The Hurricanes concluded National Signing Day on Wednesday with 16 high school athletes officially accepting scholarships to attend Miami. Five of those recruits came from Florida, with four of those residing in South Florida.
While Miami was able to sign 24 recruits on Signing Day last year, a self-imposed scholarship reduction in anticipation of NCAA sanctions limited their class size for 2013. Coach Al Golden gave praise to this year’s class despite the obstacles in Miami’s way.
“It’s a class that we’re proud of. It’s a class that we really had to fight hard for,” he said. “I don’t think anybody outside this room knows what we were up against the entire year fighting for this class.”
Heading into the offseason, the prime concern for the Hurricanes was on the defensive side of the ball. They added seven players on defense, including two linemen, an area considered most in need of an upgrade.
Golden referred to Al-Quadin Muhammad, a 6-foot-3, 240-lbs. defensive end, as a “No. 1 pass rusher on the open side who plays with passion.” He also signed Ufomba Kamalu, a defensive lineman from Butler Community College.
Offensively, Miami picked up key recruits at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and two at tight end. Golden said Kevin Olsen – the younger brother of former Canes tight end Greg Olsen – is a “big-time pro-style quarterback.”
He also had high praise for wide receiver prospect Stacy Coley. A four-star receiver out of Oakland Park, Fla., he was rated the fourth-best receiver overall by ESPN.
“We sought out to get one wide receiver in this class, and that’s tough when you’re in South Florida. That means you’re letting a lot of good ones go but we think we got the best one down here in Stacy Coley,” Golden said. “That was a real good get for us. He’s one of the more fluid wide receivers that we’ve seen in a long time.”
Another key recruit that signed on is Ray Lewis III, the son of Hurricane legend and two-time Super Bowl champion Ray Lewis. The three-star athlete is capable of playing at cornerback, wide receiver or running back, and his addition gives Miami a sense of intrigue around the energy and wisdom his father imposes.
“It’s exciting,” Golden said of having Lewis around the program. “Just to end [his NFL career] like that, that’s a storybook ending for Ray. To have Ray [Lewis III] not only have passion and discipline and have a great work ethic, but he kind of looks like [his father]. It’ll be fun to have him around.”
Miami’s limited class missed out on signing some of the higher-rated players it had given offers. Matthew Thomas, the No. 1 linebacker in the nation, signed with rival Florida State on Wednesday.
The Canes also lost out on defensive tackle Keith Bryant, who will join Thomas in Tallahassee. Offensive tackle Denver Kirkland, who lost his offer from UM and then got it back days later, ultimately signed with the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Another Hurricane target, five-star running back Alex Collins, announced he would be attending Arkansas on Monday, but as of Wednesday night had not sent in his letter of intent. Multiple reports claim that his mother, who wants him to stay close to home at Miami, took his letter away just before his announcement began in an attempt to persuade him otherwise.
Per NCAA rules, Golden could not refer to players not signed to Miami by name, but referenced the situation indirectly.
“We may have room for one more,” he said about a possible addition to the class. “But that’s about it.”
He also noted that while last season’s recruiting class was about trying to build depth at every position, this season had to be more specific with areas of need. He said that with such a limited class, there wasn’t any other choice.
“Last year was about signing a two-deep everywhere because we lost so many seniors the year before,” he said. “This group is more filling in and giving us symmetry and some competition.”
Although the class size for 2013 is smaller, Golden emphasized that nobody – newcomer or not – is guaranteed a starting role.
“The one thing that’s consistent with how we run our organization is that everybody gets an opportunity to compete for a starting job. It doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman or a senior,” he said. “We have 20 starters back on a 7-5 team. We start getting to 10, 11, 12 wins then we can start saying there’s a little bit of a hierarchy, but we’re not there yet.”
With all the difficulties that the NCAA investigation led to in the recruiting process, Golden admitted he is eagerly awaiting the day he can put it to rest.
“I think all of us feel like there’s closure coming. That’s going to be a great day,” he said. “I haven’t had that experience yet at the University of Miami. I’m looking forward to being able to go into homes and communities and not have to answer that question.”