Blanche Ely football coach Charles Hafley has been around Broward County for about a decade, long enough to see how the University of Miami has been run differently under its last three head coaches.
When it's come to building relationships in the Hurricanes' backyard, it's the current guy in charge -- Al Golden -- whom Hafley said has figured out the best way to establish real meaningful connections, one that netted UM another commitment Tuesday morning in Ely linebacker Terry McCray.
Listed at 6-3, 220-pounds according to Hafley, McCray is ranked a three-star recruit according to 247Sports.com and the nation's 58th-best inside linebacker. Although rated just a two-star recruit by Rivals, McCray had BCS offers from Syracuse, Minnesota, Cincinnati and West Virginia and is a player the Hurricanes have been on since last October, Hafley said.
A Third Team All-Broward selection by The Miami Herald, McCray finished his junior season with 89 solo tackles, 13 sacks and 20 tackles for loss. Hafley said McCray has a 2.5 GPA and recently took the ACT, but still hasn't received the test score. He believes McCray will qualify at UM.
"They're recruiting him as an outside linebacker," Hafley said. "They really like his hybrid ability there, the way he rushes the quarterback and makes plays. What separates Terry is his knack and ability to be a student of the game. He comes in and watches film. He does what it takes to be a better leader. He's a 305-pound bencher, 200-pound power cleaner and 505-pound squatter. Runs a 4.6 [in the 40]. He's a phenomenal football player. We're going to move him around so teams can't get a beat on him.
What makes McCray's commitment significant for the Hurricanes is that he's the first player from Ely since four players from the Tigers last state championship team (2002) -- Tyrone Moss, Andrew Bain, Teraz McCray, and Cyrim Wimbs -- decided to head to Coral Gables. UM tried unsuccessfully to recruit others from Ely after that including star cornerback Patrick Peterson and most recently Rashard Robinson a year ago. Both went to LSU.
McCray's commitment gives the Hurricanes 24 total in the Class of 2014 including 15 from the South Florida area. Ten are from Miami-Dade, three from Broward and two from Palm Beach.
"Coach [Paul] Williams and Coach Golden did a great job of recruiting Terry," Hafley said. "South Florida has always been and always will be UM territory. Coach Shannon, Coach Coker knew that. But at the end of the day, Coach Golden is just going beyond the call of building relationships. His coaching staff and his support staff as well.
"To me, it's community service projects, the camps. They had Stephen Morris, [Denzel Perryman], [Tracy Howard] at the park down here in our neighborhood recently. The players are the ones really selling the program. Howard did a great job communicating and telling the kids what UM is all about, about it's family atmosphere. It's something that is big for the high school kids and younger kids to hear it from someone from their own backyard."
Hafley said Golden, who took over in 2011 after coming over from Temple, has built stronger relationships with head coaches and programs in South Florida.
"When Coach Golden came to recruit a previous player from here last year [Robinson] he took time to speak to staff members so he can build those relationships," Hafley said. "He's really winning over the South Florida coaching community by doing those things and the clinics they have.
"He's invited myself down to speak with him one-on-one. He's done that with a lot of other head coaches. It's that personal relationship he has with all the coaches that helps them in the long run."
Rivals.com currently ranks UM's class third behind Tennessee (24 commitments) and Florida State (22 commitments). 247Sports.com ranks UM's class fifth behind Tennessee, FSU, Georgia (16 commitments) and Alabama (15 commitments). ESPN, which moved UM up five spots after last week's commitments from Miami Booker T. Washington defensive end Chad Thomas and cornerback Nigel Bethel, had UM ranked seventh prior to Tuesday's commitment from McCray.