When Howard Schnellenberger took over as the University of Miami head coach in 1979, he pledged to win a national title within five years and to do so with local talent.
Schnellenberger figured if he didn’t let the local players skip town to join other programs, he had a pretty good chance of establishing something special right in the heart of America’s talent-laden hotbed of South Florida.
When thinking about UM and its football glory days, many names of homegrown stars who all played key roles in Miami’s five national titles come to mind. Eddie Brown, Michael Irvin, brothers Brian Blades and Bennie Blades, Melvin Bratton, Willis McGahee, Andre Johnson, Jonathan Vilma, Darrin Smith, Sean Taylor, Michael Barrow, Craig Erickson and on and on, all helped the reach the top during their careers.
This is the 30th anniversary season of UM’s first national title. Miami High’s Eddie Brown starred on the UM team that knocked off Nebraska to cap the 1983 season. So it’s quite appropriate that current Hurricanes head coach Al Golden and his staff have resurrected The U’s local recruiting dominance with the current recruiting class.
Of the 26 commitments to the 2014 class, Miami has 17 players from South Florida. The latest pledge came from Deerfield Beach running back Brandon Powell, who flipped his earlier Tennessee commitment during the weekend and pledged to Miami on Saturday night.
It says a lot for Golden’s staff to have been able to make such a drastic infiltration into the local landscape just months after the Hurricanes saw players like Plantation RB Alex Collins and Miami Booker T. Washington OT Denver Kirkland bolt for Arkansas, and Washington LB Matthew Thomas head for Florida State.
They did manage to keep players like Miami Northwestern CB Artie Burns, Miami Southridge S Jamal Carter and Oakland Park Northeast WR Stacy Coley at home, but to have kept Collins, who was once pledged to UM, or Thomas, at least, would have strengthened the class immeasurably.
This year's class is impressive and South Florida-strong. In January, Golden took a major step in securing the area of defectors by luring FSU assistant James Coley back to his Miami roots, hiring him to become the Hurricanes’ offensive coordinator. Not only will Coley be able to take control of the offense, which he has always wanted, he will also be able to sharpen his recruiting skills right in his own backyard.
Don’t think the kids playing in that backyard haven’t taken notice.
“I think it’s very important,” said recently committed Booker T. cornerback Nigel Bethel. “Once other guys see players such as myself buying in with the plan, they’ll see that they are getting things back on track. Al Golden has a plan and when you want to be successful you gotta have a plan, and the plan is to have all the guys in South Florida back here where we should be.”
Miami Northwestern defensive end Mike Smith pledged to the Hurricanes in mid-July and he had similar sentiments.
“There is a lot of great talent in South Florida and if they can keep it at home, they can win a lot of championships at the University of Miami,” Smith said. “A lot of guys grow up watching Miami Hurricanes football. We know how it used to be and that’s where we want it to be again.”
Bethel said he knows the ’Canes are close to finishing off their 2014 recruiting class, but he also knows one other player he’d like to see join him in Coral Gables.
“I think they have my position wrapped up, but I think if Chris Lammons wants to commit, I don’t think they will turn him down,” Bethel said of the athletic Plantation cornerback, who can also play safety.
The Miami 2014 class also includes local stars like Miami Central RB Joseph Yearby, Booker T. Washington DE Chad Thomas and Palm Beach Central OT Kc McDermott.
Signs at roadside fruit stands often urge us to “Buy Local,” and the ’Canes are paying attention.
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting and now on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun