Negativity in college football recruiting, just as in political campaigns, tends to signify the last bastion of a weakened opponent. According to Al Golden, Miami’s troubles have far too often been the source of another team’s sales pitch. But apparently, nobody bought any of it.
“The negativity entered into the realm of vicious,” Golden said. “A lot of times when you’re dealing with people like that, if you just give them enough rope they hang themselves. When you’re in that pressure cooker, how you act in front of a recruit and his parents says a lot about you and a lot about your program.”
As of Wednesday night, Miami secured the commitments of 24 recruits in addition to the nine players eligible for early enrollment. New NCAA rules dictate that a program may only give out 25 scholarships per recruiting class.
According to rivals.com, Miami’s class ranks ninth nationally. A pair of five-star recruits (as rated by rivals.com) headline the talent-grab: Miramar cornerback Tracy Howard – considered best in the country at his position – and Miami Norland running back Duke Johnson. Howard had been heavily recruited by both the University of Florida and the 2011 national champion University of Alabama, but chose to stay home – just as Golden expected.
“It’s time we start acting like Miami Hurricanes and stop having an inferiority complex,” Golden said. “Are we not supposed to beat Alabama down here? Are we not supposed to beat Florida State down here? I don’t get that.”
He continued: “Look at those rings in the hall. That’s the challenge, that’s what we’re trying to get back to. Add those guys together and they don’t have five rings. I don’t mean any disrespect by it, but we’ve got to start thinking like the University of Miami again.”
Addressing obvious flaws in the team’s composition due to both players leaving for the NFL draft and poor play, the wide receiver and cornerback positions were fortified with six recruits apiece, most notably the aforementioned Howard. Angelo Jean-Louis, a 6-foot wide receiver from Palm Beach Central High School, comes in as the Canes’ highest-rated receiver.
Miami’s haul was the largest of any school ranked in the top 25 nationally, surpassing Texas’ top-ranked class by five recruits.
Golden contends that the Hurricanes went heavy this year due to looming NCAA sanctions from last year’s Nevin Shapiro scandal, though other schools were more than happy to remind recruits of that ordeal.
“It’s been a grueling year. We’ve been through a lot,” Golden said. “The allegations and events of Aug. 14, the lack of continuity, then we took a bowl game in order to move forward. We’ve already endured a lot as a program, now we had to go out and compete against it. We got absolutely crushed by our opponents in this, but we fought back.”
Only seven recruits come from outside the state of Florida, and just one received a four-star rating: Raphael Kirby, linebacker from Stephensen High School in Georgia.
The obvious push from Golden and his staff to secure homegrown talent is reminiscent of former Hurricanes coach Howard Schnellenberger’s “State of Miami,” the title-winning recruiting technique of securing the border of I-4 stretching from Daytona Beach to Tampa and swallowing up the fertile talent bed which lies south.
Contrast that geographic distribution with last year’s, where seven of 19 prospects hailed from beyond the Sunshine State. While the 2011 class stretched from California to Virginia, the 2012 base has been scaled back quite a bit. Defensive end Jake O’Donnell will have the longest flight home for the holidays – to Pennsylvania.
“The talent in this state is unbelievable,” Golden said. “We’re very fortunate to not only have a national brand, but also a great recruiting base here in South Florida.”