National Signing Day for the Miami Hurricanes became as much a story about the players who got away as it was about the kids who signed.
A class of 16 recruits, including five from South Florida, faxed in their letters of intent to Miami on Wednesday. Several big-name area players, however, disappointed the ‘Canes and their fans by choosing to go elsewhere.
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“We’re in a business where everybody focuses on the guys you didn’t get, but the reality is, make sure the guys that you can get can help your program and fit in,” Hurricanes coach Al Golden said during a late-afternoon press conference.
“It had to be a ‘position of need’ class. With 16 to 17 spots, it had to be all about need.”
The big gets were wide receiver Stacy Coley, from Oakland Park’s Northeast High School; linebacker Jermaine Grace, from Miramar High School; and running back Augustus Edwards, from Staten Island, N.Y.
“Those are three big-time football players we got down the stretch,” Golden said.
Disappointing news came from five South Florida recruits, each of whom had Miami listed among his finalists. They included: linebacker Matthew Thomas (Florida State) and teammate offensive tackle Denver Kirkland (Arkansas), both from Miami’s Booker T. Washington High School; Port St. Lucie’s West Centennial High School defensive lineman Jay-nard Bostwick (Florida); Fort Lauderdale wide receiver Jordan Cunningham (Vanderbilt); and Delray Beach’s Atlantic High School defensive tackle Keith Bryant (FSU).
Bryant’s decision hurt because Miami needed a defensive tackle.
“Tom O’Brien used to tell me when I first got in the business, ‘Don’t worry about the ones you don’t get. Make sure the ones you do get can play and match your core values and can do the things that you want them to do,’ ” Golden said.
Obviously, the ongoing NCAA investigation into the Miami program and possible resulting penalties didn’t help Miami’s recruiting efforts. The school limited the number of scholarships made available in hopes of lessening any sanctions that get handed down.
“The unknown is what’s killing us right now,” Golden said. “The unknown is what’s allowing us to be exposed to attack.
”Hopefully, we can get this NCAA thing behind us so we can roll, because right now we’re fighting with one arm behind our back.”
Edwards was the first player to fax his letter of intent to Miami, just minutes after Wednesday’s 7 a.m. ET kickoff. Edwards, a 6-2, 230-pounder from Staten Island’s Tottenville High School, helps fill a need behind sophomore-to-be Duke Johnson. He basically became a must-get after South Plantation High School’s Alex Collins announced his intention to sign with Arkansas on Monday night.
In a stunning signing day development, Collins did not fax his letter of intent to Arkansas. Collins’ mother apparently refused to let the player sign with the Razorbacks and ran off with her son’s letter. Could Miami be back in play? Stay tuned.
“I can’t really comment on a specific story that’s percolating,” Golen said when asked if the class might still grow. “We may have room for one more, but that’s it.”
Golden was very eager to discuss the players who did sign with Miami. Among them, with the coach’s comments:
QB Kevin Olsen — “We went searching for a big-time pro-style quarterback, and I think we got the best.”
WR Stacy Coley — “We sought out to get one wide receiver. We think we got the best one down here. A real good get for us. He’s one of the more fluid receivers we’ve seen in a long time.”
DE Al-Quadin Muhammad — “We think he’s one of the premier pass rushers in the country.”
CB Artie Burns — “Nobody talks about him because he didn’t do a hat show. This guy is a superstar. This guy is a tremendous talent.”
RB Augustus Edwards — “We needed a big back this year, and we think Gus fulfills that. A guy that can run between the tackles.”
LB Jermaine Grace — “One of the two premier linebackers in the state of Florida.”
ATH Ray Lewis III — “Can play corner, slot wide receiver or running back.”
OL Hunter Knighton — “Gonna play center or guard for us.”
TE Beau Sandland — “The No. 1 junior-college tight end in the country.”
In all, Golden and his staff were limited to visiting 27 recruits — they secured 16. He expects some members of the class to help immediately.
“(Signing 33 recruits) last year was about signing a two-deep everywhere because we had lost so many seniors the year before,” Golden said. “This group is more filling in now, and giving us symmetry and competition.
“A lot of these men here, I’m sure, are going to come in with the mindset that they’re going to make an impact and compete for a starting job. The one thing that’s consistent with how we run our organization is that everybody gets an opportunity to compete for a starting job. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a freshman or a senior.”
Most significant signing: Olsen. The 4-star quarterback figures to the “air” apparent to Stephen Morris, who’ll be a senior in 2013. Scout.com calls him “one of the best pure passers in the nation.” Older brother Greg is a former Hurricanes tight end who plays for the Carolina Panthers.
Biggest surprise: Alex Collins. The 5-star running back and Scout.com’s No. 17 overall prospect announced he had chosen Arkansas over Miami on Monday night. That apparently didn’t sit well with mom, who wanted her son to attend Miami. She grabbed Collins’ letter of intent in the morning and bolted from South Plantation High School. Until he officially signs, Collins remains a possibility for Miami.
The one that got away: Bryant. Like Collins, Bryant backtracked after verbally committing to Miami. Still, the 4-star linebacker went into signing day deciding between UM and Florida State. Explosive off the ball, he would have filled a need for the Hurricanes.