Al Golden has faced the first real test of his ability to lead a former powerhouse back to prominence.
National Signing Day, the unofficial start of the new football season, is a day for coaches to prove how good they are at convincing high school seniors that whatever their dreams are, they can be accomplished at their school, and no one else’s. And for players, it means introducing themselves to a national audience that may one day know their names, but now will only associate them with the cap they put on their heads.
As for what it actually means? Your guess is as good as mine.
Golden came into his current position at an immediate disadvantage. Coaches and recruiting coordinators begin lobbying for most elite prospects in every class during their sophomore year of high school. So for Golden and co. to start recruiting roughly 90 days before signing day with a program very much in flux was a tough sell this year to any blue-chip prospect also being lured by more established, brand-name coaches.
Frankly, any good talent he pulls out of this class is a bonus. In less than three months, Golden and his staff have had to compete against what other schools have been working on for three years.
But despite those hurdles, progress has been made. Golden has not only proven his recruiting prowess by stealing away players- as he convinced four-star defensive end recruit Jalen Grimble to back out of his verbal commitment to Southern California and come to Coral Gables- but by also securing some talent that had pondered doing the same to UM. Anthony Chickillo, another four-star defensive end from Tampa, decided to remain a Hurricane after receiving what had to be one hell of a sales pitch from Golden, a man he had never met before taking the Miami head coaching job.
Some recruits have decided to take their talents away from South Beach, as Miami Northwestern standouts Terry Bridgewater and Eli Rogers decommitted from Miami to attend Louisville after Randy Shannon’s firing. But those losses are to be expected during a coaching change, and all things considered, the losses suffered have been far from crippling.
I won’t go any further in trying to guess how they’ll perform. Why we want to anoint a bunch of kids, some of whom aren’t even old enough to buy cigarettes, as either the next best thing or without a future is beyond me. The ranking a recruiting class gets is nothing more than an educated guess, and ask Notre Dame what their top-rated recruit classes have done for them lately.
With all of that said, there will be no letter grade from “Prof. Gregerson” on Al Golden’s first round of talent-shopping as of yet. Superficial examination would say that he loaded up on defense, possibly found replacements for Allen Bailey in Jalen Grimble and Matt Bosher in Matt Goudis, yet didn’t get the quarterbacks that the team will eventually need. But come a few years, when win/loss constitutes as their pass/fail, you won’t need to look at a scout’s ranking to know how good these players are- just the standings.
Austen Gregerson may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org