Miami Football: Al Golden Can Make Amends by Closing Strong on Recruiting Trail

Chris Bello@christianrbelloContributor IJanuary 11, 2014

Miami Hurricanes head coach Al Golden ruffled some feathers within the "U Family" regarding recent dealings with Penn State—his alma mater and supposed long-term dream job

The Nittany Lions appear ready to sign Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin this weekend, which would officially close the door on Golden-to-Happy-Valley (for the time being), but the process itself left some collateral damage in Coral Gables.

Weeks back, Miami had the third-ranked recruiting class in the nation, loaded with 30 kids, in line for a few more and featuring a handful of early enrollees hell-bent on whipping "The U" back into shape

The Hurricanes have since slipped in the rankings as a few powerhouse programs recently nabbed some big time talent. Coupled with some recent decommitments for Miami, the past few weeks has left UM with some unanswerable questions. 

Are prospects passing up on, or bailing "The U," due to a change of heart or academic-related matters, or is their departure a result of Golden's recent silence and unexpected desire to listen to offers?

Over the past 24 hours, Miami lost two verbal commitments—defensive back Nigel Bethel II and running back Brandon Powell. A few days prior, local defensive tackle Travonte Valentine dropped UM and is now thinking LSU, rooted in the fact there were too many questions regarding Golden's future. All are listed as 4-star prospects. 

Bethel is now Texas Tech-bound, having visited Lubbock in September—while committed to the Hurricanes—and Powell made a Friday morning decision to take his talents to Gainesville, Fla.

Powell was originally set to be an early enrollee for Miami, but Florida went full-court press on him after recently losing 5-star Miami Central running back Dalvin Cook to national champion Florida State.

Cook was also on UM's radar, having grown up in the Hurricanes' backyard, but flipped to the Seminoles at the Under Armour All-America Game weeks back.

Three days later, Miami was snubbed by another South Florida target when wide receiver Travis Rudolph—a former Hurricanes commit—chose Florida State at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, another nationally televised fail.

Bethel's loss can be somewhat absorbed as Miami's secondary is its deepest, most-talented defensive position, but departures by Powell and Valentine are huge setbacks.

The Hurricanes are still seeking a number-two running back to complement junior Duke Johnson, who continues his recovery from a late season injury. Incoming freshman Joseph Yearby—a 4-star prospect and teammate of Cook's at Miami Central—was expected to complete but suffered a broken fibula in December.

Neither Johnson or Yearby are on a timeline to be ready for spring, meaning that April reps will now stay with junior Dallas Crawford and sophomore Gus Edwards.

Valentine still remains in play for Miami but requested a sit-down with Golden to discuss all that recently took place, as reported by Manny Navarro at the Miami Herald. Navarro spoke with Valentine's head coach Mike Tunsil, who admitted that his defensive end simply wants to, "make sure everyone is on the same page."

Travonte just wants security. He's been saying UM for a long time. He loves UM. But for Coach Golden to go interview for another job was unsettling.
A lot of things can change when a coach leaves. Now that Golden is back he wants to find out why Golden [interviewed] and if he really is planning to be there for the long haul.

While Miami works to regain a few decommits, the Hurricanes are also trolling the open waters to pick up some last-minute additions as scholarships remain from a lack of All-Star Game grabs. 

UM recently offered 2-star wide receiver Brayden Lenius—a teammate of quarterback Brad Kaaya—in what appears to be a strategic attempt to keep the 4-star commit focused on all things Miami. The Hurricanes have also circled back to quarterback Treon Harris, a local prospect who Golden and staff were recruiting as an "athlete."

Harris is committed to Florida State as a quarterback, and Miami has now made the same offer, piquing the 4-star prospect to set up an official visit in the coming weeks.

College football's recruiting "dead period" runs through January 15. At that point, Golden will have exactly three weeks to go in lockdown mode, reeling in a quality class—which would go a long way in putting all the Penn State-fueled drama in Miami's rear view.

The fact the Hurricanes had well over two dozen recruits in the bag by October—it's unfairly taken some luster off what looks to be a solid incoming class. Fans love a crazy finish and crushing rivals with last-minute steals, which isn't often the case, but has happened for the Hurricanes on occasion since Golden's arrival. 

Miami pulled wide receiver Stacy Coley from Florida State last February and also landed uncommitted linebacker Jermaine Grace at the final hour. A year prior, it was cornerback Tracy Howard who dropped Florida for Miami, weeks after big names like safety Deon Bush and defensive lineman Tyriq McCord picked "The U" during the U.S. Army All-America Bowl.

Few big name targets remain, but Golden and staff could go a long way in appeasing fans with some last-minute flips.

Ermon Lane, a wide receiver from Homestead, and Immokalee-raised cornerback J.C. Jackson are two quality 4-star prospects from South Florida, available for the taking. Lane decommitted from Florida on Friday and is expected to follow Cook to Florida State, while Jackson remains a soft verbal for the Gators.

While Lane and Jackson are expected to land in Tallahassee, both had the Hurricanes on their radar and until papers are signed, remain fair game.

With under a month remaining, any last-minute surprises should be considered a bonus. From now until the first Wednesday in February, Miami's chief goal is to keep the vultures away.

Continue recruiting 26 verbal commits and recently (still available) defectors, keeping this class intact and on a track toward Coral Gables, where it can play its part in the rebuild.

Follow Chris Bello on Twitter

*All recruiting rankings courtesy of



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