It’s early December of 2013. Al Golden had just completed his third regular season as Miami’s head coach at 9-3 after a 7-0 start to the regular season.
The Hurricanes have hit the recruiting trail in search of talented players that can help get them to the top of the ACC Coastal.
On December 4, they make progress in that regard signing a trio of players from Miami Central High to grant-in-aid agreements. Those agreements essentially meant each had a guaranteed scholarship in Coral Gables should they choose to take it, but none of the trio were required to sign a national letter of intent with the Hurricanes.
Two of those Central Rockets chose to take that scholarship and play for Miami. One did not.
And the one that did not would haunt the Hurricanes throughout his college career.
Dalvin Cook’s Dominance Against Miami
It wasn’t that Joseph Yearby and Trevor Darling had bad careers for the Hurricanes. Each was productive in his own way during his time in a Hurricane uniform.
But letting Cook slip away to Florida State was a loss Golden never recovered from and the Hurricanes felt personally each time they played the Seminoles and the electric running back suited up.
Cook was 3-0 against Miami, including two wins in South Florida, and compiled 588 total yards and six touchdowns in those three wins over the Hurricanes.
Yes, that’s an average of 196 total yards and two touchdowns per game against Miami.
And it wasn’t just the statistics that made Cook’s performances special it was the timeliness of his accolades.
As a true freshman, Cook scored the go-ahead touchdown for FSU with 3:05 to play in the Seminoles’ 30-26 win over Miami in 2014. He also scored the go-ahead touchdown with 6:44 to play in 2015 to give FSU a 29-24 win over the Hurricanes.
His 59-yard touchdown catch in the 2016 game helped FSU dig out of a double digit deficit in the second half in the “Block at The Rock” game that FSU won 20-19 at Hard Rock Stadium.
How Could Cook Have Improved Miami?
Cook played at Florida State from 2014-2016, the final three seasons of Florida State’s seven-year winning streak over Miami. The Seminoles have not defeated Miami since Cook declared early for the NFL Draft after the 2016 season.
Golden went 6-7 in 2014 and was 4-3 in late October of 2015 when he was terminated after losing to Clemson 58-0 at home. In total, Golden was 0-5 against Florida State and 0-3 against the Seminoles when Cook was on the field.
Cook may not have been a huge help to what was then a true freshman quarterback in Brad Kaaya in 2014 as Duke Johnson rushed for 1,652 yards that year and Miami still only won six games.
2015 and 2016 however might have been a different story.
The Hurricanes averaged just 141 rushing yards per game in 2015 while teams rushed for 225 yards per game against them. Yearby was Miami’s leading rusher with 1,002 yards on the season.
Cook surely would have helped that rushing attack and helped open up the passing game for Kaaya, Stacy Coley and David Njoku among others.
In 2016, Mark Walton was Miami’s go-to running back while Coley and Ahmmon Richards were the team’s go-to wide receivers. Adding Cook as a fourth offensive weapon would have done nothing but make Kaaya’s last season as a Hurricane even better.
The Effect on Recruiting
If Golden signs Cook in the Class of 2014, might that bring other elite players from South Florida in future years while Cook is on the roster?
According to 247Sports.com, Golden signed just one player in the state of Florida’s top 25 in 2015 (Walton) and Mark Richt signed three in 2016 (Richards, Sam Bruce and Shaquille Quarterman).
Would Cook’s presence have attracted other elite players to Miami? Again, a hypothetical question we will never know the answer to.
In both 2015 and 2016, Jimbo Fisher finished with the top recruiting class in the ACC and the third ranked overall recruiting class, according to 247Sports.com.
Were these elite players going to FSU specifically because they wanted to play with Cook? Maybe or maybe not. But Cook’s dynamic playmaking certainly didn’t hurt Fisher on the recruiting trail.
For comparison sake, Miami’s 2015 or 2016 recruiting classes each finished outside the top 20 according to 247Sports.com.
When Cook declared for the NFL Draft after the 2016 season, Fisher immediately replaced him with Cam Akers, a 5-star running back prospect and the No.3 overall player in the Class of 2017 according to 247Sports.com.
The Bottom Line
Had Cook signed with Miami in February 2014, he likely would have served as Johnson’s primary backup for the 2014 season and become Miami’s starting running back in 2015.
Would Cook being Miami’s starting running back in 2015 have saved Golden’s job?
In my opinion, no. Golden’s unwillingness to fire Mark D’Onofrio after Miami’s multiple subpar seasons on defense was ultimately his downfall with the Hurricanes.
But it’s hard to imagine Miami losing 58-0 to Clemson with Cook in the backfield on that October 2015 day.
If Cook were standing on the Hurricane sideline rather than the Seminole sideline from 2014-2016, how many of those Miami-FSU games does Miami win?
You can make a strong argument that Florida State does not win any of those games without Cook’s heroics in them.
Cook was a monumental miss for Golden and made the Hurricanes pay all three years he was a Seminole.