Posted: 2/1/2011 5:06 PM
Feldman Article on Golden/Miami Recruiting
This is from Bruce Feldman's ESPN Blog:
Al Golden's recruiting plan for Miami
There are notes everywhere scribbled on the white board across from Brennan Carroll's new desk in the Miami Hurricanes' football office. There are phone numbers, names and recruiting leads. In the upper right corner of the board, is a reminder of sorts. It reads:
Those are the numbers of high schools in each state. It underscores the potential to canvass the smallest of the three biggest hotbeds of football talent in the nation. Carroll, the former USC Trojans recruiting coordinator, has only been in his new gig, as Miami's tight ends coach/recruiting coordinator, for a few weeks. He, like some of his new colleagues, has had to undergo a crash course in not only his new program but in the gridiron landscape that surrounds it.
It's a few minutes after 8 a.m. ET on Monday morning, T-Minus 46 Hours from the official start of National Signing Day. Things are chaotic in football offices all over the country this week, and this is especially so at programs like Miami, which are coming out of coaching transitions and are scrambling to a.ssemble its first recruiting class under a new coaching regime. Monday was actually the first day the entire new Miami staff was together since it was a.ssembled. Most of them hadn't had a chance to put up a single picture on their office walls.
For new head coaches, putting together your first recruiting class, often in less than two months, is a mad scramble. For some, like Miami's Al Golden and the Michigan Wolverines' Brady Hoke, the transition may also include almost no cross-over recruiting -- targeting players the coaches were already recruiting at their previous job -- so the evaluation and introduction processes can be thorny.
Golden, who came to UM from Temple, was unfamiliar with most of the prospects that were already on the Canes' recruiting board. With Temple being in the northeast and in the MAC, most recruits considering Miami weren't going to pay the Owls staff much attention. When he was announced as the new UM head man on Dec. 13, most recruits responded to the news with a collective "Who?!"
On top of that, most of the recruits Randy Shannon's staff had landed bailed in the interim. By the time Golden moved into his new office he had just two commitments on board, and quite frankly, the two that remained were shaky.
As Golden worked to a.ssemble his new coaching staff -- his first wave of a.ssistants came in with three of the defensive coaches he brought with him from Temple -- they evaluated the personnel remaining in the program during three practices the Hurricanes went through in preparation for the Sun Bowl. In addition, the new staff built their new recruiting board, while a.ssessing that cornerback, QB, defensive line and linebacker were their biggest priorities. Among the first prospects they connected with were those recruits that were planning on enrolling at mid-year, which meant the staff would return to campus from home visits just an hour before they hosted their first official visits.
The big-picture approach was to honor those commitments, but also be honest with those recruits about where the new staff saw them fitting in the program. One of the biggest mistakes a new coach makes is jumping at players his staff just doesn't have much of a feel for.
"We always say we don't want to be seduced by talent," Golden said Monday afternoon from his office, which is still decorated in the way Shannon had set things up. Golden's objectives are heavy on intangibles. He covets explosive athletes, but puts a premium on football smarts (does a player know the difference between Cover-2 and Cover-3? Do they grasp fundamental football concepts?), toughness and discipline. Each attribute can be hard to gauge, particularly the latter two. And, when you haven't had much time to get to know the recruits or have them in camp, it gets even harder. Golden says that, like Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick, he wants "gym rats." "We don't want clock-punchers," he adds. "That's gonna get you seven wins."
The toughest challenges came with recruits that either A.) were committed to Shannon and weren't pleased about there being a coaching transition or B.) didn't like that they hadn't been offered by the previous staff and now only had a few weeks to decide.
Still, Golden chooses his words carefully. It would be easy to talk about what might have been lacking before with Miami recruiting or the situation that he inherited. "I have a lot of respect for Randy (Shannon)," he says, adding that there "needs to be a healing" for the program and all of the people connected to it.
This is the fourth transition job Golden has been a part of. His first was when he joined the Boston College Eagles staff in the aftermath of a gambling scandal. With the Virginia Cavaliers, he was a young defensive coordinator on Al Groh's staff. In December 2005, he was named the head coach of the beleaguered Temple Owls program, which had won just three games in the previous three years. His initial 21-member class at Temple produced five NFL players with a sixth projected to go to the league.
Talent development is an expression that has been discussed a lot with Golden, a Joe Paterno disciple, from his days at Temple. Golden's top a.ssistant, Mark D'Onofrio, an old Penn State teammate who came along to be Miami's defensive coordinator, bypassing an opportunity to become Temple's next head coach, said their sales pitch has been rooted in just getting out and letting recruits see who they are. "This is what we do best," D'Onofrio said. "Look kids in the eye and say here's what's gonna change going forward. Here's what we're gonna be able to do."
The crux of that change is to get those kids to play with passion and energy and discipline. And do it consistently. Cut down on the missed tackles, silly penalties and turnovers. That comes from a day-to-day mindset, whether that's in conditioning, at practice or around the campus, he said. "Al always talks about how toughness is a skill," D'Onofrio says. Translation: it can be developed and nurtured.
With Golden bringing the nucleus of his staff from Philadelphia, he then hired Carroll, the son of ex-Trojan coach Pete Carroll, to help oversee recruiting. However, as Golden considered candidates to be his offensive coordinator, two of the three coaches he opted to retain from the Shannon staff, O-line coach Jeff Stoutland and wide receivers coach/recruiting coordinator Aubrey Hill, would later bolt for other jobs. Stoutland left for the Alabama Crimson Tide, while Hill returned to his alma mater, the Florida Gators.
If there was such thing as a "must-have" recruit for Golden, four-star defensive end Anthony Chickillo was it. Chickillo, who had committed in September, was set to become Miami's first third-generation football player. But after the regular season, things get chaotic. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Tampa native had driven down to Miami for the Canes' season-finale against USF. Miami lost, and when Chickillo arrived home he got a call from his high school coach alerting him that Shannon was getting fired.
Chickillo had grown close to Shannon, developing a trust and a connection that most players take much longer to gain with the coach. The next morning the teenager woke up, powered on his cellphone -- and his jaw dropped. He had 56 voicemails and 43 text messages. The first call he took was from Florida coach Urban Meyer, who made a strong pitch for Chickillo to become a Gator. It gave the defensive end a lot to think about, but a few weeks later brought another bombshell: Meyer was resigning.
Chickillo never de-committed from Miami, but he definitely was not yet sold on the new regime. Not long after Chickillo's recruiting stock sky-rocketed when he won MVP honors at the Under Armour All-American Game, he began to develop a bond with Golden. So did several other blue-chip South Florida prospects who were new to the Hurricanes recruiting board.
"You tell [recruits] that, at the end of the day, our scholarship monetarily is worth twice as much as what most schools are," Golden said. "You explain that we're the top university academically in the state of Florida, the only one to be ranked in the top 50 academically and that it's an incredibly intimate experience because the class size is still small, we had the No. 7 APR rating, we have produced the most players in the NFL, won five national titles in the last 27 years, had 10 Pro Bowl players this year and there is a great quality of life here."
Golden promptly flipped South Carolina Gamecocks CB commit Thomas Finnie, an early enrollee candidate. Finnie not only played a need position -- Miami is losing three cornerbacks to graduation -- but he was part of a state championship Miami Central High program that had lost a connection to UM in recent years. Golden followed that up by snaring explosive RB/CB Kevin Grooms and CB Dallas Crawford, a pair of ESPN 150 prospects, in successive days. Then came his biggest news yet on the recruiting front: Chickillo said he was "200 percent" committed.
However, there have been some bumps in the road, most notably losing four-star QB commit Teddy Bridgewater to Louisville. In serious need of a quarterback, Golden tried to flip Jake Rudock (an Iowa Hawkeyes commitment) and Kevin Souza (Wake Forest Demon Deacons commit), but both stuck with their previous teams.
Golden then pursued 6-foot-4, 220-pound QB prospect Jacoby Brissett, an uncommitted dual-sport athlete from Dwyer High in Palm Beach, who was also being pursued by the Wisconsin Badgers, Washington Huskies and Florida. Trouble was, because Brissett is also a talented basketball prospect, he hasn't had much time to get to know the new staff. However, the Canes' new offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch, who arrived in Florida after his Seattle Seahawks lost in the second round of the NFL playoffs, was able to get the QB to take an official visit to UM last weekend. The latest news on Brissett has him possibly waiting until after Signing Day to make his decision.
There are also a handful of other top prospects Golden is waiting on, but the coach is optimistic. "Transition is not an excuse," he said. "If we hit on two or thee guys down the stretch, it'd be awesome."
He is adamant things will be even better a year from now. "We were like the clam, meaning we'd open up and let all the food rush in," he said. "But we're going to become the eagle and get back to hunting."
i see the light at the end of that 4 yr tunnel