Last year the University of Miami was able to snag two of the three elite prospects from Miami Central High School -- running back Joseph Yearby and offensive tackle Trevor Darling.
And they lost a tough one to national champion Florida State, which snagged Mr. Florida Football Dalvin Cook.
This year, the Hurricanes weren't able to get commitments from either of the two players it really wanted at Central, which won its fourth state championship in five seasons and third in a row in Class 6A.
Receiver Da'Vante Phillips, an Under Armour All-American, opted to follow his close friend Cook to Florida State and is already enrolled in Tallahassee. And running back/receiver Anthony Jones stuck with his commitment to FIU over a late offer from the Hurricanes.
Wednesday, I caught up with Rockets coach Roland Smith, a former Hurricane himself, to find out why in his opinion his alma mater wasn't able to win the recruiting war for either player and why the Canes weren't necessarily interested in a few other players at Central.
"My kids are still intrigued by the University of Miami, but I knew it was going to be hard for the kid they were trying to get in Phillips because of the strong ties he had with Dalvin Cook," Smith said. "When Dalvin was committed to Florida a couple years ago, Da'Vante committed to Florida. When Dalvin decommitted, Da'Vante decommitted. Then, even though Da'Vante was intrigued by Miami, I think the temptation and friendship he had with Cook is why he went to FSU. Da'Vante knew he probably had a better opportunity to go in and contribute right away at Miami, but I think the relationship with Cook, plus the opportunity to play for FSU played a big part in it too.
"When you're winning, kids are very impressionable you know. That plays a big part of it too. When you're winning everybody wants to be a part of a winning program. And right now FSU has been winning and getting the fruit of their labor for winning. Miami is just going after kids they think can help their program out."
Right now, the Canes have commitments from just two of the 16 players from Dade and Broward who played in the three major All-American games: St. Thomas Aquinas running back Jordan Scarlett (U.S. Army All-American) and Miami Killian safety Jaquan Johnson (U.S. Army All-American, already enrolled).
"That number is real low. It should be higher," Smith said. "But it is what it is. I work for Miami Central, not the University of Miami. In order for Miami to get back to where we were we've got to keep these local kids home. They've tried. It's not for a lack of effort. From the staff on down, the head coach, coordinators, assistant coaches, they're doing a hell of a job trying. But to get over the hump you've got to win those big games. This year we weren't able to pull off the big ones like Florida State, Nebraska. Kids these days are more impressionable. It seemed like to me like when we were coming up, when Melvin Bratton, Alonzo Highsmith decided to go to UM, Miami wasn't dominant either, but those guys wanted to turn the program around and put it on the map. Nowadays it seems like the kids look forward to going to programs that are winning, already established, not trying to build something. And that's kind of surprising to me."
Running back Anthony Jones, the MVP of this year's state championship game, was offered late by the Hurricanes.
"I think he stuck with FIU because he has a chance to do a lot more things that he probably wouldn't be able to do at Miami," Smith said. "FIU is giving him an opportunity, putting a package in for him where he could be a running back, receiver, wildcat, do things on special teams. Plus, an opportunity to help change the program around too and be the man too. That's the only reason he stayed with them because he liked the opportunity at Miami. They were intrigued by his playmaking ability and said he could have been a special kid that helped them out at slot receiver or running back. Brennan Carroll, James Coley, Ice [Harris], they all made a strong push. It was late, but they made a strong push to try and get him. It's just he had a better chance to be in more packages at FIU than any other program."
Did it surprise Smith FIU beat out UM for Jones?
"Well, Cincinnati was saying the same thing," he said. "They would have rather lost the kid to Miami rather than lose him to FIU. I've had kids pick Division I-AA schools over Division I schools. I had a coach one time fussing with me because a kid picked Howard over Eastern Michigan. I said, coach that's the kid's decision. Sometimes guys think because of the schools they're from that will win the kid over, but it's the relationship the kid develops and the opportunity they have to play somewhere. A lot of people asked him are you sure this is what you want to do? It was tough for Anthony. He was going back and forth on which way he was going to go. But at the end he had to sit down and pray on it. He felt it was the best opportunity for him to go there to FIU."
Central had plenty of other stars on the team including three others already enrolled in college: U.S. Army All-American safety Calvin Brewton (Florida State), defensive end Fermin Silva (FIU) and linebacker Marquis Couch (Marshall). Why didn't the Hurricanes show more interest in any of those guys?
"Miami was recruiting Fermin [Silva], but they never offered him," Smith said. "They wanted to see him stand up a little bit more. He was a kid that was very intrigued by Miami. If they would have offered him he would have gone.
"With Bretwon, they felt like they had some other guys at safety that they liked a little bit more. Calvin was always intrigued by FSU. His friend Bobo Wilson, who he played with before is at FSU. He had some other schools that came after him that I thought would be a better fit. But like I told him, in the end you have to be happy where you go. It's your decision."