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Shannon Avoided Dreaded Transition Class

Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:41am
By: Accsports Staff

By Craig Handel
Fort Myers (Fla.) News-Press

February 20, 2007

CORAL GABLES – When he sat down for lunch on Feb. 8 with the media who cover the Hurricanes, new Miami coach Randy Shannon explained why he was more elusive than LaDanian Tomlinson for the previous six weeks.

Since Miami's 21-20 win over Nevada in the MPC Computers Bowl in Boise on New Year's Eve, Shannon had done only one interview, with Washington Post columnist George Will.

As of Feb. 17, Shannon still hadn't announced a defensive coordinator. His offensive coordinator, Patrick Nix, was hired just four weeks ago. Shannon also didn't announce some of his assistant coach hirings right away. He even moved his signing day news conference from 2 to 3 p.m., then spoke closer to 3:30.

Shannon, a man who seems to live by a code of focusing on the present, simply had made recruiting almost his entire focus since Jan. 1. One day he said he was in one city, the next day, another city. Often, he was up at 4 in the morning to catch a flight. Just about everything else had to wait.

Shannon's approach appears to have worked on the recruiting front. Once rated as low as No. 33 by Rivals in late January, Miami came away with a class ranked No. 13 by Rivals.com and No. 18 by Scout.com.

"No matter what it is, it's been a remarkable run," said Jeremy Crabtree of Rivals. "This probably will be the worst class Randy Shannon will sign, and I mean that in a good way. I don't think a lot of people for Miami were feeling good a month ago. A new coach bringing in a new staff is never the easiest."

Matt Shodell, the managing editor of CaneSport, added: "In the past, they've gone down to the wire and haven't gotten a lot (of players). It was, ‘We're probably not going to get this kid or that kid.' This time it's, ‘We might get this or that kid.'"

The 19-member class – it will be 19 if junior college receiver Kayne Farquharson can finish a few courses at Miami-Dade College – is led by a couple of players who signed with Miami last season but had academic issues: running back Graig Cooper and offensive lineman Orlando Franklin.

Shannon also got players such as linebacker/end Allen Bailey, defensive backs DeMarcus Van Dyke and Joseph Nicolas, and defensive tackle Chris Perry to either commit late or de-commit from other schools.

Shannon missed on wide receiver Deonte Thompson – who might have gone to Coral Gables had Mario Cristobal remained with Miami instead of becoming the head coach at Florida International – and Brandon Hicks, whose decision was overruled by his parents. Had those been signees, the Hurricanes may have had a top-10 class.

But Shannon still was thrilled.

"We're excited about this class," Shannon said. "I know one thing: From top to bottom, we filled our needs. We got competition on this team completely. We've got quarterbacks, receivers, offensive linemen, defensive linemen, running backs and wide receivers."

When he was a defensive coordinator, Shannon could make unlimited visits to see a player, within the parameters of the recruiting calendar. As a head coach, he is limited to one home visit per prospect by the NCAA.

"I used to go into a school six or seven times," Shannon said. "That was hard. You have one shot now. You go in a home, and you have to sell what the university has and what you believe in as a coach and coaching staff."

Shannon's first week focused on solidifying commitments with players who had agreed to come to Miami when Larry Coker was the coach. Shannon was able to retain most of those. He lost quarterback Nick Fanuzzi to Alabama, but Robert Marve, who had committed to the Crimson Tide, switched to UM.

Shannon's approach when going into homes this season was to talk less about football and more about life.

"Do you know what we talked about?" Shannon said. "We talked about life in general, what I believe in, what he believes in, what his parents believe in more than anything. You have to get to know them as people. That's one thing our coaches do a great job of, getting to know guys as people more than just athlete/coach."

When football was discussed, Shannon was blunt. Miami signees had better be ready to compete.

"Every home we went into, we told every player, ‘We're recruiting you this year coming up. Next year we're going to find a guy to replace you,'" Shannon said. "That makes that guy pick his game up and the next guy pick his game up. The more we can get that competition going, we're going to be successful at the University of Miami."

Shannon wanted athletes, and he said that 10 of the signees can make plays that will help Miami score points.

Among Shannon's recruits was defensive back Jared Campbell, brother of star defensive end Calais Campbell, who is one of Miami's leaders. The younger Campbell de-committed from Washington.

"We went around and asked students, schools, the counselors, principals, security guards, janitors. When they tell us these are great people that you're going to try to recruit at the University of Miami, those are guys that we're going to go after," Shannon said. "That's the first thing we looked at as a staff. Second we want a solid student-athlete, guys who will work in the classroom, not just show up one day, then three days later miss class."

Even though he didn't have a full staff, Shannon said his assistants did a great job of recruiting.

While Shannon kept defensive backs coach Tim Walton, who is expected to be promoted to coordinator, he also retained tight ends coach Joe Pannunzio, wide receivers coach Marquis Mosely and defensive line coach Clint Hurtt. He brought in Nix, offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland and running backs coach Tommie Robinson. Former Hurricanes player Michael Barrow is expected to be named the linebackers coach. Shannon has one more aide to hire.

Shannon said that while his coaches were hired late or still are being hired, he didn't feel short-handed in recruiting.

"You're only allowed seven (coaches) on the road, anyway," Shannon said. "The one thing we had to do was, as a staff, was keep selling what we believe in at the University of Miami. That's the only thing we kept saying, what we were going to do on offense, what we were going to do on defense, what we were going to do on special teams, what type of coaches we were bringing in. Those were things we stressed all the time. The parents trusted us and believed in us. That's why I want to thank the parents."

Stoutland, who previously coached at Michigan State and Syracuse, said it's important to build relationships with players and fellow assistants quickly.

"We've got to trust each other," Stoutland said. "We're trying to put a playbook together for spring ball. It's been a little hectic. I've been doing this for 24 years, and the good teams I've been involved with and have won, they had players that wanted to be in that program."

LATEST QUARTERBACK TWIST JUST MARVE-LOUS

New Miami offensive coordinator Patrick Nix said he had a hand in just one player from the Hurricanes' 2007 class: quarterback Robert Marve.

"I'm not the reason he came here," Nix said.

Whether it was because of Nix or new head coach Randy Shannon or special teams/tight ends coach Joe Pannunzio, Marve chose Miami.

The 6-1, 189-pounder from Plant High was Florida's player of the year. He led Plant to a 15-0 record and the Class 4A state championship. He set state single-season records for passing yards (4,380), touchdowns (48) and completions (278).

"I started looking other places, and the University of Miami, which I never looked at, caught my eye and caught it in a hurry," Marve said. "It felt right while I was there, and it felt like the spot I wanted to play at."

Marve's signing was crucial. In 2005, the Hurricanes saw Derek Shaw de-commit, leaving Miami with no QB in the class. In 2006, UM was shut out again, after Pat Devlin de-committed and went to Penn State and Daniel Stegall chose pro baseball over football.

In 2007, Nick Fanuzzi de-committed from Miami and went to Alabama. Fortunately for the Hurricanes, the Crimson Tide also had been recruiting Marve, who looked around after coach Mike Shula was fired. In essence, Miami got Marve in a trade, and some think the Hurricanes got the better of the deal, thanks to Marve's advanced technique, running ability and leadership skills.

"When a guy can (show leadership), I like him," Shannon said. "(Marve) brings that charisma, that team aspect of, find a way for these guys to play for me."

"If he's the best quarterback, he'll play," Nix said. "The best player is going to play, bottom line."

– Craig Handel

MIAMI 2007 SIGNEES

Name Pos. Ht./Wt. Stars High School/Junior College
Comment

Daniel Adderley WR 6-6/215 2/2 Simpsonville (SC) Southside Christian
SP-34 SC; injured as sr. (collarbone); late over I-AA

Allen Bailey* LB/DE 6-4/255 5/4 Darien (GA) McIntosh Co.
SP-11 DL; injured as sr. (back); over Ala., Fla., Ga. (!)

Damien Berry* DB 5-11/197 4/4 Belle Glade (FL) Glades Central
SP-42 DB; 3rd-team 3A all-state; legacy; over LSU (?)

Jared Campbell DB 6-1/195 3/3 Aurora (CO) Overland
SP-13 CO; brother of DE Calais; Wash. switch; also Colo.

Lee Chambers RB 6-1/200 3/3 Coffeeville (MS) High
SP-10 MS; 1325-19 as sr.; MSU switch; also Ala., Miss. (?)

Graig Cooper^* RB 6-0/195 5/5 New Berlin (NY) Milford
Re-sign; from Memphis (TN) Melrose; over UNC, Okla.St.

Kayne Farquharson-C 6-2/190 5/4 El Camino (CA) JC
SP-5 JC; from Homestead (FL) High; over Cal, Colo. (?)

Orlando Franklin OL 6-7/320 2/4 Delray Beach (FL) Atlantic
Re-sign; SP-30 FL in 2005; from Jamaica; over FSU, Ga.

Harland Gunn* OL 6-3/300 4/3 Omaha (NE) Central
SP-8 OL; OT in HS; projected OC; very early over Neb.

Leonard Hankerson* WR 6-3/197 4/3 Ft. Lauderdale (FL) Aquinas
SP-26 WR; 1st-team 5A all-state; late over NCSU, Pur. (?)

Tyler Horn OL 6-5/290 2/2 Memphis (TN) University
1st-team all-state; projected as OC; over FIU, I-AA (!)

Robert Marve* QB 6-1/190 4/4 Tampa (FL) Plant
Parade A-A; SP-11 QB; 1st-team 4A all-state; Ala. switch

Jermaine McKenzie* WR 6-2/170 4/4 Bradenton (FL) Academy
SP-18 WR; exciting PR; Ala. switch; FSU, Miss., WVU (?)

Shawnbrey McNeal RB 5-11/190 3/3 Dallas (TX) Madison
SP-49 TX; sprinter; Texas A&M switch; also Ark., LSU (?)

Joseph Nicolas DB 6-3/198 3/3 Homestead (FL) High
SP-32 DB; exciting KR; Rut. switch; several BB offers (?)

Adewale Ojomo DE 6-3/217 4/3 Hialeah (FL) High
SP-47 DL; 2nd-team 6A all-state; over NCSU, Pitt, WVU (?)

Chris Perry DT 6-3/319 4/3 Keller (TX) Fossil Ridge
SP-22 TX; all-district; Tenn./Neb. switch; also Ark., Okla

DeMarcus Van Dyke* DB 6-1/170 4/4 Miami (FL) Pace
SP-13 DB; 1st-team 3A all-state; Fla. switch; also OSU (?)

Doug Wiggins^* DB 5-11/180 4/4 North Miami Beach (FL) High
SP-55 FL; 1st-team 6A all-state; over Ga., Mich., UNC

*-All-American (top 250 by two/more services) ^-enrolled (!)-strong academics (?)-unconfirmed academics ST–Scout.com RV–Rivals.com SP–SuperPrep STARS: By Scout/Rivals.

WHO GOT AWAY?

The following prospects had firm scholarship offers from Miami and/or took official visits to Coral Gables but signed with other programs: San Antonio (TX) Churchill QB Nick Fanuzzi (Ala.), Jacksonville (FL) Forrest LB Brandon Hicks (Fla.), Tarrant (AL) High WR Marquis Maze (Ala.), Coatesville (PA) High DE Derrick Morgan (GT), Hoover (AL) High DT Kerry Murphy (Ala.), Tulsa (OK) Union OL Matt Romine (ND), Belle Glade (FL) Glades Central WR Deonte Thompson (Fla.), Carthage (MS) High WR O'Neal Wilder (MSU), Ft. Lauderdale (FL) Aquinas DB Major Wright (Fla.).

The following prospects also claimed scholarship offers from UM but eliminated the Hurricanes early in the recruiting process: Baton Rouge (LA) Southern Lab TE Frank Alexander (Okla.), Miami Lakes (FL) High RB Armando Allen (ND), Orchard Lake (MI) St. Mary DB Dionte Allen (FSU), Woodbridge (VA) Hylton OL Will Alvarez (VT), Washington (DC) Ballou DT Marvin Austin (UNC), Washington (DC) Dunbar WR Arrelious Benn (Ill.), Fairburn (GA) Creekside DB Eric Berry (Tenn.), New Orleans (LA) McDonogh WR Lionel Breaux (Miss.), Huntington Beach (CA) Edison OL Martin Coleman (Southern Cal), Brenham (TX) High WR Brandon Collins (Texas), Pearl River (MS) Community College DE Brian Coulter (FSU), Tatum (TX) High RB Lennon Creer (Tenn.), Piscataway (NJ) Township OL Anthony Davis (Rut.), Grass Valley (CA) Nevada Union OL Taylor Dever (ND), Huntingdon (TN) High LB Chris Donald (Tenn.), San Diego (CA) St. Augustine QB Chris Forcier (UCLA), Westlake Village (CA) Oaks Christian DB Anthony Gildon (Ore.), Gardena (CA) Junipero Serra DT Da'John Harris (Southern Cal), Conway (SC) High WR J.R. Hemingway (Mich.), Matthews (NC) Butler RB Ryan Houston (UNC), Chicago (IL) Hubbard RB Robert Hughes (ND), Baton Rouge (LA) Southern DB Chad Jones (LSU), Mobile (AL) McGill-Toolen DB Phelon Jones (LSU), Hoboken (NJ) High WR Duval Kamara (ND), Springfield (VA) West Springfield QB Peter Lalich (UVa), Tallahassee (FL) Lincoln DT Tim Lamb (Aub.), Powder Springs (GA) McEachern DT Ted Laurent (Miss.), Westlake Village (CA) Oaks Christian DE Duke Lemmens (Fla.), Belle Glade (FL) Glades Central OL Ernest McCoy (LSU), River Ridge (LA) Curtis Christian RB Joe McKnight (Southern Cal), Littleton (CO) Columbine OL Ryan Miller (Colo.), Marrero (LA) Ehret DT Drake Nevis (LSU), Tucson (AZ) Salpointe Catholic OL Kristofer O'Dowd (Southern Cal), Tallahassee (FL) Lincoln DB Brandon Paul (FSU), Syracuse (NY) Christian Brothers QB Mike Paulus (UNC), Lakeland (FL) High RB Chris Rainey (Fla.), Knoxville (TN) Fulton RB Dennis Rogan (Tenn.), Caledonia (MS) High OL Derek Sherrod (MSU), Wilmington (DE) Howard DT Devon Still (PSU), Hempstead (TX) High WR Terrance Toliver (LSU), Gardena (CA) Junipero Serra DE Apaiata Tuihalamaka (Ariz.), Brooklyn (NY) Lincoln TE Lansford Watson (Md.), Pontiac (MI) Northern TE Martell Webb (Mich.).

– Compiled by David Glenn