Future is Golden for 'Canes
It truly takes a village to rear a college football player.
Green Bay Packers rookie cornerback Sam Shields is Exhibit A. You'll see him in the starting lineup on Sunday in Super Bowl XLV. Shields, a converted wide receiver, never made the type of plays for UM that he's made for the Packers. His two interceptions against Chicago in the NFC Championship Game doubled the number of interceptions he had as a senior at UM.
But that's because the village let Shields down. It acquired his talent, but it didn't develop his talent.
First-year UM coach Al Golden, who introduced his first Hurricanes Signing Day Class on Wednesday, vowed that won't happen on his watch.
"It's always the acquisition and development of talent," said Golden, who gives you confidence simply by his tone and presence.
Golden, hired to replace the fired Randy Shannon in December, plans to end the days of wasted talent at Miami. He has a vision. And he brought a village with him from Temple, his former employer, to help carry out that vision.
For example, Tom Deahn, Golden's director of football operations for the previous five years at Temple, was named National Football Operations Director of the Year by FootballScoop.com. In his role, which is a cross between NFL general manager and Golden's right-hand man, Deahn is regarded as a superstar.
Others were brought in, too. Overall, six coaches/staffers made the journey from Temple.
"We know we have a blueprint to make some things happen," Deahn said.
So when you look at the University of Miami's 15-member Signing Day Class, which has been ranked anywhere from the mid-30s to the mid-40s nationally, think of this initial talent procurement as merely the beginning, the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
What you can't see, what's still sitting under water -- in this case, an impressive plan that ranges from re-dedicating the recruiting effort to South Florida kids to drastically slashing the cost of football camps -- is massive.
Under Shannon, local recruiting took a nosedive to the point where some local coaches were no longer familiar with the Hurricanes. That can't happen in counties as talent-rich as Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach.
"We've got to get back to our roots," Golden said.
Communication also suffered under Shannon. Already with Golden, from just a few times listening to him, you feel you know the direction the program is headed. You feel you know there will be a strong commitment to local recruiting, and you feel the coaching staff will develop existing talent. Golden brings that type of assurance through his words and body language.
"There is talent on campus," Golden said.
And he seemed believable.
By all accounts, Golden did a great job scrambling to play catch-up in recruiting. And he did so under great pressure, with only 15 days to be on the road.
Florida State had the top-ranked class, according to most rankings. Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher filled the vacuum left by the coaching vacancies at Florida and UM and did so in knockout fashion. Florida's class was ranked somewhere in the mid-teens, No. 14 or 15, somewhere around there. Newly hired coach Will Muschamp also did a good job playing catch-up.
But no one made up the amount of ground Golden covered. He had just three oral commitments on Dec. 13, and no visits scheduled.
"If you take a new job and nobody is scheduled for an official visit that's quite alarming," Golden said.
At the time, Miami's recruiting class was rated somewhere around 85th. Golden and his staff 'flipped' eight of their 15 signees, meaning they got them to de-commit from other schools and sign with the 'Canes.
Stealing defensive end Jalen Grimble (6-3, 265) from Southern California was a huge coup. Grimble, of Las Vegas Gorman, is rated as a top 10 defensive tackle by almost everybody, although he could play defensive end at Miami.
"We're still recruiting," Golden said. "This class is not complete."
Bringing back offensive line coach Art Kehoe was also big. Kehoe, fired by former coach Larry Coker, has a quarter-century of Miami orange and green history pumping through his veins from his days as a player and an assistant coach.
Golden and Deahn also plan to bring back discipline and enthusiasm to UM.
'From what we've gathered from the kids they've missed some of that," Deahn said.
It takes a village to rear a college football player. Golden's grand plan might not result in a title. But he has a vision, he communicates his vision, and he inspires confidence.
Already, these are better days at UM.