The holiday season is supposed to be a time when you get to sit back, chill and spend time with your family. But covering this beat isn't allowing for any of that. Questions are abound heading into the holiday break at The U. The list of inquiries are endless...
There is the whole defensive coordinator dilemma. Could coach Randy Shannon take on part of the defensive responsibilities next season? Who are some of the candidates? Do the Hurricanes already have someone picked?
Speaking of picking, who is going to be the next athletic director? Weren't we supposed to hear something by now? And is the list really down to five?
Then, there is recruiting. Where is Matt Patchan going? When is he announcing? What about Tommy Streeter? Is Brandon Harris a silent commitment? Is Patrick Johnson really a UM commitment? Whose the next big time recruit? How many scholarships are left?
And then, there's a few basketball questions. But the main one: Is this basketball team for real or the result of what appears to be an easy schedule?
I'm not going to pretend to know I have all the answers. I wish I did because this job would be a lot easier. But I'll give you my insight as well as what I've heard through the grapevine and from my sources. But first...
WEEKLY RECRUITING PODCAST: With recruiting information at a premium and since I now more than half the questions you guys feed me are about recruiting I've decided to do something new for you here at Eye On The U -- a weekly podcast. What is a podcast? Basically a radio show without commercials you can download to your IPod or listen to online. For the past year, I've conducted a weekly podcast on high school sports (I'm willing to bet most of you had no idea) on The Herald's website called The Countdown. High School Writers Andre Fernandez and Bob Emanuel record at my house every Tuesday and usually its up on our site every Wednesday morning. With the high school football season finally over, I've decided to dedicate our weekly podcast from here until National Signing Day on recruiting. I've called on two of the best in the business -- longtime South Florida resident recruiting guru Larry Blustein (he's been on recruiting since 1971) and MSLCombines.net's National High School Scouting director Charles Fishbein.
Both of them are about as in-tune with recruiting as you can get. Blustein, who also works for MSLCombines.net, travels the country, attending combines and camps to not only get an idea who the best high school seniors are going to be, but also the best ninth, 10th and 11th graders. Fishbein does the same. You'll often see them on the sidelines here in South Florida. But they usually travel all over the state. Fishbein's job is to provide scouting information to schools who are willing to purchase his services. So, he goes to dinner with guys like Randy Shannon and Bobby Bowden. He hears the rumors, the thoughts coaches really have about potential recruits. And then, he hears the other side -- the recruits themselves and what they are really thinking.
This week, our first recruiting episode, touches on a number of key topics: their thoughts following the state championship games in Orlando; how UM got Arthur Brown and how they feel about his skills; the Patrick Johnson saga; Armwood offensive lineman Matt Patchan and where they think he'll end up; Fishbein breaks down UM, UF and Florida State's recruiting classes; and lots more. It's about 50 minutes of audio conversations with a set of music to break up the two segments. Anyway, for those of you interested check it out here. You can either download it to your IPod or listen to it online.
Back to the hot topics...
- I'll start with the defensive coordinator position. I've spoken to two sources at UM who told me there are no current solid candidates out there yet and that they didn't expect a decision until after bowl season. Is there speculation? Tons. I've seen and heard the names UCLA's DeWayne Walker, Georgia Tech's John Tenuta, Michigan's Ron English and UF's Charlie Strong. But from my conversations with UM brass, I get the sense money will likely be an issue in this hiring. Are the Hurricanes going to be cheap? Not necessarily. But they are going to be "money smart." Jim Frevola, who has been at UM since the fall as the assistant AD for external operations, told me it made sense to think UM could go after a talented, young NFL position coach or an up and comer from another school. Getting an established college or pro defensive coordinator will not come cheap. Granted, this is a coordinator position. But when Shannon brought in Patrick Nix from Georgia Tech last year, Nix was only in his first season as offensive coordinator at Georgia Tech.
- Speaking of Frevola, he did tell me he spoke to UM brass for an hour about the athletic director position. But he said he wouldn't necessarily consider it an interview. The only solid name he's heard is Army athletic director Kevin Anderson. When I asked Frevola if he really thought the list was down to five, his response was "I don't think so. I still think they're in the process of trimming the list down."
- Now to your favorite -- recruiting. As I mentioned earlier, in my podcast I broached the subject of Matt Patchan. I think the general consensus out there is that Patchan is at best a 50/50 chance he ends up at Miami. I know his father played at UM and there is that connection. But by no means do I or any of the folks I spoke to at UM (that would be folks who cannot be quoted on recruits) believe it is a slam dunk Patchan ends up at Miami. He could decide today, Saturday or Sunday. Either way, I along with everyone else who covers recruiting expects it soon.
- Whether Patchan ends up at UM or not, UM is near completion on filling its scholarships. Those folks at UM tell me the commitment of WR Travis Benjamin received Thursday all but locked up the scholarships the Hurricanes were planning on spending on receivers. Right now, UM has 27 commitments. The shaky one is obviously DB Patrick Johnson. UM is going to give Johnson a scholarship if he wants one. But guys on the fence like Northwestern WR Tommy Streeter could be running out of time soon. I've been told Streeter's window will not be open much longer because the Hurricanes are looking to sew up other spots at tight end and offensive line.
- As I've reported before, UM is planning on using 33 scholarships -- eight for spring enrollment and 25 for the fall. Assuming LB Arthur Brown, QB Jacory Harris, LB Jordan Futch, DT Marcus Forston, WR Aldarius Johnson, LB Sean Spence and ATH Johnny Calhoun enroll in January, that would give UM five scholarships left to use for the fall and only one for spring (possibly Patchan).
- So, who are the other five scholarships for? Miami is working hard to pull in another defensive end. FSU commitment Markus White and current Illinois commitment Corey Liuget from Hialeah High could fill that role. If they don't, look for UM to take Whether Patchan ends up at Miami or not, the Hurricanes feel good about their chances of getting Northwestern offensive lineman Ben Jones. He would give UM three offensive line recruits in this class -- not bad. Miami wants Booker T. Washington cornerback Brandon Harris (who will announce on national signing day) and has Jacksonville Trinity Christian safety Daniel Andrews and Tallahassee Lincoln cornerback T.J. Bryant (whose mom is a Miami Central grad) on the radar. But Harris is the most likely possibility. Andrews is part of the package deal UM could get with RB Jamie Harper, which I've been told by others will be tough for UM to pull. Most experts tell me they expect Harper and Andrews to choose Clemson. The biggest vacancy in this class is tight end. Streeter could potentially become a tight end. But UM also has another big body in Laron Byrd on its radar.
- Onto basketball... The Hurricanes are going for their 12th victory before Christmas Sunday against North Carolina A&T. UM had 12 wins all of last year. The Canes are likely to move up in the national polls after this weekend and could climb into the teens. I still feel pretty bad for coach Frank Haith. While I understand many of UM's students are home for the holidays, his team is nationally ranked and is still barely drawing 2,000 fans. College basketball is a tough draw in this town and it only makes things harder in recruiting when he can't get folks to show up. I know attendance will pick up when UM begins ACC play. The place should be packed for Georgia Tech on Jan. 12. But there is no reason the Jumbotron at BankUnited Center should be inviting fans in the upper levels to move down closer to the court when the team is 11-0.
- As for UM's plans in recruiting. The Hurricanes have one scholarship left in 2008. Haith told me and InsideTheU.com last night he will likely turn his focus to landing a scoring guard that can penetrate and create. Haith had told me earlier this season he was interested in signing another big man. But I think he feels guard is a greater need with Jack McClinton and Lance Hurdle gone after the 2009 season. Freshman point guard Edwin Rios is still struggling to find his shooting stroke. Haith had hoped for Rios or Hurdle to emerge by January. But I don't think either of them are ready yet to take the starting point guard duties from Jack McClinton. It appears UM is going to have to stick to its point guard by committee approach the rest of this season.