I couldn't help but wince Sunday night when I realized only three Canes had been selected over the weekend. Sure, Kenny Phillips kept The Streak alive of first round picks (albeit with the final pick of the first round). But the other streak (which means a lot in itself too) of having at least five players chosen in the draft since 2000, came to a crashing halt when linebacker Tavares Gooden turned out to be the final UM player chosen with the eighth pick in the third round.
To me, Sunday's draft results tells us not only was UM's 5-7 football team bad, but it without question
lacked more pro talent than any of the previous mediocre Hurricanes teams. And for all the hype the 2003 and 2004 recruiting classes received, they never came close to living up to their billing (the '03 was rated fifth by Rivals and the '04 class was fourth). Remember those 5-star blue chip recruits in Kyle Wright and Lance Leggett? Undrafted. How about 4-stars Darnell Jenkins, Vegas Franklin, Willie Cooper and Tyrone Moss? Ditto. There are several ways you can look at what happened and place blame. One, the kids were overrated to begin with and never developed. And/or two, Miami coaches not only failed in making those players better when they got here, but UM's staff made huge mistakes in the recruiting game by even bringing those guys in.
One thing should now be clear and without debate: Randy Shannon's team was worse this year in part because it simply wasn't as talented as those UM teams previous to it. The two previous Larry Coker coached teams had a combined 14 players worthy of being drafted (including four first rounders, three second rounders and two third rounders). Say what you will about coaching. But the bottomline is you need the horses to get the job done. And even when you look at this team going into next season, finding horses among the upperclassmen is still an awfully hard task. Up to this point have any of the 2005 recruits honestly lived up to their hype? Has Reggie Youngblood performed like a 5-star recruit? How about those four-star guys in that class? Dajleon Farr (no longer on the team), Spencer Adkins, Richard Gordon, Courtney Harris, Randy Phillips, Christopher Barney, Bruce Johnson, Demetri Stewart (no longer on the team), AJ Trump, Luqman Abdullah and Antonio Dixon? How about the 2006 class which featured these four-star guys as the best in class -- Ryan Hil, Tervaris Johnson, Kylan Robinson, Dedrick Epps, Josh Holmes and Sam Shields.
Right now, the only UM player in either the 2005 or 2006 class (those eligible for the 2009 draft) even on first round radar is running back Javarris James. Left tackle Jason Fox should be. Linebacker Colin McCarthy eventually could be. So, too could Reggie Youngblood and a few other seniors with really strong, breakout seasons. But the point is Sunday's draft, as well as next year's, should only further emphasize just how big of a hole this program has been in of late and how much it needs to improve to get back to the level it once was when the NFL was beating down the door to get Canes players. Like many of you, I'm confident the newest guys Shannon has brought in the last two seasons are going to be a lot like the studs this program used to turn out a few years back. Allen Bailey, Sean Spence, DeMarcus Van Dyke, Arthur Brown, Marcus Forston, Aldarius Johnson, Graig Cooper, Orlando Franklin are all guys you should be really excited about. But they are all young. As much as I want to be optimistic UM will be a lot better next season, its hard to imagine those talented young players being good enough to make UM much better than it was two, three seasons ago. For UM -- and any program for that matter -- to be special, it needs its juniors and senior classes to have some first round talent and dependable studs. And right now, Miami's junior and senior classes have a lot to prove.
By the way, my money is on Jason Fox to extend the streak to 15 years in '09. NFL teams are always looking for good left tackles and he's played like one since he walked in the door.
CANES SWEEP VIRGINIA: Got to give Jim Morris' boys another pat on the back for bouncing back from their loss to FIU on Wednesday by sweeping a solid Virginia team at home this weekend. UM is now an impressive 36-5 on the season and should still be the consensus No. 1 team in the country despite its hiccup against the Golden Panthers.
That being said, I think one of the best stories of the season -- outside of how Yonder Alonso and company
have been tearing the cover off the ball -- is just how good freshman left-hander Chris Hernandez has turned out to be. I know he was the star Friday with his 11-strikeout, 8-inning performance in UM's first ACC shutout since the 2006 season. But maybe we ought to consider him the MVP of this season.
In 10 starts, he's 7-0 with a 2.77 ERA, 71 strikeouts and 14 walks. He's pitched 65 innings -- 19 more than anyone else on the team. He's also picked off five runners. And without question, he's more than picked up the slack for an injured Eric Erickson in the Friday night starter role. Miami has won all 10 times it has played on Friday nights.
--> FYI... for those of you wondering what I've been up to of late since I've been a little lost, I'm working on laying the groundwork for The Herald's new and improved recruiting coverage which will begin next month. Aside from Larry Blustein's weekly columns, we'll have plenty of stories on other players and high school teams. And I'm going to be a big part of that. So, my plan is to pop in here and continue writing blogs on hot new stuff when it is warranted, but I'm also planning on spending a lot of my time over the next couple months on recruiting before college football picks up iat the end of July and the beginning of August. I'm still planing on doing my spring recaps and all of the other stuff we've talked about it including chats and doing podcasts. But the next couple of weeks I'll be busy with recruiting.