That mind-set—local players growing up thinking about we—is another edge for Miami. Even though Davis can sign only 12 players between now and the end of the recruiting season in early February, his school still has the strongest foothold in football's deepest talent pool. "When I first got into coaching, it was western Pennsylvania, then Los Angeles, then the Houston area," says Bobby Bowden. "But the last 10 years, South Florida has been the best recruiting place in the nation. Being right in the middle of that, Miami can get quality." And, says Tuberville, Davis "is the best recruiter they've had at Miami the last 10 to 12 years."
Davis knows the task he's facing won't be easy. "I don't think we'll be where we want to be for at least another three, maybe four years," he says. But he also knows that, because athletic director Paul Dee pushed the university to respond within 24 hours to the NCAA's letter of inquiry in late October, Miami got the chance to take its punishment before the current recruiting season ends—and begin rebuilding right away. "The most important thing is that we can honestly sit in the homes and speak to parents and say that from this moment forward there are no impending hammers that may fall sometime in the near future," Davis says. "That has been the Number 1 question: Exactly what were the potential sanctions during their careers?"
No one knew during the last recruiting season, and into the vacuum leaped an army of recruiters, all with potential horror stories of sanctions. On one January day Bobby Bowden bumped into his son Terry, the coach at Auburn, three times in different homes across South Florida. A lot of the usual stay-at-home talent left; Terry Bowden alone landed a half-dozen blue-chippers, including the South's No. 1 defensive player—and lifelong Hurricane fan—Martavious Houston.
"It was a one-year open season down there last year," says Terry Bowden. "And this year we know one thing: It's going to be at least a half-open season down there."
In other words, even if Davis were to sign 12 top players from South Florida, that would leave 13 up for grabs. Webster was one of many to report the shocking news: For the first time, even much-mocked nemesis Nebraska is making a major push in the area. "We're going to jump into Miami as quick as we can," Terry Bowden says. "Butch is a great recruiter, but we're going to get the 13 he can't get and win a national championship. Everyone else is going to try to get them, too."