High School Recruiting

Miami Hurricanes likely to battle with FSU for key South Florida recruits on National Signing Day

University of Miami football coach Al Golden said last month he was willing to wait until late in the game to try and land a few elite recruits from his own backyard.

The wait ends Wednesday morning. Signed and faxed national letters of intent will make everything official. And when the ink dries and ESPNU is done televising dozens of 17- and 18-year-olds performing hat tricks, the Hurricanes hope to be much better off than they were Tuesday night.

The rival Florida Gators, whose class is tabbed No. 1 in the country by ESPN, No. 2 by Rivals.com and No. 3 by 247Sports.com with less than 24 hours to go, don’t appear to have much to sweat about.

In spite of losing six assistants to other programs since the end of the season, Florida State, which reportedly flipped five-star cornerback Jalen Ramsey on Tuesday and is climbing the rankings, could have the huge finish Golden was hoping for. But in many instances, the Seminoles (ranked ninth by 247Sports, 10th by ESPN and 13th by Rivals) will have to beat the Canes (ranked 23rd by ESPN, 27th by 247Sports and 66th by Rivals) in head-to-head recruiting battles to surge higher.

The big names to watch: Oakland Park Northeast receiver Stacy Coley (Broward’s No. 1 recruit announces at 11:05 a.m. on ESPNU), Delray Beach Atlantic defensive tackle Keith Bryant (1:45 p.m., ESPNU) and Miami Booker T. Washington linebacker Matthew Thomas (Dade’s No. 1 recruit, 9:15 a.m., ESPNU) and offensive tackle Denver Kirkland (Dade’s No. 4 recruit, 9:20 a.m., ESPNU). UM is also going head-to-head with FSU for Staten Island (N.Y.) Tottenville senior Augustus Edwards, considered the No. 1 fullback in the country by Rivals.com.

UM, which missed out on three-star junior college defensive tackle Terrell Brooks on Tuesday (he chose Baylor), is also hoping to land four-star Port St. Lucie Centennial defensive tackle Jaynard Bostwick (UM, UF, Alabama; 8 a.m., ESPNU) and Miramar High four-star linebacker Jermaine Grace (UM, Louisville; 2p.m., ESPNU).

Ultimately, it could be boom or bust for the Canes on Wednesday.

“I think Bryant, Coley and Thomas all end up being part of FSU’s class,” Charles Fishbein of Elite Scouting Services said. “A lot could happen in the next 10 hours, but I think Bryant and Coley have been heavy leans that way for a while.”

Part of the reason UM’s class isn’t ranked high is because it is not very big, with 14 commitments. But based on star average, Golden’s class is ranked 13th by 247Sports and 17th by Rivals. The worry is UM doesn’t have enough talent from Florida, with only three state recruits — including two from Miami-Dade: Northwestern cornerback Artie Burns and Miami Southridge safety Jamal Carter. A big finish Wednesday would change that.

“I think any time you’re Miami and the majority of your class doesn’t come from the state of Florida, it is a valid concern,” said 247Sports national recruiting director J.C. Shurburtt, who still credits UM for landing tight end Standish Dobard out of New Orleans, the No. 1 junior college tight end, Beau Sandland out of California, and All-American quarterback Kevin Olsen from New Jersey.

“Every program has a fabric and the fabric of the Miami program is Dade, Broward kids with Palm Beach kids thrown in there too. If there is a disappointment it has to be that.”

The other criticism?

“No defensive tackles,” ESPN’s Corey Long said. “I think they needed four. Giving up 8 yards a run is not good enough. You bring in a kid like Matthew Thomas, that’s nice, he’s a hell of a football player. If there’s nothing up front to stop the initial push, he’s going to be neutralized.”

The Gators have no recruits south of Palm Beach County, but they do have the nation’s top cornerback in Vernon Hargreaves III, five-star linebacker Alex Anzalone and one of the nation’s best all-time high school running backs in Belle Glade Glades Day’s Kelvin Taylor.

What’s missing?

“When you talk about what Florida is missing on that offense is that guy that can take it from zero to 60 to the house. [New Smyrna Beach receiver] James Clark could be that guy,” Shurburtt said. Clark will pick between Florida and Ohio State.

Said Long: “I would have liked to see them land a blue-chip quarterback. [UF quarterback recruit Max] Staver is a kid who needs two years. Florida needed somebody who was going to come out and challenge [Jeff] Driskel this fall. Driskel as he is currently is good enough to get them double-digit wins, but he’s not good enough to beat Alabama or compete for a national title. Not in my opinion.”

What have the Seminoles done well?

“They’ve hit on getting speed,” Long said. “[Running back] Ryan Green, [receiver] Levonte Whitfield, [receiver] Isaiah Jones, fast kids, big kids. They did a good job at [linebacker] in getting new bodies in Freddie Stevenson, Tyrell Lyons, E.J. Levenberry. Right now, they’re missing on offensive linemen. This uncertainly with Miami and Denver Kirkland has sort of opened the door. They need a kid like Kirkland far more than Miami. They’re also going to need another defensive end too before the day is over.”

Of the two state schools to hire new coaches — FIU and USF — it’s clear the Bulls’ Willie Taggart has put together a better class than the Panthers’ Ron Turner. FIU is ranked 96th by Rivals and 107th by 247Sports. USF is ranked 47th by Rivals and 52nd by 247Sports.

“The first class is always the most difficult to put together,” Fishbein said. “FIU is just scrambling right now."