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Golden's quest to solidify state of Miami has begun

If you listen closely enough, at around 7 p.m. tonight you'll either hear a roar of celebration coming from Coral Gables or Canes fans across the country cussing up a storm.

Al Golden Tonight is the night U.S. Army All-American quarterback Jacoby Brissett will announce where he's going to college. He will choose between Florida, Miami or Wisconsin. Although he can't say it publicly, UM coach Al Golden desperately wants Brissett to be the 17th member of the Canes' 2011 signing class.

There's been a lot of speculation over the last couple days about where Brissett will be going to school. Dwyer coach Jack Daniels said he thought Miami had a great shot, especially since Brissett's mom is a huge Canes fan. Then, yesterday, we began hearing Brissett may now be favoring Florida. Brissett will announce his choice before his basketball game scheduled for a 7 p.m. start.

The Hurricanes, quite frankly, shouldn't be in this mess. After leading the country in interceptions thrown last season, finding and landing a quarterback should have taken place a long time ago. But this isn't Al Golden's fault. It's Randy Shannon's. And the clean-up of his mess continues.

Golden spoke for nearly 40 minutes on Wednesday about his first signing class. Between talking about how happy he was to land the 14 recruits he did in a matter of five weeks (15 real recruiting days) -- and the eight he was able to steal from others -- Golden made sure to apologize plenty too. Being a thief is something Golden didn't like having to be to sign players. Being the new guy on the job was difficult enough. What was even tougher was being seen as a total stranger in his own backyard.

You see Golden didn't just have to introduce himself and his new staff when he went out recruiting. In many instances, he had to introduce The U to coaches and players that hadn't seen anybody come around with that U in a long time.

Brissett? The previous staff gave him an offer when every other school in the country did. But once Miami Northwestern's Teddy Bridgewater committed to the Canes, Shannon pulled back the reigns. No need for a Plan B right? Apparently, Shannon and his staff took this approach more often than most of us realized. 

Want to know how many times UM went to visit Miami Central, a school that won the Class 6A state title this year and produced 17 Division I players on Wednesday (and as Golden pointed out produced more D-I talent than the entire state of Connecticut)?

Telly Lockette "They came out once in the spring," Rockets coach Telly Lockette said Thursday night, shortly before Golden hosted nearly 100 head coaches and assistant coaches from Miami-Dade County at UM's basketball game against Georgia Tech.

"I remember the recruiting coordinator [Aubrey Hill] and the [defensive backs] coach [Wesley] McGriff came out to see us. McGriff came one other time. I'll say they came three times total to be safe."

Lockette, one of three on the board of the Miami-Dade County Coaches Association, doesn't want to take shots at Shannon or his staff. He's known Shannon since he was a teenager, grew up playing at the same park where Shannon frequented up in Northwest Dade. But Lockette still isn't sure why the Hurricanes didn't come around to recruit his players more often or other local players many thought were good enough to play for the Canes but ended up elsewhere.

The thought process here isn't that the Canes need to get every local kid. The thought process is at least come and make your presence felt so if you have to offer a kid late in the game, you don't come in as a total stranger.

"I remember Randy coming in personally about a year ago, we sat down and talked," Lockette said. "From then on, we thought it was going to be better. I'm not trying to throw Randy Shannon or his staff under the bus. I just thought they were recruiting a different type athlete. They would say, 'Well this guy can't play at Miami.' Jeffrey Godfrey? He can't play at Miami? You look at the guys who are going off to Louisville and what they're going to do. You know and I know you've been watching football for a long time -- that's sickening.

"At the end of the day, if you look at the track record, I've been here for three years. You mean to tell me I'm sending 53 kids off to school from here, 38 are D-I and only one is going to UM? I don't know what the deal was. They have to answer that."

That player UM got from Central, cornerback Thomas Finnie, wasn't even recruited by Shannon or anybody on his staff. Golden came down and swooped him away from South Carolina -- right under Steve Spurrier and Lockett's nose. Lockette was a little bothered at first that Golden nor anybody on his staff called to let him know they were meeting with Finnie on the morning he was set to leave for South Carolina.

But that's ancient history now.

Jacoby Brissett "He came in and we sat down a week ago Tuesday," Lockette said. "He wanted to apologize for the whole ordeal and how everything went down. I told him I understood. I was telling him at this point if he wants to recruit my kids I don't have any problems with him doing it. That's when they jumped on [offensive tackle] John Miller. Once coach [Art] Kehoe got in and saw John Miller, he was ecstatic, wanted the kid bad, but it was too late.

"Coach Golden is a good guy, a straight up guy. I don't blame him for coming after the kids the way he did late in the game. It's unfortunate they were caught in that situation. I just would have liked a courtesy phone call saying coach I'm going to go after your kid. But I understand they were under the gun. That's called recruiting. I didn't have a problem with that."

Golden promised Wednesday the Hurricanes won't ever be under the gun or strangers in their own backyard again as long as he's coach. His plan to change htings: put all nine of his coaches to recruit what he calls 'The Eye Of The Storm' -- Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties.

"All of Florida is vitally important ot us. We’ve got to get back to our roots...," Golden said. "We’re going to get back to being really strong in those areas. We’re talking right now about which areas we’re going to allocate. Not only do we have all nine coaches within two hours of where we are right now, which is what we call the Eye of the Storm, we have all nine coaches in-state, which is really important to us. If we take care of our home state, we’re going to be in great shape. We’ll have all nine guys in the state and all nine guys here in the eye, which I think is a departure from what they’ve done before. We want to make sure we get it right here.

"There are too many kids signing late, too many kids that are the next Ed Reed or the next Ray Lewis who was the last player taken, or the next Reggie Wayne. There are too many of those kids locally to go all over the country when they’re right here in our backyard. We want to make sure our central focus is here and then go out of state to get kids that want to be a part of this tradition.

"The number of kids that come out from down here and play Division I football is the reason whywe’re developing our recruiting philosophy... if there’s 350 or 400 kids that sign Division I scholarships in Florida, we only need 18 to 20 a year to be a great team. Not to compete, but a great team. So let’s get it right at home and go from there."

Golden isn't just taking a new approach to recruiting, he's taking a new approach all around. Among other things on tap: junior days, camps, coaching clinics. In essence, he's extending his hand out and shaking hands with people who often wondered why that old football powerhouse down the street was ignoring them.

"We are the University of Miami, the University of all of South Florida," Golden said. "And we want to make sure we are giving kids an opportunity to learn, to be exposed to the University of Miami, our mission on campus. And clearly we want an opportunity to evaluate to see which ones are good enough to be Hurricanes and who wants to be Miami Hurricanes.

"Our last four years at Temple, 78 percent of the kids that we signed attended [our] camp. So obviously you have a chance to evaluate them in the camp. There’s nothing like seeing a student-athlete live. There’s nothing that compares to it. If you can take that, plus the academic transcript, plus the film and then the intangibles, you have a chance to mitigate risk."

UM's camp used to cost $390. Golden has slashed it down $55.

"We're going to keep that price low," Golden said. "It's $40 through President's Day weekend, then will go up to $55. It's not a money maker for us. It’s about getting to know the high school coaches, giving kids an opportunity. The camp is designed so if you don't get a scholarship offer from Miami – FIU, FAU, Bethnue Cookman, MAC schools, a bunch of 1-AA schools – all those schools will be here and represented so there's a safety net in there. It's not just going to benefit you if you want to go to Miami, but it will benefit you if you want to go to one of those other institutions as well."

How does it work? "You show up at 8, you get introduced to the staff, we break you down into groups and you do a bunch of drills on offense, then you do a bunch of drills on defense, then you have a chance to go to lunch on campus - inside, for a barbecue," Golden said.

"We'll finish up with some one on ones and some competition at the end. It's really an 8 to 4 deal. We coach the heck out of them. We have it down cold. We’re going to develop them. They're going to learn. Hopefully, the goal is to get them back again. We have six of those dates in June."

Of course, Golden still isn't done with 2011.

The Hurricanes, ranked as having the 36th-best recruiting class in the country by Rivals.com, could end up moving up a few more notches tonight if Jacoby Brissett decides UM (which didn't begin recruiting him until three weeks ago) is really the best place for his future.

But gain a quarterback or watch him go elsewhere tonight, we've learned at least one thing over the last six weeks: Al Golden is not going to be a stranger in his own backyard very long.