Amid turmoil, recruiting remains beacon of hope for Miami
Between losing games, coordinators and a starting QB, Miami has been in turmoil
Despite that, Randy Shannon has turned Miami back into a top choice for recruits
Depending on No. 1 RB Bryce Brown and other elites, "U" could land top 10 class
It's been a rough few years for Miami fans.
"The U," once accustomed to national championships and BCS bowls, now considers a trip to the Emerald Bowl a step forward. Coach Randy Shannon has lost three coordinators in just two seasons, with the latest, defensive coordinator Bill Young, bolting for his alma mater, Oklahoma State. (Didn't the coaching train between Stillwater and Coral Gables used to run in the other direction?)
While Shannon's rebuilding Hurricanes have shown some progress on the field -- improving from 5-7 (2-6 ACC) his first season to 7-6 (4-4) last fall -- a perception of turmoil behind the scenes has led many to question whether the former Miami linebacker is the right man for the job. From a season-ending three-game losing streak to offensive coordinator Patrick Nix's late-December firing to starting QB Robert Marve's controversy-laden transfer, the headlines lately have not been pretty.
"It sure seems like the Hurricanes' football team is in crisis," Palm Beach Post beat writer Jorge Millian recently wrote on his blog. "Not much good has happened since about mid-November. ... Judging by the Internet message boards, I think we can safely say the honeymoon between UM fans and Randy Shannon is officially over."
Amid this sea of negativity, however, there remains one shining beacon on which 'Canes fans can focus their attention: recruiting.
In just a short time, Shannon has turned "The U" back into a preferred destination for elite recruits. Miami defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Clint Hurtt, who played for the 'Canes from 1997-2000 as they rebuilt under coach Butch Davis, calls the program's current arc "the same identical thing" as what he experienced during his playing career.
"Every kid I recruit, I tell them about [my] prior experience," said Hurtt, whose freshman class included future stars like Ed Reed, Reggie Wayne and Dan Morgan. "My freshman year, we went 5-6, didn't go to a bowl. We took our lumps. The next year, we went 9-3. We all had to grow up and mature.
"The guys that came in last year, those are the ones that have taken the lumps, but now the recruiting class coming in is the one that's going to put their stamp on it and bring us back to where we belong."
A year ago, Miami's class was ranked as high as No. 1 in the country amongst the major scouting services. Several of its standouts (linebacker Sean Spence, defensive end Marcus Robinson and receivers Aldarius Johnson and Travis Benjamin, among others) played significant roles as true freshmen. With a week to go before this year's Signing Day, the 'Canes are still pursuing a handful of undecided blue-chippers who will help determine whether Shannon's 2009 class receives similar accolades.
"I think [the Hurricanes] are one of the biggest storylines of this last week," said Rivals.com recruiting analyst Jamie Newberg. "One of the things I was most interested in watching, from about 10 days ago, was how kids would react to the loss of the coordinators."
One kid's reaction is being watched far more closely than any other's -- Rivals' No. 1 player in the country, running back Bryce Brown (Wichita, Kan).
Brown, the first running back to earn a No. 1 overall ranking since Adrian Peterson five years ago, committed to the 'Canes last February (his brother Arthur, a touted linebacker, signed with Miami last year) but has recently been flirting with other suitors, most notably Oregon and Clemson.
Over the past few weeks, Brown's camp has made it known that the player may delay his decision until after Signing Day, a la Terrelle Pryor.
"Miami supports the fact that I am taking my time and making an educated and informed decision," Brown recently told SuperPrep.