TALLAHASSEE -- As exciting as it was for University of Miami and Florida State fans to see both of their programs back in the top 10 and playing in a meaningful rivalry game this late in the season, scouts said Hurricanes coach Al Golden is still playing catch-up with Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher when it comes to stocking the shelves with talent.
FSU has eight NFL Draft-eligible players ranked in the top 10 at their respective positions by CBSSports.com. Miami, by comparison, has five.
FSU left tackle Cameron Erving (6-5, 320) is the only projected first-rounder for either team, picked by one CBSSports analyst in its most recent mock draft to go as high as 10th overall.
Defensive back Lamarcus Joyner, a Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas graduate, is listed as the second-best free safety in the 2014 draft and a projected second-rounder along with rush end Christian Jones (rated the No. 1 inside linebacker by CBSSports). FSU defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan is rated third-best at his position and is projected as either a late first- or early second-rounder.
UM’s top-rated draft-eligible players are senior Seantrel Henderson (sixth among all offensive tackles), outside linebacker Denzel Perryman (eighth), quarterback Stephen Morris (ninth) and punter Pat O’Donnell (second).
Other top-rated players for FSU include: safety Terrence Brooks (fourth), center Bryan Stork (fifth), running back James Wilder Jr. (eighth) and fullback Chad Abram (fourth).
History shows why the Seminoles are a deeper and a more talented team. After Randy Shannon reeled in the fifth-best rated recruiting class in the country in 2008, according to Rivals, FSU’s signing classes — anchored by Fisher — were rated better than UM each year (2009: FSU 7th; Miami 15th; 2010: FSU 10th; Miami 16th. 2011: FSU 2nd, Miami 36th; 2012: FSU 6th; Miami 9th; 2013: FSU 10th; Miami 20th).
Making matters tougher for UM has been holding onto its top recruits or developing them. Of the six Rivals four-star prospects Miami signed in 2010 (the Hurricanes didn’t sign any five-stars), only three are still with the program (offensive lineman Malcolm Bunche, running back Eduardo Clements and offensive lineman Brandon Linder). Miami signed only two four-star recruits in 2011 (no five-stars) and one (defensive end Jalen Grimble) transferred out this season.
But since Golden has had time to establish himself beginning with the 2012 class, the Hurricanes have signed two Rivals five-star recruits (cornerback Tracy Howard, running back Duke Johnson) and 17 four-star recruits. Of that group, only receiver Angelo Jean-Louis and receiver Robert Lockhart are no longer on the team.
The Hurricanes don’t have any five-star recruits among next year’s commitments, but they do have 11 four-star prospects. UM’s class (26 commitments) is ranked sixth by Rivals. FSU (25 commitments) is ranked seventh.
FSU lined up with nine Rivals five-star prospects Saturday: defensive ends Eddie Goldman, Mario Edwards, Jacobbi McDaniel and Christian Jones; defensive backs Jalen Ramsey and Joyner; quarterback Jameis Winston; and running backs Wilder and Karlos Williams.
UM had three: Howard, Henderson and Johnson.
Alex Rodriguez, who is suing Major League Baseball for engaging in what he called a “witch hunt” and appealing his 211-game suspension for a violation of the league’s drug policy, was on UM’s sideline before the to cheer on the Hurricanes.
Rodriguez always has been a huge Hurricanes fan and has followed their season closely. He was at the Georgia Tech game earlier this year. He plans on attending next week’s game against Virginia Tech at Sun Life Stadium, his spokesman said.
UM put Rodriguez’s name on its baseball stadium back in 2009 after he provided a $3.9 million donation to help renovate Mark Light Field. It’s now called Mark Light Field at Alex Rodriguez Park.
About eight hours before kickoff, ESPN’s “College GameDay” delivered this tweet to its more than 591,000 followers: “Congrats to our #GameDaySigns winner @Jared Bassett8, ‘Hey Miami, there are more people here at Gameday then there are at your home games!”
Hurricanes fans couldn’t have liked that one too much, considering the Canes have averaged nearly 10,000 more fans a game at Sun Life Stadium this season (56,572). UM averaged 47,719 fans last season.
• ESPN analyst Lee Corso, who picked FSU to win, stood on UM’s sideline for the game. He said he always stands on the visitor’s sideline because there usually are fewer guests.