The path back to Omaha for the Miami Hurricanes won't require leaving home.
For the first time since 2008 -- the last time they played in the College World Series -- the Canes (44-14) are a national seed in the NCAA Tournament. UM is seeded fifth overall, which means if they win their double-elimination regional tournament this coming weekend they'll be home for Super Regionals.
Miami, though, will first have to get past a regional field which includes bitter rival FIU (29-29), who won the Conference USA Tournament, Ivy League champion Columbia (31-15) and American Athletic Conference champion East Carolina (40-20).
Should the Canes advance, they'll host the winner of the Dallas Baptist Regional.
Friday's UM-FIU game will be played at 7 p.m., after Columbia-East Carolina matchup at 1 p.m.
UM and FIU haven't faced each other since April 23, 2008. FIU won that game 6-3.
Our Barry Jackson will have a more in depth report on what analysts think of potential Miami Hurricanes draft picks in his Buzz column later this week, but this is what Jon Gruden and Mel Kiper had to say about them Tuesday.
The Miami Hurricanes haven't had a first round pick since the New York Giants took Kenny Phillips 31st overall in 2008.
But that figures to change a week from Thursday.
Receiver Phillip Dorsett and offensive tackle Ereck Flowers are two Hurricanes ESPN analysts Jon Gruden and Mel Kiper believe are worthy of first round selections. Both raved about Dorsett and Flowers Tuesday on separate conference calls with the media.
"I told several people that I talk to in the league that my favorite players in this draft are Miami Hurricanes," said Gruden, once thought to be a candidate himself to be the Hurricanes coach before Al Golden was hired. "I love [Ereck] Flowers at left tackle. I think he's going to be a Pro Bowl lineman. I don't know if he's going to be a right tackle, a guard or a left tackle. He's just a pup. But he is big, he is powerful and he has the playing style I love. I can't tell you how much I love Flowers at left tackle."
Kiper projects Flowers anywhere from the 20th pick to the 32nd in the first round. Kiper has Dorsett rated even higher.
"When you look at Dorsett and run like he does, in the 4.2s, a 4.33 at the combine, a 4.2 at his Pro Day, you catch the ball and you're gone," Kiper said. "[He's] a great kid, the ultimate team player, a positive personality, great leader, great versatility. The T.Y. Hilton comparisons I think are valid. Although I think Hilton tracks the ball down the field a little bit better, I think Dorsett is a first round pick.
"I think [linebacker Denzel] Perryman is a second round pick. I think [tight end Clive] Walford is a second round pick. As I said before, [center Shane] McDermott and [guard Jon] Feliciano are going to play in this league. I don't care where they're drafted. [Ladarius] Gunter, the corner, could get drafted. [Defensive end Anthony] Chickillo, [will be taken] late. There's a lot of Miami of Florida players that are going to come into this league and play. As I said before, had they not come into that FSU game and lost, their year would have finished a heck of a lot different than it did."
Running back Duke Johnson, like Flowers, is entering the draft as an underclassman. Kiper projects him as a third or fourth round pick because of "durability issues."
I asked Kiper if he thought Johnson should have returned to school for his senior season to raise his stock.
"Well, there's two ways to look at that. If you go back and get hurt again, have injuries, then all of a sudden there are major durability concerns," Kiper said. "You roll the dice either way on that and strike gold or have a major problem and then fall down maybe further than say the third or fourth round, which is where I think he'll go. If you can keep him healthy...
"Some guys come in banged up and then they never get hurt once they're in the league. Some guys are completely healthy and get hurt right away and have injury problems. You never know how injuries are going to correlate to pro careers based on past history. There's no guarantee or certainty that's going to happen. He may be fine. But he has shown injury issues and durability is a concern. He has great kick return ability too if you go back to a couple years at Miami prior to this season. I think he's a third or fourth round draft choice."
Gruden seems to think Johnson is going to be a steal. He's also very fond of Perryman and Dorsett.
"[Perryman] is on my All-Gruden Grinder team," Gruden said. "He's like [Jon] Beason, he's like all those Jonathan Vilma guys that have come through there. He makes a lot of tackles. He's a great communicator, biggest hitter in the draft. Perryman can play.
"And if you don't like Duke Johnson, you have to tell me why. Maybe he's not big enough. But he can return. He's a great receiver. Anybody I talk to down there tells me he has the heart of a lion just like [Willis] McGahee and just like [Clinton] Portis and [Frank] Gore had. He makes a lot of yards and a lot of plays.
"And Dorsett, is there a faster, more dynamic player in the draft? I mean this kid can fly.
"I'm really shocked Miami didn't have more success on the field, but those four Hurricanes are going to go high. You watch. They're going to go real high in this draft and make some people real happy."
The Miami Hurricanes have to replace 11 starters and potentially five players who look like they will get taken within the first three rounds of the NFL Draft next month: running back Duke Johnson, receiver Phillip Dorsett, offensive tackle Ereck Flowers, tight end Clive Walford and linebacker Denzel Perryman.
So is there enough talent in Coral Gables to improve upon a 6-7 season and contend for the Atlantic Coast Conference title?
That was a hard question to answer at Saturday's spring game especially with a trio of key players out with injuries (cornerback Tracy Howard, defensive tackle Calvin Heurtelou, safety Rayshawn Jenkins), another held out because he broke curfew (running back Joe Yearby) and 17 of the 22 recruits in the signing class still yet to arrive on campus.
But here's what offensive coordinator James Coley and defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio said they saw this spring in terms of growth:
> Even though he split time this spring between baseball and football, redshirt freshman Malik Rosier (6-1, 212) has impressed all camp and was sound again Saturday. He engineered a 12-play, 84-yard scoring drive that ended with a four-yard touchdown pass to receiver Braxton Berrios and it's clear coaches feel better about its backup quarterback situation.
"He's juggling two different calendars right now," Coley said. "When he goes full time in the fall it's going to be fun -- because he can play man, he can run. He's a really good athlete."
Although he struggled Saturday and was picked off three times, starter Brad Kaaya "got better every week as well," Coley said. "His passing percentage was sick all spring long, 78-80 percent."
> Gus Edwards left Saturday's scrimmage with a left shoulder injury, but running backs coach Ice Harris said the junior has clearly taken the next step in terms of development.
Coley said Edwards will enter the fall as the No. 1-back ahead of Yearby. Coley said Edwards has some of the fastest "GPS numbers" on the team, which measures speed, effort and distance traveled and he isn't worried about him being too big for the position.
"You see consistency with the reads, the decision making, when he's running routes, his protections," Coley said. "With his overall consistency you can feel comfortable calling the base offense with him starting the game. Either way, they're both going to play."
> Replacing the speedy Dorsett, who helped stretch the field won't be easy, but Coley believes he has two receivers capable of it.
"Stacy [Coley] and Herb [Waters]," he said. "Herb's got to come down with a couple of those catches, but he was open. He's just go to finish the play. Stacy, we just need to get him the ball. He's wide open. There was a couple times [Saturday] there where we missed a guy up front and Brad's got to scramble. He's got Stacy breaking open and can't get him."
> Who is the most improved offensive weapon? "I would say Malcolm Lewis because of the strides he hit with getting his weight down," Coley said. "He made so many plays this spring. I would say it's hard to say Malcolm Lewis isn't back to his speed."
> Replacing Walford at tight end, who led the team in catches (44), appears to be a tougher task. Junior Standish Dobard had another drop Saturday and Coley admitted he's been inconsistent in camp. Newcomer Jerome Washington also still needs to make a lot of strides.
> UM's offensive line, which must replace four starters (right guard Danny Isidora is the only full-timer back), gave up six sacks Saturday and clearly has to make the biggest improvement of any unit. A healthy Kc McDermott (he was around for only four spring practices), Taylor Gadbois and the addition of five recruits will help, Coley said.
> Does UM have a linebacker that can remotely fill the shoes of Denzel Perryman at linebacker?
"One guy? Not one guy," D'Onofrio said. "He had physical gifts and the ability to time those [big hits] up and see them happen, annihilate the ball carrier. That's a skill that he had and he brought and not everybody has that level of explosiveness to them, but that doesn't mean they can't be great players.
"Everybody has their own skill set and I'm pleased with the group. We have to build some depth, get guys in a position where they can impact the game. But I like the direction we went in."
D'Onofrio said senior Raphael Kirby is the leader of the group "that sets the standard in meetings, on the field, how he prepares."
"Obviously Jermaine [Grace] has a unique skill set in that he can run," he continued. "Darrion Owens is different. He's 6-3 and he can do a lot of things for us. They're all kind of different in their own way and they're all improving."
> Although the defensive line must replace two starters who logged a lot of playing time in Anthony Chickillo and Olsen Pierre, D'Onofrio said he's pleased he has six former first year players who garnered plenty of experience last season.
Who is the best pass rusher?
"I'd rather talk about most improved," D'Onofrio said with a chuckle. "I think [Ufomba] Kamalu made some really big strides. Chad [Thomas] is gifted, so he's got an opportunity where he can just beat guys easily at times. I think Trent Harris has made really big strides. For a young player, he's really a technician both in the run game and the pass game. He knows how to use his hands to beat guys, knows how to setup moves and do all that kind of stuff."
> D'Onofrio said new defensive line coach Randy Melvin has been stressing a different technique when it comes to pass rushing that he prefers.
"If you meet a point of resistance we can't stop and try to bat down balls," D'Onofrio said. "We want to keep collapsing the pocket, keep making progress on the quarterback. That was a big goal and I think we did that. I see the guys doing that right now, working their countermoves. Randy has done a great job."
> As for the secondary, which lost only senior Ladarius Gunter to graduation and junior Antonio Crawford (he quit the team), D'Onofrio feels like the safeties made tremendous growth.
"The No. 1 thing back there that they have to be able to do, they have to be able to communicate, get us in the right call," D'Onofrio said. "[Jamal Carter] and Dallas [Crawford] made huge strides in that area. Very proud of what they've done there."
The Hurricanes have three corners and one safety coming in the fall. If needed, D'Onofrio said, Deon Bush would be his first choice to switch from safety to corner in a pinch. Gunter did that the other way, moving from corner to safety, last season.
"Deon played some corner today," he said. "He'd been doing it throughout the spring. That's something we always try to do, look ahead and down the line, move guys around a little bit."
It was a big week at the plate for Hurricanes third baseman David Thompson and it paid off Monday when he was honored as the ACC's Player of the Week.
Thompson hit .524 (11-for-21) with two doubles, three home runs and a team-high 13 RBI as the Hurricanes went 5-0. Thompson’s walk-off solo home run in the bottom of the 10th inning Friday keyed a three-game sweep of NC State over the weekend.
In a 15-4 win over FGCU last Tuesday, Thompson set career marks with four hits and six RBI and came just a triple shy of the cycle. His slugging percentage was 1.048 for the week. For the season, he is hitting .354 with team-high totals of four home runs and 26 RBI, and his .608 slugging percentage leads all players.
UM has a 12-1 record at Mark Light Field this season, and is ranked in the top 25 of every national poll. The Hurricanes return to the diamond Tuesday for a midweek matchup with Army before traveling to Wake Forest for a weekend series.
FOOTBALL STAFF NEWS
The Miami Hurricanes on Monday formally announced the promotion of current staff members Larry Scott, Kareem Brown, Eric Josephs and Jorge Baez, and the addition of Josh Darrow, Evan Cooper and Jake Flaherty to the staff.
Scott, the tight ends coach, will add the title of run game coordinator. Brown, a former graduate assistant who has spent time coaching the defensive line, will serve as the outside linebackers coach and direct the team’s nickel package defense. Josephs, who spent the last two years in the football operations department, is now director of player personnel. Baez will serve as the coordinator of on-campus recruiting/offensive personnel.
The three additions to the Hurricanes’ staff will feature Darrow moving into the role of assistant director of football operations (high school relations and community affairs), Cooper as the assistant director of player personnel, and Flaherty serving as the team’s offensive graduate assistant.
Scott is no stranger to working with running backs as he served as the running backs coach at USF in 2012. For Brown, a former Hurricane, this will be the first time he serves as an assistant coach.
Prior to his arrival at UM, Josephs had three different intern stints in the NFL, working with the Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles. In his new capacity, Josephs will be responsible for the identification, selection, organization and flow charts of perspective recruits. In addition, the 2008 Miami alum will be responsible for the recruiting travel logistics of coach Al Golden.
Baez, a Miami native, came to UM after spending the 2013 season as Gulliver Prep’s offensive coordinator and two seasons at Southern University in Baton Rouge, La. where he worked as the team’s wide receivers coach and co-passing game coordinator. Baez will now coordinate all unofficial visits, independent junior days and continue with his role as the team’s offensive player personnel director.
Darrow has been a sideline reporter for UM football since 1999 and covered South Florida high school, college and professional sports for nearly 15 years at WQAM and SFHSSports.com. He will coordinate the Hurricanes’ 7-on-7 Clinic, oversee the program’s in-house social media messaging, manage high school coaching visits to spring practice, direct gameday experiences for youth coaches, oversee instructional clinics in South Florida, supervise the Deserve Victory Tour and coordinate team community events.
Flaherty arrives in Coral Gables after serving as an offensive quality control assistant at Montana State University. Under Flaherty’s assistance, the Bobcats offensive unit averaged nearly 500 yards per game (488.3). MSU finished the year with an 8-4 record and just missed out on a bid to the NCAA playoffs. In addition, Flaherty spent the summer of 2013 working as a Dallas Cowboys training camp intern. During the summer of 2013, Flaherty worked closely with the Cowboys wide receivers under assistant coach Derek Dooley. As student-athlete, Flaherty played four years at wide receiver at Bucknell University.
Cooper joins the staff after spending the past two seasons serving as a defensive graduate assistant at Temple University where he played. Cooper spent two seasons as the defensive backs coach at Fort Lauderdale Westminster Academy prior to that. At Temple, Cooper played for Golden and had 44 tackles during his senior season en route to earning the 2008 Carlos Diaz Award as the most improved player following his final season.
In the case of Pompano Ely cornerback Terrance Henley, a senior who didn't get the qualifying ACT test score he needed until National Signing Day, one finally did this week down at the University of Miami. Friday afternoon, the 6-foot, 170-pound senior became the latest addition to the Hurricanes 2015 signing class when he faxed over his signed national letter of intent to the UM offices.
Although UM has yet to officially announce his signing, it's expected Henley will take the spot of senior cornerback Antonio Crawford, whose mother told Canesport Friday her son had been granted his release. UM's sports information department said Friday at 3:30 p.m. it had no official news regarding Henley or Crawford as of yet.
As for Henley, he was happy.
"It's been a very emotional time of late," Henley said. "When I found out I passed my ACT on Signing Day I was extremely happy, tears of joy. But when me and [assistant principal Malcolm] Spence called schools and they told me they were full I felt like giving up. Mr. Spence just told me to be patient, my time will come. And it came. Miami said they had an opening because one of their seniors left."
Henley was an unranked, no-star recruit according to 247Sports. But he said he was always on UM's radar, having shined at their camp with one of the fastest 40-times (4.5 seconds). A two-year starter at Ely, Henley said he intercepted three passes as a senior and six as a junior.
"I had about five or six other offers," Henley explained. "All the colleges asked me for my scores and I didn't have the scores. So basically my offer was just sitting there and other players kept filling that spot. James Madison, UAB, FIU, Temple, Tennessee State, Miami and Southwest Baptist were the schools who recruited me and told me I had offers."
Henley, who runs track (he said his fastest time in the 100 meters was 10.7 seconds), said he will be enrolled at UM this summer.
"Like I told the defensive coordinator [Mark D'Onofrio], I'll play wherever they can put me to try and get us a championship," he said. "I've always worn orange and green -- from high school to pop warner with the Pompano Chiefs. Miami was always my favorite school growing up."
Henley's younger cousin is one of the area's top 2017 recruits -- Cardinal Gibbons receiver Leroy Henley, an All-Broward First Team selection with 52 catches for 730 yards and eight touchdowns in 2014. Miami is hot on his trail.
"The thing with me and my little cousin is we always wanted to play together," Terrance said. "By me going to Miami most likely, like 99 percent likely, my little cousin is going to end up coming to Miami too."
As for Crawford, he ends his career with 58 career tackles and two starts. He was in the rotation at cornerback and played a lot, but apparently unhappy with his role.
"I wanted him to stay, told him to stay, but it's his decision," Crawford's mother Shawanda Rogers told Canesport. "He said he wants to play somewhere else, wants to be a starter, doesn't want to be second [string]. He just feels that he's going to try to play somewhere else."
Here's what Crawford tweeted out this afternoon.
My next move will be my best move. It's been real Miami.
They've gotten so popular they have their own hash tag. They call themselves the #Swag16.
The Miami Hurricanes 2016 recruiting class is currently 18 commitments strong and tabbed No. 1 in the country in both sheer size of commitments and overall ranking.
And yet, as UM fans learned through a bevy of de-commitments last recruiting season, it all means absolutely nothing until those commitments sign on the dotted line and make it official on National Signing Day 2016.
So why should we care about commitments? Why should we believe this class will remain intact 12 months from now? There really is no reason. Really, it's just another barometer to measure the job Golden is doing. If he wins, the commits probably stick. If the Canes stink, they'll likely flee.
It's pretty simple really: 12 months is a really long time for a lot of things to happen.
"They committed early and that's a great thing. I just hope that it's a strong commitment and not for publicity or whatever," said receiver Braxton Berrios, who was part of a 2014 UM class (Brad Kaaya, Joe Yearby, Chad Thomas were other leaders) who bought into Golden's long term vision.
"With this whole social media, Twitter, Instagram, type era -- that's the big thing publicity, followers. From what I've seen, every commitment that we have is real. They're serious about it. They're diehard Canes or they want to be. So we love it. We love getting commitments and we want them to be here.
"They seem to be together kind of like we were [in 2014]. We want to know as the senior class leaves the next class is coming in. If we can get the snowball rolling now imagine what it can be going into summer and into winter."
UM, set to host another Junior Day this coming Saturday, is still dealing with NCAA sanctions from the Nevin Shapiro scandal.
We learned recently the Canes will still be three scholarships short in 2016. Football recruits also can still only attend one free game (football, basketball, whatever) while the program is on probation. Golden said this weekend's junior day will be "a little tricky because we have some guys coming that have been to a football game so they can't go to the [North] Carolina basketball game."
Still, the Hurricanes -- despite going 6-7 in 2014 -- have found a way to thrive in recruiting (the 2015 class aside). Although UM lost a 2016 commitment from Lakeland defensive tackle Keyshon Camp Wednesday, they've picked up a dozen other commitments between the classes of 2017 and even 2018 since their first Junior Day back on Jan. 25.
How in the world has that happened?
"I just think we've had a lot of guys that identified with what we're doing and who we are and are matches for us," said Golden, who said the fact UM has poured millions into upgrading its facilities -- practice fields ($7M), training tables ($3M), student center ($56M) -- has helped out tremendously.
"I don't look at it like it's a philosophy," Golden continued. "A lot of them wanted to do it and be a part of it. I think it's great. But it's a long way to go as you guys know. We'll just keep moving forward. We have a lot of work to do."
And nearly all of that work is on the field. Going from 6-3 to 6-7 last season certainly hurt the Canes down the recruiting stretch. The Canes have to prove in 2015 they can win from start to finish and really contend for the ACC title, not just flirt with it. Or, Golden, and most of his recruits, could be gone. At the end of the 2014 season, it was the top recruits who bolted.
"I don't think the Class of '16 having  commitments right now [can be] bad," Berrios said when asked how potential decommitments in the 2016 class could be more damaging in the long run. "Obviously that means people want to be here. When they go on Yahoo and see the class rankings they see we're ahead [that helps]. Obviously we want them to come here if they're committed here. If they don't, they don't.
"I think [how we play on the field ultimately] always plays a factor. You look at the last few years, not even with us, just other teams. I think how you close out the year [on the field] and how close it is to signing day -- that little sway -can influence kids. So I think it's always relative and it always matters."
> Thursday's practice featured the return of linebackers Terry McCray and Jermaine Grace, who missed Tuesday's practice because of academic issues.
"His teammates are irate," Golden said of Grace, a projected starter, missing practice Tuesday. "Puts a stress on a lot of different components, whether it’s special teams or their position or the defense, it puts stress. Some guys have to learn two positions, some guys have to take more reps, nobody wants to, nobody should have to do that. You gotta handle your business.
> Running back Trayone Gray still hasn't returned from dealing with his academic issues. Cornerback Antonio Crawford, who has expressed his dismay on social media with the way he's being used at Miami, missed his second straight practice.
"I’m not pleased where that is and he knows what he needs to do," Golden said of Gray. "There’s no resolution [as far as Crawford]. When we have resolution I’ll share that with you. Again, we just always, we don’t live in the world that you guys live in. I’m sorry. But when they’re our student-athletes and it’s sensitive and everything, we’ve got to give them they’re time and space and their privacy."
> Offensive tackle Kc McDermott, who had knee surgery in late October, said Thursday he will be back on the practice field as a full participant starting March 17.
> With three NFL-bound skill players in Duke Johnson, Clive Walford and Phillip Dorsett already out the door I asked Mark D'Onofrio Thursday who on UM's offense he thinks will keep defensive coordinators on their toes in 2015.
“Obviously, our tailbacks that can carry the ball," he said. "They come in different shapes and sizes. Gus [Edwards] being really big and also fast. He’s going to be a guy, 235-plus pounds, really runs well, I think everybody’s going to have to deal with. Obviously, Joe [Yearby] has his skill set too to break big ones and make people miss. There are a few other guys over there doing that. On the perimeter, [Stacy] Coley, we all know what he’s capable of doing. We’ve seen that. Rashawn Scott has been really, really impressive. That’s not surprising to me because last year, he redshirted. He was able to come back, we saw him do some things. He’s been very competitive and going for the ball. We’re playing with multiple tight ends so, those guys are starting to get chances. Standish [Dobard] is a guy that’s improved every year. You’re starting to see Chris Herndon over there. These are the guys that you feel. Across the board, we still have that size and athleticism at the tight end position."
> D'Onofrio said rush-end Al-Quadin Muhammad has "to be a first and second-down player" for the Hurricanes in 2015.
"When he played for us as a freshman, what I tried to do with those guys is really -- like we did last year with Chad [Thomas], we give them that [third down] role first," he said. "Where can they impact the team, easiest, without having to learn everything and where they can just get their skill in the game and that’s usually where we’ve added those guys on third down. But in the case of both guys, Quan not being here last year and this being his second year, and Chad, they’re really going to have to be every-down players for us and we’ll feel their impact on the field because they’re both guys that can do a lot of good things.”
New Hurricanes defensive line coach Randy Melvin has been coaching football since 1982 -- right around the time personal computers like the Commodore 64 started to become mainstream.
So how did the 55-year-old, former Temple, FIU assistant and Super Bowl-winning coach with the Patriots end up reuniting with his old boss Al Golden again earlier this week? Naturally, the internet.
“The beauty of social media," Melvin said Thursday during a 15-minute talk with local Hurricanes beat writers. "Looking online, seeing movement [is how I found out UM was looking for a new defensive line coach]. I actually was on my phone and I saw that Jethro [Franklin] was leaving [for the Oakland Raiders]. So I tried to make contact and go through the proper channels. We visited on a couple of occasions and went forward from there.”
Melvin, who started his coaching career the same year Canes offensive line coach Art Kehoe did (they are the elder statesmen on the staff), has been around the block a few times. He started off as a high school assistant in Ohio, worked his way into a head coach in Illinois and then made the jump to college at Eastern Illinois in 1988. He spend time at Wyoming (1995-96), Purdue (1997-99), Rutgers (2002-04, 2010), Temple (2009) and most recently FIU (2014).
Along the way he hit the pros too coaching alongside Bill Belichick in New England in 2000 and 2001 and winning the Super Bowl his last year there before Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel took him to Cleveland for four years from 2005 to 2008. Melvin spent a year coaching the British Columbia Lions in the CFL in 2011 and then two more with the Tampa Bay Bucs in 2012 and 2013 before FIU coach Ron Turner took him with to South Florida.
Now, Melvin is rejoining Golden. In 2009, Temple's staff was being treated like superstars in Philadelphia following a 9-4 season. Now, Melvin is rejoining Golden as he's on the hot seat and coming off a 6-7 season. Why would he want to do that? Melvin likes Golden and believes in him.
“I guess really in reality I’m immune to that," Melvin said of the critics. "Because I’ve been let go before. That’s part of the game. The greatest pressure that anybody has is what they place on themselves. I can’t speak for him. I can speak for myself coming into this situation -- I put more pressure on myself than anybody else can. The whole thing is to get your team to play well and do what they’re supposed to do and allow the fans to celebrate with you.”
Melvin said Golden is "very, very detailed" and said he's a pleasure to work for "because he lets me coach."
"He has a unique creativity along with the ability to be detailed," Melvin said. "That’s the thing that really attracts me. Getting the pieces, coaching them up, that’s how you get things done properly. Sometimes it doesn’t build as fast people want. But when it’s done right, it’s built to last.”
Melvin, hired on Wednesday, said he's met with his future defensive linemen briefly but still can't put names to faces. He said he didn't recruit a single player at UM. But he said he will study plenty of tape in the nine days leading up to the starting of spring practice on Feb. 21 to see where certain guys have talent and others have flaws so he can help them. He said he likes the size of the guys he's been tasked to work with in UM's 3-4 scheme.
"I always kind of let guys know No. 1 you have to be physically able to handle it," Melvin said of what he preaches as a coach. "No. 2, be able to execute the defense. I’ve got to teach and you got to learn it. Everybody learns it a little differently. So we have to find ways to make sure you’re on point there. The final thing is they have to play with some effort, play with hustle. Defensive football in its simplest form is tackling the football. So you start the game there and then as a coach you work on consistency, technique and development to help them master some skills.”
> New receivers coach Kevin Beard, who we've covered plenty in the blog in the past week, said Thursday he's not taking over the recruiting coordinator duties held by previous receivers coach Brennan Carroll.
"I’ll be heavy into Broward County and a couple of other places," said Beard, a graduate of Plantation High in Broward. "But it will just be like every other coach. Just about building relationships. I’m just the wide receiver coach. I don’t know the full scale of the whole process. I’m learning on the go. Just happy to learn and grow.”
A former assistant on the successful South Florida Express 7-on-7 team, Beard said he believes his relationships on the 7-on-7 circuit will be a boon for him as a recruiter.
“It kind of gives you a lot eyes outside the university," Beard said. “I look at it like as when I was in the 7-on-7 world, I was friends with everyone. A lot of guys have made it into a rivalry or something like that. I just look it as an opportunity to help kids get better. So I feel like I have a lot of friends out there, places I can’t be – especially with guys I’m looking to recruit. [My friends] can be another ear or another voice that these guys can hear and they’ll say he’ll get you right and you can trust that guy.”
Beard, 34, was promoted Monday from assistant director of football operations to coaching the position he once played for the Hurricanes from 1999 to 2003. For the past year, Beard said he served as "the bridge between the players and coaches" at UM. When someone would have a bad day, Beard said, he would be the guy coach Al Golden would send down to talk and mediate the situation, get the player to understand the reason he was being coached hard "was to make them better."
Now, Golden is looking to Beard to do the same as an assistant -- and as someone who could help mend relationships on the recruiting trail in South Florida.
Beard, a Plantation High graduate and former All-Broward star, definitely knows what it's like being on the other side of the fence from UM having served as an assistant coach at University School in Fort Lauderdale for four years and as a coach for the South Florida Express 7-on-7 team for six-plus years. For nearly a decade, Beard has worked with some of the most elite skill players to come out of the South Florida area.
Brett Goetz, the coach and founder of the South Florida Express, said adding Beard is a huge addition to the UM staff especially since he has great relationships with most of the star recruits in the area for 2016 and 2017.
UM has been criticized hard for missing out on local star receivers like Alabama's Amari Cooper (Miami Northwestern) and Florida State's Ermon Lane (Homestead High). Goetz said having Beard on staff might swing things in the Canes' favor now.
"They all know KB," Goetz said of the top recruits, high school coaches and 7-on-7 coaches. "He has great relationships that are going to help them be in the mix for a lot of kids like [2017 receiver recruit] Emmanuel Green, [2016 St. Thomas Aquinas receiver] Sam Bruce. If KB was hired prior to last year’s signing class they probably would have had a good shot with Ermon Lane, Chris Lammons [South Carolina] and Travis Rudolph [now at Florida State] because Beard had great relationships with those kids.
"It’s also different recruiting down here than anywhere else in the country. There’s middle men. I think that makes it a lot more difficult to recruit here. Kevin knows what he wants to do here. He wants to go directly to the kid and the parents and avoid talking to people you don’t need to talk to. Kevin knows who to go to."
UM has landed several South Florida Express stars over the years. The list includes Duke Johnson, Deon Bush, Malcolm Lewis, Herb Waters, Tyree Brady, Tracy Howard and most recently Jaquan Johnson. They've had a harder time landing commitments from other 7-on-7 teams.
Beard said Monday night he feels like he can be "a glue guy" between the community and the Canes.
"I know what the community is missing, lacking, wants to see, wants to hear [from UM]," Beard said. "That’s what I want to bring to the table. I want the community, I want them to be heard. Once that happens things will definitely start changing a whole lot faster. The community will start getting back to being for us and not so much against us because of what the record is. They’ll see we’re making moves in the right direction and Coach Golden is the right guy for the job.”
Beard said recruiting in South Florida has become "the hardest place in America to recruit for the simple fact that everybody else in the country is trying to come in your backyard and take what’s yours."
"They’re throwing offers out to all kind of kids from the time they’re in the 10th grade, and then a lot of kids are saying, ‘Well, I got 15 offers from everybody in America but UM.’ If you offer a kid and then you back out on it, you’re going to get ridiculed, you’re going to get ripped for it," Beard said. "We try to do things the right way. Pretty much right now no matter what you do, you’re doing it wrong. I’m trying to bring [the right] mindset to the table.”
Goetz said he expects Beard to have a profound effect on Coley, who slumped during his sophomore year, and to get the most out of other top players at Miami like Herb Waters who have been up and down most of their careers.
“I really am going to dive into the technique of this position," Beard told Rose of what he will teach UM's receivers. "A lot of people don’t understand. They feel like if a receiver is fast, explosive and they can catch, they’re good. And the thing that makes the difference in good receivers and great receivers are the ones those that pay attention to detail, that are technicians. You can be a 4.5, 4.6 and beat a 4.3 defensive back based off technique. Technique makes the game easier. You play smarter and not harder. I think that’s the game changer for us right now. We’re really going to dive into the technique, the art of the position.”
Of Coley, Beard said: “I just feel like he needs a better understanding of who he is and who he wants to be. I think he came in – you know how high school guys are, he’s the No. 3 receiver in the country coming out of high school, Under Armour All-American. You feel like you’re that guy. He had all the success he had his freshman year, he kind of felt like I can be this same guy and still have the same success and it never turned to the next level. I think he stagnant, where he was. And I think it kind of caught him by surprise. So I think he’s disappointed in the way the season went. So, he’s excited to get out there and have a great junior season.”
SPRING BALL SET TO BEGIN FEB. 21
> UM will begin its spring practice schedule two weeks earlier than last year when drills get underway on Feb. 21. All of the practices will be closed to the public except for the spring game, which is scheduled for March 28th (the site has yet to be locked down). The team will also scrimmage March 5th and March 21st.
The Hurricanes lost three-star receiver and commitment Terrell Chatman, but they picked up a trio of talented recruits on National Signing Day and a very intriguing former five-star prospect too.
Coach Al Golden, speaking during his annual Signing Day Press Conference, said Miami agreed to a financial agreement with former Florida Gators defensive lineman Gerald Willis III, who was dismissed on Jan. 6. Willis got himself into a fight with UF's third-string quarterback over cleats back in October and had other issues on the team.
Listed at 6-2, 255 pounds, Willis was a teammate of Hurricanes tight end Standish Dobard at Edna Karr High School in New Orleans. Golden said part of the reason UM was willing to take Willis III was because of their relationship.
"He's technically not part of this class, but he's part of our plans for this class," Golden said of Willis III who won't be eligible to play until 2016. "He will have to sit out a year, but that's part of the equation as we start to lose [Ufomba] Kamalu and some of those guys. We have other guys in place to pick them up. He's a great football player, a great motor and a guy we coveted a year ago. We did not get him. We're glad to get this time around."
Asked why UM was willing to take a player with a bit of a troubled past, Golden said Miami did it's research.
"It was things we didn't think were to the point it would discourage us," Golden said. "I think that's one of the things we tried to do, a good background check really on everybody -- all the players. We're not perfect. But in his case it was stuff that was a lot of immaturity, things of that nature. But nothing that without the right group, right mentor [can't be addressed] and Stan has offered to do that for us.
"I don't know that we would be sitting here without the connection with Stan and obviously the testimony of Stan in terms of the environment, the enjoyment he's having in this program and what that represents. I know Gerald was excited about becoming a Miami Hurricane. When he's finished up with classes, he'll enroll this summer."
WHAT ELSE DID GOLDEN DISCUSS?
> Golden said former walk-on punter Justin Vogel paid his own way on to the team last, but will count as one of the scholarship player this season.
> Golden told ESPN The Ticket Wednesday Miami will be between 78 and 79 scholarships next season with the hope they will be done with the nine scholarships they need forfeit before 2016.
> Golden said he likes the defensive tackles UM now has in the program.
"All three nose guards we had last year were inexperienced a year ago -- Courtel Jenkins, Michael Wyche and Calvin Heurtelou. They all played. Plus we redshirted Earl Moore. So I'm pleased with that position," he said. "Obviously defensive tackle we got Ufomba Kamalu, AJ Moten, Jelani Hamilton. You mention Kendrick Norton. He's a young man we're really excited about. He brings us strength, brings us power. He's a big man. He's got to be 315, 320 pounds in that range. So we're excited about that and obviously we added Gerald Willis to that mix."
> Golden said he's fine with the numbers Miami has at running back (five with incoming four-star freshman Mark Walton), receiver (nine with incoming four-star freshman Lawrence Cager) and tight end (five with incoming No. 1-ranked JUCO tight end Jerome Washington). Quarterback (UM didn't see any, but picked up Texas Tech transfer Vincent Testaverde) is an area Golden said the team will continue to monitor.
"The one position we had to overcompensate for was offensive line," he said. "I prefer not to do that in any single year. I think if you can take four offensive lineman a year you would be really happy. That would give you 14 or 15 over a four-year period. When you have to take six in a year it shows you how we're not really where we needed to be a year ago on the offensive line. It takes away from you getting a skill guy or somebody that can do something with the ball in your hands.
"We're good [at running back]. We got Joe [Yearby], Gus [Edwards], Trayone Gray, Mark Walton and then Tucker will do what he has continued to do for us. He'll be a fullback when we need him. But Tuck is a really good one back and he's doing a great job with track. He's lean. So he'll do a dual role. Because if he doesn't he sits around a lot. If we use the fullback 12 times a game that's probably on the high side."
> Of UM's 20 signees, only seven are from South Florida. Golden said those numbers are skewed by the high number of offensive linemen UM had to take.
"I don't think we would drive past any kid in South Florida to go somewhere else," Golden said. "You guys may no better than me how many power-five offensive linemen were offered in the three counties. But for us, we had to go to Venice, Bradenton and we were lucky with Milo from Kaaya's school. Obviously, Loftus was a young man from Tallahassee Godby we liked who came down from camp. Those six and then the tight end wasn't from down here either. That's seven guys from one-third of the class that were not from South Florida for sure."
> How would Golden evaluate the way UM recruited skill talent in South Florida?
"Well, again, it wasn’t a big skill year," he said. "We needed two corners and two safeties, we probably would’ve taken one more wide receiver, but we only lost one wide receiver, so it’s just the way it shaped out," he said. "We played 34 first and second-year players a year ago and redshirted 17 guys, so those 51 are all guys that are coming back on our roster. You can’t lose one, Phillip Dorsett, and replace him with three. It doesn’t work that way in terms of the roster. That’s not where we are right now. Hopefully we’ll get to 78, 79 this year and get to 85 by ’16, so we’re still at a cap deal. Again, Justin Vogel did a great job. We’re appreciative of him and his family paying for this year. He ended up being an all-conference candidate or he might have made one of the all-conference teams, which is great for him moving forward. So it counts, it counts as part of this class. The offensive line obviously was one of the positions that we were hoping to stay healthy, ‘cause we were? There, so we had to compensate there as well."
> In general, how would Golden say he's done recruiting South Florida these four, five years?
"Obviously last year, again, I don’t know overall, but last year was clearly our best year and not just, it’s really not about numbers, but it’s about performance and production," he said. "Chad Thomas and Joe Yearby, KC McDermott, Nick Linder, Trevor Darling, all of those guys were either starters or big contributors and there’s so many other guys like Demetrius Jackson who we think is going to be a really good player. TJ McCray, we had so many kids from South Florida a year ago.
"Again, this number’s a little bit skewed because of the number of offensive linemen and none of them were local, but we just gotta keep doing it. I think we have 13 commitments in next year’s class and all of them are from Florida. Again, sometimes that’s just the way it breaks down. There’s obviously a great number of skill players here, so if you’re not taking three or four wideouts, next year we’re going to probably take five wideouts. We should have a good year in South Florida, I think five wideouts. That’s just the way it shakes out. I think every one of our players in next year’s class is already from Florida, so I think when you couple that with the overall body of work in the last three years, I think that’s when you’ll find our commitment to South Florida."
> Golden said freshman defensive end Scott Patchan "is doing great" in his recovery from a torn ACL which cost him his senior year. "He's already 245 pounds," Golden said. "The biggest thing is [trainer Vinny Scavo] is trying to slow him down. He's already wanting to go full speed. So we're going to be careful with him early in spring ball. He will participate in spring ball, but from a preventive measure standpoint we're going to hold him out probably until spring break. That's something I have to check. All the reports are he's doing good. He's got work ethic and he's long. So he's going to be really big."
> As for the high-number of decommitments for UM this year, Golden said reasons are "all the above." "Maybe it's that just the direction we're going," he meant in terms of the way college football is trending. "We don't want to get into that business. At the end of the day we're happy with our class and the needs we met in our class. It's a variety reasons and really they are individually based. It's tough to just sit up here and paint a brush as to why it happened. But obviously moving forward, we’re excited about this group and anxious to get started on the 2016 group tomorrow."
“Again, just keep moving the program forward. Infrastructure is improving. Do a great job on the field, move the program forward there. And just continue to show them the impact that they can have and obviously we’re excited because it’s going to be a skill-laden group. I don’t think we’re going to take many offensive linemen. So there’s going to be a lot of wide recievers in the group, probably two tight ends, I’m still going through it. Two running backs. Multiple corners. Multiple safeties. From that standpoint, we’re ecited about it. Keep moving forward.”
Q: A couple of the defensive backs you got in on late, [Sheldrick] Redwine and [Robert] Knowles in particular: Big year for DBs in South Florida, a lot of them went to different places. How did these two compare in your evaluations to some of the other kids that maybe were more highly regarded by the outside world?
“Yeah. I think, so, to answer your question, for all the kids – and again, it was what we needed this year, in terms of – Michael Jackson came to camp, had South Florida ties, he was 6-1, had length, at corner. I think there were two guys, three including Sheldrick, maybe I’m wrong, in South Florida in terms of length. We got one of the three. It’s really not a function of when you get them, it’s can they do the things you need them to do--
Q: But when you guys evaluated them, did you see them as a comparable-level player to some of the other [higher-ranked players]?
“I think you’re splitting hairs. It’s like that scene in Moneyball, when he sits across from him and says, ‘You think you know. You don’t know.’ We think we know. Everybody thinks they know. All around the country, everybody thinks they know. And then when the kid comes and all of a sudden he’s great, everybody says, man, we’re awesome evaluators. We’re awesome. But the reality is, you’re splitting hairs. There’s a lot of corners down here, a lot of corners down here this year. The guys that were not 6-1, we just needed length at that spot. In terms of Robert Knowles, when his film came in, and we had a chance to meet him in person and see his size, see his stature, you’re talking about 6-1 and a half, and gonna be big. Gonna be a 215-pound safety. When you turn on his film, his physicalness … again, why do guys like Khalil Mack go to Buffalo and end up being first-rounders? It’s because a lot of guys are filled up in the recruiting cycle and not really looking. We got fortunate there with Robert Knowles and I feel the same way about Sheldrick. But you’re splitting hairs in terms of who’s really – it’s going to come down to character, it’s going to come down to makeup, it’s going to come down to who’s consistent off the field. If they’re consistent, they’re going to keep learning, keep growing, keep improving, all of those things. Those guys wanted to be Miami Hurricanes, and I think that’s important here too. I don’t want to lose that. Those guys wanted to come. Robert Knowles wanted to be here and he’ll go to work and fight his ass off for us.
Q: You talk a lot about size, and not recruiting some kids because you’re looking for a 6-1 corner for example. Is part of the reason because some South Florida kids are fast and don’t have the size?
I hate painting with a broad brush. There’s so many different players and so many different varieties. I don’t know; do you guys have a count of how many guys are going Division I? There’s so many. There’s so many. You can’t get them all. Just make sure the ones you get can do what you need them to do and fit your system. But because our skill numbers will be high, I expect our South Florida numbers to be really high next year, as is already evident by every single one of them – 100 percent of the 13 committed for next year – are from Florida. We are gaining a little bit of traction in Jacksonville, we’ve done well in Tampa obviously and now we’re kind of moving down the west coast a little bit which is great. It’s great for us to do that. We’re getting a little bit more Bradenton, a little bit more Venice, got somebody committed from Naples the other day. We should be in that whole area and if we don’t have to leave there, we’re not going to.
CANES NAB REDWINE, KING A PAIR OF THREE-STAR LOCAL RECRUITS LATE
It hasn’t been a five-star recruiting season for the Miami Hurricanes, but so far at least they’ve managed to pick up a couple of noteworthy additions on Wednesday morning.
Despite being late to the party with scholarship offers, UM was able to flip a pair of three-star local recruits and All-Dade First Team selections in Miami Killian cornerback Sheldrick Redwine (6-2, 190) and Booker T. Washington linebacker James King (6-2, 210).
Redwine had been committed to Louisville and King to Florida Atlantic University. Now, they’re staying home.
“There’s nothing like staying home and putting on for your home city,” Redwine said. “It’s a dream school growing up. The opportunity came. I just couldn’t pass it down.”
Both players had high profile high school teammates who were previously committed to UM’s signing class and signed: Booker T. Washington four-star running back Mark Walton and Killian four-star safety Jaquan Johnson.
Johnson, one of five early enrollees at UM, went back to Killian Wednesday, morning to support Redwine.
“Jaquan had a huge impact on me,” Redwine said. “He texted me ‘Come to the U’, we’re going to grind together. We’re going to shine together.’”
Redwine had three interceptions and was one of the best cover corners in the state as a senior. King racked up 65 tackles as a senior for the three-time defending state champion Tornadoes.
“UM came in last week and offered me,” King said. “I was expecting the U to come in, but things happen and now I’m going to Miami. I just have to work hard and try to become the next Denzel Perryman or Ray Lewis.”
UM’s two additions are being celebrated, but Miami did swing and miss at a handful of other recruiting targets.
Four-star cornerback Marcus Lewis out of Washington, D.C. signed with Florida State; three-star receiver Antonio Callaway of Booker T. Washington picked the Florida Gators, Orlando four-star running back Dexter Williams chose Notre Dame and Plantation American Heritage quarterback Torrance Gibson, who stuck with his commitment to Ohio State.
STILL WAITING ON
In all, Miami has officially announced the signings of 14 players not including five early enrollees.
The two commitments they had entering the day who had yet to have their names added to the signee list by 11:30 a.m. included four-star offensive lineman Tyree St. Louis (6-5, 300) of Bradenton IMG Academy and three-star receiver Terrell Chatman (6-3, 180) of Baton Rouge, La.
St. Louis, who visited the Florida Gators late, will stick with his commitment to Miami according to his school’s Twitter account. Chatman, meanwhile, has yet to announce if he will choose UM or TCU or Arizona State. He's expected to announce at 3:30 p.m.
Richard McIntosh, a burly 6-5, 278-pound defensive end from Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons, was the first Hurricanes commitment to get his signed National Letter of Intent through the fax machine in Coral Gables.
"I'm just excited to become a Hurricane and I'm ready to get this process done," said McIntosh, a three-star prospect who had 71 tackles and 11 sacks as a senior and passed on offers from Clemson, Florida, Georgia Tech, Louisville and Missouri to sign with the Canes.
"I didn't know I was going to be the first one, but I wanted to hurry up and get it in. It's special, something I'll remember the rest of my life."
McIntosh, committed to Miami since the summer, never visited any other schools. He said he didn't need to. Now, he's looking forward to enrolling in the first semester this summer and helping strengthen the UM defensive line.
"I'm just looking forward to bonding with all the players, getting to know the school," McIntosh said. "I'm a quick learner so I'm looking forward to learning the plays."
McIntosh was one of four Hurricanes commitments (they had 13 entering the day) to turn their signed National Letter of Intent in before 8 a.m. Wednesday. The others: three-star Venice offensive lineman Tyler Gauthier (6-5, 305), Miami Edison three-stary safety Robet Knowles (6-1, 185) and three-star defensive end Jamie Gordinier (6-4, 235) from Red Bank Catholic, N.J.
Aside from Johnson, a U.S. Army All-American, UM will have the nation's No. 1-rankd JUCO tight end Jerome Washington (6-5, 260), three-star JUCO offensive lineman Jahair Jones (6-5, 310), Royal Palm Beach three-star linebacker Charles Perry (6-1, 205) and three-star defensive end Scott Patchan (6-5, 237) of Bradenton's IMG Academy around for spring football.
On Monday afternoon I caught up with 247Sports National Recruiting Insider Ryan Bartow to talk about the Canes, Seminoles, Gators and a lot more including Dade and Broward Counties.
Bartow is one of the best in the business at covering recruiting. He said he’s gone to 350 high schools from last signing day to December, visiting six and seven schools a day not only in Dade, Broward, Tampa and Orlando, but the Carolinas, Virginia Beach, all the way up to New York. He’s also in charge of recruiting information for Dallas and Los Angeles.
So, I felt it was best to cover a lot of bases. Here’s our conversation. Note: You’ll want to stick around to get his take on UM.
Q: It feels like the national story line this year are the high number of decommitments and kids being dropped. Am I wrong? “In terms of verbal commits, sometimes these kids don’t have a strong home life or strong high school coach that really values the word commitment. Sometimes it's lacking unfortunately. It’s not all on the prospects. Some of it is on the colleges as well. They’ve cooled on kids. So it’s kind of a two-way street. Jordan Scarlett is on his third commitment. Jamile Johnson, a three-star safety out of Dallas, on Wednesday he’ll sign and that will be the fourth school he’s committed to. It’s more of a trend now in the last couple years than when I started this nine, 10 years ago. That was really rare. Now it’s more common.”
Q: There are more and more offers going out it seems but in the end it’s about who the schools continue to call. Bartow: “The thing that changed that about three years ago was that they took away the written offer. They were able to give a binding, written offer on Sept. 1 of their junior year. But once they took that away college coaches in some places like Temple and Syracuse would fly into South Florida and offer more than 50 kids each in a week. It’s really hard for the recruit and high school coach because it’s all basically verbal offers. The colleges get to get away with that because they’re isn’t anything binding. Imagine me trying to cover it. That’s why you have to use the terminology claimed verbal offer. Some of these coaches give them out left and right and some of them aren’t allowed to. It really varies.”
Q: Are there any schools having really strong classes that were unexpected? Bartow: “I’ll give you two. North Carolina State. This year they’re going to get four of the top seven kids in North Carolina for the first time ever. That’s something that program has never done. They’ve already got four-star DE Darian Roseboro and the No. 2 all-purpose back in Nyheim Hines already enrolled. They got four-star running back Johnny Frasier to flip from Florida State, which is unheard of in their program. And they got Emmanuel McGirt one of the best left tackle prospects in the country away from Georgia and UNC. All those kids normally leave the state and go to Tennessee, Florida State or Clemson. So that’s definitely one of the bigger surprises nationally. Also, Arizona State. I love their class. Knowing all the kids in Los Angeles, all the guys USC isn’t getting in Los Angeles most of the second-tier ones are going to Arizona State. They’re doing a great job. A lot of those kids used to go to UCLA and Oregon. Now Arizona State is getting them. I think Arizona State and N.C. State are two programs trending upward.”
Q: Which program has really disappointed this year? Bartow: “Florida. No doubt. They should never sign a class that isn’t Top 10 in the country. They don’t have to go outside their state to get a Top 10 class. They have this year. So, I think we have them 42nd. They’ll probably get a few more here to move them up. They’re definitely struggling. It will be a challenge for the new coach.”
Q: Are the coaching changes to blame for the struggles at UF? Bartow: “Coaching change plays in. At the same time, this new staff hasn’t developed any real momentum yet. The guys they are taking probably aren’t on the previous staffs board. As one of the top five jobs in the country you never see them ranked that low in terms of recruiting.”
Q: Who closes the strongest nationally on Wednesday? Bartow: “I think Auburn could close really strong late. They are in great shape with guys like Byron Cowart, potentially CeCe Jefferson. [Miami Norland cornerback] Carlton Davis they will get. Potentially [five-star offensive tackle] Martez Ivey. So I think Auburn is going to have a really good Signing Day. And overall I don’t think anybody is going to close better than the USC Trojans. They’ll get the top corner in the country in Biggie Marshall. They’ll get a five-star defensive tackle in Rasheem Green, four-star linebacker John Houston. The got four-star linebacker Porter Gustin out of Utah [Tuesday]. We’ve known for a long time it was going to be a great class for them and close strong because a lot of kids were going to announce on Signing Day. I think they’re going to close as good as anybody.”
Q: Your thoughts on FSU’s Class? Bartow: “Their class is awesome. Last year’s class was just as tremendous. This year is just as good. They have probably the top big back in the country in Jacques Patrick out of Orlando. They got a couple really good receivers in Da’Vante Phillips and George Campbell, big, tall, explosive guys. They also got the quarterback of the future in Deondre Francois, an Orlando native. Then, defensively they could potentially land five-star defensive tackle Terry Beckner. They have five-star cornerback Tarvarus McFadden. Obviously they got the No. 1 recruit in the country in Josh Sweat, a freaky defensive end out of Chesapeake, Virginia. This class is pretty loaded for the Seminoles. They have a very bright future.”
Q: How much is FSU cashing in on UM and UF struggles or is this a credit to Jimbo Fisher and his staff being good recruiters? Bartow: “It’s a combination of both. I think Tim Brewster does a good job in Dade County. Plus, their program is winning. Kids want to go where winning is at. They can get kids in. At the same time, they’re going and picking whoever they want in South Florida. They want a guy – they’re getting him. Whether it’s McFadden or Dalvin Cook or Ermon Lane, the list goes on. They’re even turning kids down that are four-star guys. So they go it rolling.”
Q: What about Miami’s class and losing Jordan Scarlett. Does Al Golden still get a pass because of the NCAA cloud and scholarship reductions? Next year’s class is rated No. 1. Bartow: “I think sometimes they just make the job harder than it needs to be. It’s easy to hit up six, seven schools here a day – not two or three. Because they’re all close to one another. You shouldn’t be flying to the Mid-Atlantic or Louisiana or wherever, Washington, D.C. to get your skill talent or back seven on defense. That’s all here. You don’t even have to go north of West Palm Beach to get that. So, that’s one of the biggest reasons you take the job at Miami. You don’t take that job for the facilities. You take it for geography. It happens to be located where there are the most Division I kids in the country. So, you can go elsewhere maybe to get some linemen, but everything else is within an hour or two of campus. Until you make that a priority and get your share – if not more – you’re just going to be average. So, I think that’s something they need to really amp up. I would use the guys who have the connections in terms of James Coley, Ice Harris that need to be down here and signing guys more. Recruiting is similar to football you need to use good personnel use. And you need to put the guys – if you’re a recruiter – in the hot places where they have connections. You don’t need to put other guys in those places just so then maybe your guys get credit for getting these kids. It’s a long topic. But at the same time, the personnel you get down here is not big linebackers. It’s not 6-4, plus defensive linemen. It’s not tall wide receivers. It’s fast and small with a lot of speed. So when you see 3-4, read-and-react defense and you see power run offense those personnel schemes really don’t fit what you can get personnel wise in your own backyard.”
Q: So is it more of a philosophy problem, too much Big Ten style for South Florida? Bartow: “I don’t think he plays Big Ten football. I think that’s what he knows. He came up under Al Groh, 3-4 read-and-react defense. So that’s all he knows. That’s what he’s going to implement. That’s fine in some places in the country. But in Florida, that’s not the consistent kind of personnel you can get.”
Q: Obviously there are still guys UM wants – Tavares McFadden, Dalvin Cook, Da’Vante Phillips – and they can’t get them. Do these kids look at the program and just say they’re 6-7, I don’t want to go there. Or is it scheme? Bartow: “I think it’s a combination of both. They’re in a place where there’s a lot going on here. It’s not some Southern town, college town where nothing is going on. Some of it is personnel use. Some of it is home game atmosphere. Some of it is a disconnect in terms of the defensive staff and local high school coaches. You’re in a place with a lot to do. You have to appease to these kids senses. Some of that is playing in wide open offenses and wide open defenses like Miami traditionally used to do. Kids want to play in that. They want to have fun. I think they don’t see that fun level right now.”
Q: Locally, who are kids they should have been on that would have signed with UM if they recruited them the right way? Bartow: “Where do I start? Sheldrick Redwine, the 6-1 corner they just offered a couple days ago. He’s got a ton of upside. He’s may end up going to Louisville, maybe Miami. DeAndre Baker, a four-star corner, U.S. Army All-American at Northwestern who ran a 4.4 at their camp and Miami never offered. He’s at a traditional Miami school and he’s on Georgia’s commit list and could flip to Texas. Shaquery Wilson who is going to West Virginia out of Coral Gables that was a Georgia commit. He’s 6-3 and could play either side of the ball. Juwan Taylor, a linebacker out of Hallandale, Miami didn’t offer and is going to Georgia. There’s a lot of other guys throughout Broward and Dade that they missed on. I mean everybody knew Da’Vante Phillips was going to Florida State for a year. You have guys like Chris Hart, the defensive end at St. Thomas that is going to Utah, that [assistant head coach] Dennis Erickson got and that I think will be a steal. To not really recruit Tarvarus McFadden, one of the top corners in the country, and the high school coach is Mike Rumph who played at Miami, that’s a head scratcher. I’m just trying to go school by school because there are two or three examples at every high school.”
Q: How many of these schools told you ‘Well, if Miami recruited me early it might have been different?’ Bartow: “Most of them when you talk to them and a lot of kids I’ve dealt with since they were sophomores – a lot of them grew up Miami fans. Until you put in the effort and stay on them everyday [it’s hard]. Now, South Florida is an interesting dynamic. A lot of them you don’t want to get their first verbal commit. You want to get their third. So, a lot of these kids can’t take unofficial visits. So they’re going to take official visits. A lot of them are good enough where they’re going to have spots open at these colleges. So, you have to kind of set some time back at the end of the class for some of these guys because they’re going to be late decisions. But then it’s worth it because they’re confident, they have speed and a lot of upside because all of their best football is down the road. That’s why everybody recruits South Florida.”
Q: How about the guys they did get? Your thoughts on Miami’s class overall (currently ranked 28th by 247Sports). Bartow: “I think traditionally you want a Miami class that is 75 to 85 percent from West Palm Beach down if you’re doing it right. I only see a couple guys in there. I’m not saying it’s a bad class. But if you’re doing it right, you don't need to be going north of West Palm to get most of what you need. They have some good players. I think Charles Perry can be a good linebacker for them out of West Palm. Jaquan Johnson, even though at 5-10 and maybe not great speed, he does have good instincts. I think Mark Walton is the best player in the class. He has the most upside and will help them right away. Wide receiver, they went for size at receiver. So they went out of region for that. [Terrell] Chatman has a lot of upside. [Lawrence] Cager has a lot of upside. He’s long, has speed. I think [Hayden] Mahoney would be a good offensive line take. A lot of those offensive linemen they didn’t really beat anybody else out for. Then, defensive line is the biggest need in the program. [Richard] McIntosh has some upside scheme wise. But I didn’t really see them filling that need in terms of defensive tackle. That’s two years in a row they’re going on. That’s definitely a question mark for the future.”
Q: Which recruits does UM add here late? Bartow: “I said this to a different publication too. For Miami’s class, it’s really about holding onto the guys they have. I don’t see them adding too much. I mean [cornerback] Marcus Lewis is going to choose between Miami and Kentucky. But he has some academic concerns. He could be a Prep School guy. But again, you’re going to Washington, D.C. to get a guy that is mass produced in South Florida. At the same time, they’re going to try to hold onto Chatman. At QB they hosted Torrence Gibson over the weekend. He’s not a fit for what they do at Miami or LSU. He’s more of a fit for what they do at Ohio State and Auburn as a dual-threat guy who wants to stay at that position. That’s going to be a hard one as well. And then some of these defensive linemen and linebackers they’re in on we’ll see if they can get any of them. I don’t see much of a splash. Antonio Callaway, even with all those connections at Booker T., I wouldn’t be surprised if he went elsewhere. Jordan Scarlett kind of added to [the downtrend]. I think they lead the country in decommitments. I don’t see much of a big close. If anything it might be the opposite.”
Q: Do you have a list of decommitments by school somewhere? You sure Miami leads? Bartow: “I don’t think it’s even close.”
Q: So is Miami’s class still decent in your eyes? Bartow: “In terms of what they want to do in terms of building it into a Virginia, Al Groh type of program you have guys that can fit into their read and react scheme and power game, a lot of developmental guys. But it is disappointing in terms of geography. I mean, why are you going to take the Miami job if you’re not going to over recruit these awesome counties of Broward and Dade? It’s kind of defeating the purpose of the job and the location.”
Q: Is there a coach out there you feel is a good fit for Miami? Bartow: “No doubt. If they went for a Miami guy like a Mario Cristobal that understands, respects the talent here, that wouldn’t go chasing his tail out of region for guys, knows the second and third tier recruits in Broward and Dade are better than the first almost anywhere else in the country, and has a great rapport with the high school coaches, 7-on-7 coaches, the people on the street and would bring in a tempo, spread offense like Booker T., like Auburn and Oregon, that would put butts in the seats and points on the board that would make local studs want to again play there. And everyone in America knows what happens when the local studs stay home and play for the Canes. They are then the best of the best.”
Hurricanes 2015 Recruiting Class (All rankings are 247Sports Composite)
Early Enrollment (5)
Mercer County CC
Royal Palm Beach, Fla.
Bradenton IMG Academy
Brooklyn ASA College
Miami Booker T. Washington
West Hills Chaminade, CA
Tyree St. Louis
Bradenton IMG Academy
Calvert Hall College, Mary.
Birmingham Spain Park, Ala.
Baton Rouge Central, La.
Ft. Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons
Red Bank Catholic, N.J.
Malvern Prep, Penn.
Bradenton IMG Academy
Before we hear coach Al Golden's take Wednesday on Miami's 2015 Signing Class, I sought the opinion of a handful of recruiting services and scouts to provide unbiased takes on the 18 players currently listed as commitments.
Let's get to it.
1. Mark Walton, RB, Miami Booker T. Washington, 5-10, 179
> Background: A Canes commitment since Sept. 29, 2013, the four-star recruit was bumped up from the Class of 2016 to 2015 so he only played three years of high school ball. He visited West Virginia late in the process but never swayed. He ran for 1,470 yards, 22 TDs and caught 24 passes for 282 yards and four TDs as a senior. Rivals.com rates him UM’s top recruit. ESPN, 247Sports also rate him a four-star recruit.
> Scout's take: "He's an every down back. I think he's a kid that can play right away and be part of the rotation, share carries with Joseph Yearby. Walton and [former Hurricanes commitment Jordan] Scarlett were different style backs. Scarlett was more Marshawn Lynch. He's more a Reggie Bush, Duke Johnson, move him around type of guys who can play in space, has more lateral quickness. Walton is a little more versatile. He's their guy for the next three years."
> My two cents: Hard to argue with the scout's take. I thought all along Walton was the best player in this class. To me, he's Duke Johnson with better hands.
> Background: Committed since August and never made trips elsewhere. U.S. Army All-American finished his senior season with 41 tackles, 3 INTs, 2 fumble returns for TD and a 58-yard punt return for a score. Rivals dropped him from a four-star recruit to a three-star recruit recently. Two-way star at Killian most of his career and four-time All-Dade First Team selection. Killian coach Corey Johnson has compared him to former FSU safety Lamarcus Joyner, whom he coached.
> Scout's take: "He'll be a role player immediately in the secondary, gives you a guy that can provide depth. He's a smart football kid, has a high football IQ. It's not going to take him long to learn the system and play right away. I think he'll be an impact player on special teams. He can be a 2, 3-year starter and All-ACC defender down the line."
> My two cents: He's the best open field tackler I've seen at the high school level locally in quite some time. If he stays healthy, he'll be Miami's best all-around safety since Ed Reed.
3. Lawrence Cager, WR, Towson, Maryland, 6-5, 195
> Background: U.S. Army All-American visited Alabama, but secured his commitment to UM after his official visit to Coral Gables. Said he’s now 100 percent with the Canes after spending time with his future QB Brad Kaaya. ESPN, Rivals, 247Sports rate him a four-star recruit. Cager picked UM at the U.S. Army All-American on Jan. 3. Rivals said he had over 800 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns as a senior. Said on his Hudl page he runs a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash.
> Scout's take: "Watched him at the Nike Camp in New Jersey and also at the Rutgers camp. Big, long receiver, physical, who will fight for the football at its highest point. He’s not a burner, but gets good body position. He can jump, has good body control and concentration in the air. Any time he has a one-on-one matchup he goes up and gets the football. I want to say he’s underrated even though he picked up huge offers. He’s definitely a player and with his size you can expect he’ll have an opportunity to play from Day 1. He’s a full-grown receiver. I’m 6-4 and I look up to the kid when I talk to him. He reminds of Mike Williams, who played at USC."
> My two cents: Even if he ends up the only receiver in Miami's class it's not the end of the world. UM has already loaded up on receiver commitments in 2016. Cager looks like a No. 1 guy down the line.
4. Bar Milo, OL, West Hills Chaminade, Calif., 6-6, 270
> Background: Semper Fidelis All-American and four-star prospects didn’t take visits elsewhere. Brad Kaaya’s former left tackle trimmed down from 315 to 270. ESPN, Rivals rate him a four-star recruit.
> Scout's take on ESPN: "Milo comes across as an OL that will line up and battle defenders to try and get the job done. The method is not always pretty, but he is going to give effort and fight. Shows flashes to execute with technique and once he can more consistently blend that nastiness with the technique he can be a very effective OT at the college level."
> My two cents: I'd be surprised if he isn't in the rotation as a true freshman. Whether that's at guard or tackle remains to be seen.
5. Tyree St. Louis, OL, Bradenton IMG Academy, 6-5, 300
> Background: A Canes commitment since July, the four-star prospect visited Florida over the weekend and is considering flipping on Miami. The starting left tackle on his high school team, ESPN rates St. Louis as UM’s top recruit. Losing him at a position of such huge need would hurt.
> Scout's take: "He's young, but he's improved a lot. He went from a question mark to one of the better linemen in the state as a senior. He's more of an interior guy to me. I don't think they need him to start. He has a chance to backup though. He's long and pretty good prospect down the road for them."
> My two cents: I'm beginning to think he won't be a part of this class.
> Background: Rated the nation’s No. 1 JUCO tight end by 247Sports. Should see immediate playing time with Clive Walford gone. Had 24 catches for 510 yards and TDs last season. ESPN rates him a four-star recruit.
> Scout's take: "He’s a big bodied kid with good athleticism for his size. Good hands. He can play in-line or be flexed out. Ultimately, if it didn’t work out at tight end the kid could be an ideal tackle. He could probably even play some H-Back. He can make some plays after the catch with his brute force and ability to break tackles by running through guys. He’s tough to bring down. He’s a big target. You can get a clear shot on him, but he keeps driving his legs and picks up the first down. He can beat defenders in zone spots, posting guys out. He can force mismatches against smaller linebackers. If you recruit a JUCO kid you expect them to come in and play right away for you. He definitely has the drive and skill set to do it. Physically, he’s ready. He’s a big strong kid that will force a lot of mismatches and be a huge outlet target for his quarterback."
> My two cents: I've seen No. 1 ranked JUCO tight ends come in here before and fall flat on their face. Miami can't afford that now.
7. Scott Patchan, DE, Bradenton IMG Academy, 6-5, 237 (already enrolled)
> Background: Hurricane legacy was injured his senior year of high school and is already enrolled at UM. ESPN, Rivals rate him a four-star recruit.
> Scout's take: "High energy kid, kind of how Anthony Chickillo came out from that area. He's a better athlete than Chickillo, has more speed on the edge. His only question mark is the knee injury. Does he overcome it or need a year? He understands the game. He's the type of kid that can be all-conference down the line. With the knee injury he may be a year away. He's a better version of Chickillo. I don't think he gets as big. He's more like 260. He'll be a starter at Miami for a few years."
> Background: UM is doing its best to hold onto the three-star receiver who took official visits to TCU, Arizona State recently. Miami will get his last official visit. Had a ridiculous one-handed catch in the back of the end zone his senior season dubbed “The Catch.” It has 23,484 views on Hudl.com. Rated a 4-star by ESPN and the 254th best recruit in its Top 300. Listed with 4.62-speed in the 40.
> Scout's take on ESPN: "We are a little perplexed that Chapman didn't receive more early attention. He's a naturally gifted pass catcher with innate hand-eye coordination and confidence. We wish he were a little more explosive in terms of top end speed, but he is fast enough and when you consider his playmaking ability once the ball is in the air he more than compensates."
> My two cents: Man it's going to stink losing this guy on Signing Day.
9. Jamie Gordinier, DE/LB, Red Bank Catholic, N.J., 6-4, 235
> Background: Committed to UM since June, he didn’t take any other visits. Finished season with 117 tackles, 1 sack, fumble return for TD and was New Jersey’s Defensive Player of the Year on state title team. Lined up at outside linebacker. Had offers from N.C. State, Syracuse, Purdue, Nebraska and Wake Forest.
> Scout's take: "The one area he can improve is using his length in his arms to extend and get off blocks, disengage better. But he will find the football and nail you. He’s long, athletic, runs well for his size. He has a good understanding of defensive concepts. But there’s still a little bit of rawness to his game simply because he’s played linebacker throughout high school and I don’t think that’s where he’ll be at the college level. He’s a 3-4 outside linebacker, defensive end. He’s so big he can probably put on weight and play tackle. He comes from a good high school program where he’s well coached."
> My two cents: If Al Golden and Mark D'Onofrio had a baby...
10. Charles Perry, LB, Royal Palm Beach, Fla., 6-1, 205 (early enrolled)
> Background: UM's longest-standing commitment in the class. Rated a four-star prospect by 247Sports, Perry was a two-way star in high school (1,081 yards, 10 TDs rushing as a senior). He had offers from Florida, FSU, Purdue, Nebraska and Cincinnati among others.
> Scout's take: " I've always been very high on him. He's similar to Jon Beason coming out of high school. Most underrated player in the class. He hasn't gone through the whole recruiting process like everybody else. He may end up the best linebacker in this class in the state anyway. I really like his ability to pop into coverage. High football IQ, understands the game. I think he won't just play on special teams. I think he has a chance to start. He's light now. But he'll be 230 soon enough. They can put weight on the kid."
> My two cents: Looks like a better version of Jermaine Grace to me.
11. Michael Jackson, CB, Spain Park Birmingham, Ala., 6-2, 190
> Background: Committed since late October. He said he was going to visit Clemson, but called it off and instead visited Middle Tennessee State. Rated the 56th best at his position by 247Sports.com. Scouts said Jackson’s size, physicality in press coverage is very good. Had 17 tackles, 2 INTs as a senior. Rivals.com rates him a 4-star recruit. His 40-time is listed as 4.67 seconds.
> Scout's take: "Jackson is a solid prospect and if he is not a corner he has the size to potentially help as a safety. He should make a lower level power conference school a good signee."
> My two cents: He's one of the kids I was actually impressed with on film. That said, with all the cornerbacks in South Florida this year it's a wonder why Miami had to go to Alabama to get their only corner.
> Background: Passed on offers from Ohio State, Virginia Tech and could contribute immediately with left tackle Ereck Flowers leaving school early for the NFL Draft. Committed Dec. 15 and signed four days later.
> Scout's take: "He's one of the top JUCO linemen in the country. Big, athletic, has a bit of a mean streak. He should be plug and play right away. That's why Miami wanted him."
> My two cents: He has to be plug and play.
13. Richard McIntosh, DE, Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons, 6-4, 270
> Background: Committed since July the three-star prospect took his only official visit to UM. Had 71 tackles, 11 sacks as a senior. Had offers from Clemson, Florida, Georgia Tech, Louisville and Missouri. Has a younger brother, running back Deon McIntosh, a 2016 recruit, Miami is very much interested in. Made All-Broward First team. The only recruit from Broward currently in UM's class.
> Scout's take: "He's another kid that took his game to another level as a senior. I don't know if you want him to start next year, but he he'll have a shot too with their issues on the defensive line. He doesn't have to get bigger or more physical because he already has the size to play at the next level. He's further ahead than some of the other guys there now. I think he's an All-ACC type kid with NFL potential down the line."
> My two cents: With Miami's issues at defensive tackle I get the feeling they are going to try and put weight on him.
14. Ryan Fines, DT, Bradenton IMG Academy, 6-4, 305
> Background: Committed to UM back in February and never swayed or visited elsewhere. Had 55 tackles, eight sacks, a safety in 10 games in senior season. Played in both 4-3 and 3-4 schemes. Only other offers were from USF and Arizona.
> Scout's take: "I don't know if he'll be a starter until late in his career, but he'll be in the rotation. He's high-energy off the bench, a lunchpail type kid that goes to Virginia Tech and make plays for them. He's not a high-end, high-ceiling type of guy. But he'll be productive player at Miami like the Matt Walters kid they had a couple years back."
15. Robert Knowles, DB, Miami Edison, 6-1, 185
> Background: Former FIU commitment flipped to the Hurricanes on January 4 after a stellar senior season. He had 44 tackles, three interceptions, three fumbles forced and two sacks in 10 games. Played a lot of deep centerfield in coverage, but also showed plenty of closing speed and big hitting ability. ESPN rates him a four-star recruit.
> Scout's take: "The kid had a good senior year. I've always been one about production. He produced. This is one area where Miami is kind of deep so he'll probably redshirt and be a starter down the road. He's not a need player, more of a luxury. Down the road, he can be a better version of Rayshawn Jenkins. He's better than some of the guys they've had in the recent past for sure."
16. Brendan Loftus, OL, Tallahassee Godby, 6-7, 270 > Background: A commitment since July, Loftus is rated the 88th best player at his position according to 247Sports.com. Had offers from Kentucky, Cincinnati, Ole Miss, Missouri and Wisconsin.
> Scout's take: "I think he's a project -- very similar to Sunny Odogwu. He's kind of stiff, not a super athletic kid. He's more of a right tackle than a left tackle. The question with him is how much weight he can put on. He's not really big and he doesn't have the structure to put on that much. He's probably more like 295 long term. He's not a kid I'm in love with. He might be a starter as a redshirt junior or senior. He's a clear backup at Miami."
17. Hayden Mahoney, OT, Malvern, Penn., 6-5, 280 > Background: Committed to UM since March, he didn’t take any other official visits. Rated 94th best at his position by 247Sports. Started at right tackle in a primarily run-based offense. Had early offers from Akron, Boston College and Villanova.
> Scout's take on ESPN: "Mahoney is a good athlete with the toughness we look for when evaluating offensive linemen for the next level of play; this is a developmental prospect needing time and a red shirt year to mature physically while improving playing strength and explosiveness."
> My two cents: Sure sounds like another project.
18. Tyler Gauthier, OL, Venice, Fla., 6-5, 305
> Background: Committed to UM since June and never visited elsewhere. Two-year starter at left-tackle in high school. Did a lot of run blocking. Other early offers were from Toledo and UCF. Arizona, Purdue, USF also reportedly offered him.
> Scout's take: "I saw him last summer at their camp. He's a guard/center. He's very similar to Derrick Morse who played at Miami. He's not going to be the most athletic guy, but he will punch you in the mouth, be a physical kid. He's not a finesse kid. They'll run behind him on 3rd and 1 and he'll move people. He can be a two-year starter down the road. He's definitely better than a Shane McDermott, Nick Linder type."
> My two cents: Miami can't afford to have more than three redshirt offensive linemen -- especially if St. Louis bails to Florida. I can also hear Art Kehoe saying he loves this kid's punch him in the mouth attitude.
The Miami Hurricanes keep picking up commitments for their top-ranked 2016 signing class. If only that Signing Day wasn't 53 weeks away.
Monday, less than 48 hours after picking up four commits on Junior Day, UM added another in Pembroke Pines Flanagan's Devin Gil (6-1, 200).
Unranked among recruits by 247Sports, Gil was the Falcons' third-leading tackler last season (64, six for loss) and had three interceptions and 1 1/2 sacks while playing both outside linebacker and safety.
"[UM] saw the way he played on the ball at safety, saw him down in the box when my son Devin [Bush] got hurt," Flanagan coach Devin Bush Sr. said. "It shows you the type of versatility you're going to get. They offered Gil last week. Temple and Miami are his only offers. The kid grew up liking Miami. I guess he got real excited about it after he was there Sunday. Right now, they got him listed as an athlete. The kid is so versatile he can play anywhere for them."
Bush Jr. and Stanford Samuels, a 2017 recruit and cornerback, also have Hurricane offers according to their coach. Flanagan reached the Class 8A state semifinals last season before losing to Columbus.
"I give everybody a shot with my son," Bush Sr. said. "My son is completely wide open. Because of where I went [Florida State] that's not a deterrent. The idea is to pick the best place for him. Devin has about 30 offers. Stanford has a lot of big SEC offers."
Bush Sr. said he's not sure why Gil isn't more highly regarded. But he expects everyone to start jumping on him as he nears his senior year.
"Just versatile," Bush Sr. said of Gil. "Talented, talented kid."
UM basketball coach Jim Larranaga, tickled to see a crowded interview room after the Canes' huge road upset over No. 4 Duke, opened by announcing that, upon further review, football players Corn Elder and D'Mauri Jones decided to stick to football and not play for the basketball team.
"Despite how excited myself and my staff were about having Corn Elder and D’Mauri Jones join us, those guys realized the amount of work they have to do academically and still with football, and the time commitment was just going to be way too much, so neither will be with us any further. Corn was with us two practices, D’Mauri just watched, and realized, `Well, maybe I need to just concentrate on the football.'’’
(My translation: Perhaps they realized just how serious college basketball is, how skilled the players are, how hard the practicees are, and it would be hard to just dabble in it. It requires a bigger commitment than they have time or energy to give)
In case you missed it, a frustrated Hurricanes fan holding a poster board with a 'Fire Al Golden' message made his way into the view of ESPN cameras Monday afternoon in Dallas, site of this year's national championship game.
Screen shots of the 'Fire Al Golden' poster -- when it was visible on TV during afternoon shows like The Herd with Colin Cowherd (you can spot it just over Tim Tebow's right shoulder in the photo here) -- made its way around social media rather quickly before the game.
Some UM students like Willy Herrera, a 22-year old senior studying accounting and finance in Coral Gables, are saying they wish they could express themselves in a similar way on campus, but claim they aren't being allowed to. Twice last week during men's basketball games (against Virginia first and then Boston College), Herrera said he and friends had 'Fire Al Golden' and 'Bring Back Butch' signs snatched away from them by UM staffers Jesse Marks (Associate Athletic Director for Development) and Alfonso Restrepo (Assistant director of Development).
I reached out to Herrera after the Virginia game (after a prominent former UM player reached out to me privately to let me know what happened to Willy and others) to get the details. Then I asked athletic director Blake James last Thursday (shortly after the press conference to announce UM's new deal with Adidas) if he thought the school was impeding on freedom of speech rights of Hurricanes fans and students displeased with Golden.
"It's a policy at the stadium that there aren't any signs [allowed in]," James responded. "So it wasn't that it was 'Bring Back Butch' or 'Fire Al' or anything like that. The policy at the BankUnited Center is that there isn't any signs allowed in. And that's for a variety of reasons.
"Obviously if you're sitting behind someone and they're holding up a sign the whole game you can't see the game. And so the environment we create is to allow the fans to enjoy the game. Like most facilities, rarely do you allow things that are going to hamper the experience of others around them."
During Donna Shalala's tenure the school has conveyed to students through various messages the administration supports their rights to freedom of speech and other civil liberties. James was adamant last Thursday the actions taken by UM staffers wasn't censorship.
"Obviously we want to recognize the freedom to express your opinions and it wasn't something that was done on that front," he said. "It's our policy that signs aren't allowed in that facility. Again, I'm not sure how they got by the security. If they had it hidden or how it was done. But, that is something that is a policy there at that facility."
James said UM doesn't make the policy at Sun Life Stadium, but the rules at the BUC are the same as the ones for Canes baseball games on campus.
"I'm pretty sure they don't allow signs or umbrellas in Sun Life Stadium," James said. "Again, most stadiums aren't going to allow you to bring things in that are going to hamper the viewing enjoyment of others around you."
Obviously there are quite a few others who enjoy the Fire Al Golden posters like Herrera, who grew up a Canes fan and graduated from Miami Columbus High before coming to UM.
"It's not the act of [my poster board] being taken away," Herrera said of why he's upset. "We're not allowed to say anything, and at the end of the day it is a school and it's for the student first. We also pay our athletic fee every year. A lot of us could argue what we pay for isn't what we expected when we decided to go and pay our athletic fee. A lot of these people who make these big decisions are in politics and are used to listening to constituents. It's just frustrating that we're trying every way of being heard and no one listens to us. Athletics is a big part of student life, a huge part of athletic experiences. Why can't we express ourselves?"
MORE QUESTIONS FOR BLAKE JAMES
I spoke to James for 10 minutes one-on-one about a variety of other issues last Thursday. Here is a short Q&A of the topics covered:
Q: It feels like there's been overwhelming constant negativity from fans regarding Al Golden being the football coach. What's your message to the fan when there is a level of vitriol we haven't seen before?
"We all want the same thing. We all want to see the program win and I'm confident -- and you spoke to Al -- Al wants to win. I know there's some out there that question if he's the right one out there to do it and if he can do it, and I still feel that he is the guy that can get it done. The only thing I would say is 'Hey that's what we all want.' We all want to see this program winning ACC championships because if you're doing that you're going to have a chance to win the national championship.' And we all know that's the end goal. Let's get an ACC championship and then let's have an opportunity at the national championship. So, it's really just to try to give -- as with any one of our programs -- give them the support they need and give them the resources to be successful.
"That's part of this [Adidas] deal. It's going to give me greater ability to give them resources they need to be successful. Whether it's the facilities we've done over the last couple years -- the student athlete training table, practice fields. We're going to put lights up out here within the next few months. It's putting all those things in place to allow us to have success. I understand people are unhappy about us being 6-7. But Al's not happy about being 6-7. I'm not happy about being 6-7. I think we just have different views on how do we get back to the top. And mine let's support and invest. Obviously others have different thoughts."
Q: Have you spoken to Al about changing his assistant coaches?
"Al and I talked about those sorts of things. But that's something I trust him to make the judgement on. We brought that conversation up and that's something that he constantly has to do. He has to do that every year. Obviously in a year that you're 6-7 it becomes a much more targeted area I think. As is the head coaching position when you go 6-7. I recognize that's what people are going to want to talk about right now. It goes into his evaluation every year. Whether you're winning a national championship or going 6-7 there's things you're going to need to change for next year. Because if you sit in the same spot everybody is going to pass you by. So it's Al's job to constantly evaluate his program and make sure we're doing the things we need to do to progress. Because you always need to make progress regardless of what you're record is. So those are things that I leave to him. But my challenge to him was evaluate everything and make the changes you need to make and then tell me what you need on resources so I can get us to where we need to be. We need to be winning the Coastal. We need to be going to the ACC championship, and again we need to be back on the national stage. And we're on the same page with that. And that's my commitment to him to get him back to that spot."
Q: I've had a couple Golden Canes boosters reach out to me and they've said the you and administration have told them there will be changes after Signing Day. What's been your message to them? What have you tried to convey to them?
"My message is the same to everyone whether it's a Golden Cane or anyone else is. I want to give them their resources. Any one of our programs. Obviously, football is the one that's the big one and football is the one that's been talked about the most. For me, it's just continuing push them to evaluate, push them to make sure I'm giving them the resources they need, and then continuing to look at our facilities and our infrastructure to see what we can do better. We need to get lights on our practice field. We need an indoor practice facility and I'm excited about what the Dolphins are doing with Dolphins Stadium. I think that will enhance some things too and should help create a better gameday environment for us."
Q: What can you tell us about the new gameday experience for Canes fans might be like with all the changes being done at Sun Life?
"The Dolphins are going to have a press conference on that. I'd rather just comment after that press conference just not to say anything."
Q: But it's going to be a better experience?
"Yeah. I would say with everything they've shared with me I'm confident our fans will feel it's a much better game day experience."
Q: Where are you in terms of season tickets sold for 2015?
"We still haven't even started because we're still waiting for the Dolphins to finalize everything. Once they finalize everything then we'll send out our renewal notices. We haven't sent out our renewal notices, which is again off schedule for us. Normally we would have already sent those out. Given this construction project it looks like it's probably going to be February when we send stuff out that normally would have been out by now."
Q: In terms of an indoor practice facility at UM how close is that to becoming a reality?
"We're working on it. It's hard for me to say how close we are. We're working on identifying the right spot for it. I think once we find the right spot the institution and our supporters, are in-line and recognize the need for it that we're going to be able to make it a reality. Right now, it's finding the right spot. Then it will be lining up the funding for it. But I'm confident we're going to make that happen."
Q: Marlins Park hosted its first bowl game. Any chance you might play a game there at some point? Maybe against FIU?
"I think it would be hard. We signed a deal with FIU and [athletic director] Pete [Garcia] had mentioned maybe we could look at doing something like that. Sun Life Stadium is our home filed and to go play somewhere else in our own market -- if it's not on a permanent basis -- I don't think it would make sense for us. But I'll continue to monitor what they're doing at Marlins Park. And if there's something we ever felt would be a fit for us we'd investigate the possibilities."
I don’t mean that in the literal sense, like the Hurricanes have yet to beat a high-end opponent under Golden's leadership.
I mean it in the sense of there’s nothing Golden can say at this point to overcome the mountain of negativity on top of him and this football program.
Al needs to phone a friend. And he needs you -- the Miami Hurricanes football fan –- to answer even if you don't want to.
I’ll admit it. I was a little angry late Monday night. About 10 days after a fourth consecutive loss to end the season, Golden’s first words weren’t delivered in a season-ending press conference (the way things are normally done) but through a one-on-one interview with Gary Ferman at Canesport. As a reporter, you get a little ticked off when you aren’t given equal opportunity.
Then, I read the Canesport interview and didn’t feel so bad. Golden's responses were what we expected. In the end, it hit me why Golden is going one-on-one with select reporters versus facing a firing squad at a press conference (there will be more one-on-ones by the way). He can control the message. He can keep tough questions private. We won't get to see him bristle.
That's smart from a public relations perspective. In the end, what is Al going to say publicly that’s really going to make anything better anyway? Will blaming himself put an end to the fire Golden chants? No.
Truth is, only actions will do at this point. And after 10 days of inaction, does it really look like coaching changes are going to be made –- forcefully by the administration, anyway? It would have happened already.
Which brings me back to my point: that mountain of negativity.
Al Golden can bunker himself in, ignore the noise and plead with his players and assistants to do the same. But the rest of us? We do live in that world. That includes recruits, parents, influential coaches, street agents, girlfriends, Ray-Ray on the corner, the woman who does Susan Miller Degnan's hair and a bunch of loud people on the radio and internet. And that’s where all this irreparable public relations damage is being done.
That’s where the University of Miami – the program you are supposed to be supporting – is losing a much bigger war.
It might look like a one man job, one man’s sole responsibility to clean up after himself, after Randy Shannon and Larry Coker. After all, Al's got the fat paycheck, those pillars and that orange tie. But this isn’t a one-man job. It’s on fans too. Even if it's a smaller role, you play one on Saturdays and all the days inbetween.
In case you didn’t know (I’ll put in capital letters to make it clear Canes Fam): WE’VE HEARD YOUR CRIES FOR CHANGE. We saw those banners fly over the stadium over and over again. We’ve read Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, seen the red cups form the phrase FIRE AL GOLDEN on the Palmetto Expressway overhang. We get it: You are not happy with the job Al Golden has done. We know you not only wanted Mark D’Onofrio gone before Christ was born, but you wanted him to legally change his name to Mark Onofrio too.
This voicemail box is full, people.
Now, it’s time to stop digging the hole even deeper for UM. You’ve got to lend the Canes a hand even if Golden can’t fix this mess himself; even if in the end he doesn't turn out to be the right man for the job. It’s time to give up on the dream of creating such a loud chorus of boos that it will result in Golden's firing, bringing Butch back or ending D'Onofrio's reign of terror.
Athletic director Blake James is not going to fire Golden anytime soon. He’s said it over and over again. James isn’t even forcing Golden to fire anyone on his staff. They are going to see this through – at least through 2015 in my opinion – whether you show up to No Life Stadium or not (and not that many of you were doing that before this 6-7 mess anyway).
Status quo is the message Golden Canes, the donors, have been receiving for weeks when they’ve voiced complaints and concerns or threatened to pull funds if changes aren’t made. One Golden Cane told me James and others have told them "to keep holding on, nothing will happen until Signing Day.”
So, there. Something might happen after Signing Day. There's a ray of sunshine, a glimmer of hope. But that's all it is for now.
That aura of negativity permeating 24 hours a day? That's not doing anyone any favors. Nobody in their right mind, who could be part of fixing the future at Miami, is looking at UM and saying ‘Man that place is sexy. Look at all the support that school gets. Those fans are the best.’
And I don’t mean coaches. You can throw money at any coach and they'll lie through their teeth about anything. They are mercenaries paid to put their heart into something.
I’m talking about kids -- from seniors on down to Pee Wee football players. I’m talking about the future. I’m talking about all those people who don’t live in Al Golden’s world. I’m talking about the people who can see, smell, taste, hear and feel the negativity and have it push them away. And right now on the nasty scale, that storm is a Category 5.
Blake James, the aforementioned athletic director who took over after Golden had already received his contract extension through 2019, tried to wish fans a Happy New Year on Twitter a few days ago. The Rated-R responses to James were sickening. These were some of the PG-responses:
@CanesAllAccess Bet you're glad 2014 is over. It was the year you proved to the world that you are the worst AD on the planet. #firegolden
I can't imagine what the response would have been had Golden or D'Onofrio tweeted something.
Wait, I can.
Brad Kaaya’s mother, Angela Means, has tried to stem this tide of negativity on Twitter and Facebook, urging fans to stick by the side of the players and the team. So has UM. Somehow, they've come up with another clever marketing campaign sure to win folks over.
The public relations machine in Coral Gables has been on overdrive promoting positivity and unity left and right. It’s obviously a direct rebuttal to what Duke Johnson’s mother and Clive Walford were putting out there in the aftermath of the bowl loss –- that there was a division among players and that players would transfer out if they didn’t have to sit out a year per NCAA rules. You know, all the kind of stuff that makes recruits feel warm and fuzzy this time of year.
In the end, though, it’s clear UM is fighting a huge uphill battle. A really, really, really big one. And one they likely won't win on Signing Day either. Recruiting wars for 2015 have already been lost long ago. More could be on the way in more decommitments.
Golden and his staff deserve a lot of that blame. Did you know Miami-Dade and Broward County produced 16 seniors this season that played in the three major All-American games? Do you know how many are headed to UM? Two: St. Thomas Aquinas running back Jordan Scarlett and Miami Booker T. Washington running back Mark Walton.
Not all of that failure can be traced solely to Golden or the results on the field. Some of it can be traced to the black cloud of negativity surrounding the program, the one fans have helped create.
Michael Irvin, the face of The U, the man who supports Miami through thick and thin, Mr. Positive, Mr. It’s going to get better -- even he couldn’t blame his nephew, Miami Westminster Christian All-American safety Tim Irvin, for skipping out on UM to head to Texas.
@VanessaMLane@CanesFootball I said I would stay away from this. But can u blame him? He lives in Miami & hears how peeps are killing the Coach.
Pinning blame on fans for the program’s current state of affairs isn't the idea here. The players and coaches deserve all that blame –- Golden the biggest chunk of that.
You can’t have fewer wins over FBS schools (5) in 2014 than potential NFL Draft picks in 2015. You can’t keep pointing to an NCAA cloud that “devastated the program” when the basketball team won an ACC title while said cloud was hanging over its head too. And you just can’t keep harping on a convenient argument (we improved from 90th in 2013 to 15th in total defense in 2014) to show signs of improvement.
Nobody cares. Nobody wants to hear it because they’ve heard it all before. Fans want action. They want results. And if not, they want blood.
But in this case, there doesn’t look like there will be blood. No matter how loud the chorus gets, Blake James doesn’t look like he’s changing his mind or his coach.
So, my advice, take a step back and put your energy toward something you can help change. And that’s making the cloud over Coral Gables -- the real one -- a little smaller each day. Turn down the noise a little. Al Golden can pretend he doesn't hear it. It's what he does. But just remember everyone else in this world can hear it loud and clear.
Ray Lewis III, the son of former Hurricane and Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, is leaving UM for Coastal Carolina according to his Instagram account.
"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity," Lewis III wrote as the caption to a cartoon of Coastal Carolina's mascot holding a football. "If opportunity doesn't knock... build a door! #Round2"
Lewis III, a redshirt freshman cornerback, never played a down for the Hurricanes in his two seasons in Coral Gables and dealt with some off the field issues. He was suspended for the bowl game his freshman year.
Lewis was a three-star recruit and Semper Fidelis All-American as a two-way star at Lake Mary Prep, a small private school near Orlando.
There’s no defending Al Golden and the way his football team finished this season.
A record of 6-6 and being tied for last in a weak Coastal Division with the amount of talent UM had this season is just ugly. The Hurricanes should have been better than they were, and yes, this has all the same feel to it of Randy Shannon’s four years on the job.
There's been no significant progress. Just the same old mediocrity.
The numbers tell you a big part of the story: Golden is 28-21, 16-16 in ACC play. Shannon was 28-22, 16-16 in ACC play. Both coaches lost the focus of their teams for the final two games of their fourth seasons once they were eliminated from division contention.
It’s been equally embarrassing and abysmal for Canes fans to swallow.
But I’m here to tell you coaching has only been half of the problem during this 11-year run of average football. The other part: Nobody in charge seems to care as much as the fans or former players do about winning titles or shedding this new image of being average.
I’m not talking about Golden. He gets paid and is contractually obligated to care through 2019. I’m talking about the school president, athletic director, board of trustees on down. Those people. It’s one thing to be visible, clap and say the right things, be supportive. It’s another thing to invest in winning, to demand it, to expect it.
I’ve only been around this program as a reporter since about 2003, but I can tell you few people were more visible, more vocal and more passionate about winning on the field than former athletic director Paul Dee. Nobody demanded it more.
He was there for the good and bad after UM’s first run of titles was over in 1991. Dee arrived in 1993 and was in charge until 2008. He guided UM through the Pell Grant scandal, hired Butch Davis and then kept Larry Coker around to lead UM to its last national title in 2001.
You might remember that 2001 season for the title. I also remember it for what happened in June the summer right before it happened. Donna Shalala took over as president.
Shalala has done a tremendous job for UM, raising billions, being a leader. Brand new buildings have been cropping up all over campus for the past 13 years. She’s been there to support all the athletic teams, fighting the NCAA through the Nevin Shapiro mess (it would have been worse for UM if she wasn’t there in Indianapolis front and center). She’s done a lot of great things. Making sure the football program hasn’t slipped to where it is now isn’t one of them.
Since Dee stepped down in 2008 (it felt like his power was dwindling toward the end of his reign), UM has been through three athletic directors and the Shapiro mess. Meanwhile, the demand for excellence on the field –- the push for that sixth ring –- has quietly faded to the back burner. What we hear now is ‘Let’s win the Coastal!’
How did we get here? Here’s my theory: money.
UM did a lot of winning in the 1980s, 90s and early 2000s because they had a lot of great players and a lot of great coaches. But they did it without really spending a whole lot of money on the coaches, the facilities, their home stadium or anything else. College football was relatively small back when the good times started. Howard Schnellenberger figured out he had the most talent-rich backyard in the country and laid the foundation. State of Miami he called it.
In the end, though, there’s a reason Miami went through a number of coaches while Florida State held onto Bobby Bowden and Florida had Steve Spurrirer for years. When college coaches started making more money, Bowden and Spurrier got paid. Why did Schnellenberger leave UM after winning the title in 1983? The USFL was going to pay him more. Jimmy Johnson? Dennis Erickson? Butch Davis? They went to the NFL too. You might remember UM hired all those guys without really breaking the bank for any of them.
That happened for years with assistant coaches too. Remember Rob Chudzinski? Mark Stoops? Dave Wannstedt? The Canes had a pretty good run on assistants when coaches were willing to take a little less money to build their resumes before moving onto bigger and better things.
What’s happened over the last decade? Well, it’s not just that Miami’s remained cheap. It's also that everybody else has been raising their game too. New TV contracts and conference affiliations have put schools that once couldn’t stay on the same field with UM’s team speed on equal or better footing with the Canes everywhere else.
Up until the last year or so, UM’s facilities were considered among the worst for a power conference school. Now, the Canes are better, but still below average of what Top 25 programs have to offer. Have you seen what they’ve got in places like Alabama, Oregon, Texas, Florida State and Florida? Heck, scouts tell me all the time there are teams in non-power conferences with indoor practice facilities and all kinds of stuff UM doesn’t have.
Attendance is another issue. Say what you want about former greats not caring about playing in a half-empty Orange Bowl on some Saturdays when UM played snoozers against weak Big East teams, but the OB never felt as empty or lifeless as Sun Life Stadium has for UM over the last seven years.
What five and four-star can’t miss recruits would want to come play at No Life Stadium when just about every other school in a power conference puts UM’s real attendance and atmosphere to shame with on-campus stadiums? How can UM compete with that? Recruits nowadays care about everything –- not just about UM’s fading glory days or rich NFL history. That used to sell. Not anymore.
The saddest part of all of this isn’t that the Canes are behind on many fronts aside from coaching. It’s that Dee really was the last guy in charge at UM that made you feel like somebody was really fighting to maintain a gold standard.
Remember that ticket advertisement UM put out back in June urging fans to “GO TO FEWER GAMES!” The message was buy tickets for Florida State and North Carolina because we know you won’t show up to the other games. How pathetic was that?
UM likes to portray itself as frugal because it has to be. Small, private school setting, no stadium of its own. But don't let that fool you. The Canes have dough. They've received all the same TV deal money and conference money every other ACC school has. It’s just that the dollars don’t seem to be going back into football enough.
How do I know that for sure? I don’t. UM is a private school. They don’t share one ounce of information on how much they spend on coaching or the football budget in general.
But this is how you know they aren’t keeping up with the Joneses when it comes to paying football coaches: the results. Outside of former offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch (now with the Jacksonville Jaguars) how many assistants since Shannon took over in 2007 have moved onto bigger and better jobs? Has anybody seen or heard from Patrick Nix? Mark Whipple in now the head coach at 3-9 UMass. I can tell you nobody has been trying to pry away the assistants who have been here the last four years.
Athletic director Blake James said last week -- before the Pittsburgh loss -- Golden wouldn’t be fired after this season regardless of how things panned out. James also said Golden reserved the right to make all changes on his staff. No moves would be forced upon him.
At this point, I would have to expect Golden will make moves. He has to. Status quo isn't cutting it.
It wasn't at Florida. That's why the Gators cut coach Will Muschamp, who was hired right around the same time as Golden. He went 28-21, but won the SEC East and made it to the Sugar Bowl in 2012.
Sunday, Nebraska fired Bo Pellini because his team finished 9-3. Pellini won at least nine games every year he was there and finished 67-27 combined. You know who pulled the plug on Pellini? Former UM athletic director Shawn Eichorst, who spent two years at UM, and gave Golden his extension through 2019 because of how he handled the Shapiro bomb that was dropped on him shortly after getting the job.
Ironically enough, Eichorst told Nebraska reporters Pellini was fired because he “didn’t win the games that mattered the most.”
Remember when winning the games that mattered, mattered at Miami?
Golden hasn’t done that yet. That’s a fact. His biggest win to date? Over 9-3 Duke this year.
Bottomline: he should have won more with this year’s team. The Coastal, weak as ever, was there for the taking. The Hurricanes, potentially with four top 100 picks in next year’s draft (only Florida State and Oregon have more), grossly underachieved.
It's hard to explain some of the things that happened this year. How does five-star cornerback Tracy Howard start a ton last year and regress to hardly playing this year? How did Stacy Coley, one of your most electrifying players last year as a freshman, regress? Why was Dallas Crawford -- one of your 22 best -- sitting behind a former walk-on most of the season?
The one thing I don’t blame Golden for -- not being able to get his team up for these last two meaningless games. The Canes did the same to Shannon. When UM lost to FSU -- after investing all it had to beat the Seminoles and keep its Coastal Division hopes alive -- there was nothing tangible to play for anymore. Virginia and Pittsburgh, meanwhile, were fighting to become bowl eligible.
Golden was essentially a coach without a carrot to dangle. In the end, do you think it really mattered to the players if they were 8-4 or 6-6 when they couldn’t win the one thing they set out to accomplish in the beginning? Maybe to the fans, but certainly not the players.
Here is where we’re at: If UM’s leaders want to get serious about winning again it starts with who is chosen to replace Shalala.
That new school president can’t be satisfied with just winning the Coastal Division or selling fans on what this week’s uniform combination is going to be. They don’t want to see another 3Penny Film about how hard guys are working, read another report about where UM’s next recruiting class is ranked or be reminded about that NCAA cloud Golden had to deal with.
Canes fans are tired of all that. They want results.
Enough quality talent has come and gone through Coral Gables over the last 11 years -- no, not as frequently as it did before, but enough -- to win the Coastal at least once. Miami hasn’t done that.
A huge part of that failure is on coaching. The bigger part of that is how much financial support Shannon and Golden have received to go out and bring in quality assistant coaches and coordinators to help make these players better and get the most out of them. In the end, you can have a real nice car, but you can’t expect to win the race if you’ve got a below average pit crew you’re paying with nickels and dimes. You’re giving the driver no chance.
The proof is in player development. Anybody remember the last time UM had a pass rusher opponents feared while he was here? No, but we’re quick to point out how good Olivier Vernon looks with the Dolphins. How about a defensive tackle who plugged the middle and was a menace? Vince Wilfork is in his 10th season in the NFL. How about a ball-hawking safety like Ed Reed? Where’s that next guy been?
Until Brad Kaaya showed up, we were all wondering when UM was going to have a top flight quarterback again.
Why? Yes, there have been recruiting mistakes. Lots of them.
Much of the local talent UM has been able to hang onto lately didn’t pick the Canes because they were an elite program. They stayed home for the love of The U, because they grew up rooting for Sean Taylor and dreaming of being Canes.
Imagine where UM would have been this season if Duke Johnson hadn’t decided to stick with the hometown Canes even after they fired Shannon? How about Denzel Perryman? Or Phillip Dorsett?
In the end, this blog post isn't a fire Golden letter or even a fire Mark D’Onofrio letter.
I’m just saying UM’s problems extend beyond Golden. It extended beyond Shannon.
The U needs somebody in charge to really care about how far this program has fallen, come up with a plan to right the ship, demand excellence and invest in the program all out.
Right now, to me, it just seems like the folks in charge in Coral Gables are happy if you show up for two games a year. They're okay with mediocrity.
Come January it's going to be 12 years since the Miami Hurricanes last played for a national championship, and 11 since they went to a major bowl game.
Mediocrity has become the norm in Coral Gables. Let's count the ways:
> Counting Miami's 6-5 record heading into Saturday night's regular season-finale against Pittsburgh (5-6) at Sun Life Stadium, the Canes have lost at least four games every season since 2006. That happened only three times at UM from 1983 to 2003.
> Miami hasn't had a double-digit win season since 2003. Meanwhile, rivals Florida and Florida State have had four double-digit win seasons each and they've won three national titles combined.
> Since joining the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2004, the Canes have floundered at 81-55 overall. That's fewer wins than six other teams in the conference: Virginia Tech (104), Florida State (103), Clemson (93), Louisville (92), Georgia Tech (87) and Boston College (82). Meanwhile, lowly Wake Forest and Duke have each won division titles while the Hurricanes simply tied for one and had to vacate it because of impending NCAA sanctions.
When will the mediocrity end? When will UM become a real threat for a national title again? Al Golden's youngest Canes have talked about that. Several have said they won't accept the losing.
"Me, Brad [Kaaya], Chad [Thomas], Braxton [Berrios] we talk about [national championships] a lot, saying that next year we have to turn things around, do what we've got to do to get to that spot," said freshman running back Joe Yearby, who went 53-5 and won three state titles in his four years at Miami Central.
"We've got to shoot higher than [the Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division Title]," Yearby continued. "We've got to take everything day-by-day to accomplish everything we have to do. But we believe we can be champs again. That's still very much a goal."
Thomas, a five-star recruit who won a national title at Miami's Booker T. Washington last season, has said in the past he expects the Canes to win a national title while he's here -- and that he hates losing.
Before Miami's 30-13 loss at Virginia last Saturday, Berrios said the Hurricanes should win the remainder of their games. He said UM's three-game win streak following its loss to Georgia Tech -- and close loss to Florida State -- was a sign UM is getting closer to being what it wants to be.
Kaaya, UM's brightest young star, spoke this week about what it has been like losing five games. Kaaya went 26-4 and won a state title in California.
“I see it all as a part of the whole progression,” Kaaya said of the ups and downs. “It’s all a test; every single game is a test. I don’t know if God is testing me or something like that, but I take it all as a trial or a test and just get better. That’s my whole view on it.
"College football, the way it’s going now, it’s almost like every game is a playoff. You win one game two weeks ago and the next game you lose, everyone is pissed off so you’ve just got to keep playing. It’s week-by-week warriors.”
Golden this week said he doesn't "think anybody will ever get used to losing" at UM and he's glad his young players are talking about winning national titles.
"Nobody likes to lose, nobody wants to lose," he said. "Saying that is one thing. The other thing is addressing the things we need to address individually and collectively, charting a course and getting it fixed in the time span we have.
"I want them to be winners. I want them to be champions. I want them to scratch, claw and compete. Joe Yearby is one of those guys that I'm glad he feels like that because when he practices it looks like that. We want everybody in the organization to think like that."
Restocking the roster with the kind of talent it once had hasn't been easy. UM had 10 first round picks and 18 top 100 picks on the last team that played in the Orange Bowl (drafted between 2004-07).
Randy Shannon coached Miami's last first round pick, Kenny Phillips, in 2008. Shannon had nine players drafted with top 100 picks during his tenure and another four taken in 2012 he recruited to the program.
Golden had those four top 100 picks that were Shannon recruits his first year at Miami (Olivier Vernon, Sean Spence, Lamar Miller, Travis Benjamin) but has had just one other top 100 pick (Brandon Linder) during his tenure. That will change this May.
Scouts believe UM could have as many as five players (Ereck Flowers, Duke Johnson, Denzel Perryman, Phillip Dorsett and Clive Walford) taken among the first 100 picks. NFLDraftScout.com listed four Hurricanes as top 100 picks this week (Dorsett not among them). Only Florida State (10) and Oregon (5) have more than that. UM is tied for the third-most with Louisville, Washington, Alabama and Baylor. Only Washington has as many losses as UM. The other teams are all ranked in the Top 25.
"Miami has dynamic NFL talent and everybody can see it," said Rob Rang, a writer for NFLDraftScout.com. "They also have a very talented, but inexperienced freshman quarterback. To me, they've just had some trouble late in games they could have won. That's been the difference."
Most NFLDraftScout.com Top 100 prospects by college
> Florida State (10): QB Jameis Winston (3), DT Eddie Goldman (20), CB PJ Williams (27), CB Ronald Darby (47), DE Mario Edwards (50), OT Cameron Erving (54), OG Josue Matias (59), WR Rashad Greene (68), OG Tre' Jackson (71), TE Nick O'Leary (90)
> Oregon (5): QB Marcus Mariota (1), CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (32), DE Arik Armstead (46), C Hroniss Grasu (82), OT Jake Fisher (87)
> Miami (4): RB Duke Johnson (51), LB Denzel Perryman (58), TE Clive Walford (74), OT Ereck Flowers (77)
> Alabama (4): WR Amari Cooper (5), SS Landon Collins (7), RB TJ Yeldon (55), OG Arie Kouandjio (61)
> Baylor (4): DE Shawn Oakman (12), OT Spencer Drango (49), QB Bryce Petty (88), WR Antwan Goodley (100)
> Louisville (4): DeVante Parker (18), FS Gerod Holliman (28), DE Lorenzo Mauldin (36), CB Charles Gaines (52)
> Washington (4): OLB Shaq Thompson (6), DT Danny Shelton (22), CB Marcus Peters (34), DE Hauoli Kikaha (48)
> USC (3): DT Leonard Williams (2), WR Nelson Agholor (73), RB Javorious Allen (75)
> Auburn (3): WR Sammie Coates (39), C Reese Dismukes (63), DT Gabe Wright (78)
> Fresno State (3): FS Derron Smith (44), WR Josh Harper (53), DT Tyeler Davison (96)
> Michigan State (3): CB Trae Waynes (13), FS Kurtis Drummond (93), RB Jeremy Langford (97)
> History: Miami leads 6-5 and won last year's meeting 45-26 at Sun Life Stadium.
> Background: Cavaliers, who beat Louisville earlier this year and fought UCLA tough at home before falling 28-20, have dropped four in a row and are playing for their bowl lives with an extra bye week to prepare for UM. The Hurricanes are coming off a tough-to-swallow 30-26 loss at home to Florida State, but have played their best under Golden over the last five weeks.
> Favorite: UM by 5 1/2
> Counting recruiting stars - Miami: Canes have three Rivals.com five-star recruits (RB Duke Johnson, CB Tracy Howard, DE Chad Thomas), 15 four-star recruits (eight on defense), 22 three-star recruits (11 on each side), 3 two-star recruits (two offense) and 2 no-star recruits (starters Nantambu Fentress and Thurston Armbrister) on their depth chart. The draft: Among that group 10 players are projected to be taken in next year's draft according to NFLDraftScout.com. Those are: RB Duke Johnson (2nd RD), MLB Denzel Perryman (2nd RD), LT Ereck Flowers (2nd-3rd RD), CB Ladarius Gunter (4th RD), WR Phillip Dorsett (4th RD), TE Clive Walford (4th RD), DE Anthony Chickillo (5th-6th RD), LG Jon Feliciano (6th-7th RD), DL Olsen Pierre (6th-7th) and C Shane McDermott (7th-FA).
> Counting recruiting stars - Virginia: Cavalier have three Rivals.com five-star recruits who are all freshmen (RB Taquan Mizzell, DT Andrew Brown, S Quin Blanding), 8 four-star recruits (five on defense), 28 three-star recruits (17 on offense), 8 two-star recruits (four each side) and four no-star recruits on their depth chart. The draft: Among that group, only one player is projected to be taken in next year's draft according to NFLDraftScout.com. Strong safety Anthony Harris, tabbed a second to third rounder and the second best at his position.
> When Virginia runs the ball: The Cavaliers like to run a balanced offense, but the last two weeks they've been forced to throw more in losses to Georgia Tech (35-10) and FSU (34-20), their only double-digit losses of the season. Senior Kevin Parks (5-8, 200) gets the brunt of the work, but hasn't exactly dazzled along with the overall running game, which ranks 92 in yards per game (142.0) and 93rd in yards per attempt (3.81). The Hurricanes, meanwhile, have done a nice job since getting torched for 318 yards by Georgia Tech. UM has given up just 307 yards rushing on 111 carries since then (2.76 a carry). Parks did run for 130 yards last year against UM so the Canes can't sleep on him. Edge: Miami.
> When Virginia throws the ball: Sophomore quarterback Greyson Lambert ranks 91st in QB rating (116.42), 52nd in completion percentage (159.94) and has thrown more intercetions (9) than TDS (8). Five different pass-catchers have at least 20 receptions this year. The top receivers are senior Darius Jennings (24 rec., 466 yards, 2 TDs), junior Canaan Severin (34-441-4) and senior Miles Gooch (24-371-1). Mizzell catches a lot of balls out of the backfield (33-190-0) as does Parks (28-166-2). The Cavaliers rank 103rd at converting red zone trips into TDs (50%), but they are good on third down (44.10%, 38th). The Hurricanes, ranked 22nd in pass defense (192.9 yards per game) and 21st in opposing QB rating (110.13), faced a much more talented team last week. This week UM will likely be without starting safety Deon Bush, who leads the nation with five forced fumbles and has had a stellar season, but was listed as doubtful with a hamstring injury. FSU scored its final 13 points after Bush left the game against UM. Virginia has allowed just 12 sacks all season (19th fewest). UM has produced 25 sacks (38th most). The difference here could be turnovers. Virginia has coughed it up eight times in four consecutive losses. UM has taken it away 11 times over its last four games. Edge: Miami.
> When UM runs the ball: The Cavaliers held the nation's third-leading rusher, Pitt running back James Conner, to a season-low 83 yards back on Oct. 3. And now they'll take their shot at trying to slow down UM's Duke Johnson, who has eclipsed the 100-yard mark six games in a row and ranks eighth nationally with 134.3 yards per game. Virginia is giving up just 3.22 yards per carry this season (13th nationally) and 118.6 yards per game on the ground (15th nationally). A lot of what UM does running the football, though, will be predicated on how the Cavs line up defensively in pass coverage. When teams have lined up against the Hurricanes in zone, they've preferred to run and had lots of success doing that lately. Sophomore Gus Edwards, who missed the FSU game with an ankle injury, should be back for UM to provide depth. Still, this is going to be a stiff test for both sides. Edge: Split.
> When UM throws the ball: Virginia's defense, run by Jon Tenuta, lives and dies off turnovers. The rank eighth nationally with 95 points off 24 takeaways. The Hurricanes had been doing a good job with freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya protecting the football. But the Canes coughed it up three times last week against FSU including twice on fumbles by tight ends. Virginia's secondary has talent (freshman safety Quin Blanding has over 100 tackles) and experience with strong safety Anthony Harris and cornerback Brandon Phelps back there (65 starts combined). But they haven't been dominant. The Cavs rank 71st in passing defense (229.2 yards per game), 56th in opposer passer rating (12.32) and they've given up 16 TD passes (63rd) despite the 13 interceptions. They essentially live and die with the turnover and sacks (27, 28th most nationally). If Kaaya and the Hurricanes can throw against Virginia's Cover 2, Cover 4 and Cover 8 packages underneath they'll have success. UM struggled last week when FSU went from playing man-to-man in the first half to zone in the second. Edge: Miami.
> Special teams: Virginia kicker Ian Frye is a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award. He's made 17-of-20 field goal attempts this season. He's missed from 46, 52 and 50 yards out. UM kicker Michael Badgley made career-long 45- and 46-yard field goals last week against FSU, but had another extra point blocked and missed a 29-yard field goal. The Cavaliers haven't returned a kickoff or a punt for a touchdown and haven't blocked a punt, a field goal or extra point this season. They did surrender a kickoff return of a touchdown in the loss at BYU, but have only surrendered two kick returns of 30 yards or more all season. UM has allowed seven kick returns of 30-yards or more including one for a score against Louisville. Edge: Virginia.
> Prediction: Several signs point to a Canes letdown. There's the FSU hangover; Virginia, coming off a bye, is playing for its bowl life; it's going to be cold and in the 30s. Truth is Virginia isn't that good and Miami is motivated. The Cavaliers generate much of their offense off turnovers and if the Hurricanes can avoid those they should win this game easy. I'm betting on just one or two UM mistakes and more from the home team. UM 36, Virginia 22.