It is National Signing Day, aka the one day of the year when the nation cares most about the whims of fickle teenagers. Miami Hurricanes coach Al Golden managed to secure a recruiting class among the tops in college football despite looming sanctions from the NCAA.
With big needs in the defensive secondary, offensive line and backfield, Golden was able to close fast and pull off a bit of an upset. ESPN.com ranks UM's class as the tenth-best in the nation, while Rivals ranks the Canes ninth, thanks in no small part to one of Golden's latest commitments.
Howard, a defensive back from Miramar, spurned the Florida Gators, who seemed to have him locked up as late as two weeks ago. In front of ESPN cameras he told an auditorium full of reporters and teammates, "Why not stay in my hometown, win in my city. I'm ready to rock with Miami."
Howard is part of a pair of defensive backs who may see playing time right away in Miami's secondary. Deon Bush of Miami Columbus, another four-star recruit, has also signed with Miami. Golden could have up to eight defensive backs in this year's class, which is especially good considering the team only returns two experienced cornerbacks from the 2011 team.
But the biggest get for Golden could be Miami Norland's Randy "Duke" Johnson, who won the Mr. Florida Football award last season. Leading the Vikings to a state championship and the school's first ever undefeated season, Johnson could compete right away for playing time with star RB Lamar Miller leaving early for the NFL.
"I'm officially a Cane now, but at heart, I've been a Cane for a long time," Johnson told the Miami Herald on Wednesday. Offensive lineman Ereck Flowers, Johnson's teammate at Norland, will join him at the U.
Making the Canes' recruiting haul all the more impressive was the fact that other schools were using the specter of coming sanctions related to the Nevin Shapiro scandal against the U. "I’m not going to sit here and tell you we didn’t get absolutely crushed by our opponents on this," Golden said in an afternoon press conference.
"We fought back," he added. "Are we not supposed to beat Florida and Florida State? We got to start thinking like we're the University of Miami again!"
Recruiting class rankings are not a surefire sign of future success, for proof of that look at Miami's 2008 recruiting class. Despite being ranked among the best in the nation that year, the class failed to put together even one ten-win season in the four succeeding seasons.
But recruiting rankings are as good an indicator of future performance as any available. For a fan base begging for any sign that the Canes are on the right track, Golden's latest class should be welcome news.