Cover your eyes Canes fans, or just turn away. What you are about to read might burn your eyes and cause your blood pressure to rise. Consider this your final warning.
Outsiders are beginning to make serious recruiting inroads into South Florida. Did you hear me? There's been a breach in the Great Wall of Canes. The green and orange protective layer that used to shield the hearts of players born in the area codes of the 954 and 305 is beginning to disappear like the ozone. And if the University of Miami isn't careful, the hole could get bigger. The intrduers could end up becoming permanent residents.
No, I'm not hitting the Hurtt Alert button because the Gators picked up their first commitment from a Miami-Dade player since 2005 in Ransom Everglades linebacker Gideon Ajagbe earlier this week. I'm sounding the Shannon Siren because I'm starting to hear a change in the voices of the kids from just around the corner. I'm starting to get the feeling the Miami magnet -- the one that always seemed to yank kids in South Florida naturally toward Canes nation -- is losing its pull.
Thursday, The Miami Herald hosted a media day for local 2010 recruits. We filmed interviews, took pictures and I got a chance to sit down and talk with many players (and their coaches) who are part of what is expected to be a loaded local signing class this coming February. One by one, I heard the same answers from the recruits I've heard for years. Hialeah defensive end Corey Lemonier, running back Jakhari Gore, Booker T. Washington offensive lineman Jose Jose and Miramar receiver Ivan McCartney all told me they grew up huge fans of the Canes. But what was different listening to these recruits was that there was no longer that overriding sense that their childhood love for UM is going make the Canes the team to beat in the end. What I sensed was a greater awareness from our local players, that there are more choices out there and just because you are from Miami doesn't mean you have to play for the Canes. It sounded to me like many of them have been listening to the other guys.
And the fact local players are beginning to realize that, should scare the heck out of the University of Miami. It may only be the second week of April -- 10 months before anything becomes official on the next National Signing Day. But there are serious signs the old Miami mystique is evaporating. The truth is outsiders have been working hard to make advances for years, and they aren't just knocking on the door anymore. They're busting through it and really are getting into the mind of local players once considered untouchable.
How else can you explain how a player like Booker T. Washington running back Eduardo Clements (the top RB on UM's board) has Georgia as his leader despite the fact his former high school coach works at UM and three of his former teammates are in Coral Gables? How else can you explain why receiver Quinton Dunbar, who committed to UM last month, decided recently he made a mistake and was reopening his recruiting? What started out with the University of South Florida stealing Monsignor Pace's Kayvon Webster on National Signing Day last February is beginning to smell a lot to me like just the start of a fire.
Don't take my word for it. Listen to the kids themselves. The first school out of Lemonier's mouth Thursday was Florida. He said the Gators speak to him more than any other team. Same for about 20 other kids. With two national titles in the last three years, the Gators have the attention of both Dade and Broward -- something they couldn't achieve before. Even FIU is gaining steam. Miami Springs receiver Willis Wright and 2011 recruit Rakeem Cato both told me, "Mario Cristobal is the truth. He recruits you the way you are supposed to be recruited. We can believe him when he says we can go to FIU and be stars there."
Believe me, I'm not relaying this message so guys like Canesrule and FIUFanatic come over to the blog,(which they will) beating their chest and telling the Greens and SarasotaCanes of the world I told you so (which they will). I'm just saying as a guy who has stood on the recruiting fence for 13 years in South Florida, the enemy is moving in and the battles aren't going to be so easy to win anymore. Consider it a warning.
> For those of you interested in watching some of the interviews we conducted, look for the Recruiting Report in our video section to pop up over the next couple of weeks.
BLOG NOTICE: I know many of you have been wondering why I haven't been posting many blogs lately and why I didn't participate in this Tuesday's Q&A. Here's the answer: The Herald moved me late last week onto the Marlins/Baseball beat. It's the result of the loss of four other sports writers following budget cuts last month.
For now, during the offseason, I'll focus more on the Marlins and local recruiting. I'm going to try and stay on the Canes beat as much as I can between those assignments. But I've got to tell you expect a slow down in production until news happens or football resumes in August. As it stands, other than Canes baseball, it's going to be pretty quiet around UM for the next few month outside of recruits making early commitments. One thing I'd like to do, though, is welcome topical questions through my email as news happens. I'm still going to be talking to sources at UM every now and again to provide you with fresh stuff. But during the down period, I'll welcome topics you guys would like for me to address. It will at the very least keep the blog going.