Miami Norland coach Daryle Heidelburg, who won a state championship two years ago with current Hurricanes Duke Johnson and Ereck Flowers, endured a rough 3-7 season in 2013.
And yet, even though his roster wasn’t filled with major 2014 recruits, Heidelburg said he still heard from University of Miami coach Al Golden often — via email or text message. He also said he had a UM assistant coach at his school every opportunity NCAA rules allowed.
Same deal for Miami Columbus coach Chris Merritt, Cypress Bay coach Mark Guandolo and a number of other coaches in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties who didn’t have one of the 246 seniors UM offered a scholarship, according to 247Sports.com.
The coaches of the 30 local seniors who did have offers said UM coaches recruited those players as hard as anybody else in the country, with assistants Michael Barrow and Hurlie Brown taking the lead on most.
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“I personally don’t see how they can do a better job recruiting South Florida than they already are,” said Merritt, who had U.S. All-American safety Deon Bush sign with UM two years ago. “You’re talking about the most recruited, talent-rich area in the country. There’s no way you’re going to get them all.”
Yet, come Wednesday, when fax machines get busy sending and receiving signed National Letters of Intent, the natural instinct for all UM fans will be to look at the recruiting rankings and begin taking account of the recruits Golden was able to keep home and those who got away.
This year’s local class is as rich as any in recent memory with 13 of the state’s top 30 consensus players — most of whom were All-Americans — calling Dade or Broward home. UM’s backyard yielded only six top-30 recruits in 2013 (Miami signed Stacy Coley and Artie Burns) and seven in 2012 (UM landed five: Johnson, Flowers, Bush, Tracy Howard and Jelani Hamilton).
This year, UM has five of the state’s top-30 recruits committed, including four locals: Miami Booker T. Washington defensive end Chad Thomas, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas defensive lineman Anthony Moten and running back Joseph Yearby and offensive lineman Trevor Darling, both from Miami Central. The fifth, Palm Beach Central offensive tackle Kc McDermott, is already enrolled at UM along with Yearby and Darling.
Overall, Miami’s class is ranked eighth nationally by ESPN, Scout and Rivals and 11th by 247Sports.com. And 11 of UM’s 26 commitments hail from Miami-Dade or Broward.
“I think Miami has done a good job down there, but I wouldn’t say a great job,” said Chris Nee, who covers recruiting in Florida for 247Sports.com. “You see a guy like Johnnie Dixon [from Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer] who they really valued, [Champagnat defensive tackle] Travonte Valentine, [Homestead receiver] Ermon Lane, who early in the process they really valued. Missing on those guys, that doesn’t make you a better football team and it’s going to cause disappointment.
“But it’s not like they’re not putting in the effort. They were in it late for Dixon, Valentine and a few others. It’s just a matter of you have to close.”
Central running back Dalvin Cook (Florida State), Plantation American Heritage running back Sony Michel (Georgia), Hollywood Chaminade defensive tackle Khairi Clark (Florida) and undecided recruits Lane and Valentine (he’s still considering UM, but LSU is the favorite) were all players Miami was in on early. Assuming they all get away, they’ll join a list of recent UM big misses that includes linebacker Matthew Thomas (FSU), running back Alex Collins (Arkansas), receiver Amari Cooper (Alabama), linebacker Keith Brown (Louisville) and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville).
Outspoken Hurricanes fan and rapper Luther Campbell, who was named defensive coordinator at Miami Norland last week, thinks UM coaches are doing a good job recruiting locally but said they need to “be a little more aggressive and take the approach as if they’re from out of town.” In the end, Campbell said players such as Lane and Cooper grew up wanting to be Canes and had to be convinced to go elsewhere.
Nee said UM is getting more aggressive in terms of early offers and already has 119 out for the 2015 class — 52 in state and 21 locally.
Booker T. Washington coach Ice Harris said not offering his son — star quarterback Treon Harris — a scholarship early is the only mistake UM made this season. Last year, Harris was upset when UM pulled its offer from offensive lineman Denver Kirkland (Arkansas) late in the process. But he said the fences have long been mended.
Champagnat’s Mike Tunsil and American Heritage’s Mike Rumph, a former Hurricane, were the only local coaches interviewed by the Miami Herald who thought UM could have done a better job evaluating and recruiting other players on their state championship teams. But when it came to recruiting the players UM did go after from those schools — Michel and Valentine — “Miami did its due diligence,” Tunsil said.