Player retention woes likely a key contributor to Miami Hurricanes’ malaise
Whether bad vetting or bad luck, Al Golden’s early signing classes have lost a number of players to transfers and disciplinary problems.
09/04/2014 5:10 PM
09/08/2014 8:59 PM
As the blowout losses mount and the mediocrity continues, the noise is getting loud outside Al Golden’s football office.
Former Hurricanes players lashed out this week. They don’t like the offensive play-calling and defensive schemes, and they want to know how a program with five national titles has lost five of its past seven games by 18 or more points, including Monday night’s season opener at Louisville.
There has to be enough talent to win more than Golden has (he’s 3-5 against ranked opponents and 11-12 against bowl-eligible teams since arriving in 2011). After all, Miami’s recruiting classes under Golden were ranked 36th (2011), ninth (2012), 20th (2013) and 12th (2014) by Rivals.com.
If talent is coming in through the door, why are the results on the field still disappointing? One reason: A significant number of recruits (18) from Golden’s first three signing classes have either left the program or been booted off the team because of arrests or disciplinary issues.
Another six players who signed never made it into school (Kevin Grooms, Antonio Kinard, Angelo Jean-Louis, Derrick Griffin, Devante Bond and Ryheem Lockley), and three others didn’t get on the field because of injuries (quarterbacks Preston Dewey and David Thompson and linebacker Josh Witt).
Add it up, and 27 of the 71 players Golden recruited to UM over his first three years provided little or no help.
“That right there is a sanction you put on yourself,” said Corey Long, a recruiting expert who has worked for ESPN, 247Sports and Friday Night Football Magazine.
Chris Nee, who covers Florida State and in-state recruiting for 247Sports.com, said that kind of attrition is bad and has to fall on the coaching staff.
“They’re the ones who judge [the recruits’] character and decide whether they fit into the program,” Nee said. “Obviously, guys leave for different reasons — off-the-field issues, lack of playing time, they aren’t an academic fit, whatever. But you have to reduce the possibilities of those things happening before you bring them in.”
The positions hit hardest by transfers and recruiting misses are quarterback and linebacker. The reason it was so easy for Brad Kaaya to come in and win the starting job as a true freshman was because there wasn’t much in the way of competition.
Aside from Dewey and Thompson (he’s now playing baseball), the other quarterbacks Miami recruited under former offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch haven’t panned out, either. Gray Crow was moved to H-back/tight end in August, and Kevin Olsen, redshirted last season, was suspended for the opener at Louisville for breaking team rules. It’s clear he has been passed up on the depth chart.
UM’s issues with depth at linebacker can be attributed to players getting themselves in trouble. Gionni Paul (now at Utah) and Eddie Johnson started for Miami and were among the leading tacklers in 2012, but Golden parted with both shortly after the season. Alex Figueroa and JaWand Blue were expected to be contributors this season but were arrested and charged with sexual battery this summer. Their arraignment was scheduled at Miami-Dade Criminal Court on Friday morning.
Then, there’s an entire group of players who didn’t seem to be a fit at all. Four-star defensive end Jalen Grimble is now at Oregon State. Tight end Beau Sandland, who came in as the No. 1 JUCO tight end in 2013, left the program last week and is now at Montana State. In all, one-third of Miami’s 2012 signing class (11 of the 33 players signed) are no longer here, including three defensive backs (Nate Dortch, Larry Hope, Vernon Davis), four defensive linemen (Dwayne Hoilett, Gabe Terry, Jacoby Briscoe and Dequan Ivery) and two receivers (Robert Lockhart and Jontavious Carter).
“I don’t know what goes through some guys’ heads or what they think about when they’re here, but some guys just aren’t mentally tough enough,” linebacker Denzel Perryman said when asked about the transfers. “I don’t know what there is not to like about Miami.”
Another UM player who spoke on the condition of anonymity said a few players who left the program “didn’t trust the process.” He added: “We don’t feel bad for them. We look at them as traitors.”
Both Long and Nee said Miami’s recruiting classes the past two years have improved, and they say the commitments who are part of the 2015 and 2016 classes project to be even better.
They also credited Golden and his staff with finding a few gems in their previous signing classes. Long-cited safety Rayshawn Jenkins, cornerback Antonio Crawford and linebacker Thurston Armbrister.
“They get 10 great commitments in each class, but what Miami has to learn to do better is recruit that 11 to 20 area,” Nee said. “Those are glue guys that build their roster, build their depth and improve what they’re going to be long-term.”
Said Long: “I really like what they’ve done in 2015 and 2016 — especially 2016. You get a kid like Jordan Scarlett, Sam Bruce, those are old-school Miami talents.
“What’s happened is they’ve gotten those kids like Perryman, [Anthony] Chickillo, [Tracy] Howard, and they’ve left them on an island. Jon Vilma and Ed Reed were special players. But they had guys like Chris Campbell and Al Blades around them who weren’t as good, but they all worked together and understood their roles. Miami will be Miami again when they get back to that.”
• DE Jalen Grimble, 4-star (now at Oregon State, transferred after 2012 season)
• CB Thomas Finnie, 3-star (now at Bethune-Cookman, released from UM following arrest in Dec. 2012)
• LB Gionni Paul, 3-star (now at Utah, transferred after 2012 season)
• DE Ricardo Williams, 3-star (now at Marshall, transferred after 2012 season)
• LB Eddie Johnson, 3-star (booted off team in March 2013)
• WR Robert Lockhart, 3-star (left program in May 2013)
• LB JaWand Blue, 3-star (arrested, charged with sexual battery, July 2013)
• RB Danny Dillard, 3-star (dismissed Aug. 2013, enrolled at Bethune-Cookman)
• DE Dwayne Hoilett, 3-star (left the school in July)
• DT Jacoby Briscoe, 3-star (transferred to Louisianna-Lafayette in June 2013)
• WR Jontavious Carter, 3-star (transferred to Bethune-Cookman Aug. 2013)
• DB Vernon Davis, 3-star (transferred in 2012 to West Virginia)
• DB Larry Hope, 3-star (left UM in May 2013)
• DE Gabe Terry, 3-star (left UM in April 2013 after being arrested with marijuana)
• DB Nate Dortch, 3-star (now at Youngstown State, left UM this summer)
• DT Dequan Ivery, 3-star (left program for Mississippi JUCO)
• TE Beau Sandland, 4-star (left program last week and is now at Montana State)
• LB Alex Figueroa, 0-star (arrested, charged with sexual battery July 2013)
Signed, but never made it into UM
• RB Kevin Grooms, 3-star (didn’t get into Miami, went to Marshall, dismissed in July for burglary)
• LB Antonio Kinard, 3-star
• WR Angelo Jean-Louis, 3-star (didn’t qualify at UM, now at Marshall)
• WR Derrick Griffin, 4-star (former U.S. Army All-American)
• LB Devante Bond, 3-star (recruited to Oklahoma in 2014)
• ATH Ryheem Lockley, 3-star
No longer playing fooball
• QB Preston Dewey, 3-star (injury ended career)
• QB David Thompson, 3-star (playing baseball)
• LB Josh Witt, 3-star (injury ended career)
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