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Forget Stars, Count 'Ships

How do we measure talent and success? Better yet, how do we project talent and success?

The one thing I've enjoyed most in my 10 years in this business, covering recruiting and National Signing Day,isn't that we geeky sports fans and reporters sit on edge waiting for a pimple-faced teenager to finish this sentence: So, after yanking your chain for six months, having schools spend thousands to wine and dine me and after putting these five hats on the table I've decided I'm going to...

Nope, the thing I love most about National Signing Day is how we all end up getting bent out of Randy_shannonshape on the number of tiny, shiny little stars Joe Blow Jr. has next to his name. I love the way we  believe how Joe Blow Jr. is going to be the next Ray Lewis or Michael Irvin because Joe Blow expert who watches Joe Blow Jr. films for a living says Joe Blow Jr. is going to be "special." Aren't they all, every year? The funny thing we often forget is what exactly all those stars really mean: an expert's opinion. Yet, every first Wednesday in February, we collectively beat our chests about how good or bad the collection of Joe Blow Jr.'s our schools signed to scholarships. We believe whole-heartedly, NSD, is the day the future is made or broken. Then, when the team goes 6-6, then 5-7 under a new coach named Randy Shannon we like to kick and scream. And then we say... "but the stars... they said we were supposed to be good."

The truth is judging high school football talent and projecting what it will be like at the next level is practically impossible. Simple mathematics will tell you that. How is it humanly possible for an expert to fairly judge talent in a country with hundreds of thousands of high schools and millions of football players? And how do recruiters honestly know what they're getting? How do they know players will come through the way they hoped they would when they get here? How will they know they'll behave themselves, grow into the players they are supposed to be? Sure, there are hot-beds for talent. And it's pretty easy to figure out a 6-foot, 5-inch, 300-pound lineman with 10 percent body fat is going to have a better chance of being a better football player than a 6-1, 250-pounder with 25 percent body fat. But after those first 300 "blue-chip," "can't miss" prospects, isn't recruiting pretty much a best guess?

Recruiting talent is one thing. But the real secret to college football success isn't just collecting gold stars like your in the fourth grade. It's building a team with depth and then making sure that talent grows the right way once its in your home. And then, its making sure you adjust when things don't work out.

A look at the last five years in recruiting at Miami could tell you all you need to know about the value of star-ratings. It also should tell you how poorly the guys on this staff adjusted to recruiting  mistakes and how they might not have gotten enough out of Devin_hester2the talent they did have here. In the 2003, Rivals.com rated Devin Hester, Greg Olsen and Kyle Wright as Miami's only five-star recruits. Defensive tackle Teraz McCray was the lowest-rated recruited player for UM at two-stars. McCray as it turned out sure seemed to have a better career than nearly all of the guys rated ahead of him in his class (4-stars: CB Terrell Walden, RB Tyrone Moss, S Willie Cooper and 3-star: OL Cyrim Wimbs). And Hester, Olsen and Wright sure didn't play at a consistent 5-star level while they were here. But Hester (everyone knows what he's doing) and Olsen (a first round pick last season) are sure doing pretty well now aren't they? How about 4-star linebacker Jon Beason (another first round pick)?

Tyrone_mossSo what does that all tell us? That somewhere between those Joe Blows getting to UM and then leaving not enough good happened. There are so many factors, so many places to lay blame. Like the players. Why couldn't Willie Williams get his act together? Why did Tyrone Moss, Broward's all-time leading rusher, get beat out by a freshman by his senior year? Why couldn't Greg Olsen hang onto the ball on third downs in college? Why is Jon Beason such a stud now and why couldn't he do more at UM?

But to me, the blame goes to the inconsistency and leadership at the top. I'm sure Wright didn't imagine he'd go through as many coordinators (4) as he did when he signed at Miami. I'm also sure Wright had no idea that after Darnell Jenkins, UM wouldn't sign a receiver in 2005 and the rest of his receiving corps would include five-star bust Lance Leggett, troubled Sam Shields, converted cornerback Ryan Hill, Khalil Jones and George Robinson.

- If you're a fan, ask yourself how Miami couldn't sign a quarterback for three years after Kirby Freeman walked through the door in 2004?
- Ask yourself why the Canes have signed one linebacker in 2006 (Colin McCarthy) and one in 2007 (Allen Bailey who is likely going to be a defensive end), after signing four in 2005 (Spencer Adkins, Eric Houston, Demetri Stewart and Daryl Sharpton) who have rarely seen the field? And how they never really replaced two big ones they lost in 2004 (Willie Williams) and 2003 (Arlington Highsmith)?
- Ask yourself how four highly-rated players in the last five classes still haven't or never really did end up sticking to a position -- Kylan Robinson (2006), Richard Gordon (2006), James Bryant (2004), Hester (2003)?
- Now that you're done assessing just part of the mess, ask yourself how Miami had classes ranked by Rivals to be 5th (2003), 4th (2004), 7th (2005), 14th (2006), 19th (2007)? Then wonder why UM ended up with seven fewer wins than Kansas this past season when the Jayhawks' classes were rated 50th (2007), 38th (2006), 48th (2005), 51st (2004) and 39th (2003)?

Yes, Randy Shannon was a part of all these decisions and part of the previous coaching staff. And yes, he shouldn't be let off the hook completly. But last I checked, wasn't UM's defense before this past season the only good thing about this team for about three seasons? And how about the fact coordinators aren't nearly as involved in recruiting as assistants are? Does his burden lessen al ittle now? And how could I forget the Hurricanes, until Shannon assumed control, didn't have a recruiting coordinator in place for at least two seasons.

Whether or not ESPN, Rivals or Scout.com decides to rank UM's Class two Wednesdays from now No. 1 when it comes to those little gold stars shouldn't mean as much to you as what the Hurricanes have already accomplished in the year leading up to this class. Miami's staff has not gotten nine early entrants into school -- saving scholarship spaces for others and getting a head start on the future and spring drills -- they've addressed long-standing needs this program has had with only not only guys who have a lot of stars next to their names, but well, depth.

* Since last February, Shannon and his staff have brought in more quarterbacks (4) than the two the previous leadership of this team inked in five years from 2002 to 2006.
* This class already has five receivers -- Aldarius Johnson, Davon Johnson, Thearon Collier, Travis Benjamin and Kendal Thompson -- who could run circles around the majority of the receivers still on this team. That's my opinion anyway.
Arthur_brown* The collection of linebackers -- Sean Spence, Arthur Brown, Jordan Futch, Marcus Robinson, Antonio Harper, Brandon Marti and Zach Kane -- not only adds serious depth to a position that was lacking, but it gives you, I believe, two major studs (Spence and Brown) who should be on the field quickly.
* Defensive tackle, a position the Hurricanes have been hurting at, has potentially three studs in Marcus Forston, Micanor Regis and Jeremy Lewis who are likely more talented than anyone UM has at the position now.

Is it a perfectly constructed class? Does it fill all the needs right now? No. The Hurricanes sorely Brandon_harrisneed to get a few cornerbacks (Brandon Harris would be really nice) and need another offensive lineman (Ben Jones, anyone?). Do I think all the guys going to pan out as superstars? History would tell you no. Somebody is going to be a bust. But whether or not the stars align, the one thing Hurricanes fan can't deny is that Shannon and this staff have raised the level of intensity in recruiting. They've addressed the majority of the serious needs. And whether or not UM gets five stars or just one for that, in the end that's all you can ask this staff to do. The hole left behind is a huge one to dig out of. Hopefully, we don't need stars to help us see that.

** PROGRAMMING NOTES: Susan Miller Degnan is going to have a very good Sunday feature on Taylor Cook and the rest of UM's incoming quarterbacks. Be sure to check it out. Also, if you haven't already been over to our new recruiting site, do so. I've been busy this week doing interviews and writing stories for our new recruiting page, which The Herald is apparently planning on keeping past National Signing Day. I've done audio interviews with Florida-bound receiver Frankie Hammond, Ohio State-bound linebacker Etienne Sabino, Pahokee receiver Martavious Odoms and a feature story on Micanor Regis, who Larry Blustein keeps telling me is going to be a force with Marcus Forston. Speaking of Blustein, he and I did another podcast. We covered FIU's class and what's happening with UM at the cornerback spot. Check it out.

Comments

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I'm very impressed Manny. Nice work.

Excellent, excellent work. Great job Manny.

Once again Manny , U Da Man!!! great work and keep it up! glad your as dedicated to THE U as you are.

GO CANES

Great article MAnny-

But How can yougo 7-6 and 5-7 with a 5 star QB (KW), 5 star wr (leggett), a 4 star RB ( JJ),and many others?

As far as what other have commented upon, The U was always famous for how hard players worked "on their own" in the off-season. Playaz: Are you all putting in the time? Are you busting till there is no bust? If you wont do it for yiour fans or your school, do it for yourselves and your prospects on sundays. This type of work ethic is what brought Mcgahee, Portis, Gore, reed, Morgan, Moss, all this success, fame, and $$.

Do it for the U.

You can be a recruit with all the stars, hype and glory but you will not compare to someone with less ability, a student of the game, heart, will power and most important work ethic. If some of you have not looked up Micanor Regis please do so, this is the type of players we need at DaU and I'm not saying this because he is a product of where I'm from. It's because he will give you everything he has and try to pull out more.

This is what made the lower star players better than the 5 stars. Not that this is always the case just with with what we call the spoon feed recruits who don't want to work for it.

QB STARS COMING OUT
Xavier Lee – FSU 5
Chad Henne – MICH 3
Matt Ryan – BC 3
Kyle Wright – DaU 5
RB
Mike Hart – MICH 3
Lorenzo Booker – FSU 5
Ciatrick Fason - UF 5
Walter Menenhall – ILL 3
WR
Santonio Holmes - OSU 3
Dallas Baker - UF 3
Lance Legget - DaU 5
Ryan Moore – DaU 5
OL
Nathan Rhodes – WASH 5
D’Brickashaw Ferguson – VA 3
Johnathan Luigs – ARK 2
Thomas Herring – USC 5
DL
Auston English – OLK 3
Callahan Bright – FSU 5
George Selvie – USF 2
Walter Fisher – TENN 5
LB
Patrick Willis – Ole MISS 3
Ahmad Brooks – VA 5
Willie Williams – DaU 5
Ali Highsmith – LSU 3
DB
Mike Jenkins – USF 3
Zackary Bowman – NEB 5
Dee Webb – UF 5
Aqib Talib – KAN 2


Great job Manny. I hope this REALITY column will wake up, or at least educate some of the people commenting that think they know college football. This staff is already organized, focused, and getting results. There will be a big change next season, with much more to come. I look forward to being a part of it, as should all the recruits coming in, and all CANE FANS. It will be the resurrection of the CANES.

Great read Manny. Great analysis too. But the more 4 and 5 star players you get, the more the law of averages begins to work in your favor. So forgive me if I keep our 15 ESPN 150 recruits.

But in the end I think RS is still over his head (and I think he's a great guy by the way) and the UM Administration has it's head in a dark orafice.

Just an opinion from an admitted Gator Fan with no love loss for the Canes.

By the way I'd be interested to know your prdeiction for the UM-UF game in September. I'm Gonna get Urban to recruit you to the UF blog where the Herald put that Stiff Goodman , LOL. Thanks Herald!!!

Go Gators !!

Great blog Manny.

Randy Shannon shouldn't be let off the hook that easy, though. The worst underachievers at the U over the last 4 years were on Defense. The part that red-flags Shannon's failure is that those players by and large are doing very well at the next level.

Does it make any sense that SEVERAL players - not isolated instances - couldn't play at a consistently high level under Shannon as DC, while then going on to excel in the pros, playing at a much higher level against much higher-caliber competition?

Randy Shannon has a lot to answer for in terms of how he has coached athletes like Leon Williams, Rocky McIntosh, Devin Hester and others.

NICE EXCUSES MANNY CAUSE THE UM RECRUITS KNOW YOUR 5-7 AND BEAT 3 TEAMS WITH 3 WINS COMBINES.... LOSERS... LOTS OF WINS NEXT YEAR WITH 4 FRESHMAN QB'S AND 8 LINEBACKER RECRUITS... MANNY, RANDY IS GETTING FIRED AND THE RON ZOOK OF MIAMI...

UM's class is slipping on the rankings and all you Miami jerk-offs have been bragging about the signing class ranking... But I guess you can't brag about 5 WIN season... YOU ARE ALL LOSERS AND SHARE A STADIUM WITH THE WORST NFL TEAM.... LOSERS LIKE THE HEAT THE DOLPHINS AND FIU... MIAMI NEEDS A STRONG WHITE MAN TO BE A COACH NOT A DO BOY...

Hey Miami Herald,
Why do you let IDIOTS like Suge White on the site. For Pete's sake we have enough Britney Spears in the world, do we need another? Don't throw white people in your comments, we don't claim you, and I'm sure blacks don't claim you either. You sound like some disturbed hick, who NO ONE pays attention to, awww poor baby. Did no one pat you on the back today? I see you post at 1 in the morning, so you're a hick pimp. Whats wrong Suge, your women aint makin you know jack? Get a life man, learn football, before you spew idiot remarks. I'm speaking for the ENTIRE blog site here. You're NOT wanted. You're a LOSER, and a HICK, lol, you're a hick loser, lol. Hey, the world needs ditch-diggers too son, lmao.

Now, on another note, back to football. Brandon Harris if you're reading this blog, you have a chance to be part of something special. Bringing a team back to prominence means more than going to a team that's already there. You're also going to NFLU. You succeed at the U, you can pretty much pack your bags to the pro's. In won't be easy, you have to compete, like some other recruits don't want to do. That's how you make a team GREAT, by EVERYONE competing to be the starter. Like the 2001 Canes, even the subs would be starters anywhere else. Huge fan bases don't make great teams, fancy stadiums, and ridiculous boosters, dont' make a great team, players do. Be part of history, and become a Cane.

The problem is Randy Shannon almost exclusively. Randy is far to concerned with paybacks rather than winning games. He states otherwise, but just watch his actions. What do you think the Kyle Wright vs K Freeman was about? How about Gordon moving off the defense (Randy's old territory)? Why did many of the outstanding player move to offense --- Randy. As recent as ProDay Timing..., Randy was far more worried about showing himself in the control than thinking about the school and his team. All he consistently does is make enemies. At Randy's first opportunity, he will make his statement, -- football/school be dam***. This problem will continue till he is gone. We can look forward to another losing season with Randy. The talent is there, just grossly mismanaged.

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