I don't want to sound like a hater because nothing is worse than covering a losing team, but I'm kind of happy the Hurricanes aren't preparing for another trip to Boise or some bowl game nobody cares about. It's allowed me to zero-in on more important stories in the last of couple of weeks including the amazing runs Booker T. Washington and Northwestern, two of our local high school football programs, are putting together, the great start UM's basketball program has gotten off to, and of course everyone's favorite -- recruiting.
Obviously, nothing is more important to The U right now than that. It's more than obvious the level of talent this team has harbored the last two seasons has been simply not up to standard. And I'm being nice saying that. I'm sure most of you could come up with more colorful descriptions.
That being said, the biggest surprise to me has been the high volume of new names that have surfaced since the end of the season only two weeks ago. As U know, UM can only sign 25 in February and will push for as many as eight for early enrollment in January. Yet, lately, I've been hearing new names all the time, which makes me wonder if Miami is expecting some already committed to either not qualify or not sign with the program. Obviously, there isn't enough scholarships for everyone. But it looks to me like UM is trying to make sure it doesn't lose out on filling all of its 33 spots. By the way, the only players who will be gone, I've been told, are Dajleon Farr and Daren Daly.
- As for the latest... the Hurricanes had 22 commitments already before the season ended, a number which grew to 24 this past week before Canesport reported Sunday night that linebacker Lerentee McCray was dropping his commitment. Miami from what I've been told wasn't exactly crying over losing McCray and had actually been hoping he'd cut himself loose after some of the recent finds they've picked up including New Jersey's Zach Kane (6-3, 220), Vero Beach's John Calhoun (6-3, 225) and local boy Brandon Marti (6-0, 200). Calhoun is most likely to end up a fullback.
- If Marti and Kane, currently listed as athletes, are counted as linebackers that would currently give UM a total of five linebackers in this incoming class -- alongside Northwestern's Sean Spence, Chaminade's Jordan Futch and Memphis' Antonio Harper. Harper and Kane are middle linebackers. Futch, Spence and Marti, who I was recently told received an offer from USC, are outside linebackers. Homestead High's Marcus Robinson, who will be making trips, is expected to end up playing defensive end. Recruiting coordinator Clint Hurtt told me the team was looking to land between 6 and 7 linebackers in all. The biggest and best target, Arthur Brown, hosted coach Randy Shannon at his home Sunday night in Kansas. Brown is set to announce on Dec. 17 according to Rivals.com reports. Ultimately, I've been told Brown and Spence would be considered the real gems of the linebacker class. Seeing Spence play up close several times this season I can tell you he's as talented and as smart a linebacker as I've ever seen in the county. And I expect him to be a star with the Canes.
- As for what else the Canes are going after, I've been told the focus has turned to defensive back -- including a pair of new names out in California and another safety in Jacksonville. The feel is talented Ely cornerback Patrick Johnson will be a question mark up until the end. I know Johnson has gone on the radio recently and told several fellow UM commitments he's going to be a Hurricane, but I won't believe it until I see him put on the cap and sign the scholarship papers.
- Even if Johnson goes elsewhere (it would be a huge loss), Miami still has a great shot at Booker T. Washington's Brandon Harris, who would be one of the final 25 signing and expected to arrive in the fall. I watched Harris' team beat offensive line recruit Matt Patchan and Seffner Armwood Friday night in the Class 4A state semifinals. Nobody on the field was better than those two. Harris might not have the prestige or size of PJ, but I absolutely love his heart, hustle and intensity. He made so many great plays in coverage, but it was the little things I loved too. He set a big block for BTW's first touchdown of the game, which sprung receiver Thearon Collier for a 39-yard score. Then, when his teammates on the sidelines had fallen asleep on a punting assignment, he simply ran out onto the field and filled in, blocking an oncoming rusher from getting to the punter. Longtime recruiting analyst Larry Blustein compares Harris to Antrel Rolle and I agree. Both of them were so smart, such good kids and leaders in high school. I can see Harris going to UM and having the same type of career there.
- Last week, I reported Northwestern quarterback Jacory Harris' new-found interest for Oregon and I know it caused a bit of an uproar especially considering Harris is not only the most important recruit in UM's class, but also someone who has been UM all the way since he committed. Some of you ripped him on this blog for it. But personally, I don't see a reason why you would put a high school kid down for saying how he truly felt. Harris took a trip to Oregon and liked it. He has every right to. And the things he said comparing Oregon's facilities and fans to UM's are not off base. I know I've talked about the latter a few times here and how it disgusts me how some UM fans get abusive in the treatment of players. If anything Harris' comments about fans should be taken seriously. Fans should know ripping current players in front of potential recruits simply isn't good for business. Harris, by the way, isn't the only current commitment to tell me he's been bothered by the foul-mouthed criticism of players at games. Harris, by the way, engineered one of the greatest drives in high school history against Deerfield Beach last Friday night, leading the Bulls 99 yards in the final two minutes for an amazing come-from-behind win. I was told he also had two touchdown passes nullified -- one was a drop by Aldarius Johnson on what would have been an 80-yard touchdown strike and another by Tommy Streeter on a penalty. Harris has 47 touchdown passes against only 6 picks this season.
- This weekend, I'll be up in Orlando at the Citrus Bowl to watch Booker T. Washington, Northwestern and St. Thomas Aquinas play in three of the four large-school state titles games. For any of you interested, St. Thomas plays at 7 p.m. Friday. On Saturday, Booker T. plays at 1 p.m. and Northwestern plays at 7 p.m.
- Couldn't end this blog without something on UM hoops, which improved to 8-0 with its win over FIU on Saturday night. It was nice to see Canes fans show up in force, including a strong representation by the students in the upper level. Coach Frank Haith's team was up by 25 points with 9 minutes left before once again beating the press became an issue. Miami turned the ball over 9 times in the final five minutes. Freshman point guard Eddie Rios and junior forward Brian Asbury each finished with five turnovers in the game. We knew point guard was going to be an issue, but at this point I'd consider it the achilles heal of this team.
- Haith said Saturday he wants his veterans on the floor late to make sure those type of mistakes don't happen again. But with Jack McClinton playing with a splint in his left hand, I'm not sure how good he'd be having to beat double teams and traps. McClinton in my eyes shouldn't be handling the ball anyway unless its in spot duty. Miami is going to need Rios to pick up his play if they aren't going to fall victim to some late game collapses. Lance Hurdle did a nice job Saturday beating the press with his speed. But when Miami goes into hostile environments in the ACC, that's not always going to cut it. Haith knows that. His team has a stiff test Thursday at Mississippi State and a few more ACC warm-up games before conference play begins. Hopefully, McClinton will get healthy in that time and show he can handle the point guard duties or Hurdle or Rios will learn quickly. Otherwise, it will come back to haunt Miami down the road.