neck injury he suffered against Duke. UM running backs coach Tommie Robinson said James has been "a warrior" and will continue to practice and will play this week. James did some extra running Tuesday because of his fumble against Georgia Tech. Shannon said he plans to use a three-man rotation -- James, Graig Cooper and Shawnbrey McNeal -- for the remainder of the season.

- Former Canes receiver Lamar Thomas passed by camp Sunday and spoke to the team according to players. He isn't the only alumni who has been calling and trying to contact the Canes. UM safety Kenny Phillips says he's been receiving phone calls from former Canes John Beason, Brandon Meriweather and Ed Reed telling him "they're embarrassed" by the way Miami has played lately. Hurtt said he's received phone calls from Dan Morgan and Damione Lewis who want to know "what the heck is going on."

“Guys are frustrated and that’s because how high the bar was set – especially a lot of them that played with me," Hurtt said. "The guys know what we went through in the mid 90s, late 90s. I’m letting them know we’re going through growing pains. Ain’t nobody accepting. And that’s what former players are getting frustrated with. They don’t want to see anybody expecting it. They’re like what are you guys going to do about it? Are we playing the guys who are willing to go the extra mile that need to do what they need to do to put us back to where we need to be?”

- Speaking of Kenny Phillips, he spent the final moments of the loss to Georgia Tech on Saturday standing in the back of the end zone as the teams met at midfield to shake hands. Afterward, he declined interviews with reporters.. But on Tuesday, I caught up to him after practice. Phillips said Miami's struggles are hurting his soul and that he's physically sick of losing. Check out the complete audio interview in our audio section (I've got a lot of good ones, including a good one with Derrick Morse).

- Shannon said Tuesday running back Charlie Jones and linebackers Romeo Davis and Glenn Cook would all miss the remainder of the season. But when asked if any might return next year, he was non-committal.

- Shannon was asked Tuesday to point out which freshmen aside from Shawnbrey McNeal he thought have played well thus far. His response: "Lee Chambers was coming around then he got dinged up. DeMarcus Van Dyke is coming back around. He had a lull. Damien Berry has been unbelievable on special teams. Orlando Franklin – he’s playing half with Andrew Bain. He’s playing a lot better than a freshman is. Hankerson started the season off well and hit that lull but he's coming back."

- Shannon said punter Matt Bosher has to kick the ball better in games. "In practice its 50 yards, he gets in the game, he gets nervous. He’s not a freshman anymore. He needs to step up and accept that job. If he does a good job this week, we’ll have a great chance to win this game."