Well, the madness is over -- for now. National Signing Day has come and gone. The Hurricanes netted 33 signees -- the exact number I was told way back in October was the target number.
I got to say I'm a little surprised and impressed with how well UM did yesterday overall. I figured Miami would get Booker T. Washington cornerback Brandon Harris. But I thought after all the uncertainty surrounding Northwestern receiver Tommy Streeter and the switch safety Ramon Buchanon made to Florida, it was going to be awfully hard for Miami to land those guys yesterday. But Randy Shannon and his staff got them. Those three turned out to be the big gets Wednesday.
All in all, Miami lined up a class every scouting service in the country basically rated in the Top 5. But what do you think of it overall? What kind of grade would you give the Canes? Do they still have holes they wanted to fill and didn't get to in your eyes? Where are you most impressed with the job Miami did? I want to hear your thoughts below.
SO HOW MANY GET IN?: OK, so 33 was the number Miami wanted to get and did. But how many of these guys actually get into school and are on this team in the fall? That became a point of contention yesterday during Shannon's press conference. When asked how UM was able to sign more than the maximum 25 scholarships allowed per year, things got kind of confusing. Shannon said the team could bring in all 33 of the current signees under the rules even though he admitted there are only "29 to 30'' slots open. He said Miami simply couldn't go over the limit of 85.
"It's in the book - as long as you can get under 85 you'll be OK. Four to five count as last year's - you're banking and then you get ahead, so you can get over the 25. We didn't sign four or five last year, so you're banking those. You bring those up, that gives you 29 or 30."
So what happens to the extras? ‘‘Some of them may have to go to prep school, some may not, we may sign all 33." I guess we'll have to stay tuned.
SHANNON'S TAKE: One thing is for sure, Shannon, a veteran of this recruiting game, won't be sweating it. He told us Wednesday afternoon he wasn't nervous during the final tense moments of national signing day like his assistants were. But he was definitely thrilled with the finish. "I don't get all crazy about it. You win some, you lose some. That's part of it. I've been around where I thought I was going got get a kid -- Hey, we got this kid.' You talk to him about 8:58, he's all ready to go - `Coach, I'm going to sign the papers.' Then, 9 o'clock he goes in the back, comes back out and goes to another school. It happens, so I don't get too emotional about it."
FOUNDATION OF PLAYMAKERS: Shannon called this class "a foundation" for the future. It has to be. Although Shannon wouldn't project how many of these guys would make immediate impacts, he talked about the needs Miami filled. Obviously to me the biggest are at linebacker, receiver and quarterback. Shannon talked about what we've all known -- how badly UM needs receivers and playmakers that can make a move and get downfield.
"Last year we had a lot of one-on-one opportunities and we couldn't make anyone miss. That was the biggest emphasis. We had to find guys that could run after the catch. You see guys at Northwestern and Central, Pahokee and Belle Glade, they make someone miss, that becomes phenomenal. If you look at the receivers we have, Aldarius [Johnson], LaRon [Byrd] and Tommy Streeter, those are big receivers. The next tier is Davon [Johnson] and Travis [Benjamin]. They're 5-11, 6-foot guys that can play in and out, make some plays. Then you have slot guys, which are Thearon Collier and Kendal Thompkins that can go one-one-one they can win. They're quick and exciting and can do some returns. All those guys, from Davon Johnson down, have return ability. Those guys plus the guys we have now it's exciting because when injuries come you can always put somebody back in there."
RECRUITING MVP -- DONNA SHALALA?: Shannon called his recruiting MVP UM President Donna Shalala during his press conference. OK, while I'd like to believe that, is he serious? Apparently so.
"When parents come in, their No. 1 concern is education and safety for their kid," UM recruiting coordinator Clint Hurtt said. "And those are the things she drilled home with parents. When kids came on unofficial visits, she meets with them. And its not a thing where it's 15 minutes. She sits down with them in her office. She gets to know them and asks them questions. And the one thing they all say when they leave after the visit that impressed them the most is that conversation with Shalala. And she deserves her due for that."
OK, while Shalala had an influence, truth be told the guys who were in the trenches deserve a lot of credit for Miami's success yesterday. And those are namely two guys in my eyes -- Hurtt and linebackers coach Micheal Barrow. I got a chance to talk with Hurtt for about 10 minutes after Shannon's half hour press conference and this is what he said about Barrow, who was responsible for swaying Buchanon back, getting Arthur Brown out of Kansas and a few other notable kids in the class. "I thought everyone on the staff did a great job, but I'm particularly excited for coach Barrow. It was his first year ever doing it and he did a bang up job. He's very passionate about it in staying on top of kids and building relationships with families."
One thing Hurtt pointed out is that Miami doesn't recruit kids with only one recruiter. He said its a collective team effort. "We staff recruit. We like to double up and triple up on guys."
EARLY WAKE UP CALL: One of the funnier stories of the day came from Hurtt who told a small collection of reporters how he was so distracted he was by national signing day woke up in the middle of the night Wednesday, took a shower, got in his car only to find out it was a little too early. "I've been battling the flu. So, I took a Z-Pac and went to sleep at 7:30. I got up, took a shower got in my truck and saw it was 1:30 in the morning. I said 'What the hell am I doing?. I came back home, layed down for about threee hours and got back up and got in about 5 in the morning."
RECRUITING EACH OTHER: Hurtt said Miami's great, early start nabbing commitments was the key to building the momentum to UM's great class. He credited defensive tackle Marcus Forston and linebacker Jordan Futch for being key recruiters themselves. "Great players want to play with great players. So they were big. Any time one of them was floating, or thinking about going somewhere else, they'd pull each other back in. Jordan Futch, he drove by Jeremy Lewis' house. Sat down with him and reaffirmed his commitment here."
SWEATING IT OUT: Ultimately, Hurtt said Miami was sweating out four players going into the final day -- Detroit King's Nick Perry, Jacksonville Trinity running back Jamie Harper, Tallahassee Lincoln cornerback T.J. Bryant, and Melbourne Palm Bay's Ramon Buchanon. "Ramon was the first one we got back. So, that was the one we knew about. But with the other three we felt from the get-go Nick Perry was a longshot. With Harper, I built a close relationship with him. His dad called me to tell me he was going to Clemson and it was hard. But in the end, we wished him the best. All in all, we were still very happy with how things turned out."
WHAT NOW?: Now, it's time to turn the focus toward spring football, which will begin Tuesday, Feb. 26. Shannon said all of those practices will remain closed to the public except two including the spring game at Lockhart Stadium on March 29th and UM's practice at Traz Powell Stadium, which has yet to be determined.
Wednesday, he said he expects an intense battle at quarterback between Robert Marve, Jacory Harris and Cannon Smith. "Those three guys will get a lot of reps."
* Guys who will not be getting reps due to injuries are linebackers Romeo Davis and Colin McCarthy and offensive lineman Orlando Franklin. Shannon said defensive end Courtney Harris will also probably miss the spring.
* It's been rumored for awhile, but Shannon finally announced that Allen Bailey will be switching from linebacker to defensive end. Bailey, a sophomore, has a monster-sized body and I expect him to be a force there.
RECRUITING FUTURE: I know national signing day is 364 days away. But here at Eye On The U that's still less than a year, which means its still important. Today, I'll be visiting Miami Killian High and meeting with Miami-Dade top's recruit in '09 -- running back Lamar Miller. Be sure to check out the story soon.
As for UM, Shannon and Hurtt both said yesterday UM's focus in '09 will be targeting offensive lineman and tight ends. I'd throw running back in there also. Tonight, I'm planning on recording another recruiting podcast with Larry Blustein to wrap up '08 and to look ahead to '09. Larry already has his list of the state's top 500 recruits ready to roll.