U.S. Army All-American defensive tackle Travonte Valentine got an early morning visit at Hialeah Champagnat from Hurricanes coach Al Golden and a couple of assistants on Tuesday.
Golden was there for two reasons: he wanted to make sure the 6-5, 325-pound Valentine was going to give the Canes an official visit this coming weekend and a shot to earn his signature on National Signing Day.
Valentine, tabbed the 65th best 2014 prospect (regardless of position) according to 247Sports' composite rankings, said he assured Golden that he and his mother would visit Coral Gables officially this coming weekend. And he also said UM still has a shot to win him over, even though it's pretty clear LSU has his heart "as of right now."
"I don't know [what Miami has to do to change my heart]," said Valentine, who was wearing an LSU backback during a half hour interview at school with The Miami Herald Tuesday. "They just have to show me something."
That something is kind of difficult to put a finger on right now. Valentine, who de-committed from Miami late last month when the Golden to Penn State rumors were running rampant, knows he can come in and play early at Miami given the current state of the defensive line.
He also knows what Coral Gables is all about. Valentine said he's been down to UM so many times already he can't remember exactly how many unofficial visits he's made. So why does he feel the need to go there again this coming weekend?
"Just to have a good time with the players and the commits," he said.
Apparently Valentine hasn't done enough of that already. Valentine said while he's bonded with the coaches at UM, he hasn't felt the same "bonding experience" with Canes players and recruits. He said the reason his trip to LSU was special was because he did feel that bonding experience with a few former South Floridians who now call Baton Rouge home.
Valentine called that "a really big" factor.
"Team bonding," Valentine said when asked what he's ultimately looking for before making a final decision. "I want to bond with the team. I want everything to be good, a family situation when I get there.
"Like what I had this past weekend with [LSU freshman cornerback] Rashard Robinson [a Pompano Ely grad], [LSU freshman defensive tackle] Quan Bain [a University School grad] and [Hallandale senior safety and LSU 2014 commitment] John Battle. I have chemistry with them boys."
Valentine said he's already discussed rooming with Battle at LSU.
"Even though I can’t say I have that at Miami, I can have that [chemistry eventually] with guys like Chad Thomas, Anthony Moten, Mike Smith and Braxton Berrios," Valentine said. "We just have to build it."
When it comes to relationships, Valentine said he's been building a strong one with LSU assistant Corey Raymond since November. How is his chemistry with Canes assistant coach Hurley Brown? "It's pretty good," Valentine said. "Coach Hurley has known my stepdad since high school."
Valentine said Golden's recruiting pitch Tuesday was pretty clear cut. He brought up the history Miami has had with defensive linemen, and that he wants to have the opportunity to coach another great one. Valentine said Golden ended his pitch by saying: 'Let me coach you.'
How did those words make Valentine feel?
"Those were pretty big, decent words," Valentine said. "I felt like that’s something I have to think about."
Valentine promises he will and will do so before making his announcement on Signing Day. Champagnat coach Mike Tunsil said the school is planning to have its ceremonies around 10:30 a.m.
"I can never fault Miami for the way they've recruited Travonte," Tunsil said. "They did a great job recruiting him. I could never complain about that. They’ve been on him hard. They had the defensive coordinator, the d-line coach, the head coach over here. Overall, I think they could recruit our school better. But as far as Travonte, they’ve done great."
NEWS AND NOTES
> For those of you sweating over Chad Thomas' recruiting visits to Florida State last weekend and his upcoming visit to Alabama -- go ahead and stop.
The five-star All-American defensive end made it pretty clear Tuesday he isn't planning on breaking Canes hearts on Signing Day.
"There’s no suspense," Thomas said. "I’ve been throwing up The U since the first game of the season. I’m not really trying to build any suspense, get anybody wound up, rowdy. Miami coaches knew I was going to take trips. They've just told me to have fun –- not just too much fun."
Thomas, an aspiring musician when he isn't killing quarterbacks on the football field, has been looking at UM's Frost Music School since well before the Hurricanes ever offered him a football scholarship. As a student at New World School of the Arts in Miami, he's been playing the piano, tuba and a number of other instruments for years and dreaming of attending Miami's music school.
While he said seeing FSU's music school -- and having a long talk with former Seminole Myron Rolle -- were nice experiences last weekend, Miami is still his school.
"It's two different music programs," Thomas said. "They look more into the production side at FSU. Miami has a great production side too. But I think the production side and band side at Miami are both great."
Has Alabama talked to Thomas about music? "No. Just football," he said with a grin.
Is he 100 percent Hurricane? "Yes sir," Thomas said. "Alabama knows that. They're just doing their job recruiting me."
> Booker T. offensive coordinator Tim Harris Jr. said he believes Thomas and defensive end Demetrius Jackson will both sign with UM next Wednesday.
Jackson, a three-star recruit according to 247Sports, visited Arkansas last weekend after telling a few recruiting websites he wasn't taking any more trips and was solid to UM.
"Arkansas was the first school that offered him," Harris Jr. said. "It’s a big school, SEC school. It’s only right to go on an official visit like that. I’ve seen people have bashed him on his Twitter for it. People don’t understand he just wants to take a visit. Kids work themselves to get this point. Us as coaches we help them along the way, but those kids, this is their moment. At the end of the day I think he’s going to stick with Miami as well."