CORAL GABLES – Helped by double-digit four-star recruits, Miami’s 2014 recruiting class has a great chance of ranking in the top five in the country.
The Hurricanes have three players rated in the top 55 by Rivals.com – DE Chad Thomas of Miami Booker, OL Kc McDermott of Palm Beach Central and RB Joseph Yearby of Miami Central.
The Hurricanes also are in the top five for Miami Central RB Dalvin Cook – currently a Florida commit – as well as OT Damian Prince of Forestville, Md; DE Kentavius Street of Greenville, N.C.; and ILB Nyles Morgan of Crete, Illinois.
“Winning 10 games is a mystical number,” said Matt Shodell, who follows recruiting closely for Canesport.com. “There is a perception if Miami wins 10 games that it’s getting back to its dominant ways. That’s a big selling point. Winning 10 games is more special, and when you’re trying to get those last three, four gems, that can help.”
While Shodell thinks Miami has “a very good chance” at getting Cook to change his commit, he’s not as confident with the others. However, if they’re coming from snow and temperatures in the 20s and 30s …
“But a guy like Prince could come the week before signing day and fall in love with the place,” Shodell said. “I’ve never had a player who came here say, ‘I had a bad trip.’”
Thomas recently has been named a five-star player by Rivals.com, but it seems to have affected him little.
“I asked him, ‘What does it feel like to be a five star’, and he said, ‘Same as a four star. I keep working hard,’” Shodell said. “He doesn’t look at himself as the elite of the elite.”
Miami also is going after some junior college defensive linemen who can help right away. Coach Al Golden doesn’t want to get in the habit of trying to rely on fifth-year senior transfers.
“If you look, they have eight or 10 defensive linemen already committed,” Shodell said. “They recognize they have issues on the defensive line. That’s evident to everyone. They need to have some players come through and if they can get two or three to make an impact, there’s no reason they can’t have a better year next year.”
With as many as 10 incoming players who could get on campus in January and take part in spring ball, Miami could have a number of newcomers who could make an impact and build the depth that still needs work.
10 Wins Would Be Next Level
Nine, 10. Doesn’t seem like much difference.
When people count, they usually don’t pause when going from nine to 10. If meal costs $10 instead of $9, they’ll still buy it.
But in football, there’s a huge difference in those numbers.
In the NFL, it’s often the difference between making the playoffs and not making the playoffs.
In college football, it’s often a separation between a good and great season. Duke won 10 games for the first time ever. That’s why the Blue Devils played in the ACC championship game.
For Miami, its ninth win over Pittsburgh served as a bridge to what can be a 10th win in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Do that, and the Hurricanes will have double-figure victories for the first time since 2003.
For old-school fans who remember the five national championships, 10 wins might not mean so much. But for those who have been intimately involved in the program the last few years, through the Randy Shannon firing, through the Nevin Shapiro mess, through the suspensions, through the injuries to key players, through the six- and seven-win seasons, through no practices during the self-imposed bowl bans, the chance to win a 10th game is significant.
Golden talked about it three times the day after his team ended the regular season with a 41-31 triumph over Pitt.
“We have a chance to win 10 games,” he said. “That’s important to our program. It’s important to our team. That would represent the most wins in about nine or 10 years. That’s our mindset. We have a chance to get better, to move the program forward and win 10 games, which obviously is progress.”
Make no mistake, Golden hardly is satisfied. That’s why he constantly talked of not being where he wants to be, the inconsistencies in a number of areas, not to take a deep breath. But he also realizes what his players have been through, and he realizes going 10-3 does mean something.
“Absolutely,” Golden said, “6-6, 7-5 – whatever – that looks and feels a lot different than when you start getting to that next level. We have to really embrace that next level.”
Hurricanes’ radio analyst Don Bailey Jr. said 10 wins usually means a Top 25 finish at the end of the year, a solid accomplishment considering that’s not where Miami began the season.
“I thought it would’ve been a phenomenal year if it won 10,” he said. “And I don’t think anybody has yet to print or admit or discuss the catastrophe that was the loss of Duke Johnson. If he plays against Duke, he has 350 all-purpose yards and they don’t lose.
“To win 10 games without Johnson and Phillip Dorsett for about half of the year would be unbelievable. I think losing Duke is no different than Johnny Football at Texas A&M or Tre Mason of Auburn or Jameis Winston of Florida State, as far as impact.
“Stephen Morris was healthy for the first two and last two. What they did exceeded expectations. Now if they can win the bowl game …”
While Miami’s win over Florida was unexpected, so was the loss to Duke.
In a nutshell, that’s today’s college football. Duke had its winningest season ever, Florida its first losing season since 1979.
Rice won its first conference title in 56 years, Baylor won its first conference title since 1980. Michigan State is going to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1987. Stanford and Oregon, mediocre in the 1980s and ’90s, are the Pac-12’s new powers. Auburn and Missouri, 2-14 in the SEC last year, went 14-2 this year and played in the title game.
“This is what the powers that be knewwas gonna happen when they went to 85 scholarships,” Bailey said. “There’s no more hoarding. If Miami had lost to Central Florida, would that have been disappointing? If they lost to Northern Illinois?
“The whole perception is different if they lose to North Carolina instead of Duke.”
Had that happened, the Hurricanes’ season wouldn’t have been different. They still wouldn’t have won the ACC Coastal.
And now, they must look to affect perception and win 10 games instead of nine.