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Heavy hitters weigh in on UM's recruiting

Spent most of the day today talking recruiting with three respected names in the game -- ESPN's Tom Luginbill, Rivals' Jamie Newberg and South Florida's very own Charles Fishbein of Elite Scouting Services. Some of it will run in my story on how UM's 3-1 start has helped or not helped the Canes recruiting efforts (whenever the story runs). But I'm done holding off the info from you here on the blog.

St. Thomas Aquinas offensive lineman Brandon Linder is a major target for UM in recruiting. Here's what you need to know: Regardless of public opinion that UM isn't getting enough superstars in their own backyard, recruiting coordinator Clint Hurtt and most analysts believe UM's next sigining class (currently ranked 18th by Rivals, 19th by Scout.com and just outside of the Top 15 by ESPN.com) will finish strong no matter what.

In fact, where the real boost from the start to the 2009 season will likely come is in 2011. Hurtt told me the Canes have already offered 46 juniors -- more than double what they did at the start of October in 2007, 2008 and 2009 combined. He said the feedback, "has been amazing."

"I would be floored if they don't finish in the Top 10 [in recruiting] because I know they're going to close out this season well," said Jamie Newberg, an ACC and national recruiting expert for Rivals.

"I think in the end, they'll get [St. Thomas Aquinas offensive tackle Brandon] Linder, [Booker T. Washington running back] Eduardo [Clements] and a couple big time receivers from down there and finish with some impact guys from the area.

"But while it will be a good, solid class, some people -- including me -- will think it's somewhat disappointing. With all that talent within a stone's throw of Coral Gables, people are still going to wonder why didn't Lemarcus Joyner or Jeff Luc didn't end up there."

Hurtt has already encountered some of those questions from fans while out grocery shopping. Hurtt, who can not talk specifically about recruits per NCAA rules, said he tells everyone who approaches him about local players and why they aren't being recruited by Miami with "we believe in the way we evaluate players."

"Central, Northwestern, St. Thomas Aquinas are all great teams," Hurtt said. "But people have to understand while we try and take care of our backyard, we try and take the kids we want and we feel fits what we're trying to get done here. And if they don't fit that or we make a mistake, we'll have to live with it."

UM has six players from the Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach area. But only Miami Northwestern defensive tackle Todd Chandler is ranked among the nation's Top 150 recruits according to ESPN or Rivals. Jacksonville Raines defensive tackle Louis Nix is the only other current commitment in the ESPN Top 150.

Luginbill, however, said the Canes shouldn't be judged on what they do locally alone. "Recruiting is a marathon and not a sprint. With their numbers, they have to be selective and be sure of who they take every year," Luginbill said.

"Look at their track record in South Florida. They've been able to keep a lot of those kids at home. One year out of three where a few get away isn't a big deal. The way we rank classes is based on needs. When I look at their class right now, six of their seven recruits are guys up front who can win you games. That's where they need the help and that's what they're getting."

Hurtt said while players they once were recruited have tried to jump back on the Canes bandwagon, he and his staff have been firm in being selective. And the spots they've already given to other recruits, Hurtt said, will not be taken away.

"We've had a lot guys call in now who want to get on the boat, who had the opportunity before," Hurtt said. "But I tell them ‘Now, it's too late because other kids have given us their pledges and decided they wanted to be with us from the get-go.'

"We don't have a ton of spots available. We are to a point where we're very selective on who we're talking to and who we're talking with. We we have our focal points and our needs for the remainder of the class and we plan on meeting them."

UM's big focus areas coming in were offensive line, tight end, cornerback and linebacker. With the commitments UM already has, Hurtt said the Canes have one spot left for a running back, three for receivers, one for a tight end, one for a defensive end, one to two for a linebacker and two to three for offensive linemen.

> Palm Beach Central's Shane McDermott, Davie Western's Jonathan Feliciano, Jacksonville Raines' Tavadis Glenn and Malcolm Bunche, a 2009 signee now at Milford Prep, are four offensive line commitments.

Linder, considered a four-star recruit by both ESPN and Rivals from nationally No. 1-ranked St. Thomas Aquinas, has long been Miami's top target. Most expect UM to beat out Notre Dame and Florida to get him. Aquinas teammate Jermaine Barton, a 6-6, 270-pound, project, would then likely be the last linemen UM takes.

> Aquinas cornerback Keion Payne, rated 26th at his position by Rivals, said the same about the Canes. He likely will become the fourth corner in the class, joining Gainesville High's Devont'a Davis, Pahokee's Raheam Buxton, and Kacy Rodgers of Southlake Carroll, Texas.

"Payne would definitley be an upgrade at a position of need," said Charles Fishbein of EliteScoutingServices.com. "You look at their roster and they need guys who can play on the field next year with Brandon Harris and Demarcus Van Dyke. Payne could probably play right away."

> At linebacker, the Hurricanes already have three commitments. Gainesville High's Kevin Nelson is rated the No. 3 inside linebacker in the country by ESPN. Washington (D.C). Dunbar's Javarie Johnson (6-4, 215) is considered an elite outside linebacker.

"I love Nelson," Herald recruiting expert Larry Blustein told me. "Florida is going to be kicking itself it blew it with that kid."

UM is in position to yank in at least one more, if not two. Winter Park Lake Howell's Christian Jones (once a Florida State lean) would be the biggest catch with his 6-4, 220-pound size and mix of speed. Norfolk (Va.) Lake Taylor's Travis Williams (6-2, 190) and Pahokee's Zach Allen, currently a Wake Forest commitment, are also possibilities. Miami's interest in Jeff Luc has evaporated. 

> Defensive end, hampered by injuries this season, is deep with young talent. The Canes would be happy with either Hialeah High's Corey Lemonier (6-5, 223) or Fort Lauderdale University's David Perry (6-6, 230).

> With seniors Jimmy Graham, Richard Gordon and Dedrick Epps leaving after this season, tight end is a position of need. But there simply might not be much available.

Ivan McCartney Unless the Canes can convince Palm Beach Dwyer's Gerald Christian he'll get more playing time at UM instead of Florida, Clive Walford, a 6-6, 225-pound project from Belle Glade Glades Central, and Andrew Tallman, a 6-5, 237-pound defensive end from Boston, will be the best UM can reel in. Tallman will likely end up playing offensive tackle.

"It's just not a great year for tight ends," Luginbill said.

> Without a senior receiver on its roster, there is no pressing need for pass catchers. But UM could still end up signing quality targets for the future.

Miramar High's Ivan McCartney, an ESPN Top 150 recruit, said his interest level in UM went up "from 50 percent to 75 percent'' after the 3-1 start and says the Canes are serious contender along with West Virginia and Florida. Jacksonville Raines' Sean Tapley, who has teammates headed to UM but is currently a South Carolina commitment, said the Canes have his attention.

Ditto for Miami Northwestern's Michaelee Harris (6-1, 180) and Carol City's Allen Hurns (6-2, 180). Hurns is currently the only player UM feels confident they'll get.

"If they're going to take that next step toward winning a championship, they need to start getting those guys," Fishbein said. "Miami's strength has always been that next group -- after those first 22 -- to put them over the top.

"When they had [Jeremy] Shockey, they had [Kellen] Winslow behind him. When it was [Clinton] Portis, they had [Willis] McGahee behind him. Those are the type of players that could come in and be that next player -- behind the starter to help them get to the elite level."