February 05, 2014

Jackson, Wyche officially signed by Hurricanes; Gray remains

The Hurricanes sports information department announced a little while ago that Booker T. Washington defensive end Demetrius Jackson and JUCO defensive tackle Michael Wyche have officially signed with the Hurricanes.

That now makes it 25 of UM's 26 commitments officially signed, sealed and delivered. 

Carol City athlete Trayone Gray remains the only recruit the Hurricanes have yet to officially announce as a signee. Gray signed his National Letter of Intent with UM this morning.

VIDEO: Chad Thomas, 5-star defensive end, talks signing with the Canes; Demetrius Jackson gets emotional

Here is what UM's top-ranked recruit, Miami Booker T. Washington defensive end Chad Thomas, had to say after announcing he was Coral Gables bound on Wednesday morning to our Andre C. Fernandez.

Be sure to check out how emotion his high school teammate and fellow Canes recruit Demetrius Jackson gets talking about signing with UM.

Hurricanes yet to announce official signings of three recruits

In case you haven't been paying close attention on National Signing Day, the University of Miami sports information staff has announced that 23 of the 26 commitments the Hurricanes had coming into Wednesday have officially signed with the program.

Who are three yet to be announced? Booker T. Washington three-star defensive end Demetrius Jackson, JUCO three-star defensive tackle Michael Wyche from East Los Angeles College, and Carol City three-star athlete Trayone Gray. All three are expected to be a part of UM's class and the two locals signed paperwork in front of reporters.

So what's the hold up? Could be a lot of things -- faulty fax machines, paper work might have something missing or there could be a red flag somewhere in UM's admissions.

We'll be sure to ask coach Al Golden about it if there isn't answer before then at 4 p.m. when Golden meets with the media.

Here is a link to where UM is posting its signees.

Signing Day goes on without many surprises -- good or bad -- for Hurricanes Wednesday morning

A year ago, Hurricanes coach Al Golden sat around the fax machine on National Signing with the knowledge that sooner or later the NCAA was going to come around to hand down penalties.

There were no such worries Wednesday -- just happiness -- as the Hurricanes reeled in their best signing class in Golden’s four years in Coral Gables.

Among the big fish UM reeled in: Miami Booker T. Washington five-star defensive end Chad Thomas and pass rushing teammate Demetrius Jackson, California All-American quarterback Brad Kaaya, three All-American offensive linemen and a quartet of talented defensive tackles led by 6-4, 287-pound Anthony Moten from nearby Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas.

“A lot better,” Golden told ESPN when asked Wednesday morning around 10 a.m. how this year’s Signing Day compared to last year.

“We’re excited. We had a chance to get through the NCAA investigation. We have a lot of kids that fill a lot of needs for us, particularly in the front seven, which we really think we did a great job there. Not to mention we just ended up getting Chad [Thomas] and Demetrius [Jackson] from Booker T., two really good pass rushers.”

The day could have gone even better had UM been able to pick up a couple of late additions. But alas, Booker T. Washington quarterback Treon Harris and Immokalee cornerback J.C. Jackson – who UM made strong late pushes for – both opted to sign with the Florida Gators.

Hialeah Champagnat defensive tackle Travonte Valentine, a U.S. Army All-American committed to the Hurricanes until January, opted to sign with LSU over UM.

“Not a surprise in the end, but still a crushing blow for Miami,” Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief of FUEL Recruiting, said of the 6-3, 338-pound Valentine. “That was the prospect they needed.”

Thomas, the 6-5, 240-pound Under Armour All-American who visited Alabama and Florida State over the last couple weekends, had UM fans nervous before making his announcement in front of family, friends and teammates inside Booker T. Washington’s auditorium.

"For the next four years I plan to be at... the University of Miami," Thomas said as he pulled out his Hurricanes jacket and put it on.

Golden told ESPN he was “absolutely concerned” Thomas might head to Alabama “until all the faxes” were in.

“I had a chance to talk to [his mother] Steph this morning. I was excited about that," Golden said. "Chad has been good. Obviously he’s valuable to us because he’s a pass rusher.

"So now we not only bring in some interior guys in [Michael] Wyche, [Calvin] Heurtelou, [Cortel] Jenkins and [Anthony] Moten, but we get the pass rushers we needed to get desperately in [Trent] Harris, Demetrius Jackson, Chad Thomas, Mike Smith, guys like that."

Jackson, 6-4, 225-pound athletic defensive end rated a three-star recruit, got emotional talking about his commitment to the Hurricanes. A basketball standout at Booker T., he only played football his senior season at the school. But he was impressive, earned All-Dade First Team honors and interest from Arkansas and Texas late.

“It means a lot man. Growing up right there on 17th and Overtown I never thought I would be going to the University of Miami and for football,” Jackson said. “It shows you God’s work. It’s an amazing feeling.”

Kaaya, a 6-4, 215-pound four-star quarterback from West Hills, Calif., woke up early in the morning out on the West Coast to be one of the first players to fax his signed national letter of intent to UM. Malik Rosier, a 6-2, 205-pound dual-threat quarterback from Mobile, Ala., also signed with the Canes.

"Both of those young men came to our camp," Golden said. "We had a chance to see them live and how they operate, how they conduct the huddle and really their football intelligence. Brad, at first is a 6-5 guy. Excellent pocket passer, really can step up, did a tremendous job in the Semper Fidelis [All-American] game. Malik has a big strong arm, another bright young man, a leader. Malik is a little more versatile, can pull the ball down and run. Those two guys are really guys we think can make an impact at playing time for us."

Kaaya wasn’t the first recruit to get his fax into UM. That honored belonged to St. Thomas Under Armour All-American center Nick Linder, the 6-3, 273-pound younger brother of former Hurricane Brandon Linder.

"To be the first one in and locked is exciting," Linder said. "The coaches told me to try to be the first one in it at 7 a.m. So I was here at 6:59 to send it through."

Being a leader like his older brother, who started more than 40 games in his career for UM, is important to him the younger Linder said.

"It's definitely who I want to be," Linder said. "I want to come in and make an impact and that's what I'm working for right now."

UM's class came into the day ranked eighth nationally by ESPN. Does Golden think UM will improve or possibly slip?

"I think will stay around the same," Golden said. "I think we signed 26 guys, maybe 27 when it is all said and done. But it’s really the quality of it. If you look at the offensive line with [early enrollees Trevor] Darling, Kc McDermott and Linder, we’re really excited about those young people.

"Joe Yearby, a great tailback from Miami Central. He fit a great need. We needed long receivers this year and we did that. [Darrell] Langham is 6-4 ½, Tyre Brady is taller than me at 6-3, [David] Njoku. Then we went into Georgia to get an H tight end, somebody that can move and get vertical in Chris Herndon. So, it’s a good group and a group we’re excited about it.

"And we topped it off on defense with the two safeties we ended up getting in Kiy Hester and Marques Gayot. It’s a really good day for the Miami Hurricanes. We’re really excited to move forward now without anything hanging over our heads."

Golden tells ESPN Signing Day has been a really good day for the Canes

Hurricanes coach Al Golden will address the local media at 4 p.m. today on the Hurricanes recruiting class. But he gave ESPN, on campus at 13 of the nation's premier schools, an interview moments after Chad Thomas and Demetrius Jackson announced their pledges to the Hurricanes.

How does this Signing Day compare to last year?

"A lot better," Golden said. "We’re excited. We had a chance to get through the NCAA investigation. We have a lot of kids that fill a lot of needs for us, particularly in the front seven, which we really think we did a great job there. Not to mention we just ended up getting Chad [Thomas] and Demetrius [Jackson] from Booker T., two really good pass rushers."

Was Golden concerned he might lose Thomas to Alabama?

"Absolutely concerned," he said. "Concerned until all the faxes are in. I had a chance to talk to [his mother] Steph this morning. I was excited about that. Chad has been good. Obviously he’s valuable to us because he’s a pass rusher.

"So now we not only bring in some interior guys in [Michael] Wyche, [Calvin] Heurtelou, [Cortel] Jenkins and [Anthony] Moten, but we get the pass rushers we needed to get desperately in [Trent] Harris, Demetrius Jackson, Chad Thomas, Mike Smith, guys like that."

The Hurricanes netted two quarterbacks -- Brad Kaaya and Malik Rosier -- and Golden believes both can make an impact.

"Both of those young men came to our camp," Golden said. "We had a chance to see them live and how they operate, how they conduct the huddle and really their football intelligence. Brad, at first is a 6-5 guy. Excellent pocket passer, really can step up, did a tremendous job in the Semper Fidelis [All-American] game. Malik has a big strong arm, another bright young man, a leader. Malik is a little more versatile, can pull the ball down and run. Those two guys are really guys we think can make an impact at playing time for us."

UM's class is ranked eighth nationally by ESPN. Does Golden think UM will improve or possibly slip?

"I think will stay around the same," Golden said. "I think we signed 26 guys, maybe 27 when its all said and done. But it’s really the quality of it. If you look at the offensive line with [Trevor] Darling, Kc McDermott and [Nick] Linder, we’re really excited about those young people.

"Joe Yearby, a great tailback from Miami Central. He fit a great need. We needed long receivers this year and we did that. [Darrell] Langham is 6-4 ½, Tyre Brady is taller than me at 6-3, [David] Njoku. Then we went into Georgia to get an H tight end, somebody that can move and get vertical in Chris Herndon. So, it’s a good group and a group we’re excited about it.

"And we topped it off on defense with the two safeties we ended up getting in Kiy Hester and Marques Gayot. It’s a really good day for the Miami Hurricanes. We’re really excited to move forward now without anything hanging over our heads."

All-American DE Chad Thomas signs with the Hurricanes despite late visits to Alabama, FSU

It's official: Chad Thomas is a Miami Hurricane.

The five-star recruit and Under Armour All-American kept his word and signed with UM on Wednesday morning during a ceremony at Booker T. Washington High School in Overtown.

"For the next four years I plan to be at... the University of Miami," Thomas said as he pulled out his Hurricanes jacket and put it on.

Thomas had taken a pair of late visits to Florida State and Alabama and had UM fans nervous. But moments ago Thomas inked with the Hurricanes alongside teammate and fellow defensive end Demetrius Jackson.

Thomas is UM's top recruit on defense. 

"He's just now starting to really scratch the surface of where he can be talent wise," said Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief of FUEL Recruiting. "If he does what I believe he can he's a first round pick down the line. He's really a heck of an athlete. Long arms, a winner, who understands what to do down there in the trenches.

"You could look at Joe Yearby, Shane McDermott and Brad Kaaya and Chad as the best recruits in UM's class.

"Chad is going to be a part of their two deep right away. He has to be. He might be more of a pass down guy initially, but he'll be an every down player soon enough. He's up there with Al-Quadin Muhammad in terms of pure talent. They definitely have good quality players at the end spots now.

"I see a little John Abraham in Chad because of the way he runs after the passer. He's definitely a 4-3 defensive end, kind of like Michael Johnson from Georgia Tech who is now with the Bengals.”

Jackson, a first-year football player, was pushed hard by Arkansas and received a late offer from Texas. But in the end he decided to stick with the Hurricanes, too.

“First time I saw him was against Central. He's this basketball guy, swatting passes down like an NBA center," Long said. "He knows some basic go-to-stuff in terms of moves. What I like most about him is that as a defensive end, he uses his arms to disrupt the play even if he's not close enough for a sack. He's a really tough kid, smart kid. He's always looking to disrupt.

"I think he needs to redshirt because he doesn't have the experience. I don't think you can put the young man on the field as a true freshman with only one year of high school football. I'm not sure where his future is down the line either. He might be a linebacker. He's long enough. He's a very much unfinished prospect but the initial reports are really good.”

THE PROFILES
Chad Thomas, DE, Miami Booker T. Washington
> Measurables: 6-5, 240, 4.85 in the 40-yard dash, 310-pound bench press
> Twitter handle: @F5_Chad
> Commitment date: July 20, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: A five-star recruit ranked 26th regardless of position in 247Sports composite rankings, 5th in the state of Florida and third among weakside defensive ends nationally.
> Career highlights: Under Armour All-American tallied 72 tackles, 15 for loss and eight sacks his senior season in helping lead his high school to a mythical national championship and back-to-back state titles. Chose UM after taking late official visits to Alabama and Florida State.
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/1506372/highlights/32658377

Demetrius Jackson, DE, Miami Booker T. Washington
> Measurables: 6-4, 225, 4.7 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 34-inch vertical leap
> Twitter handle: @F5_Jackson
> Commitment date: Dec. 9, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: Ranked 425th regardless of position in 247Sports Composite rankings, 59th in the state and 22nd among weakside defensive ends.
> Career highlights: Despite a late push from Texas and lots of tugging from Arkansas, Jackson, a first-year football player, kept his pledge to UM. As a senior he earned All-Dade First Team honors, racking up 73 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and seven sacks playing opposite of Chad Thomas.
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/2611977/highlights/53579378

Three-star TE Chris Herndon signs with Hurricanes

Three-star tight end recruit Christopher Herndon of Norcross, Ga. made it official with the Hurricanes moments ago.

Herndon (6-4, 230) is one of two tight ends who are in UM's 2014 signing class. The Hurricanes also received a late commitment from three-star David Njoku (6-4, 220) of Cedar Grove, N.J. last week. He already signed this moring. 

UM had four scholarship tight ends on the roster including incumbent starter Clive Walford (6-4, 259). The others are senior Beau Sandland (6-6, 255) and sophomores Jake O'Donnell (6-7, 250) and Standish Dobard (6-4, 261). 

As of 8:40 a.m. UM has 20 new additions officially in (9 enrolled early, 11 who signed Wednesday). Here are the profiles of the others I didn't post earlier.

THE PROFILES

Chris Herndon, TE, Norcross, Ga.
> Measurables: 6-4, 230
> Twitter handle: @Chris_Authentic
> Commitment date: June 22, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: Ranked as the 701st recruit nationally regardless of position in 247Sports.com Composite Rankings, 61st in the state of Georgia and 31st among tight ends.
> Career highlights: Camped at Georgia, Auburn, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Florida State and then Miami and picked the Canes over offers from Western Kentucky and Mississippi State. Herndon hauled in 33 passes for 543 yards and six touchdowns as a senior. Had five catches for 45 yards in the state title game to help Norcross win a second consecutive state crown in Georgia.
> Quotable: "Even though I'll be nine hours away from home, The U is a big family, so it will be my new home," Herndon told gwinnettprepsports.com back in June. "You have to make decisions that take you out of your comfort zone."
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/1576082/highlights/51520495

 

Tyre Brady, WR, South Dade
> Measurables: 6-3, 187
> Twitter handle: @Tyre_Brady
> Commitment date: Nov. 16, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: A three-star recruit ranked as the 738th best overall according to 247Sports.com Composite Rankings, 102th best in the state and 109nd best among receivers. Attended Junior Day at UM and got a Florida State offer in March before UCF, Minnesota, Western Kentucky, FAU and Kentucky offered. UM became the seventh offer and after three unofficial visits Brady finally pulled the trigger on a commitment.
> Career highlights: An All-Dade Second Team selection as a senior Brady helped lead South Dade to its first state championship. He finished with 39 catches for 600 yards and 10 touchdowns and also shined on defense playing safety.
> Expert opinion: “He's another kid who is just really coming out for football, didn't play a lot before,” said Corey Long, Editor-in-Chief for FUEL Recruiting. “I like that he goes up and reaches for the football, gets it at the highest point. I like the fact he's an aggressive receiver. He's a little bit more advanced where he could play early if they needed him. But he's probably better off being redshirted. He's come a long way in a short period of time.” 
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/1685677/highlights/73648639

Terry McCray, LB, Pompano Beach Ely
> Measurables: 6-2, 215
> Commitment date: July 23, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: A three-star recruit, McCray is unranked in the 247Sports.com Composite Rankings, 166th overall in state of Florida and the 48th best inside linebacker nationally.
> Career highlights: Rolled up 101 tackles and 19 sacks and was selected All-Broward First Team as a senior by The Miami Herald. He had 113 tackles and 13 sacks as a junior. Received a UM offer in November of his junior year and visited UM unofficially three times before Tulane, Syracuse, Temple, Minnesota, Cincinnati, FIU and West Virginia all offered. He held out hope for a while Alabama and LSU might offer.
> Expert opinion: “He can make an impact on special teams early,” said Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief for FUEL Recrutiing. “I think he can be a rotational guy down the line, provide some depth. He's a good coach’s prospect in the sense where they can do different things with him. He'll be the kind of guy who will lead the team in special teams tackles, a good backup linebacker. The thing with their linebackers is he's one of the bigger more physical kids they've gotten. So he can help provide depth.”
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/1353525/highlights/111387627

Darrell Langham, WR, Lantana, Fla.
> Measurables: 6-5, 190
> Twitter handle: @DLangham7
> Commitment date: June 9, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: A three-star recruit ranked 510th overall regardless of position by 247Sports.com Composite Rankings, 74th in the state and 71st among receivers nationally. UM coaches fell in love with him and offered a scholarship after he attended their camp in June. The only other camp Langham attended before that was FAU.
> Career highlights: Earned All-Conference honorable mention by the Palm Beach Post in Class 8A. He had 20 catches for 326 yards and five touchdowns as a senior.
> Expert opinion: “I like him, think he's underrated in his class,” said Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief for FUEL Recruiting. “He's tall, has long arms, a raw kid,” said Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief of FUEL Recruiting. “You feel like he's a blank canvas where you can create something really special. Right now, today, off what I've seen, he's more of a red zone guy who can go up and get passes. I think you give him two years and you'll definitely have a big-time wide receiver. He's not as big as [Kelvin] Benjamin at FSU, but he reminds me of some of the big receivers I've seen around like Ramses Barden of the Giants. I think Langham can get there. He’s just a basketball kid who is still a little raw.”
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/748977/darrell-langham

Marques Gayot, DB, Lake Worth, Fla.
> Measurables: 6-1, 205, ran a 4.56 40-yard dash, 34 inch-vertical
> Twitter handle: @MgayotUM
> Commitment date: Dec. 13, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: A three-star recruit ranked as the 789th best prospect regardless of position by 247Sports.com composite rankings, 116th in the state of Florida and 64th among safeties. He had offers from Cal, Louisville and Bowling Green and committed to Louisville in April before de-committing in Decmeber and committing to UM a day later.
> Career highlights: Tallied 17 interceptions in his career including four as a senior at Park Vista Community School. Made All-Conference First Team in Class 8A for Palm Beach County.
> Expert opinion: “He can really get around,” said Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief for FUEL Recruiting. “I don't know what kind of hitter he is. But I think if he puts on a good training camp coaches will try and figure out how to get him on the field. He's a hard working kid.”
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/1003985/marques-gayot

Canes swing and miss at Immokalee CB J.C. Jackson

The Miami Hurricanes made a hard push for Immokalee four-star cornerback J.C. Jackson.

But he's taking his talents to Gainesville according to early reports out of the Naples area.

Canes pipeline to Miami Northwestern remains strong as pass rusher Mike Smith signs

Miami Northwestern and the University of Miami have had a long, storied connection over the years.

It continued Wednesday when one of the best pass rushers in the county signed with the Hurricanes.

Mike Smith, committed to UM since June, signed his national letter of intent before gathering for a ceremony at school with friends and family and teammates.

Smith joins former Northwestern teammates and defensive backs Ryan Mayes (enrolled in January) and sophomore cornerback Artie Burns as current Bulls on Miami's roster.

“Mike's going to come in and chase the quarterback,” said Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief of FUEL Recruiting. “I haven't really seen him in any pass coverage. But I do think he's good at stopping the run and getting to the quarterback. I have to see how he is in pass coverage before we talk NFL potential.”

UM signed eight members of Northwestern's national championship team in 2008 including starting quarterback Jacory Harris, linebacker Sean Spence, offensive lineman Brandon Washington and standout receivers Aldarius Johnson and Tommy Streeter

But after that season UM didn't sign any Northwestern stars for four straight years, missing out on standout quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville) and receiver Amari Cooper (Alabama) among others. Burns got the pipeline going again last year.

THE PROFILE

Mike Smith, DE/OLB, Miami Northwestern
> Measurables: 6-2, 210
> Twitter handle: @mikesmith_11
> Commitment date: June 22, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: A three-star recruit ranked as the 389th best prospect regardless of position by 247Sports.com Composite Rankings, 50th in the state of Florida and 31st among outside linebackers.
> Career highlights: Smith only ended up making one official visit – to West Virginia – after committing to the Hurricanes. He earned All-Dade First Team Honors (Class 8A-6A) two years in a row and netter 42 tackles, seven sacks and 51 quarterback hurries as a senior. As a junior he produced 73 tackles and finished second in Dade with 18 sacks.
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/2334571/highlights/63262353

Here's who signed their NLOI with the Canes and are officially in before 8 a.m.

So who here is the list of a dozen recruits officially in as Miami Hurricanes before 8 a.m.

#WelcomeToTheU Nick Linder - the first #Cane to fax in his NLI: http://t.co/p9BtpAlZBI pic.twitter.com/eiJ3lmI8nC

Aquinas All-American center Nick Linder first to get fax through; DT Anthony Moten ready to make instant impact

The Hurricanes will have a defensive tackle -- arguably their most talented in the 2014 class -- officially signed, sealed and delivered soon.

Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas seniors Anthony Moten (6-4, 292) and center Nick Linder, the younger brother of former Hurricanes offensive lineman Brandon Linder, faxed their National Letter of Intent over to Coral Gables moments ago as expected.

Linder was actually the first one through officially.

 

"To be the first one in and locked is exciting," Linder said. "The coaches told me to try to be the first one in it at 7 a.m. So I was here at 6:59 to send it through."

Being a leader like his older brother, who started more than 40 games in his career at UM through this past season, is important to him the younger Linder said.

"It's definitely who I want to be," Linder said. "I want to come in and make an impact and that's what I'm working for right now."

Moten was in the process of faxing his when I interviewed him over the phone at 7:30 a.m.

"I wanted to get it over with early," said Moten, once a Florida commitment. "I know i can come in and make an impact early, get some playing time. I'm at 287 right now. Coaches like my size and said I can come in and play the three technique and in different packages play the four and the five."

Moten is one of three defensive tackles UM brought in with this class. UM signed Junior College prospects Michael Wyche and Calvin Heurtelou, who are expected to come in and give returning senior starter Olsen Pierre some help and juniors Ufomba Kamalu, Corey King and Earl Moore a battle for playing time.

“He's played a lot of football, been starting for a long time at Aquinas," said Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief of FUEL Recruiting. "He's not the biggest defensive tackle, but a pretty good pass rusher. He definitely gives them an upgrade of skills at the tackle spot. Given how poorly they've recruited there in the past he's got to play. His NFL potential remains to be seen. I think Moten is a little different than Jelanie Hamilton. The potential is there for a lot of playing time so he'll have the opportunity to impress NFL scouts down the road.”

Aquinas will now have four players on UM's roster this coming season, the most from any high school on the team.

THE PROFILES

Anthony Moten, DT, St. Thomas Aquinas
> Measurables: 6-4, 292, 5.17 in the 40-yard dash, 26.9 vertical, 315-pound bench, 385-pound squat
> Twitter handle: @anthony_moten95
> Commitment date: Nov. 13, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: Ranked 168th regardless of position in 247Sports Composite rankings, 15th among defensive tackles and the 24th-best recruit in the state of Florida.
> Career highlights: Once a Florida Gators commitment, Moten de-committed and eventually switched allegiance to the Hurricanes. Semper-Fi All-American had 40 tackles, 12 for loss and six sacks and was selected All-Broward First Team by The Miami Herald as a senior. He was selected All-State Third Team.
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/1241016/highlights/55484375

Nick Linder, OL, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas
> Measurables: 6-3, 273, 315-pound bench, 385-pound squat
> Commitment date: March 6, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: Ranked the 152nd-best recruit in the state in 247Sports Composite rankings, Linder is tabbed as the 53rd best offensive guard in the country.
> Career highlights: A two-year starter for the Raiders, Linder was an All-Broward First Team selection and played in the Under Armour All-American Game. He was the starter at center when Aquinas won the state championship in 2012.
> Expert opinion: “He's going to step in and be the next center,” said Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief at FUEL Recruiting. “He's not as big as his brother or have the same ceiling. But when it comes to giving direction on the line, he's a super smart kid. He can recognize things easy. His future is pretty much penciled in as the next center. He's a little small so he'll have to work to get his weight up. He's going to give you three solid years as a college starter.”
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/1240996/highlights/54165809

Pipeline to New Jersey grows as four-star safety Kiy Hester, three-star DT Courtel Jenkins, TE David Njoku sign with Canes

The Hurricanes continued to build their pipeline with the state of New Jersey Wednesday morning when four-star safety Kiy Hester and three-star defensive tackle Courtel Jenkins faxed their national letters of intent over to UM nice and early.

Hester and Jenkins are two of three New Jersey area recruits in the 2014 class and join redshirt quarterback Kevin Olsen, sophomore defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad and senior defensive tackle Olsen Pierre who made their way from the Garden State to the Sunshine State.

"It was just the players, the coaches being from Jersey, the family atmosphere," Hester told NJ.com back in December as his reason for picking the Hurricanes. "Al-Quadin Muhammad (class of 2014 Don Bosco recruit now at Miami), he played a huge role. I've known him since I was in eighth grade, so he was huge. And [defensive tackle] Courtel Jenkins was, too."

Miami needed to add depth at safety with juniors Deon Bush and Rayshawn Jenkins back as the only experienced men who have started and can play back there.

THE OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENTS

THE PROFILES
Kiy Hester, DB, Wayne, N.J.
> Measurables: 6-0, 200
> Twitter handle: @Hester_2k
> Commitment date: Dec. 15, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: Tabbed as a four-star safety and ranked 288th regardless of position in 247Sports Composite Rankings, Hester is tabbed as the 18th best safety in the country and eighth among all prospects in the New Jersey area.
> Career highlights: A former Rutgers commitment, Hester had offers from Ohio State, Vanderbilt and took an official visit to Michigan State before visiting Coral Gables and falling in love. Attended DePaul High School and played mostly strong safety although he did see time at receiver. Finished with 56 tackles, a sack, five interceptions and 18 pass breakups at safety as a senior. Had 17 catches for 379 yards and four touchdowns as a receiver.
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIUGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/737623/kiy-hester

Courtel Jenkins, DT, Wayne, N.J.
> Measurables: 6-2, 294, 375-pound bench press, 400-pound squat
> Commitment date: June 6, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: Listed as the 943rd recruit regardless of position in 247Sports.com Composite Rankings, 26th overall in the state of New Jersey and the 62nd best defensive tackle in the country.
> Career highlights: Racked up 74 tackles, 17 for loss with five sacks, two pass breakups and a forced fumble playing on both the offensive and defensive lines at DePaul High School. He earned All-County First Team honors. Jenkins had an early offer from Pittsburgh and took unofficial visits to Rutgers, Pitt and Maryland before camping at UM and receiving an offer last June. He didn’t visit any other schools.
> Mid-year analysis on Jenkins in NJ.com
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/892274/highlights/87627377

David Njoku, TE, Cedar Grove, N.J.
> Measurables: 6-4, 220, 4.47 in the 40-yard dash, 40-inch vertical, 285-pound bench press, 455-pound squat
> Twitter handle: @David_Njoku80
> Commitment date: Jan. 31, 2014
> Recruiting ranking: Rated a three-star recruit and tabbed as the 836th best player in the country regardless of position by 247Sports.com Composite rankings. He’s the 64th best athlete and 116th ranked recruit in the state of New Jersey.
> Career highlights: Played in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl. Once a Rutgers commitment, Njoku took official visits to Temple, Miami and UConn and had an offer from Ohio State that was eventually taken back before he committed to the Hurricanes late last week. He hauled in 40 catches for 981 yards and 11 touchdowns and ran 39 times for 334 yards and six scores. He also returned a kickoff for a touchdown as a senior.
> Of note: Njoku is considered a talented track athlete. Last year he broke his county record in the triple jump (47-8) and school record in the high jump (6-10)
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/90257/david-njoku

QB Brad Kaaya wakes up early to make sure he's one of the first Canes to fax NLOI over

Brad Kaaya told the L.A. Times on Monday his plan was to wake up and fax his signed national letter of intent over to Coral Gables and be one of the first recruits in for the Hurricanes.

Mission accomplished. Despite being three hours behind on the clock, UM's quarterback of the future woke up bright and early and posted on Twitter that he got it done.

As of 7:10 a.m., UM had yet to make the announcement official on its Twitter feed.

UM announced St. Thomas Aquinas All-American center Nick Linder was also one of the first to send his fax through.

Many recruiting experts predicted Kaaya, who received an early UM offer and committed to the Hurricanes back in May, would eventually opt to stay out on the West Coast. But despite overtures from USC, UCLA and Boise State, Kaaya kept his word.

“Through the process, you have to know the difference between who you can trust and who’s feeding you what you want to hear,” Kaaya told the L.A. Times on Monday.

Of the rumors of him straying from UM, Kaaya said: “I was wondering where are they getting these sources from and how credible can they be?”

With Stephen Morris gone, UM has three quarterbacks currently on scholarship and two they are adding as part of the 2014 class. Senior Ryan Williams, redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen and sophomore Gray Crow will be the only scholarship quarterbacks around in the spring. Kaaya is joined in the 2014 class by three-star Mobile, Ala. quarterback Malik Rosier.

“Kaaya is the QB of the future for this team,” said Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief of FUEL Recruiting. “He's got the tools, the arm, the footwork. He definitely has the escapability to get out of the pocket and make tough throws on the run. He’s an accurate quarterback.

"As a prospect he's a step up from the prospects they have there at UM now. If you look at Jacory [Harris] and [Stephen] Morris, they both had considerable weaknesses. Kaaya brings better tools to the table. If he had enrolled early he would have had a shot right away to start. He's better than Kevin Olsen and Ryan Williams. He's going to go in there and establish himself as the best QB on the roster by the end of the season. He's the best they've brought in under Al Golden. He reminds me a lot of Colin Kaepernick. He has real tools, a live arm, not as good of a runner, but escapes pressure well.”

THE PROFILE

Brad Kaaya, QB, West Hills, Calif.
> Measurables: 6-4, 215
> Twitter handle: @TrinidadBrad
> Commitment date: May 13, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: Tabbed a four-star recruit and ranked 141st overall regardless of position in 247Sports.com Composite Rankings, 14th in the state of California and seventh among pro-style quarterbacks
> Career highlights: At Chaminade High, Kaaya completed 225 of 362 passes for 3,853 yards, 27 TDs and only six interceptions as a senior before being selected to play in the Semper Fi All-American Game. He ran twice for 14 yards and a touchdown. As a junior, he completed 126 of his 186 attempts for 1,875 yards, 13 TDs and 2 INTs. Despite some late love from UCLA and Boise State, Kaaya stuck to his Canes commitment.
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/1269507/highlights/66537379

National Signing Day: Canes live recruiting updates

Good morning it's National Signing Day. 

Fax machines will begin receiving signed National Letters of Intent beginning at 7 a.m.

The Hurricanes have 26 commitments: nine early enrollees, one signee waiting to enroll and another 16 who have pledged to sign with them today. We will track all the action in this Cover-It-Live blog -- including when signed letters of intent become official at UM.

The Twitter accounts for 16 of UM's commitments have also been linked to the live blog. Those are: RB Joseph Yearby, WR Braxton Berrios, DT Calvin Heurtelou, DE Chad Thomas, DT Anthony Moten, DE Demetrius Jackson, DB Kai Hester, QB Brad Kaaya, TE Chris Herndon, DE Mike Smith, DB Marques Gayot, WR Darrell Langham, TE David Njoku, DT Michael Wyche, QB Malik Rosier and WR Tyre Brady.

The blog will feature Twitter feeds from UM's official account (@hurricanesports), those of our reporters and others out on the scene to cover announcements live, and links to other blog items, video and analysis as it comes in.

While this blog will remain at the top of today's blog there will be individual news items posted throughout the day below it. You will see links to those items in the Cover-It-Live feed.

Below this I'll include a timeline of events as the day progresses.

SIGNING DAY TIMELINE

> 7 a.m.: Signed National Letters of Intent begin being received at colleges throughout the country.

> 8 a.m.: Immokalee CB J.C. Jackson is set to announce his decision and will choose between the Hurricanes and Florida Gators.

> 9 a.m.: National champion Miami Booker T. Washington will host its Signing Day ceremony. UM commitments Chad Thomas and Demetrius Jackson are expected to stay with Miami. Quarterback Treon Harris will choose between FSU, UF, UM and Auburn.

> 10:30 a.m.: Former Hurricanes commitment and All-American defensive tackle Travonte Valentine is set to choose between UM and LSU.

> 3:30 p.m.: A Hurricanes National Signing Day show hosted by UM radio personalities Joe Zagacki and Don Bailey Jr. will air live on FoxSports Florida.

> 4 p.m.: Coach Al Golden will address the media in a Signing Day press conference. UM will have interviews with assistant coaches and Golden throughout the day as Letters of Intent arrive on HurricaneSports.com.

February 04, 2014

A closer look at the Canes' early enrollees

With fax machines set to get rolling at around 7 a.m. Wednesday as National Signing Day commences here is one last closer look at the nine recruits already on campus at UM.

Joseph YearbyJoseph Yearby, RB, Miami Central
> Measurables: 5-9, 180
> Twitter handle: @JosephYearby
> Commitment date: Feb. 26, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: Ranked 44th regardless of position in 247Sports.com composite rankings, seventh-best running back overall.
> Career highlights: Under Armour All-American ran for 5,308 yards and 63 touchdowns over his final three seasons in high school before breaking his ankle in the state playoffs.
> Expert opinion: “He's going to do whatever coaches as him to do and is a good guy to have in your program. He's going to do everything right and set the example. He's really established himself as one of the hardest workers in the class, a tremendous teammate and natural leader. His vision as a running back is really what is accelerated. The rest of his tools are above average. But his vision is what sets him apart from the pack.  If his ankle heals up as it's supposed to be he'll be Duke Johnson's backup in 2014. I look at him as a Pierre Thomas type of kid who is versatile, can catch the ball out of the backfield. He can also stay in pass protection and pick up a linebacker on a blitz. He's one of those do-it-all backs. To me he's the second best running back Al Golden has reeled in during his time there behind only Duke.” -- Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief of FUEL Recruiting
> LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/2045472/joseph-yearby

Kc McDermott, OL, Palm Beach Central
> Measurables: 6-6, 301, 390-bench press, 415-pound squat
> Commitment date: April 2, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: Ranked 45th regardless of position in 247Sports.com composite rankings, 3rd best offensive tackle overall.
> Career highlights: Under Armour All-American picked UM over Notre Dame, Alabama, Florida State, Florida and Ohio State
> Expert opinion: “I thought for most of the year he was the most talented offensive line prospect in the state, region probably. He’s got a lot of what you want in a tackle. He’s got long arms, strong, has a mean streak. He's technically sound. He's the type of kid that can be a part of the two-deep right away. I think he's the left tackle of the future. I definitely think he has high NFL potential. He's so strong in so many areas he's going to get his weight up a little bit more. He's going to be 6-6, 320. He's going to be in high demand in a few years. Overall the group of linemen UM is bringing in is one of the top five in the nation -- even without Reilly Gibbons.” Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief of FUEL Recruiting
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/1556140/kc-mcdermott

Trevor Darling, OL, Miami Central
> Measurables: 6-5, 330
> Commitment date: April 5, 2012
> Recruiting ranking: Ranked 93rd regardless of position in 247Sports.com composite rankings, 9th best offensive tackle overall
> Career highlights: Under Armour All-American won three state titles and started for four years at Central. He chose UM over FSU, Florida, Clemson and West Virginia.
> Expert opinion: “When I saw him at the Under Armour game he was great. It looked like he developed physically really well, got a lot of bad weight off his body. He's an ox. I think he can play guard or right tackle for them. He's a heck of a run blocker, as good as you'll see. Just like Kc McDermott, he can come in right away and be a part of the two deep, step in on the right side within a year and start. I'm not sure Darling is a first rounder down the line like McDermott, but he's an early to mid-round pick down the line. I like offensive tackles who work from the bottom up. He's one of those guys.” Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief of FUEL Recruiting
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/2488579/highlights/107818632

Trent Harris, DE, Winter Park, Fla.
> Measurables: 6-2, 231
> Twitter handle: @trentharris33
> Commitment date: July 29, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: Ranked 265th regardless of position in 247Sports.com composite rankings, 14th best weakside defensive end overall
> Career highlights: Selected to the Offense/Defense All-American Bowl. As a senior registered 69 total tackles and 14 sacks. Chose UM over Alabama, UF, FSU, Georgia, Ohio State and Tennssee.
> Expert opinion: “He's not a big guy. I think he's probably going to take a redshirt year, be used more in a pass rush role if he does play. He needs to fill out. He's kind of a hard guy to evaluate. I definitely think he needs a redshirt then be used to rush the passer on passing downs. He has a ways to go. I don't think he has the sort of pass rushing skills Tyriq McCord and Al-Quadin Muhammad to play as a freshman. But he could develop.” - Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief of FUEL Recruiting
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/1277678/highlights/63491375

Darrion Owens, DB, Orange Park, Fla.
> Measurables: 6-3, 216, 4.57 in 40-yard dash, 345-pound bench press, 460-pound squat
> Commitment date: June 22, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: Ranked 367th regardless of position in 247Sports.com composite rankings, 46th in the state of Florida and 29th at his position
> Career highlights: Tallied 160 tackles, two sacks, three interceptions, five fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles as a junior and senior. Picked UM over Boston College, N.C. State, Maryland, Kentucky, Louisville, West Virginia, South Florida, Michigan, Rutgers, Purdue, Minnesota, Michigan State, Ohio State, Tennessee, Nebraska, Auburn and Georgia.
> Expert opinion: “ He's a big kid. They got him listed as safety still. He's more of a linebacker for them, might be a defensive end. He has good athleticism. I thought he was a bit undervalued in his class. He gives you tremendous range, long armed kid. I think his first impact will be on special teams. I think in 2015 he'll be used at safety and linebacker against spread sets. I think he's got a shot down the line at the NFL. He can run.” - Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief of FUEL Recruiting
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/1368104/darrion-owens

Braxton Berrios, WR, Raleigh, N.C.
> Measurables: 5-9, 181, 4.52 in 40-yard dash, 40-inch vertical
> Twitter handle: @HNYNUT_BERRIOS
> Commitment date: Oct. 12, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: Ranked 374th regardless of position in 247Sports composite rankings, 52nd by position
> Career highlights: Under Armour All-American had 760 yards receiving an 10 touchdowns and ran for 1,142 yards and 23 touchdowns as a junior. He ran for 536 yards, 11 TDs in 2013 while being hampered by a foot injury. Chose UM over Oregon, South Carolina and Tennessee where he took official visits. Tore his ACL in the Under Armour Game and will miss the spring.
> Expert opinion: “He didn't stand out a lot to me at the Under-Armour game. He's not very big. He's not an outside guy. If Berrios is going to have success it’s in the slot. I'm curious to see how he fits in this offense frankly. Maybe he's a special teams guy, Wes Welker type. I look at the other receivers and I wonder how he's going to get on the field.” - Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief of FUEL Recruiting
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/1540073/highlights/63359384

Calvin Heurtelou, DT, Scottsdale, Ariz.
> Measurables: 6-3, 304, 4.98 in 40-yard dash, 28-inch vertical
> Twitter handle: @_40Cal_
> Commitment date: Dec. 26, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: Ranked 49th regardless of position in 247Sports composite Junior College rankings, 9th among JUCO defensive tackles.
> Career highlights: Originally from Spring Valley, N.Y. He took official visits to Rutgers, Tennessee and Missouri before signing with UM. Had 59 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, four sacks and two fumble recoveries at Scottsdale Community College
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/27931/highlights/79418375

Juwon Young, LB, Albany, Ga.
> Measurables: 6-2, 235, 4.5 in the 40-yard dash
> Commitment date: June 8, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: Ranked 727th regardless of position in 247Sports composite rankings, 60th at his position.
> Career highlights: Registered 118 tackles and ran for 303 yards and 6 TDs as a senior. Decorated track and field athlete who competed in the shot put and discus. Picked UM over an offer from Ole Miss.
> Expert opinion: “He was one of the better prospects in north Georgia, which is an area where they are not as highly regarded as the kid on the south end of the state. For an outside linebacker, he's not a total sideline to sideline guy. But he does have range and is physically strong. I think he's strong enough to take on linemen and is a hitter. He's a guy that will put some weight on you. I'm not sure how good he is at pass defense.” - Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief of FUEL Recruiting 
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/o/2791019/highlights/111260376

Ryan Mayes, DB, Miami Northwestern
> Measurables: 6-2, 180
> Commitment date: June 25, 2013
> Recruiting ranking: Ranked 969th regardless of position in 247Sports composite rankings, 142nd in state and 67 by position.
> Career highlights: Had 33 tackles, 2 INTs, 2 forced fumbles and 11 passes defended as a junior at Miami Dr. Krop. Picked UM over Syracuse.
> Expert opinion: “He’s a good size corner, but I see him as a rotational guy. I think he has a ways to go before you give him a starting role. With his size, he can be a rotational guy, who plays in nickel and dime packages. He's an early enrollee so he might have a role on special teams in 2014 if he doesn’t redshirt.” - Corey Long, Editor-In-Chief of FUEL Recruiting
LINK TO HUDL HIGHLIGHTS: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/2733971/ryan-mayes

Football led the Canes to top recruit Chad Thomas after music had already guided his heart to UM

Barring an unexpected, last second change of heart that would stun his family, coaches and even himself, Booker T. Washington All-American defensive end Chad Thomas said he plans on signing a National Letter of Intent with the University of Miami on Wednesday morning.

Chad Thomas 2“There’s no suspense,” said Thomas, days before taking his final official visit to Alabama this past weekend. “I’ve been throwing up ‘The U’ [with my hands] since the first game of the season. I’m not really trying to build suspense or get anybody fired up or rowdy.”

If Thomas, the only five-star recruit in UM’s recruiting class, doesn’t flip his commitment to Alabama or Florida State, he’ll be one of the few elite players in Miami-Dade County to stay with the first school he committed to. Of the top 10 players in the Dade according to 247Sports' Composite rankings, six have pulled back from a college commitment at least once during their recruitment.

Booker T. quarterback Treon Harris (Florida State commitment with interest in UM, Florida and Auburn) and Northwestern receiver Jojo Robinson (FSU commitment with interest in TCU, South Florida and Arkansas) could increase that number to eight if they sign elsewhere Wednesday.

There’s strong reason to believe Thomas won’t make it nine. That’s because he’s been in love with the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music since well before UM’s coaching staff fell in love him.

“I thought he was full of it when he told me he played all these instruments and was a musician,” Booker T. Washington coach Tim “Ice” Harris said.

“Then he started playing them in front of me, showing me his beats, breaking it down. I was impressed. Over the last two years every time we've been on road trips with the team, Chad would get on the big piano in the hotel we were staying at and everybody would stop to listen to him play. Now, I joke with him and say I want to be a music major too.”

Thomas, who helped lead the Tornadoes to back-to-back state championships and a national title this season, said he fell in love with music at the age of three while listening to his late grandmother’s gospel CDs. Thomas said as a toddler his grandmother bought him a toy guitar, and signed up him for piano lessons. By the time he was five, Thomas said he was performing songs such as ‘I’ll Take You There' by the Staple Sisters on the piano and playing various instruments from the tuba and trumpet to the drums and bass.

After his grandmother passed away when he was seven, Thomas, an only child, said he would often care for himself because his parents were too busy working. On the bus ride and walk home from school, Thomas said he would usually entertain himself by creating his own beats. By the time he was in middle school, Thomas said he convinced his father, Chad Sr., a computer technician, to buy him an MC-808 sound generator.

“I remember when he took me to Sam Ash to go get it,” said Thomas, who attended classes at the New World School of the Arts until coaches were finally able to convince him to attend classes at Booker T. his senior year. “It was over $1,000. I told my dad there had to have been something in his brain saying this is going to make him and me money in the future.”

Thomas, a fan of beatmakers Timbaland, Louis V and J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, said he's been trying to sell his own beats to musicians now for the last couple years. This past year, he finally found someone who was interested. It was local artist Lil Dred, the 20-year old son and rapper of former UM cornerback Nate Brooks. Since its release in October, their song “No Shone Remix” has been played more than 245,000 times on SoundCloud.

Thomas, who has produced other popular tracks titled ‘Thottie,’ ‘She Weak,’ and ‘Overtime,’ said he’s performed on some of his own tracks in clubs, parties and other places dozens of times. He said he’s split the money he makes off what he produces and performs "50-50" with his mother, Stefanie Jones, a school director a local day care.

“As a singer he’s more like a Drake type -- singing but with a rap feel,” said Booker T. Washington offensive coordinator Tim Harris Jr. “When it comes to instruments and music engineering, I think UM is ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in those fields. With his contacts in the music industry here in the city of Miami, that’s why it’s always been UM for Chad. He told me he had been checking UM out since he went to New World. Football wise, Chad knows he can play at any school he wants to. But music is so important to him.”

Said Thomas: "It's always been in my mind to go to school there. Football is my not for long. I can go down with a knee injury tomorrow, but I know I’ll always be able to move my fingers and play an instrument, click a mouse."

Thomas, who maintains a 3.3 grade point average and scored an 18 on the ACT exam (well within the guidelines to qualify for UM), said he didn’t begin playing football until he was 12 at Gwen Cherry Park because when he was young he had asthma and a heart murmur. Thomas said he had to convince his parents to let him play.

Now an Under-Armour All-American and tabbed as the third-best defensive end in the country by 247Sports, Thomas says he has so much passion and intensity for football he usually cries before games.

With the Hurricanes in dire need of help along the defensive line, Booker T.’s coaches -– who saw Thomas rack up 71 tackles and eight sacks this past season -- believe Thomas has the size and maturity to help UM as soon as he walks through the doors in Coral Gables come June.

“People around the country talk about the pride we have here in high school and optimist [football],” said Thomas, who said he’s had a green 1998 Ford Mustang parked in his mother’s drive way waiting to take him to college since last year.

“I know there’s a lot players who have that same pride at UM, but they’ve just got to put it all together and play like a team like back in the 80s. We’ve got to bring that love, that passion for the game, and fight to make each other better every day. And I believe we will.”

A shorter version of this story will appear in Wednesday's editions of The Miami Herald

February 01, 2014

Canes OT recruit Reilly Gibbons flips to Stanford

If you looked at the picture on his Twitter account before Saturday it sure looked like Reilly Gibbons couldn't wait to become a Hurricane.

Reilly Gibbons' old Twitter photoBut apparently those plans changed. According to Scout.com National Recruiting analyst Jamie Newberg, Gibbons took an official visit to Stanford this weekend and has flipped his commitment to the Cardinal.

Listed at 6-6, 292-pounds and rated a three-star recruit by 247Sports.com, Gibbons had been committed to UM since April.

Corey Long, editor-in-chief of Fuel Recruiting and based out of the St. Petersburg area, was stunned to hear the news. He knows Gibbons and his family well and thought for sure he was headed to Miami. Ultimately, though, Long believes Gibbons -- a very strong student when it comes to academics -- was probably persuaded by Stanford's law school program.

"The crazy thing is if he didn’t go to private school he probably would have enrolled at UM in January," Long said. "Losing an offensive tackle is one you never want to lose, you'd prefer a guard or center if you had to lose one. But at the same time they can replace him next year. At the end of the day I don’t think it’s going to break their class. If he played defensive tackle that would have been a bigger loss. But offensive tackle, I think they’re all right."

UM is returning three starters and four other experienced offensive linemen and already has two incoming Americans Kc McDermott and Trevor Darling -- enrolled. Under-Armour All-American center Nick Linder of St. Thomas Aquinas is UM's third offensive lineman commitment. His older brother Brandon Linder started more than 40 games in his career for UM.

> Here is a link to a story by Tampa Bay Times writer John C. Cotey on Gibbons.

Dade, Broward coaches say Canes doing good job recruiting backyard

Here is a longer version of my Sunday story with more quotes and content collected over the past two weeks from interviewing local high school coaches in the Dade-Broward area about how the Hurricanes are recruiting their backyard. I interviewed more than a dozen head coaches and assistants across both counties... 

Miami Norland coach Daryle Heidelburg, who won a state title two years ago with current Hurricanes Duke Johnson and Ereck Flowers, endured a rough 3-7 football season in 2013.

And yet, even though his roster wasn’t littered with major 2014 recruits, Heidelburg said he still heard from University of Miami coach Al Golden often – via email or a text. He also said he had a UM assistant coach at his school every opportunity NCAA rules allowed for colleges to make visits and contact.

Same deal for Columbus coach Chris Merritt, Cypress Bay coach Mark Guandolo and a number of other coaches in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, who didn’t have one of the 246 seniors UM offered a scholarship to according to 247Sports.com.

The coaches of the 30 local seniors who did have offers – like at Booker T. Washington, Central, American Heritage, South Dade, Northwestern, St. Thomas Aquinas, Champagnat and Deerfield Beach – said UM coaches recruited those players as hard as anybody else in the country, with assistants Michael Barrow and Hurlie Brown taking the lead on most.

“I personally don’t see how they can do a better job recruiting South Florida than they already are,” said Merritt, who had U.S. All-American safety Deon Bush sign with UM two years ago. “You’re talking about the most recruited, talent-rich area in the country. There’s no way you’re going to get them all.”

Yet, come Wednesday, when fax machines get busy sending and receiving signed National Letters of Intent, the natural instinct for all UM fans will be to look at the recruiting rankings and begin taking account of the big timers Golden was able to keep home and the ones that get away.

This year’s Dade-Broward class is as rich as any in recent memory with 13 of the state’s top 30 consensus players calling Dade or Broward home, most of whom were All-Americans. UM’s backyard yielded only six top 30 recruits in 2013 (Miami signed Stacy Coley and Artie Burns) and seven in 2012 (UM landed five: Johnson, Flowers, Bush, Tracy Howard and Jelani Hamilton).

This year, UM has five of the state’s top 30 recruits committed including four locals: Booker T. defensive end Chad Thomas, Aquinas defensive lineman Anthony Moten and Central running back Joseph Yearby and offensive lineman Trevor Darling. The fifth, Palm Beach Central offensive tackle Kc McDermott, is already enrolled at UM along with Yearby and Darling.

Overall, Miami’s class is ranked eighth nationally by ESPN, Scout and Rivals and 11th by 247Sports.com. And 11 of UM’s 26 commitments hail from Dade or Broward.

“I think Miami has done a good job down there, but I wouldn’t say a great job,” said Chris Nee, who covers recruiting in the state of Florida for 247Sports.com. “You see a guy like Johnnie Dixon [from Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer] who they really valued, [Champagnat defensive tackle] Travonte Valentine, [Homestead receiver] Ermon Lane, who early in the process they really valued. Missing on those guys, that doesn’t make you a better football team and it’s going to cause disappointment.

“But it’s not like they’re not putting in the effort. They were in it late for Dixon, Valentine and a few others. It’s just a matter of you have to close. And that’s the big thing with Golden. He’s improved that program. But for them to take the next step they have to close on those guys. They have to get those kids to make them a better program.”

Central running back Dalvin Cook (Florida State), American Heritage running back Sony Michel (Georgia), Chaminade defensive tackle Khairi Clark (Florida) and undecided recruits Lane and Valentine (he’s still considering UM, but LSU is the favorite) were all players Miami was in on early and hard. Assuming they all get away, they’ll join a list of recent UM big misses that include linebacker Matthew Thomas (FSU), running back Alex Collins (Arkansas), receiver Amari Cooper (Alabama), linebacker Keith Brown (Louisville) and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville).

Outspoken Hurricanes fan and rapper Luther Campbell, who has deep ties to Miami’s innercity and was named defensive coordinator at Norland earlier this week, thinks UM coaches are doing a good job recruiting locally but said they need to “be a little more aggressive and take the approach as if they’re from out of town.” In the end, Campbell said players like Lane and Cooper grew up wanting to be Canes and had to be convinced to go elsewhere.

 “I don’t think there’s a lot of coaches pushing kids away from Miami – because you can’t tell a parent not to send a kid to Miami,” Campbell said. “I just don’t think Miami goes the extra mile. These other schools are like vultures. They come in hard to the park, Pop Warner games, coaches who raised these kids, track coaches, they come in and find out about everything. They’re sitting in there having breakfast where the parents eat. You got guys like [Alabama assistant Mario] Cristobal, T-Rob [Travaris Robinson] from Florida hitting these guys up on Facebook every day.”

Heidelburg agrees, and said he’s told Golden with “brutal honesty.” Heidelburg said he’s also stressed to Golden how other programs are beating UM to the punch when it comes to offering kids early in the process.

“In my last conversation with Coach Golden he explained to me they don’t just throw out offers,” said Heidelburg, who has a 2015 defensive back in Carlton Davis the Canes are very interested in but have not yet offered (South Carolina, UNC, Kentucky and Arkansas have). “Golden wants Miami’s offers to be valid. They have a strenuous process of selecting kids. But I told him it might hurt them at times because the kid remembers who was in on them first and early.”

Nee points out, though, the Hurricanes appear to be getting more aggressive of late in terms of early offers and already have 119 out for the 2015 class -- including 52 in state and 21 locally.

Booker T. Washington coach Ice Harris said not offering his son -- star quarterback Treon Harris -- a scholarship early is the only mistake UM made this season. Last year, Harris was upset when UM pulled its offer from highly-touted offensive lineman Denver Kirkland (Arkansas) late in the process. But he said the fences have long been mended, and credits Barrow and former Hurricanes coach Randy Shannon (assistant at Arkansas) as being the two recruiters who have been at his program the earliest and most often over the last year.

Champagnat’s Mike Tunsil and American Heritage’s Mike Rumph, a former Hurricane, were the only local coaches interviewed by The Miami Herald who thought Miami could have done a better job evaluating and recruiting other players on their state championship teams. But when it came to recruiting the players UM did go after from those schools – Michel and Valentine -- “Miami did its due diligence,” Tunsil said.

“I think Coach Golden does a great job making a strategic plan and sharing his positional philosophy with coaches and letting people know who fits what they’re looking for,” said former University School coach Roger Harriott, who was hired by FAU in late December. “Some of our guys just didn’t fit what they were looking for the last two years. But that doesn’t mean the relationships were bad. Al and I texted each other after every game. They were recruiting and had offers out for our 2015 and 2016 kids.

“If you ask any coach around South Florida, all of Miami’s coaches have done a great job cultivating great relationships. From an outsider’s perspective, it’s always going to look like you’re letting kids get away. But they’re doing a good job. Sometimes it’s just a kid’s decision to leave.”

JUCO DT Wyche tweets he's going to stick with Canes

Good news for Hurricanes fans this Saturday afternoon.

Junior College defensive tackle Michael Wyche, who two days ago said he was re-opening his recruiting because an obscure ACC rule was delaying his entrance into UM, has decided to stick with the Hurricanes after signing a National Letter of Intent back in December.

Getting Wyche back on board is huge for UM considering the need they have at defensive tackle. The 6-4, 315-pound standout out of East Los Angeles College is considered the 12th best JUCO defensive tackle in the country this year by 247Sports.com.

With only three defensive tackles returning, Miami now has four lined up in its 2014 signing class and is counting on Wyche to come help the program immediately. UM now has nine early enrollees and 18 players committed to the 2014 class.

January 31, 2014

Hurricanes land commitment from Njoku; Valentine at home pondering decision coach says

Hurricanes assistant Brennan Carroll sent out the bat signal Friday to welcome Miami's latest football commitment: New Jersey three-star tight end prospect David Njoku.

The 6-4, 217-pound senior at Cedar Grove High visited UM last month and was a player UM had been trying to nail down. He was scheduled to visit Ohio State this weekend, but the backed off. He becomes the second tight end prospect to join the class. Georgia's Chris Herndon is the other.

Njoku also becomes the third prospect from New Jersey in the Class of 2014 to pick the Canes. UM coach Al Golden and many members of his staff obviously know the New Jersey area well.

LATEST ON TRAVONTE VALENTINE

Even though all signs are pointing toward LSU especially after he decided to pass on an official visit to UM this weekend, U.S. Army All-American defensive tackle Travonte Valentine hasn't ruled out the Hurricanes yet and planned to spend the next few days at home with his mother in Palm Bay trying to reach a final decision.

"Right now I would say it's probably 70-30 LSU," a Champagnat assistant coach close to Valentine said Friday morning.

Valentine told The Herald during a half hour interview on Tuesday he told UM coaches he would visit Coral Gables this weekend after Golden came to visit him at school. But after receiving a visit from LSU's coaches in his mom's home Wednesday night, the Champagnat assistant coach said Valentine and his mom decided visiting UM -- where he had been so many times unofficially -- wouldn't help the situation. He just needed to get away from it all, the coach said.

So what initially changed Valentine's mind about remaining committed to UM in the first place? Although Valentine reiterated to The Herald Tuesday the Al Golden to Penn State rumors last month played a factor, it appears scheme and the way LSU told Valentine he would be utilized has played a bigger role.

The Champagnat assistant said when Valentine returned from the U.S. Army All-American Game in San Antonio -- where he played in a 4-3 scheme -- he told coaches at Champagnat he might be better suited in LSU's 4-3 system instead of a 3-4/4-3 multiple defense at Miami. Valentine made reference to it Tuesday when asked if he liked one team's scheme over the other.

"Miami could change some things up, slim down the d-tackles a little bit," Valentine said. "Instead of playing like at 340, 350, I'd prefer to be 310, 315. LSU was telling me they could see me going down to 310, playing smaller, quicker, making tackles for loss."

The Champagnat assistant said he took Valentine down to UM to sit down and review film with Canes defensive line coach Jethro Franklin.

"He showed him all the film, how they use tackles in multiple ways, not just a nose guard," the Champagnat assistant said. "Golden, [Defensive coordinator Mark] D'Onofrio, Franklin, all of them were telling him he wouldn't have to come in and play heavy, they could make adjustments."

The assistant also said Valentine was a bit wary of how much pressure was going to be put on him at Miami, being someone expected to come in right away and deliver whereas he would have a little more time to ease his way in at LSU because of better depth.

Valentine said Tuesday he also felt closer to some of the former South Floridian players and Hallandale safety John Battle, at LSU 2014 commitment. Valentine also said he didn't feel the same connection to UM's recruits.

Asked Tuesday about Valentine and his wavering with UM, Booker T. Washington All-American defensive end Chad Thomas said he hadn't spoken with him and said he it didn't matter to him if Valentine chose UM.

"I ain’t no recruiter," Thomas said. "If he don’t want to go there, he don’t want to go there. That’s on him."

For what it's worth, Valentine said Tuesday his mother wasn't necessarily pushing him to stay close to home.

"She’s with me anywhere I go,"  Valentine said. "She’s with me through the long run. It’s not about a staying home situation."

Valentine is scheduled to make his college announcement during a small ceremony at Champagnat Wednesday at 10:30 a.m.