As a former college football star at West Virginia and professional football player, Damon Cogdell is trying his best to prepare Ivan McCartney for the tough decision he's going to have to make soon. As McCartney's football coach at Class 6A state champion Miramar High, Cogdell is also trying to toe the fine line of telling him what's right for him and letting him think all for himself.
McCartney still hasn't decided whether or not to join the team he grew up rooting for in Coral Gables, his former high school teammates who are now Mountaineers, or fill some big receiver needs for Urban Meyer at the University of Florida. But after McCartney spends his last recruiting weekend at the University of Miami beginning this Friday, Cogdell expects him to be ready with a decision come Wednesday morning at 9:30 a.m.
"I think he kind of has his mind set of where he's going, but he'll know for sure by Monday," Cogdell said. "I told him he has to be thick skinned. This is a business decision, not an emotional decision. He's taking everything into account.
"He wants to go up to a place where he can play and make a big impact on that team right away. And if not right away, he wants to play the next year. I told him, he also has to look at the school with the highest graduation rate, which coach has been the most loyal to you and always been there. I don't like it when the coach calls you and just talks football. Neither does he. I told him you can't look at in terms of where you are going to live the rest of your life, just the next four years. At the end of the day, he knows it's his life decision."
McCartney, a 6-3, 180-pound U.S. Army All-American, hasn't spoken to reporters recently. But last week, when he came in to take his photos as an All-Broward First Team selection, he spoke to me for five minutes about what he was feeling. Ultimately, he wants to make the best decision for himself. Most experts believe with his coach being a West Virginia grad and two teammates already playing for the Mountaineers (current Miramar receiver Dante Chambers is a WV commitment), the Hurricanes don't stand much of a chance. But McCartney insisted when I talked to him the Hurricanes are very much in it.
"When I went to West Virginia, I felt like I was at home, especially with [quarterback Eugene] Smith and [receiver] Steadman [Bailey] up there," said McCartney, who caught 37 passes for 693 yards and 10 touchdowns -- including three in the state championship victory.
"West Virginia was a fit for Gino and Steadman. I'm not saying it's a fit for me or it isn't. I have to find somewhere that is a fit for me."
Although some might believe otherwise, McCartney said he is not turned off by the number of receivers currently on the Canes roster (1 senior, 4 juniors, 3 sophomores). "I feel like anywhere you go there are going to be receivers," McCartney said. "Depending on your work ethic, that will determine if you get on the field or not. I know anywhere I go, I'm going to work hard to get on the field."
Cogdell calls McCartney's relationship and his own with UM coaches "outstanding."
"Miami has been there loyally for a long time," Cogdell said. "Coach Shannon and I have a great relationship. We have history together. We both grew up at Scott Park. He recruited me coming out of high school. He coached me when he was an assistant with the Dolphins, when I was a linebacker there. We talk all the time about life, how we both grew up at Scott Park and became coaches. He's come by the school a couple times and had a great in home visit with Ivan. They've done what they've had to do."
The question remains, though, will it be enough to keep McCartney home? "I'll find out Monday, but you'll find out Wednesday like everybody else," Cogdell said with a laugh. "I told him to enjoy it, have a little fun with it."
A FEW MORE TIDBITS...
> Locally, McCartney might be the only player Hurricanes fans will be holding the breath for on National Signing Day. Although I haven't spoken to Hialeah defensive end Corey Lemonier of late, our Larry Blustein says it looks more and more like the No. 1 recruit in Miami-Dade County will be going to Florida State.
> Speaking of Mr. Blustein, he and I recorded three podcasts in a Countdown To National Signing Day on Monday night. They are all available for download on our high school podcast The Countdown. Part 2 of our discussion is on the University of Miami.
> Two years ago, Jordan Futch became sort of the spokesman for the 2008 recruiting class. This year, I'd have to say that guy is Gainesville High linebacker Kevin Nelson. The more I talk to the kid, the more I'm reminded of the old school Canes mentality. The kid bleeds green and orange. I'll have a full interview (audio included) for you tomorrow.