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February 3, 2013

Miami's fall from grace steady, stunning


MORE: 2013 team rankings | ACC rankings

You needn't look further than the Super Bowl to see the contrast.

Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.
The rosters of the 49ers and Ravens are littered with former Miami Hurricanes, including Ray Lewis, Frank Gore and Ed Reed -- among the seven total players from The U.

The 2001 BCS national champion 'Canes produced 17 first-round picks and 38 NFL draftees overall.

Look at Miami now, however, and you'll see a team that is barely holding off Duke -- yes, Duke -- for ninth in the ACC in recruiting.

The fall from grace has been steady and stunning.

Count Rivals.com Southeast recruiting analyst Kynon Codrington among the surprised.

"You turn on the (NFL) game on Sunday and there are still a lot of players from The U," he said. "The school has the best academics in the state. The program has the best graduation rates in the state.

"These are selling points to players and parents, but the message just is not getting delivered."

Miami's 2013 class has only 12 commitments and was mentioned as one of the most disappointing in the country, with National Signing Day days away.

There are no five-star players in the class and only one player in the Rivals100 -- Al-Quadin Muhammad, who hails from Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco Prep and not talent-rich south Florida.

"It is still Miami," Codrington said. "The school should never need a Plan B player. It should be Plan A, Plan A and then Plan A."

The elephant in the room is the looming sanctions coupled with a horrific exit from the Randy Shannon era in recruiting.

When Yahoo! Sports reported the improper actions by former booster Nevin Shapiro in 2011, it sent the program into a cycle of self-discipline.

The actions, according to Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell, are the real reason for the appearance of a downtrodden class.

"They are self-sanctioning so the numbers are down, which results in what looks like a bad class, when it really isn't at all," Farrell said. "They have been waiting on the NCAA for its findings, and it seems as though the NCAA is just going to drag it out as long as possible and that is hurting as well."

The sports governing body announced recently that it was conducting an internal investigaton for alleged improper conduct during its probe of Miami. The NCAA said former members of its enforcement team were inappropriately working with Shapiro's criminal defense attorney to obtain evidence.

University of Miami president Donna Shalala released a statement expressing her concern for the handling of the investigation.

In her statement, Shalala said she was "frustrated, disappointed and concerned" that the "investigation may have been compromised by the NCAA staff."

"As we have done since the beginning, we will continue to work with the NCAA and now with their outside investigator hoping for a swift resolution of the investigation and our case," the statement read.

Miami coach Al Golden told Rivals.com earlier this year that his goal was to right the ship.

"Our perception is that we want young men to join our program to put Miami back on the national scene," he said. "We have to address the facts that we aren't where we want to be. We are not going to gloss over anything."

The current recruiting class is down from No. 9 in 2012 to No. 63 with just three days until the final standings are tabulated.

While there is hope on the horizon for this class, there are also clouds.

Thursday night, reports surfaced that Golden had given an ultimatum to Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington offensive lineman Denver Kirkland to commit or lose his scholarship.

Kirkland did not give a pledge, and Golden kept his word.

The result was a firestorm centered around Golden, Booker T. Washington head coach Tim "Ice" Harris and legendary rapper and longtime Miami supporter Luther Campbell.

Harris said that this would leave a long-lasting scar on the relationship between himself and Golden.

Campbell tweeted that the move would be recruiting suicide for Golden by burning relationships with Booker T. Washington, Miami (Fla.) Northwestern -- where Campbell coaches -- and the ripple effect of the coaching community within Miami.

On the plus side, Miami is still recruiting five-star linebacker Matthew Thomas from Booker T. Washington, despite the rift between the schools. The program is believed to be back in the lead for Plantation (Fla.) South Plantation four-star running back Alex Collins, who once de-committed from the 'Canes but is said to favor the program. All the while, the Hurricanes are believed to be well-positioned with Oakpark (Fla.) Northeast receiver Stacy Coley, even though that is not a position of need.

Closing out with those three would boost the class back into the mid-30s and improve the stars-per-player to the high 3.6 level.

Farrell said there are plenty of things going in the right direction.

"The program could have played in the ACC title game and it could have played in a bowl game and it could have more commits," he said. "But it is hurting itself on purpose in hopes of seeing lesser official sanctions."

At Media Day in New Orleans, the former 'Canes reflected on glory days.

Gore told Eric Adelson of Yahoo! Sports that competition is what fueled his fire -- and that coming in behind players such as Clinton Portis and Willis McGahee should not chase away players but attract them to The U.

"If you want to be the best, you have to play with the best," Gore said.

Former Miami assistant and current Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano said those past teams were recruiting the types of players who are still in the area.

"We were looking for athletic, speed guys who loved football," he said. "We were trying to bring the program back. There was such a hunger there. That's one of the reasons they practiced so hard against each other."

If Golden can infuse that mentality into the south Florida area, there could be a rebirth of the program.

"There are few programs in America that within a three- to five-hour drive from home can put together championship-type teams," Golden said. "Not a lot of teams can get the depth we can."

The Super Bowl rosters are evidence of that.



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