On my way out of Canes camp Thursday, I ran into defensive line coach and UM recruiting coordinator Clint Hurtt. The Big Hurtt has been relatively quiet since fall camp began, but he and I have a pretty good relationship when it comes to talking about recruiting. He never talks to me about specific players -- he's not allowed to by NCAA rules -- but he has been candid in the past about what Miami is looking for in terms of numbers per position and the type of players they are trying to land.
Thursday, he told me flat out "We got to find some offensive linemen." The Canes currently have 10 commitments in their 2009 class. None are officially classified as offensive linemen. Three have the potential to be -- Fort Myers' Stephen Plein, Fleming Island's Cory White and Lake City Idaho's Billy Sanders. But all three have played tight end at one point or another in high school and will have to put on size upon arrival if they will play on the line.
"It's been a huge challenge trying to get linemen to come here because the best ones usually want to play in the Big 10 or the Big 12," Hurtt said. "Around here, we've had to take guys who are little undersized or don't have too much experience and coach the hell out of 'em. Coach Shannon, myself and the rest of this staff are really going to be busting our humps trying to find guys over the next couple months. We'll hit the Houston area, we'll scour down here and try to find the best we can. We need to."
UM signed two offensive linemen in its 2008 class, but only was able to sign one (Ben Jones). Brandon Washington, who was considered one of the nation's top five offensive guards, is in prep school and will have to go through the recruiting process all over again (which means UM could lose him). Since 2006, UM has signed five players who have played on the offensive linemen. But only one who has cracked the starting lineup, left guard Orlando Franklin, was a truly highly-touted pure lineman. Starting left tackle Jason Fox was a tight end coming out of high school and Joel Figueroa, a 2-star recruit, was considered a project coming out of North Miami High. Both are in Miami's starting rotation. Backup guard Harland Gunn (2007 signee) has shown the most potential of the remaining signees, while Ian Symmonette and Tyler Horn are far down on the depth chart.
Miami has gone after some big names in the '09 class, but have struck out so far. They still, however, have a shot at a few big names. According to Rivals.com, UM has a shot at the nation's No. 2 offensive tackle Xavier Nixon (who lists UM with LSU and Florida). Washington DC area offensive guard Peter White, ranked fourth by Rivals, lists UM high with Oregon. Locally, UM has a shot at Plantation American Heritage's Jared Wheeler. But Wheeler's sister attends the University of Florida and I believe the only way Miami gets Wheeler is if Florida declines him.
> Over the last two nights, I've been out watching several local high school football games including Killian's big upset of highly-touted North Miami Beach 35-20 on Thursday and Miramar's 23-9 win over a very, very good Monsignor Pace team on Friday.
Running back Lamar Miller had a huge night with 227 yards rushing and three scores on 25 carries for Killian. Miller is a kid Miami backed off of a bit after landing Mike James and Bryce Brown. But it would be foolish of the Canes to let Miller get out of town. He has tremendous explosion and speed in the open field. Killian, by the way, has a pretty solid group of young players. My favorite is 6-2, 215-pound defensive end Arrington Jenkins. He's only a sophomore. But he's a beast in the making.
At last night's game, Pace's Keyvon Webster impressed me with his ability to make plays. Although he had a big drop -- for what would have been an important touchdown right before the half, he came back later an caught a touchdown between two defenders. I don't think I saw Webster leave the field once. He was relentless on defense, making tackles and big hits and chasing after Miramar quarterback Eugene Smith (who had Gators representatives watching him) all night long. Miami is hoping to land Webster, who in my eyes could be a solid strong safety in UM's defense. The Canes have to get him. To me, Webster is by far the best defensive player I've seen in Miami-Dade County. As for Miramar, I was impressed with a hustle play receiver Stedman Bailey made chasing down a defensive player who had a recovered a fumble for Pace and was headed up field for a score. Bailey trailed Sterling Griffin by 20 yards, but caught up and made the tackle. Miramar junior linebacker Jamal Bass was also impressive. He's a 2010 kid Miami needs to watch closely.