Pompano Blanche Ely football coach Charles Hafley has been involved in high school sports in Broward County long enough to see how the University of Miami has recruited its backyard under its past three coaches.
It’s the current guy in charge — Al Golden — whom Hafley said has figured out the best way to build meaningful relationships in South Florida and a pipeline to Coral Gables, one that netted the Hurricanes another early 2014 oral commitment Tuesday morning, this time from Ely standout linebacker Terry McCray.
Rated a two-star recruit by Rivals.com and the nation’s 58th-best inside linebacker by 247Sports (it ranks McCray three stars), the Hurricanes had been recruiting McCray (6-3, 220 pounds) intently since October. McCray said he chose UM over offers from Syracuse, Minnesota, Cincinnati and West Virginia.
“I always liked Miami, always liked the school,” said McCray, who took an unofficial visit to UM on Tuesday where he met with coaches and gave them his commitment. “I really feel like the team they’re putting together is going to be one of the best in the country. I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity for that and to play with my favorite college team.”
By picking UM, McCray becomes the 24th player to join UM’s 2014 class and the 15th commitment from South Florida (10 from Miami-Dade, three from Broward, two from Palm Beach). He’s also the first player from Ely to choose the Hurricanes since four members of the Tigers’ state championship team in 2002 — including his cousin, defensive lineman Teraz McCray — opted to head to Coral Gables.
“Our tradition [at Ely] for a while there was sending guys to LSU — Patrick Peterson, my cousin Rashard Robinson,” said McCray, who also received interest from Florida State and LSU throughout the recruiting process. “I just didn’t want to follow everybody else.”
McCray, who turns 19 in January, said UM coaches recruited him because of his ability to rush the quarterback (he had 13 sacks as a junior) and defend in pass coverage in a 3-4 scheme.
McCray said he grew up playing defensive back until his sophomore year.
A third-team All-Broward selection by the Miami Herald last season, McCray finished his junior year with 89 solo tackles and 20 tackles for loss. Hafley said McCray has a 2.5 GPA and recently took the ACT but still hasn’t received the test score. He believes McCray will qualify for UM.
Hafley credits defensive backs coach Paul Williams and Golden with doing a great job of recruiting McCray.
“South Florida has always been and always will be UM territory,” Hafley said. “Coach [Randy] Shannon, coach [Larry] Coker knew that. But at the end of the day, Coach Golden is just going beyond the call of building relationships. His coaching staff and his support staff as well.”
Hafley said community service projects and football camps enacted by Golden have paved the way for better relationships between UM and local coaches and players.
“They had Stephen Morris, [Denzel Perryman], [Tracy Howard] at the park down here in our neighborhood recently,” Hafley said. “The players are the ones really selling the program. Howard did a great job communicating and telling the kids what UM is all about, about it’s family atmosphere. It’s something that is big for the high school kids and younger kids to hear it from someone from their own backyard.”
Hafley said Golden, entering his third year at UM, has built stronger relationships with head coaches and programs in South Florida during the past year.
“When Coach Golden came to recruit a previous player [Robinson] from here last year, he took time to speak to staff members so he can build those relationships,” Hafley said. “He’s really winning over the South Florida coaching community by doing those things and the clinics they have.”
Rivals.com ranks UM’s 2014 class third behind Tennessee (24 commitments) and Florida State (22 commitments), and 247Sports.com ranks UM’s fifth behind Tennessee, FSU, Georgia (16 commitments) and Alabama (15 commitments). ESPN, which moved UM up five spots after last week’s commitments from Miami Booker T. Washington defensive end Chad Thomas and cornerback Nigel Bethel, had UM ranked seventh before Tuesday’s commitment from McCray.