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Posted: Wednesday January 28, 2009 12:02PM; Updated: Wednesday January 28, 2009 4:06PM
Stewart Mandel Stewart Mandel >
INSIDE COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Miami still recruiting well amid turmoil (cont.)

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Reportedly, one of the main reasons behind Brown's hold-up was the nearly month-long uncertainty regarding the 'Canes next offensive coordinator. On Tuesday, Miami finally resolved that mystery by hiring Philadelphia Eagles assistant Mark Whipple, 51, formerly Ben Roethlisberger's quarterbacks coach with the Steelers and, before that, the head coach of UMass' 1998 I-AA national championship team.

According to Millian, Brown's family is anticipating an in-home visit from Whipple later this week.

With Brown in the fold, Miami's current crop of 20 commitments -- which includes three other Rivals top 100 players, athlete Ray Ray Armstrong (Sanford, Fla.), RB Lamar Miller (Miami) and DB Brandon McGee (Lauderhill, Fla.) -- ranks No. 9 on Rivals.com. The class could gain even more luster, however, depending on how many of the 'Canes' remaining targets swing their way.

Miami's No. 1 priority this year was offensive line, and at least four highly ranked prospects at that position -- tackle Marcus Hall (Rivals' No. 52 overall player), five-star prep-school tackle Bobbie Massie, four-star guard Pete White and juco tackle Andrew Tiller -- list the 'Canes among their finalists. Landing Hall, who visited Miami last weekend, would be a huge coup, but he hails from Cleveland and plays for Ted Ginn Sr.'s recent Ohio State pipeline, Glenville (Cleveland). It would be a major surprise if he signs with anyone but the Buckeyes.

Meanwhile, Miami will be hosting an 11th-hour visit this weekend from defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, Rivals' No. 4 player and a longstanding Missouri commit. There remains a possibility that No. 27 Greg Reid, a defensive back who recently decommitted from Florida, will make Miami his final visit this weekend.

"They've closed well," said Newberg. "Kids want to play for 'The U.' Where did Ray Lewis play? Where did Clinton Portis play? These kids see all the great [Miami] players in the NFL and they want to help bring the tradition back there. That's the No. 1 factor for sure."

These days, it seems as if elite recruits hold more faith in Miami's program than much of the general public.

The last time Shannon was in the news, he was ducking an avalanche of criticism for how he handled Marve, last year's starting QB, who was suspended for the bowl game for academic reasons, then transferred, telling the AP: "I had to get out. I just decided that I can't play for coach Shannon."

Shannon, who could not be reached for this story, initially granted Marve's release with significant restrictions that prevented him from playing for any team in the ACC, SEC or the state of Florida. He later loosened the restrictions but still included Florida, Tennessee and LSU on the banned list because Miami believed family members and/or Marve's high school coaches contacted those schools prior to his release.

This drew a sharp rebuke from Marve's father, Eugene, who said he was being treated for prostate cancer and wanted his son to play closer to home. Robert Weiner, Marve's coach at Plant (Tampa, Fla.), called the restrictions "the last line in a series of slaps in the face" and told the Miami Herald that "a player of mine won't play for Randy Shannon'' again, an unfortunate blow considering the 'Canes at the time were recruiting Plant tight end Orson Charles, a five-star prospect.

The good news is, the 'Canes were extremely young last year (freshmen and sophomores accounted for more than 75 percent of their all-purpose yards) and figure to improve considerably with more experience and the influx of another talented class. Perhaps most importantly, rising sophomore Jacory Harris (60.9 percent completions for 1,195 yards, 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season), who rotated with Marve throughout last season, will now be the 'Canes' undisputed quarterback and under the tutelage of proven mentor Whipple. (Shannon, Miami's defensive coordinator from 2001-06, has yet to name Young's replacement but indicated he would take back the role if necessary.)

"A lot of people say, 'I don't see a Clinton Portis on your team right now.' I beg to differ," said Hurtt. "When we were freshmen, we didn't know Ed Reed was going to be Ed Reed, we didn't know Dan Morgan was going to go down as one of the most decorated players in school history. When Clinton came in [the next year], he was being run over on blitzes. People don't want to hear it, but you just have to be patient with the process."

If you believe the recruiting hype, Brown may well by the next Portis. He could be the type of difference-maker Miami has been missing in its backfield since Willis McGahee starred there in 2002. (Frank Gore, for all his NFL success, was hampered by injuries his last two years at Miami.)

Per NCAA rules, Hurtt is prohibited from commenting on specific recruits. He said he is spending the week criss-crossing the country with Shannon on in-home visits, shoring up current commitments and making final pitches to others.

"The guys we have committed right now, if they stick with us, we'll be elated with our class," said Hurtt. "We have some high-profile [uncommitted] guys that can always put the final stamp on your class, but there's never been one player that makes or breaks this program."

With another top-10 class, Miami should have more than enough players when it takes the field next fall, which is good news for 'Canes fans who would like to see some results, sooner than later.

 
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