With a little more than a week to go before National Signing Day, finding the Miami Hurricanes in the national recruiting rankings has become a little harder than usual.
UM, which had 12 publicly declared oral commitments as of Monday night, has the 47th-best class in the nation according to Rivals.com and the 52nd-best according to Scout.com. ESPN, which ranked the Hurricanes No. 1 in 2008, doesn't have UM anywhere near its Top 25.
But where the Hurricanes are ranked come Feb. 2 -- when those fax machines start churning -- isn't how new coach Al Golden and his staff should be judged. It should be whether or not the team fulfilled its biggest needs, starting with quarterback.
"We are all going to judge him, but it's really unfair to," ESPN's Jamie Newberg said. "You're asking Al Golden to do in four, five, six weeks what other teams have been trying to do for the last year to three years in building this class.
"Regardless of what they do from here on out, what they've done is make this class a lot better. But again, it's about filling needs -- and that primary need is the quarterback position. They really need to make sure they get a couple arms. I know they're doing their best."
The Hurricanes, who once had Miami Northwestern's Teddy Bridgewater all set to be their quarterback of the future under former coach Randy Shannon, have worked hard over the last month and a half to put themselves in position to land three of the nation's best signal callers.
At the top of that list is Jacoby Brissett, a 6-4, 220-pound U.S. Army All-American from West Palm Beach Dwyer, who will likely take his last official visit to UM this coming weekend and decide between UM, Wisconsin and Florida according to his coach.
“They hammered him and sold him on a few things. It piqued his interest," Dwyer coach Jack Daniels told The Palm Beach Post last week. "To me, it seems like Jacoby’s the No. 1 player they target.”
The other two quarterbacks UM has offered scholarships to: St. Thomas Aquinas' Jake Rudock (a long-time Iowa commitment) and Orlando Lake Nona's Kevin Sousa, who visited UM last weekend and is committed to Wake Forest.
Rudock, a two-year starter at Aquinas, is expected to announce on Tuesday he will stick with Iowa. Sousa, who only began playing football as a sophomore, will host several in-home visitors next week (UM, USF and Wake) and will likely make his mind up by Saturday according to his position coach Anthony Paradiso. Wake Forest will visit Wednesday night Paradiso said. UM offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch will come either Tuesday or Wednesday.
"He likes the tradition, being close to home, the opportunity with the depth chart and the chance to be part of something special," Paradiso said of why Sousa (rated the 42nd best quarterback in the country by Scout.com) likes UM.
"He's excited about Jedd Fisch and what he said. They broke down all of his highlights on his visit, talked about how he could get better. [Fisch] was impressed how much better Kevin looked as the year went on."
If neither of those three end up choosing the Canes, other options include: Land O'Lakes' Steve Weatherford; Marcus McDade out of Hargrave Military Academy (Va.); and Dustin Paonessa, a 6-5, 220-pound left-handed quarterback out of Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy. But the Hurricanes could also opt to not take any quarterbacks and use those scholarships elsewhere.
There is also a possibility former high school All-American quarterback Tom Savage will transfer in from Rutgers. His father is currently appealing a decision by the school to deny Savage permission to speak to Miami. His father said he's hoping the final decision of a three-person panel at Rutgers handling the appeal (according to him) will be reached in the next 10 days.
All-American defensive end Anthony Chickillo, UM's top recruit who re-affirmed his commitment over a weekend visit, said he's been trying to help the Hurricanes recruit Brissett and Rudock and several other top uncommitted players.
Among the others Chickillo has been talking to on his phone, texting and messaging on Facebook: ESPN Top 150 safety Marqise Lee of Junipero Serra High in Gardena, Calif; Lee's high school teammate, George Farmer, the nation's No. 1 receiver, who is expected to remain committed to USC; Las Vegas Bishop Gorman defensive end Jalen Grimble (also committed to USC but strongly considering UM according to his coach); and Miami Booker T. Washington defensive tackle Elkino Watson, who has thrown UM into the mix with Florida and Louisville.
"My goal is to bring a sixth national championship to The U," Chickillo said. "I'm telling you right now there are going to be a couple surprises, guys who are committed but will announce later. I'm not going to spoil it for them."
How many available scholarships the Hurricanes have left remains unclear, but Golden told reporters after the Sun Bowl UM would sign at least 16 players, if not more.
The remaining spots UM would like to address outside of quarterback: receiver, defensive line and cornerback.
Former Miami Central cornerback Thomas Finnie enrolled at UM last week and South Fort Myers cornerback Dallas Crawford, considered the 27th best at his position by Rivals.com, is locked in. Los Angeles Harbor College's Byron Moore, considered the top Junior College cornerback, will likely be the third cornerback the Canes bring in.
At receiver, where UM will have three seniors next season, St. Thomas Aquinas' Phillip Dorsett remains the only commitment. UM is hoping to sway 6-1, 190-pound Devin Lucien of Crespi Carmelita in Encino, Calif. (rated 44th best WR by Scout.com) and/or 6-2, 194-pound Patrick Onwuasor of Inglewood, Calif. Aquinas' Rashad Greene, a longtime Florida State commitment, isn't expected to switch to UM.
On the defensive, the Hurricanes are looking to get Watson and or Grimble. Both are likely signing day announcements. David Moala (6-0, 285) visited UM with his friends from Juniperro Serra (Gardena, Calif.), but still has yet to land a Canes offer.
UM could also end up adding Jacksonville Ed White's Kaleb Johnson (rated 47th best offensive guard by Scout.com); Lakeland (Fla.) Kathleen's Gionni Paul (rated 33rd best outside linebacker by Rivals) an Arizona State commitment who visited UM over the weekend; and Winton Woods (Ohio) outside linebacker Antonio Poole, who doesn't have an offer from UM yet, but has UM in his final three with Kentucky and Purdue.
There is also one more recruiting weekend on tap. Oakland Park Northeast defensive end B.J. Dubose (6-4, 245) is among a little more than handful of visitors expected to check out UM. Louisville is Dubose's other finalist.
Which of the current commitments could make the most immediate impact?
"It's kind of hard to say who can make the big splash," Newberg said. "I think guys like Kevin Grooms (who didn't visit Virginia Tech this weekend) and Dallas Crawford can help out in other ways with special teams.
"I think Phillip Dorsett could be a guy that is a spark to the offense because he's dynamite with the ball. It's hard to say because you don't know how a kid is going to transition. I think they're all big time gets."
The recruit who will surprise fans most? "I think [Homestead defensive end] Ricardo Williams has a chance to be big time for them," Newberg said. "He's a kid on the edge, kind of flown under the radar screen a little.
"[Offensive tackle Taylor Gadbois] is starting to blow up, a big offensive linemen. Georgia just offered him."
Newberg thinks in the end UM could end up "somewhere between 20 and 30" in most national rankings.