As of midnight Thursday -- six days before National Signing Day 2012 -- the Miami Hurricanes had eight early enrollees and 23 other commitments expected to sign National Letters of Intent next Wednesday. Outside of a handful of kids who could either be added to the class or leaving it, Al Golden's first full-year worth of recruiting work appears to be over.
How did he and his staff do with a class Golden himself said they couldn't afford to screw up? By most accounts, pretty good considering the Canes are coming off a 6-6 season and the Canes have been recruiting since August with looming NCAA sanctions hanging over head.
With 24 of the 31 UM recruits having played their high school ball in-state, I figured a good person to talk to about the class Golden has lined up was Rivals analyst Chris Nee. He's covered the state for quite some time and has been to All-Star games, playoff and regular season games, camps, just about everywhere in the state. If Larry Blustein is the Mel Kiper of high school football in Florida, Nee has to be Todd McShay. What I like most about Nee is he keeps it real -- no sugar-coating.
In this installment we cover if UM met its needs, where he thinks Miramar cornerback Tracy Howard will end up and who the Canes could end up losing from this class as well as if Palm Beach Central receiver Angelo Jean-Louis will get into school.
Q: Did UM address all of its needs -- cornerback, receiver, defensive line, linebacker -- in this recruiting class?
"I think they're on the way to addressing it. They've addressed some issues that they had, but not all. They still need to get a great cornerback. Obviously, Tracy Howard is the big name that's still out there that they're still involved with. And that's a spot where they need to improve. But they did get guys in the secondary that are going to help them get better, led by [Columbus defensive back] Deon Bush. Deon's an excellent player. He can be a corner. He can be a safety. So he can provide some help there. Then you have guys like [Coral Reef's] Vernon Davis, [South Fort Myers'] Nate Dortch. They're kind of a second level have to develop some and have to improve before they can really contribute. But they'll still help with depth, which is something Miami needs.
"Offensively, They did a great job. Obviously, [Norland running back] Duke Johnson is a beast. But they got a great offensive guard in Danny Isidora -- really talented kid. [Norland's] Ereck Flowers is a future NFL offensive tackle in my opinion. He's obviously going to help anchor one side of the line. Then, on the outside offensively they went out and got some really good wide receivers in Malcolm Lewis from Miramar. Excellent player. They did a great job keeping him home and then they plucked [Virginia prep school receiver formerly of West Boca Raton] Robert Lockhart who was a longtime Virginia Tech commitment. So they did a good job improving some things and they've done a good job overall adding some good top level talent and a lot of depth, which is two things they needed."
Q: Is Miramar All-American cornerback Tracy Howard the only non-commitment they're really still in the running for with a week to go?
"They are bringing in a few kids this last weekend to try and help sure up some spots, so they have a Plan B in case somebody changes -- like a Reggie Northrup. It wouldn't shock me if they looked at another linebacker. I know they were looking at Iowa State commitment Darius White. But he's decided to stick with Iowa State. So, it wouldn't shock me if they did bring in a linebacker. But it does seem like the only big fish left on the pond for Miami is really going to be Tracy Howard. They're in the picture with [Palm Beach Gardens offensive tackle] Avery Young, had him on campus last week, but I think he's SEC bound. [Daytona Beach Mainland defensive end] Leonard Williams is a kid they're bringing in this weekend. They'll have a puncher's chance, but I also think he'll end up in the SEC. So the biggest name out there for Canes fans to pay attention to is definitely Tracy."
Q: So what is your take with Tracy Howard? Where does he end up?
"He recently said he was down to the three in-state schools: Florida, Florida State and Miami. For a long time it seemed like Florida State had the upper hand and then in the last couple months it seemed like Florida turned the corner as the top school. At this point, I think Florida is the top school. But it's really a testament to Al Golden and his assistants that they're getting him on campus for a visit. They were persistent, stuck with it. For a long time they seemed like an after thought with the kid, but when he's the best player arguably in the entire area of South Florida there with the Duke Johnson's you have to stick with him. The fact they're getting him on campus for a visit. His best friend is going there in Malcolm Lewis and I mentioned earlier how Miami has a major need at that position -- they have a chance. It wouldn't shock me [that he picks Miami] despite the fact for so long they were the least likely school of any in-state school to land the kid. At the end of the day right now I still think he'll end up at Florida. But I don't think he's put this to bed. I don't think Tracy Howard has made his final decision."
Q: So if you had to make a prediction it's Florida for Howard?
"Yeah, if I had to put a prediction on paper it's Florida for Howard. But I don't think it's done by a long stretch. I don't think Tracy really has sat down and made the final decision of what he's going to announce."
"[Jacksonville First Coast linebacker] Reggie Northrup's dad went on the record [Tuesday] saying they're pretty frustrated by everything, they're kind of tired of the whole process. Word is Florida State made a really good impression on him in the last visit. He may visit Ohio State this weekend. I think what it comes down to in the end is it's between Miami, Florida State and Ohio State. Right now, I personally think he'll stick with the Canes. But Florida State does have a need at linebacker. They have a couple of other targets on the board. It's kind of domino effect. If they miss on some other kids they make one last big push on Reggie and they have a chance. Florida State has had a lot of success at Jacksonville First Coast over the years. But if I had to predict, I think he sticks with the Canes."
Q: What about as far as U.S. Army All-American defensive end/outside linebacker Tyriq McCord from Tampa Jefferson?
"It was quite a surprise when he picked Miami at the All-American Game. South Carolina had been his longtime leader and his family and himself were very high on the Gamecocks. But he decided Miami's proximity was nice. Miami's need for him was nice and he did like Miami in general. He is supposed to visit USC this weekend. As of right now what he told me in a text recently he's probably going to stick with Miami. But both Southern Cal and South Carolina are going to put in nice work. Southern Cal always pulls off one Florida kid. But I don't think it's going to be Tyriq this year."
Q: Anybody else UM really has a chance of losing?
"I don't think so. I'm looking up and down their list. [Louisiana defensive tackle] Jacoby Briscoe, I don't know much about him. But I do know Tennessee is trying to make a move on him. Texas A&M was trying to make a move on him. He's supposed to visit A&M this weekend. But I don't know a great deal about Jacoby."
Q: Under Armour All-American receiver Angelo Jean-Louis from Palm Beach Central is a kid who has loads of talent, but his academics are a concern. What have you heard regarding that and if he'll be able to get into UM?
"I chatted with him at the Under Armour game about the academics. He said he did have some more work to do, but he thought he would be able to make it. I think it's one of those things that's going to play out late into the summer and see if he'll be able to be cleared. Hopefully he does because he's an extremely talented kid. He could play on either side of the ball. He has great hands, great body control. He's a big kid. He can help them stretch the field. But he's one of those guys if you need a tough route, seven yard out, he's going to bump the guy with his hip and make the catch. He does a real good job of stretching out and making the catch. I was honestly surprised. In the system he played in high school he didn't get a whole lot of opportunities to get the ball thrown at him. I was honestly surprised what a well groomed receiver he was at Under Armour. Him and [Miami Beach receiver] Ricardo Louis are bigger type of receivers, good body thickness. They're going to be really tough on those outside routes."