CORAL GABLES, Fla. – They’re watching. And waiting.
The University of Miami’s 2014 football recruiting class has just wrapped up and already thoughts are turning to its next group of signees.
Many will be watching intently to see if the Hurricanes can reach that 10-win season and win a bowl game.
Last year, Miami had that chance but instead got blown out by Louisville in the Champs Sports Bowl.
“People are waiting to see what’s gonna happen and how they’re gonna do,” recruiting analyst Larry Blustein said. “They gotta have a 10-win season. I think they can win nine and get a bowl win.”
So far, three 2015 prospects have already verbally committed to Miami – Kevin Feder, a 6-9, 305-pound offensive lineman from Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey and linebackers Charles Perry of West Palm Beach and Emonee Spence from Pembroke Pines.
“So far they’re doing well,” Blustein said. “But people are gonna wait and see what happens.”
Most people feel the Hurricanes finished in the top 10 or 15 with their 2014 class. They had eight four-star player as well as five-star defensive end Chad Thomas of Miami’s Booker T. Washington High School.
The Hurricanes need help along the defensive line and it’s hoped Thomas and junior-college players Calvin Heurtelou and Michael Wyche will help immediately. Blustein also thinks an incoming freshman could have a quick impact on the line as well.
“Michael Smith from (Miami) Northwestern,” Blustein said “He’s a beast. He’s like Tyriq McCord but tougher. Turn him loose on blitzes. They’ve kind of neglected edge rushers over the years.
“(Defensive coordinator) Mark D’onofrio may have to change the scheme for what he’s got. He hasn’t made many adjustments so far because I don’t think he’s had the personnel.”
Miami also needed depth at running back and offensive line and players like Kc McDermott from Wellington and Nick Linder from Fort Lauderale – the younger brothers of Miami offensive linemen Shane McDermott and Brandon Linder – will do that, along with Miami Central tailback Joseph Yearby.
“Those were positions of need,” Blustein said. “If they don’t have Duke Johnson this season, they have Yearby. Dallas Crawford was about a step too slow.
“They have a good nucleus but they’re losing Brandon Linder and some size with Seantrel Henderson.”
Miami did have some players switch late, including Hialeah defensive tackle Travonte Valentine, who decided to go to LSU. But given that Valentine said be mine to three different schools, Blustein said Miami shouldn’t feel bad that it lost him. It’s been his experience that players who waffle or waver or play the hat game often don’t pan out.
“That’s a character thing,” he said. “I don’t get it. There’s a lot of wishy-washy guys who blow with the wind. Those kids are good when you win and nasty when you lose.
“I’d venture to say a lot of kids who waver and change decisions end up regretting their decision. They make them for stupid reasons on choosing a place. They met somebody at a school. Anyone can do that.
“What you like to have are kids like Duke Johnson who say from Day 1 they’re going to Miami. Those are the people who will buy more into your program than a guy committed to LSU for six weeks, then Florida for six weeks, then liked something about somebody else for six weeks.
“I guess it’s what makes the world go round.”
Lecomte Makes Transition
As the smallest player on almost every team he has played on, Hurricanes’ point guard Manu Lecomte is used to having to make adjustments.
That has served him well as he’s changed locations – from Belgium to Miami – altered competition – from club teams to college teams – switched priorities – from offense to defense – and adjusted to different outcomes – losing more often than he did back in Europe.
“It’s good but a lot different,” Lecomte said. “I think I like it. I like it even though I miss home. “
Lecomte is from Brussels, Belgium. His uncle taught him the game, then trained him. Miami assistant Michael Huger, who played in Belgium, heard about this 5-11, 160-pound wisp after talking to contacts. Gonzaga, Creighton and Alabama-Birmingham also showed interest.
Lecomte arrived in Coral Gables late this past summer after averaging more than 21 points per game in the under-20 European championships, where his team played Poland, Russia and the Netherlands among others.
He’s found the tempo in the U.S. to be much faster and tougher than what he was used to. But he’s survived. He’s averaging 7.8 points, 2.4 assists and 2 rebounders per game. He recently had a five-game stretch in which he averaged 12 points per game.
“I think he’s done a very, very good job offensively,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “He’s particularly good when teams are going at him. He can create good shots for himself or others. Defensively has been an experience all year long. Teams make it a challenge for him. He needs to improve on the defensive end.”
Lecomte adds, “Every day in practice, coach tells me about my defense. That’s great, I like it.”
A losing record at Miami also has been a change. “It’s a different team, different players,” he said. “I’m just trying to do my best.”
In the go-figure department, all three of Miami’s ACC wins – Florida State, North Carolina, Georgia Tech – have been on the road. In addition, the Hurricanes also beat Arizona State – which just upset Arizona – in a neutral-site game and took Syracuse down to the wire at the Carrier Dome before losing 49-44.
However, Miami is winless in conference play in the Bank United Center and is 5-8 overall with losses to St. Francis (N.Y.), Central Florida and Virginia Tech.
“I’ve asked the coaches and the players why,” Larranaga said. “When we’re on the road, we’re totally focused on basketball. When we’re home, we’re going to class and there are a lot of things going on in their lives. Guys maybe put too much pressure on themselves. They want to play too well in front of the home fans.
“It’s really noticeable. It’s not just the records but how we play basketball.”