Al Golden and the Miami Hurricanes need to answer a few questions before the 2014 edition of national signing day arrives.
Golden will help one player make a decision about his football future, try to entice some high school prospects to attend Miami and must also reconsider the coaching status of a longtime friend.
The 'Canes finished the regular season 9-3, but the 2-3 finish to the 2013 campaign created some questions around the team, and these decisions will impact the future of Miami.
But Golden is on a deadline—all of this must be completed before February 5.
Will Denzel Perryman Bolt for the NFL?
Denzel Perryman has been the unquestioned leader of the Miami defense.
After being plagued by injury as a sophomore, Perryman has put together a resurgent season, already tallying 104 tackles through the 12 regular-season contests.
His effectiveness has certainly not gone unnoticed by scouts, and being a junior, Perryman could declare for the 2014 NFL draft. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller ranks him as the ninth-best outside linebacker.
So, if Perryman does indeed decide to move on to the NFL, the 'Canes will be left with inexperience at linebacker. Seniors Jimmy Gaines and Tyrone Cornelius will run out of eligibility following the bowl game against Louisville.
Sophomore Tyriq McCord did it all this season, tallying 4.0 sacks, forcing three fumbles, three pass defenses, two interceptions and one fumble recovery. But can he do it as an every-down linebacker instead of a situational blitzer?
At this time, Thurston Armbrister, Raphael Kirby and Alex Figueroa are the expected starters. The three have combined for 11 starts during their respective time at the University of Miami.
Jermaine Grace almost exclusively played special teams as a true freshman, but the Miramar High School product basically rounds out the linebacking corps.
As of now, Darrion Owens, Juwon Young, Mike Smith and Terry McCray are committed. But if Perryman elects to go pro, the young recruits will be called upon to contribute immediately.
Can Al Golden Close on Top Prospects?
Al Golden is establishing himself as a closer on the recruiting trail, snatching more and more 4-star talent each season.
Considering a handful of big-name prospects have yet to make their decision, Golden's ability to lock them up will be tested.
Two teammates of 5-star running back Dalvin Cook—Joseph Yearby and Trevor Darling—are committed to Miami, and they are constantly in his ear. But Cook's recruiting process is like a box of chocolates: "You never know what you gonna get."
According to the GatorBait staff on 247Sports (subscription required), Cook knows which college he will attend and is planning to announce during the Under Armour All-American Game.
Golden has repeatedly shown he is not afraid to play young talent, and that is certainly an attractive pitch to recruits.
But is it enough to lure the top prospects to Miami?
Will Mark D'Onofrio Be Retained as Defensive Coordinator?
This is probably the biggest question.
Following a surprisingly good start to the 2013 season, the 'Canes were dreadfully bad defensively, and many pointed fingers at defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio.
Sure, there were some bright spots, but Perryman, Tracy Howard (four interceptions) and Shayon Green (10.5 tackles for loss) could only do so much.
Overall, the Hurricanes allowed 415.8 yards (79th in FBS) and 26.0 points per game (59th in FBS) but earned 27 takeaways (15th in FBS).
However, even those rankings are somewhat skewed. During Miami's final five contests against conference opponents, the 'Canes surrendered 518.6 yards and 37.6 points per game while forcing eight turnovers.
Christy Cabrera Chirinos of the Sun Sentinel notes that Golden takes full responsibility for the team's defensive struggles.
I know Mark is working his tail off to get it fixed... There’s no question. We were getting takeaways better early in the season, we were getting more pressure on the quarterback early in the season...there’s no question we have to do a better job, but it starts with me. I’m responsible for it.
Bleacher Report's Chris Bello wondered aloud if Golden's loyalty to the coaching staff—especially D'Onofrio—is holding Miami back.
Whether it is relieving D'Onofrio of duties or retaining him, a decision about his future must be made well before signing day.
Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.
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