Go ahead and admit it Canes fans: You're already counting down the days until spring practice! Well, there are only 15 days left until Randy Shannon's football team embarks on a new season and until we see nine new Canes -- including a few of the studs from the national champion Northwestern Bulls -- wear The U for the first time.
To get you warmed up for spring ball my plan is to put together position previews over the next two weeks. In each preview, I'll provide facts and analysis on what UM lost to graduation and the NFL Draft, who is coming back, who is coming in and who potentially could be the front-runner to land the starting job at each spot. I also plan to raise some questions and shed some light on what fans should expect to see in the spring and beyond. And then with the help of recruiting experts like Larry Blustein, I want to provide a list of potential recruiting targets Miami may be looking at to fill holes/needs in the coming year as well as an outsider's take on what's happening at The U.
Monday, I got a chance to catch up with a UM insider, defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Clint Hurtt, who along with linebackers coach Michael Barrow was named one of the nation's Top 25 recruiters by Rivals.com last week. Hurtt and I talked about several topics including recruiting, Allen Bailey's move to the defensive line and much more. I'd love to share all of it now, but I've got save some of it for the next few weeks.
For now, here is an appetizer if you will and some of the highlights from my talk with Hurtt.
* THE NEW DEFENSE: Since UM wrapped up one of the nation's consensus top five recruiting classes last Wednesday, Hurtt said the coaching staff has been deeply involved in installing the system new defensive coordinator Bill Young has brought in with him from Kansas. While Hurtt said he and other assistants will spend a lot of time breaking down film on potential '09 recruits in the coming months, most of the time in the two weeks leading up to the start of practice will be spent on familiarizing players and themselves with what Young wants to do. "It's not that much different from what we did before. The thing is there are some concepts that are a little bit different. To some people it may look different. But it's not the case. There's a lot of stuff in terms of zone blitzes and man-free stuff we already did. But we'll have new things, new wrinkles in, but it's not so much different in terms of what we've been doing. It's still a 4-3 attack. But just like we had last year, there are some 30 packages. We're just not that far along into it yet really to give out details. I can just tell you it's going to be real exciting around here."
* THE '09 RECRUITING CLASS: Hurtt said regardless of what experts rated UM's class, he and the rest of the staff were more than thrilled with how UM fared last Wednesday. Despite failing to get a running back, a tight end and more than two offensive lineman and one cornerback, Hurtt said UM met all of its immediate needs with '08 class. So what will the Canes do in '09? Hurtt said UM will likely use up between 19-21 scholarships in its next class and zero-in most on offensive lineman, tight ends and cornerbacks. Here's what he told me he and UM are targeting per position: 1 QB, 2 RB, 1 WR, 3-4 TE, 4-5 OL, 2 DE, 2 DT, 1 LB, 3 CB, 1 S.
* RECRUITING PHILOSOPHY: Hurtt said UM could potentially end up having fewer scholarships available for new recruits if any of the 33 players UM inked last Wednesday do not qualify academically and Miami ends up resigning them next year. Without giving me any names, he projected that number at between two and four recruits. So far, he says, UM has already offered close to 30 potential recruits for its 2009 class. He said according to NCAA rules, UM is only allowed to offer kids already registered with the NCAA Clearinghouse. So, for those of us wondering why UM might not have already made an offer to a kid -- that may shed some light. As for offering more scholarships than what's available, he said...
"You have to look at it like this in recruiting: You have to offer five kids for every one you plan on signing. That's really how we look at it. The plan is if you have to go out and sign two defensive ends, you better go out and offer 10 -- bare minimum you better offer 10. That's really how the recruiting game works. If you get one kid from Arizona, that's all you may get from there. If you offer a kid from Texas, you'll have to beat Texas and Oklahoma to get him. When it comes to kids like that it comes to what kind of contact do you have with the kid? Does he have a family member that's a former Cane? Does he have a family member that's formerly lived in South Florida? So, things like that come into play and tells you how many to offer. For us, we want Florida to be our spot. So, if we need to sign 2 defensive ends, we're not only going to offer 10 defensive ends if eight of them from out of state. We'll have to go a little heavier than that. That's the outlook and that's the plan."
POSITION CHANGES: One topic that has been raised since Wednesday are potential position switches for new recruits. For instance, since UM first began courting Melbourne Palm Bay linebacker Ramon "Cookie" Buchanon, the thought has been he could potentially be moved to safety. Then this past weekend, Canesport.com reported former Hollywood Chaminade linebacker Jordan Futch could get a shot at playing tight end. Hurtt dispelled some of those rumors saying none of the players he recruited to play on the defensive line would be moved to offense and declaring both Buchanon and Futch will be playing linebacker once they arrive in the fall.
"That's just all rumor. We haven't talked about moving anybody. When we sign recruits, we don't get in the business of moving them to other positions like other teams we know. Where we recruit you at is where you are going to be. And if after a year or so it just so happens there's something else you can do to help the team at another spot, then we'll bring it up to the kid. But we never force a kid to change positions."
"CORNERSTONE" OF THE CLASS: One person who will absolutely not be changing positions -- even though he definitely could play receiver -- is Booker T. Washington cornerback Brandon Harris, who became the final recruit in UM's 2008 class Wednesday and perhaps it's most important signee. Hurtt talked Monday about how important it was for UM to land Harris, the only cornerback in the class and one of only four players who can play the position next season on UM's roster. While Hurtt said fellow defensive back recruit Joe Wylie of Boyd Anderson is the most likely of the '08 class to see some time at corner, there still has not been an official decision yet on whether or not receiver Ryan Hill will move back to corner (the position he was recruited at coming out of high school).
"Getting Brandon was a big deal for us. I sit down and look at the class and see where we're at. We got four corners on the roster right now. Two of them are seniors. For us, Brandon Harris was a guy we definitely had to make sure we got. If there was anybody who could have put a sour note on the day it was Brandon because of the priority of him at the position. He will definitely see the field next year. Sometimes, you have no choice because of numbers and where you're at. But he's definitely talented enough to see the field regardless."
BIGGEST WORRY: Hurtt had several tense moments on Wednesday as faxes were rolling into UM. But the player he feared losing most? Palm Beach Lakes defensive tackle Jeremy Lewis. "I actually thought he was going to end up bolting town. I called him up a couple days leading up to signing day. He kept going back and forth. He just thought it was the funniest thing because he had me sweating bullets. So, I told him, listen, you know now when you sign these papers and you come to UM, I'm going to get your ass back for all the crap you put me through. He's not going to be doing any extra running. But I'm going to give him some grief for all the sweating he made me do."
PROGRAMMING UPDATES: In case you missed it, I had some fresh recruiting stuff at the end of last week I posted on The Herald's website including a new podcast of The Countdown with Larry Blustein; a feature on Killian running back Lamar Miller, the Top Miami-Dade recruit in '09 (UM definitely wants this kid) and a list of the Dade/Broward Top 25 recruits in 2009 before the spring.