With two recruiting weekends left before National Signing Day, the University of Miami is close to wrapping up its 2010 class. But there are a few players they still are trying to land, including someone relatively new to the recruiting radar: Buffalo (N.Y.) Canisius High linebacker James Gaines.
The 6-3, 216-pound senior grew up a huge fan of former Hurricanes running back Willis McGahee and is one of a few uncommitted recruits visiting the Hurricanes this weekend with his family. According to his coach, Brandon Harris, Gaines was all set to go to the nearby University of Buffalo before coach Turner Gill bolted for the University of Kansas on Dec. 13. Shortly after Gill left, Gaines reopened his recruiting and sent out highlight tapes across the country.
Using his connection to the University of Miami, Harris quickly got the attention of Hurricanes defensive coordinator John Lovett, who made the trip up to Buffalo, made an in-home visit and watched Gaines play basketball. The Hurricanes have been among several BCS schools in hot pursuit of Gaines ever since.
"It's been crazy since we sent those tapes out around Christmas," Harris said. "Being in Buffalo, we're in an area where some of the top schools in the country drive right past. But Jimmy is a diamond in the rough. He's a great player. He wouldn't be down [at UM] visiting right now if he wasn't. Oklahoma wouldn't be calling either if he wasn't good. In fact, they're a little irritated because there just aren't enough recruiting weekends left. Right now, I'd say it's either going to be Arkansas, Miami or Buffalo."
Gaines can't be found on Rivals.com, ESPN or Scout.com. But he comes highly recommended by Harris, who was coached at Idaho by former Hurricanes receivers coach Curtis Johnson. Harris has had plenty of run-ins with the Hurricanes since his playing days. At Brophy Prep in Arizona, he coached Raiders tight end Zach Miller (who was recruited by UM) and current Hurricanes redshirt freshman tight end Billy Sanders.
According to the team stats on MaxPreps.com, Gaines had 154 tackles (108 solo), three sacks, an interception while playing inside and outside linebacker. On offense, he played tight end and running back and finished with 15 catches for 270 yards and three scores.
"Usually when I call Miami and tell them I got one, they know I'm not just throwing any player at out there," Harris said. "Jimmy brings a lot intensity and a lot thud when he hits people. When I called over there, I said he's another Sean Taylor. Jimmy can hit. Miami loves his frame and the fact he's a 4.5 kid. Once [strength and conditioning coach Andreu] Swasey gets a hold of him, he'll be exactly what they want. He can bench over 300 now and squat in the 400s. His mom was a track star and his dad played football and basketball. And he's got the grades too with a 3.5 GPA and a test score in the four digits."
Harris said if UM offers Gaines a scholarship, he's almost sure he'll commit and cancel his scheduled trip next week to Arkansas. "When I told him the University of Miami was coming in, he was beaming," Harris said. "The U is his dream school."
A FEW MORE TIDBITS...
> Aside from Gaines, the only non Canes commitment visiting UM this weekend appears to be St. Thomas Aquinas kicker Michael Palardy, who is still committed to Tennessee. UM was chasing after Bjoern Werner, a 6-4, 264-pound defensive tackle/tight end from the Salisbury School in Connecticut. But Warchant.com quoted Werner's coach saying he had canceled his visit to UM and was deciding between Florida State and Oregon.
> Delray Beach Atlantic receiver Quadarius Mireles has told a lot of recruiting websites he was visiting UM this weekend. But that was news to his coach. Andre Thadbies said Mireles was probably playing reporters and has simply been waiting to be cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse so he could enroll at Mississippi.
"Coach [Aubrey] Hill and their offensive coordinator [Mark Whipple] we're here about three weeks ago to talk to him and check him out when things were heating up," Thadbies said. "But no ever called us back. Quad's always been set on going to Ole Miss."
Thadbies, who was the defensive coordinator at Atlantic when Orlando Franklin was there as junior and senior, said UM coaches are very much interested in 2011 receiver Ezekiel Turner (5-10, 170-pounds). Thadbies said Turner is close with Franklin and stays with him at times when he visits Miami. Turner caught 23 passes for 458 yards and eight touchdowns this past season.
> Palm Beach Post high school writer Jason Lieser reported earlier this week that the Hurricanes were no longer recruiting Pahokee safety Raheam Buxton. Not much of a surprise considering Buxton was an early commitment and had a tough senior season. The real worry here is how this might hinder UM from recruiting more Pahokee players in the future.