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I guess it's Wednesday -- another year, another National Signing Day -- a good time for us at the University of Miami. We feel like we got one of the great classes that we feel like can help us get that next step in college football. A lot of these young men on this roster we feel like can come in and establish this program for a long period of time and not a short period of time.
Anytime you look at a class you always say 'What is your need?' and not what...can give you a stat or a number. Our needs -- the ones we feel like -- were offensive line, tight ends and linebackers. We addressed those issues in this class, and running backs for a long time. The more we keep addressing our needs and our issues and going after the players we feel can help fit what we do at Miami we'll be successful.
[Re: six early enrollees] Most of the time since I've been here guys that have come in January have had an opportunity to help us. You look back and see Mike James, Olivier Vernon and Curtis Porter coming in and helping us. And the year before with Sean Spence, Jacory Harris, Marcus Forston and those guys coming in and helping us - anytime that you can get here in January it gets you caught up to the speed of the game and the contact and the physicalness of it and mental phase of it and the learning process. And you get adapted to school, which is a big deal now. Those guys that come in January have a good shot of making it (and helping the team as a true freshman).
Q: Was offensive line your biggest priority in this recruiting class?
No. No, I think that tight ends were, to be honest with you. We have two tight ends returning. That's what we really focused on, getting the tight end situation going. Then we say, okay, now the O-line and linebackers are the next priorities because of the depth issues at those two positions. We feel like the guys we have at offensive line and linebackers for the long-term can help us do a lot of great things, even short term. You never know who can come in and do what Orlando (Franklin) did his first year, come in and play. You never know.
Q: Clive Walford didn't play much high school football. What did you see in him?
He's like Dedrick (Epps). Clive played receiver, let's face it, that's what he did. Dedrick did the same thing in high school, played receiver. You're trying to find big guys like that 'cause a lot of times you don't find true tight ends. Like Clive played receiver, Tallman played tight end -- and you see these guys are out of the state of Florida. Asante [Cleveland], he played tight end and also flexed out at receiver. You have to go out and find those guys throughout the country - you're projecting guys to be like a Dedrick Epps or a (Kellen) Winslow, guys that are big, fast, that can run. And you just coach them how to block. This time and age everyone is in the spread, but if you can get a big guy, 6-4, 6-5 that's in high school that is 215 to 230 then again you know he'll be a tight end for you.
Q: He didn't play much football growing up.
Not growing up, not growing up. Toward this year he started playing. We saw him in the spring jamboree, and then watched him a little bit during the season. Those are things you actually see.
You know, you look at it like Santana Moss. A lot of people didn't know what Santana Moss was, a lot of people didn't. I was the one that was fortunate enough, because Carol City was my high school. They ran the wishbone. Now, if you didn't go to the games -- they may throw the ball once or twice. But those once or twice those footballs were thrown to Santana. And Santana his senior year caught maybe eight passes but seven were for touchdowns. If you didn't go to the games and evaluate then you couldn't get a perspective of how good this player actually was.
I think that's one thing we try to do our best is in South Florida, is the evaluation. We evaluate the kids in South Florida more heavily than anybody else does. And you have to do that because you have a guy like Tavares Gooden comin' up from St. Thomas Aquinas that played defensive end all his life. We had him projected to play linebacker - well, he did a great job for us here. So those are things you have to do, and you have to count on what you believe in.
Q: Is that how you look at Delmar Taylor?
Yeah, same situation with Delmar. Delmar played five games this season at Miami Beach and we got some film. But now, if you didn't catch those first five games, you wouldn't be able to evaluate it. And that's the thing that we did; we evaluated what he did, his hips, he had explosion coming off his hips. He's a tough kid, smart kid. You evaluate that way.
When I was in the NFL, it was never...you always had these things you had to look at. You want to see a running back's yards after contact. What we look at in South Florida, when you're a running back in South Florida from Palm Beach on down, you know the teams that have the great athletes, the tough teams, and the teams that are not very tough. You're gonna find some players that play hard against some teams; some teams they don't play very hard against. Now you have to say to yourself: When you're playing a real good team why is he not playing really hard? Why are his rushing yards not up? As coaches you have to evaluate it from that standpoint. And I think we do a great job of that, of evaluating South Florida, but also in the state of knowing who played who. Because some teams are not very good. Maybe a football player when they play that team that is not very good is unbelievable. You play one of these teams that's very good and he don't even show up. As a coach you have to say to yourself, 'Why?' Is this what you need at your program or is this a guy that when things get tough he's not going to play very hard? So you gotta be careful when you start recruiting in things like that.
Q: Did you want two quarterbacks in this class?
No. We're fine right now. We have an opportunity next year to recruit some great quarterbacks in the South Florida area and throughout the country. With Jacory you have two years left, maybe we get a guy in next year who sees his chance as better. It's hard. For some reason at Miami, even when we had Dorsey - nobody would come here when Dorsey was a freshman, sophomore. It kind of waited a little bit. Those are things that are kind of different here.
Q: How important is it to have Stephen Morris here for the spring?
Very important. He can learn the offense. Anybody who comes in January is going to learn the offense, learn the defense and you get ahead instead of coming in August and trying to learn the snap count, or you're trying to learn how to line up on defense. You get those things done in the spring and when the fall time comes it's just like second nature to you.
Q: You went to Buffalo, California to get guys.
Big athletes that are fast that can help us win. We feet like those are guys of need. It's not going out of the state that's the key. We've always -- for years -- at Miami our areas have always been New York, New Jersey, Chicago, California, Louisiana and Texas. If you wanna look at Miami history, that's where we've gotten players from. So nothing has changed. We went to California, same as D.J. and Winslow and Dorsey. Danny Stubbs, Leon Williams is from New York, Russell Maryland is from Chicago. Anything we've done this year is just our format of doing things in the past because that's where we've gotten great players from.
Q: Did you consider recruiting Jeremy Davis as an offensive player?
We're impressed with his ability. I've been knowning Jeremy since he was a little runt because of his brother Phillip [Buchanon] and I've been knowing his mom for all those years Phillip was here. He's a great athlete, a great talent. A guy like him, you look at our secondary with Jeremy Davis, Kacy Rodgers, Keion Payne and Devont'a (Davis), they've all played both sides of the football. Keion didn't play (offense) this year at St. Thomas, but you look at his past in his film from Dillard he's played both ways. You look at guys that can do a variety of things, and they know the offense. Like Edward Reed in high school and Sean Taylor, and even Ray Ray (Armstrong) is the same way - they played quarterback, receiver, things like that. When they went to defense it was just natural. So you're trying to find guys who did more than just one position just as a defensive back, that's where you get your better players from.
He's a phenomenal athlete; he's fast, now. He'll probably be trying to compete for the state track (title).
Q: Did you ever think you'd have Jeremy on your team when he was little?
I didn't expect he was gonna sprout up that tall. I always thought he was gonna be like Phillip. But he really sprouted up. Excited to have him part of this football program; we're really excited about him.
Q: As far as attitude and commitment, were you looking for anything specific in these recruits?
[Dryly, warily, hilariously:] What do you mean by "attitude"? ...
One thing that we do, we try to follow up as much as we can on doing background checks on kids. That's the one thing we have to do, make sure they're part of what Miami is all about. And we have to find guys who like to win, who like to play the football game. You can tell a lot on film.
Like I said earlier, some guys no matter if it's a good football team or bad football team they're going to play at a high level. I went to a basketball game this season, one kid we were recruiting, he played the game and made one guy just quit, get out the game, shut it down, go on the bench because of what he did on the basketball court, his physical mentality on the basketball court. Eventually they won the game because the other guy went out of the game. Those are the things you look at, the competition.
Like Eduardo Clements, I've been watching him play since ninth grade at running back, but he's also a kickoff return and punt return guy. Matter of fact, this year, as crazy as it sounds, he even played some defensive line on goal line. He's a guy that no matter what happens, "I'm going to help us win," and those are the kind of players you look for.
Q: What is it that made James Gaines stand out? And how did you find him in upstate New York?
Most of the time when you find guys like him you find 'em through coaches or a friend. A lot of guys we have in this class, friends have called myself or called coaches on the staff, 'Here's a player in this area you may want to take a look at.' He was one of the players in the last two weeks of recruiting, last week of recruiting that we found that is physical, fast.
We evaluated more than one tape -- some coaches on the staff know the New York area. So he went and got a tape of a team that's really good and a team that's really bad, and we compared them. We liked what we saw on film because he was a big, fast guy that was making a lot of plays, hitting, tackling, and he was a big-time athlete because he did some other things beside just play defense. You look at the great ones that have been around here - Ray Lewis was a free safety and tailback in high school, Jonathan Vilma was a tight end/linebacker, DJ was a running back/linebacker, Dan Morgan was a free safety/tailback in high school, Jon Beason was a fullback and strong safety. So those guys you always try to find because most of your big safeties or tailbacks that are not really great ones are going to be great linebackers. Those are the kind of things we're trying to find when we look at the linebackers.
Q: Who is going to be in charge of recruiting now that Coach Hurtt is gone?
Q: Are you concerned at all about the national rankings?
No. We won't be ranked - we don't have the athletes in this class.
I can't go out there and say 'Let's recruit five receivers.' We can recruit five receivers to get us in the top five in the country, go out there and recruit a a certain position. We felt that we had to fill our needs on this team. We have receivers on this football team. We have Allen Hurns and maybe one or two guys still out there. But you don't want to go and cut yourself short on maybe a need that's at tight end. Because that's a big-time need for us.
That's things you always have to find, what's your need for this program on offense, defense and special teams. Once you address those situations, then you become a better football team. Everybody says `Well, you have all these running backs.' We have all these running backs, but you don't know the extent of Cooper's (injury), Damien Berry's a senior and then you have Lee and Mike James. So you better get some guys in this class for the future and not just sit back and say, 'Well, we'll wait and see if Cooper comes back and this guy comes back. You never know what's gonna happen. So we tried to address the issue now like Cooper wasn't coming back. We're one play away from maybe Damien Berry or Mike James getting hurt and then now you're left with just Lee Chambers. And we don't want to put ourselves in that situation.
Q: You got good size in this class.
Big, fast guys, that's what we needed. We feel if we get big, fast guys on this football team that we'll be a good football team, we'll be a great football team. You take Brandon Linder from St. Thomas Aquinas, he played guard, center and tackle. In the Army All-American game he might have been center the whole entire game. That tells you something about him, that he's got variety, brings value to your football team because he can do three different things.
You go down the list. Chase Ford the tight end, you look at his size, you look at what he did on film. He lined up at receiver, tight end, dominated at tight end, caught the ball, got in open space, was very physical, had ability to escape and get away from people. Asante Cleveland played receiver, tight end, some defensive end. We have a lot of variety on this football team that will help us be where we need to be at.
Q: How much easier is it for the spring with no new coordinators?
It'll be fun. It'll be fun...it'll be fun...it'll be fun.
Q: Clive Walford's a good basketball players. A lot of these guys are good athletes.
All these guys like (Jermaine) Barton, he played basketball. Jeffery Brown is a great wrestler, I think he's 39-1 and going for state playoffs right now. Unbelievable wrestler. All these guys - Kelvin Cain is real good basketball player. Asante, decent. All these guys have played basketball. Andrew Tallman is a discus thrower and we found him because he ran the 400 hurdles. We went out in May, coach (Jeff) Stoutland watched him run, you see a big guy run the hurdles and then throw the discus, then you turn on the film and you say `Well, we have an athlete here.' He'll be a tight end.
Q: Darion Hall's production dipped this year.
We watched his junior year, things he did as a junior, because they graduated a lot of guys. They didn't have the players around him like the year before, especially on the offensive line. We just liked the way he ran the football. When you turn on the film, talk to other teams in that area, they talked about him. They didn't talk about him like "he had a bad season," they talked about him as a young man, as a football player, when game times are tough they still see him on the sideline cheering guys on.
His mom is the one, she's unbelievable. Sitting in the home, this guy's studious and sitting up, and she says, `Coach, what made you like him?' I said, `Look at him!' I go in the home and sometimes guys are slouching back, hands on top of their head, got the TV on, watching the tv, not paying attention to you. He's at the edge of his seat sitting up straight and tall and talking. He's not slouching back, leaning back. She says, `You know what coach? That's my boy, because he knows I'll just get into him if he don't.'
Guys like that want to be a part of something. Their mindset is I wanna be a part of something. And that's what you have to go out and recruit, and recruit good football players. If you get great football players that have the structure, that understand the importance of presenting yourself, get ready to take that next step...when a young man like that comes into your program it reminds me of a Mike James.
Mike James' mentality was `I'm going to play at the University of Miami, I'm going to take that next step. I'm not going to rely on what I did in high school.' If you rely on what you did in high school you're going to get left behind. And I can see in him that his mindset was I'm going to Miami to take that next step, to try and get in the lineup. I'm not going to Miami to try and back anybody up. Those are things I really admire about him.
Q: Did you find you have kids you recruited that don't want to wait a couple of years to play?
In recruiting, yes. One thing I will never do, I will never tell a young man or a kid they'll start at the University of Miami. I'll say I'll give you an opportunity to play. The only thing that can stop a freshman from playing is mentally and physically. Mentally if you're not able to handle it and learn what you're doing you won't make it. And physically, any young man in high school says I'm going in and starting, let's be realistic. I can tell him that because we have spring football coming up. If I go and say you're going to start at free safety, I promise you that, some high school kids: Yeah, I'm starting there. But they keep forgetting spring football. Somebody has to start in spring football. Spring football, someone has to line up, learn the defense, learn the offense. If I promise you that, once I tell you that I'm lying to you, now you'll never be able to trust me. But now I tell you I'll give you an opportunity if physically and mentally you can handle it.
And I tell them the physical part of it. I go back to Marcus Forston his freshman year. His mindset was I'm the man, I'm going to do this, I'm going to do that. He didn't play against Florida State his freshman year. His body was sore. He wasn't used to banging against 300 pounds in practice, banging against 300 pounds in games, wasn't used to tackling guys 220, 215, 205. He was always going against guys about 160 in high school, so it's a different ball game. He was beat up because his body couldn't handle it. I tell most high school guys that if you want to play at Miami, mentally and physically you gotta be ready to play. I give them that Marcus Forston story all the time, and then they realize that's how it is.
Q: Looking forward to the spring, how is Jacory Harris' hand?
Q: He won't practice due to the injury?
It's good for the other young guys. They get to learn the offense, get to practice a lot, get three scrimmages they get to get in, 15 days of practice. It'll be good for the young quarterbacks. They have to learn. It's good because now one of those guys have to emerge as Jacory's backup. Jacory is not getting reps but those guys are, so we can see who can actually run the offense.
Q: Talk about the hiring of Rick Petri.
I've been knowing coach Petri a long time, worked with him here when I was here. He coached Warren Sapp, Kenard Lang, Kenny Holmes, Kevin Patrick and all those guys. Great technician, great coach, done a great job wherever he's been.
You look up his record at Ole Miss, South Carolina, the guys he's coached, he's coached some first round guys. At Kentucky those guys have been making first team all-Southeastern conference. That tells you what type of coach he is. He's very well respected. We're happy to have him on board, and we're gettin' ready to start up.
Q: The Pro Bowl was in Miami during your final visit weekend, and the New Orleans Saints are using your practice field. Is there a benefit to that?
You can use it in recruiting, that's the best thing about it... They see it for themselves. We had a lot of recruits call us. We had recruits that honestly called this morning that wanted to come to Miami and we had to tell them we don't have any scholarships. It's unfortunate, but our numbers at this position, there's not one for you; if you were at another position, yes.
We normally recruit about 36 guys, that's about all we recruit. The first year we signed 34, recruited about 44. That was it. We don't try to recruit 100 guys. We get our little section, those are guys we grind and stay on, and when it usually comes down to it, we usually get our quota and miss on about eight of them.
In those terms we don't waste a lot of money, waste a lot of time. We just concentrate on those guys that we feel we have a great shot at and that we can spend more quality time with. We can recruit 60 guys, but trying to give quality time to 60 guys is very hard.
Q: Any update on Graig Cooper's health?
No. Nope. No update. That's the update.