For a coach facing a make-or-break year in 2015 on the field, you wouldn’t be able to tell that Al Golden is feeling any pressure if you take a glance at Miami’s 2016 recruiting class.
Golden and his staff have also gotten off to quick starts in the 2017 and 2018 classes.
How have the ‘Canes done it?
The answer lies in the same way the program’s dynasty teams were built.
Of the ‘Canes 18 commitments in the 2016 class, 12 are from players who are from a trio of counties—Dade, Broward and Palm Beach—that are in close proximity to Miami’s campus in Coral Gables.
The nine combined commitments that Miami has in the 2017 and 2018 classes all hail from the same trio of counties in South Florida.
Larry Blustein, who has covered recruiting for 45 years in the South Florida area and currently does so for SouthFloridaHighSchoolSports.com, explains that Miami’s newfound backyard success is due to a combination of factors.
The first thing Golden and his staff have done is to get more support locally from the high school coaches and mentors in the South Florida area.
New Hurricanes receivers coach Kevin Beard, who also played wideout for the Hurricanes from 1999-2003, explained in a radio interview with WQAM 560 (via Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post) that Miami needed to mend the relationship with the South Florida prep football community.
“I want them to be heard,” Beard told WQAM. “Once that happens, things will definitely start changing a whole lot faster. The community will start getting back to being for us and not against us because of what the record is. They’ll see we’re making moves in the right direction.”
Blustein agrees and said that the vibes toward the program have changed recently.
“What has happened was that there was a little change here in the last two months or so,” Blustein said. “On signing day, a lot of kids were shuffling off to Alabama and FSU and not staying at home. The guys in the community got together and decided to listen more to Miami and hear them out."
Blustein notes that most kids in the nation’s most fertile recruiting territories have grown up fans of The U—which makes staying at home an easy sell in most cases.
However, given Golden’s struggles since taking over the program five years ago, there’s been an exodus in terms of the top talent leaving the area to go to schools such as Alabama, Florida State, Georgia, Ohio State, etc.
Golden drew his share of criticism for that from alums and the people involved with the recruiting scene in the area.
“This year, [Golden] took crap from all of the alumni,” Blustein said. “Jon Beason put it the best when he said that by knocking Al Golden down, what you are doing is hurting your school. If you tell kids don’t go there, you are hurting your alma mater. So why would you do that? You have to back your guy as long as he’s employed by the school. Once he’s not, then we will back the next person. A lot of people took heed to that and took a couple of steps back and realized that he had a point.”
Blustein also said that another thing helping Miami’s cause is the fact that the program’s former stars are still coming back to work out with the current players—something that today’s prep stars notice and look up to.
“One thing that separates Miami from a lot of schools is that the former players aren’t pretenders,” Blustein notes. “They really do come back every year. Jimmy Graham was in the weight room here one day after being traded to Seattle. Lamar Miller is out here with the guys. When the high school kids start seeing that stuff, that’s what the tradition was built on and I think that’s what will eventually get them out of this rut.”
Golden’s staff has also done a better job of getting on top talent early.
“A lot of these kids, like Sam Bruce and Dionte Mullins and the 2017 kids in Waynmon Steed and Tyler Dunning, they are players as good as you will find nationally,” Blustein said. “They are absolute beasts, those type of kids, now they are getting the type of kids that Alabama, USC, Ohio State and FSU are coming down here and getting.”
As for the ‘Canes looking to put a fence around their backyard, Blustein said that it’s a strategy that Golden simply had to master in order to turn things around for the Miami program.
“They have no choice,” Blustein said. “[Golden] is in year five. He hasn’t really won a significant game yet. His best win last year was against Duke. In his situation, it’s like he’s facing a 4th-and-10 with one play left and he has to score. The quickest way to turn things around is by locking up the top talent in your backyard.”
Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.