This past weekend, the NFL Pro Bowl featured a record 11 Miami Hurricanes. This is where most college football players want to end up at some point in their football careers: amongst the elite of the NFL brotherhood getting paid big chunks of change to be the best.
NFL Factory U welcomed today it's incoming 2010 signees, and possible future Pro Bowlers, into the Hurricanes family. It isn't rated in the top ten class as previous Randy Shannon classes have been but it's still a remarkable no. 12 considering how 'quiet' Miami has been this offseason; a feat achieved because of Shannon's familiarity and ties with area high schools.
Despite the national sports media fetishizing National Signing Day, it's a pivotal day in the road a team takes to the ultimate goal of a National Championship; it could be one made of yellow bricks or thumbtacks and potholes.
When analyzing what the 'Canes accomplished by luring these players to Coral Gables, I liken it to the NFL Draft. If one were to compare it that way, it would be fair to say that this was a successful 'need' draft.
Miami's most glaring vacancies, position-wise, were OL, TE and LB. Coach Shannon and his staff did a fantastic job of filling those holes.
The overarching football concerns for Miami, aside from addressing roster depth, was getting stronger and more physical in the trenches.
QB Jacory Harris will never achieve his goal of hoisting the Heisman Trophy if he spends the rest of his college career running for his life. Thus, OL was an issue regardless of graduating players.
On the defensive side of the ball, the 'Canes pass rush was about as intimidating as a kitten wrestling with a puppy. The 2009 defense recorded only 24 sacks total.
Who did they get to fix what's broken? I present your 2010 Miami Hurricanes recruiting class.
Miami signed 28 players this offseason; only one was a QB.
This was not a need position as Jacory Harris is firmly entrenched as the Hurricanes starter and most marketable star. Then again, the case could be made that maybe it is a need.
Call me paranoid but having only two QB's on scholarship, with only one having any significant playing time, seems to fall on the stupid side of the stupid/brave fine line. That being said, it was a relief to see the 'Canes fatten up the depth chart.
QB Stephen Morris out of Monsignor Pace High School in Miami is the sole signal caller in the class. He's a three star, dual threat QB measuring 6'2, 181 lbs.
Obviously he won't be expected to make any immediate contributions (although he will have a shot at competing for the backup QB spot) but a big positive is his early enrollment. He'll be at camp in the spring and get a head start on his college career.
Positives: Strong arm, mobility, football smarts
Negatives: Accuracy, consistency
(warning: the accompanying music to his highlight reel is elevator jazz.)
During his press conference today, Coach Randy Shannon was asked about why he considered HB a need position. His answer was a sensical one: you're an injury or two away from being left with one guy to run the ball.
As of now, Miami is operating like they have only three backs. Senior HB Graig Cooper's knee injury suffered during the Champs Sports Bowl against Wisconsin, is an issue the team is staying mum on for the moment. Coach Shannon's comment on that? The update is that there is no update.
So it should come as no surprise that Miami landed some quality HB's in 2010. Two of Miami's six commits rated as four star players were HB's Storm Johnson from Loganville, Georgia and local kid, Eduardo Clements out of Miami's Booker T. Washington.
Johnson is a bruiser as he's an impressive combo of size and speed (6'1, 217 lbs., 4.5 in the 40) while Clements (5'10, 185 lbs., 4.45 in the 40) is a smaller, quicker back with great hands.
Both are exciting runners that bring big-play ability. The Miami stable of running backs just got a bit more ridiculous.
Damien Berry should be the alpha male in this doghouse but both these guys have the talent to see time on the field as freshmen.
And just as an aside, don't sleep on HB Darion Hall. He's ranked as a three star but Coach Shannon singled him out as a Mike James type - deceptively fast, powerful and an all around good kid with high character.
Bonus: Darion Hall:
If there's one spot Miami is loaded at, it's WR. Hurrcanes fans should salivate at potential four receiver sets in 2010. Offensive coordinator Mark Whipple has the option of attacking defenses with the likes of LaRon Byrd, Aldarius Johnson, Thearon Collier and Travis Benjamin.
Nonetheless, Miami still signed two WR's Wednesday: Allen Hurns of Miami Carol City (6'1, 170lbs., 4.5 in the 40) and Jeremy Davis from Cape Coral High (5'11, 162 lbs., 4.5 in the 40.)
Hurns is the more interesting one to me as he was hurt all of his senior year. I wonder how long before the 'Canes see a return on him.
Coach Shannon addressed this in his press conference and spoke about Hurns' performance prior to the injury.
Although he played in a run oriented offense, Hurns still managed to do plenty of damage through the air, kick returns, on screens and even a few end around run plays.
Davis is another KR/PR/WR all around player; in other words, exactly the type of athlete UM loves to recruit and has a history of featuring (ie. Santana Moss, Devin Hester, etc.)
*Side note: Upon further research, some websites have Davis listed as a corner. Apparently this guy can do it all.
When three-fifths of the U's offensive line received its diploma this December, an already inconsistent area of the team really found itself in trouble.
While coach Shannon called TE the most pressing need, an argument could be made that OL was required more attention especially with four year stalwart T Jason Fox graduating. Fox was a perennial leader who, unfortunately, ended his Miami career injured on the sidelines.
Although UM didn't land highly sought after OL Seantrel Henderson (chose USC), the 'Canes landed six offensive linemen, two of which were four stars.
Brandon Linder, center, (6'6, 290) hails from St. Thomas Aquinas in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. The lowdown on him should excite UM fans. He was the second ranked C overall in the nation and played for a high school team that's been a lifeline to college programs for years. He has good foot quickness and features terrific technique coming out of his stance fluidly.
Tavadis Glenn, tackle/defensive tackle (6'5, 265) played both sides of the ball at William M. Raines in Jacksonville, FL. Scouts like his strength, athleticism and versatility. But, Glenn is still raw. Perhaps with some coaching on both technique and how to finish with nastiness, he could be something special.
One of the most frustrating aspects during Miami football games last season was the amount of time opposing QB's had to find open receivers. It put an incredible stress on the Hurricanes defensive backfield, which luckily is a talented bunch of athletes.
The D-line in 2010 should be much improved though. Allen Bailey returns for his senior season after a monster year in '09. The youth of the line was a major factor but won't be anymore. Look for a big leap by freshman stand out Olivier Vernon and sophomore Marcus Forston.
Out of the three defensive linemen UM signed in its 2010 class, DE David Perry was the lone four star (ESPN 150 #115.) The 6'5 (or 6'7 depending on which website you reference), 240, Jamaican born player started playing football for fun, not thinking he'd be very good. After two years he emerged as a natural force. Perry has limited football experience but has tremendous upside.
Miami's linebacking corp will be led by senior Colin McCarthy and junior Sean Spence forming a fearsome duo in the middle of the field any opposing receiver or back should be wary of.
For Randy Shannon, that's not good enough, as well it shouldn't be.
The 2010 class sees five more LB's ready to don the orange green. Two of the five are listed on some sites as four star prospects with good reason.
Kevin Nelson (6'1, 215 lbs.) out of Gainesville H.S. (Clinton Portis' alma mater) is considered undersized. That should sound familiar to UM fans who heard critics say the same thing about Darryl Sharpton. Yet, Sharpton finished 2009 with 99 tackles. Nelson is smart, confident and has sideline to sideline speed. Look for Nelson to be a tackling machine.
Travis Williams (6'2, 200 lbs.) is another speedy LB with a motor to power those wheels. He's more of a project than Nelson as Williams' instincts needs sharpening but he continues coach Shannon's philosophy of recruiting athletes who can run on the defensive side of the ball.
After the plethora of HB's, WR's, LB's and DB's that have come through the U on their way to NFL success, it's no wonder that Miami remains a magnet for top talent at those positions.
The 2010 class of DB's may be small in number but continues the trend of bringing in quality playmakers to Coral Gables.
What's not small is the size of these corners; neither is their talent defending the pass.
Keion Payne (6'0, 168 lbs.) is another St. Thomas Aquinas grad via Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Payne is a rangy, big bodied corner who should win most battles at the line of scrimmage with his physicality. The only downside to his game is his recovery speed but as long as he uses his quick feet, he shouldn't get beat often. Scouting reports also indicate he'll be a help against the run. Watching CB's tackle HB's is always fun.
Kacy Rodgers Jr. (6'2, 190) out of Carroll HS in Texas has the physical tools to play either corner or safety. It's safe to bet the Miami coaching staff will try him out at both to see where he fits in best. Although he won't be the fastest defender on the field, he may end up being one of the smartest. He has a high football IQ due to his father, Kacy Sr., NFL coaching experience. Father and son will be reunited in Miami as dad coaches for the Dolphins after having to leave his son in Texas with Kacy Jr.'s mother.