Howard Schnellenberger put the University of Miami football program back on the map in the early 1980s by doing something so basic it was genius: He made sure the best recruits in South Florida stayed home.
It didn’t hurt that Schnellenberger had years of football cred, having previously coached alongside legends like Paul “Bear” Bryant and Don Shula while owning a national championship and two Super Bowl rings. It also wasn’t a bad idea to leave a calling card at a recruit’s home. In Schnellenberger’s case, it was his trademark pipe—of which he needed several for recruiting.
Once Butch Davis left in 2000 to return to the NFL, Miami’s local recruiting began to tail off, as did its success on the field. Randy Shannon’s teams the past four years failed to win the ACC or go to a BCS bowl and he was let go after the 2010 season.
As it turns out, Shannon wasn’t the recruiting force in South Florida one would have expected. He grew up in the area, was a star at Miami Norland High School and then an all-state linebacker at The U.
Enter Al Golden, the man who turned around a moribund Temple program and was regarded as one of the best young recruiters in the nation and easily among the most aggressive.
High school coaches throughout the area note the connection with Golden and his staff is substantially stronger than under his predecessor. Here are what some of them had to say to the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson:
“You want to talk about a night-and-day difference,” said Miami Columbus coach Chris Merritt. “There’s a lot more communication and texts now. Miami didn’t recruit any of our kids under Shannon.”
“We see them more. This staff shows [its] face at your school even if you don’t have a great prospect,” said Hialeah coach Marc Berman, intending no criticism of Shannon.
Central coach Telly Lockett, who said Shannon ignored his program, noted this UM staff “is taking care of their backyard more. I talk to coach Golden a lot.”
“More UM coaches are involved in recruiting now. Different coaches call the players. That keeps it fresh,” said Norland coach Daryle Heidelberg.
But perhaps most telling is this: Miami Belen coach Richard Stuart claimed he had more contact with Golden in four months than in four years with Shannon.
The upcoming season will likely be a transition year for UM as Golden and staff implement their system and fill in the holes left by graduations and those players who transferred after Shannon was fired.
But looking ahead to 2012, Golden has already secured oral commitments from 22 players, including 16 ranked at least three stars out of five by Scout.com. Miami could have about 30 recruits in the class when all is said and done.
As with those who proceeded him on the UM sidelines, Golden has had to maintain a breakneck pace just to keep his in-state rivals at bay. Second-year Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher and new Florida head man Will Muschamp are doing quite well with their ’12 classes, and there’s also South Florida, Central Florida, Florida International, Florida Atlantic (Schnellenberger’s latest success story) and the out-of-state programs to worry about.
After eight years of mediocrity, Miami would appear to be a year or two away from recapturing glory on the gridiron. When it happens, the UM faithful will be able to herald a new Golden age in Hurricane football.
Editor’s note: This writer holds a B.A. in Communication from the University of Miami.
This post originally appeared on SportsCouchPotato.com.