Ever since then-coach Howard Schnellenberger revolutionized recruiting by "fencing off" South Florida in the early '80s, the Hurricanes have found success upon success following his plan -- but some watchers worry the fence may need mending.
"There's been a breach in the Great Wall of Canes," states a Miami Herald blog, echoing the concerns of many impatient internet posters. "The green and orange protective layer that used to shield the hearts of players born in the area codes of the 954 and 305 is beginning to disappear like the ozone. And if the University of Miami isn't careful, the hole could get bigger."
Writer Manny Navarro points to his experience at a media day for 2010 recruits, where he heard "a change in the voices of the kids from just around the corner." What was different this time around, he wrote, is that there is "no longer that overriding sense that their childhood love for UM is going make the Canes the team to beat in the end."
It's no time to panic, however. Not only has South Florida regularly produced so much football talent that one school cannot possibly take all of it, but recruiting, and athlete's expectations, are changing in ways that -- for now -- account for a margin of error where the South Florida-UMiami recruiting trend is concerned.
It's important to take several things into consideration when processing the buzz -- or lack thereof -- surrounding the 'Canes with regards to 2010.
Miami has restocked its cupboards over the last two years, and not every big kid with a bigger ego wants to go somewhere and wait his turn in this fast-food me-first age. Following Randy Shannon's large hauls in '08 and '09, Miami is 5-7 very good players deep at wide receiver, deep enough at running back, and set for now at a few other positions. Few high school seniors care to consider that even Michael Irvin didn't see the field at the Orange Bowl right away back in his day. Welcome to cyclical recruiting.
The recruiting process itself has changed. Twenty -- and even ten -- years ago, players committed, got a blurb in the papers, and that was that. The Bryce Brown saga certainly proves how much the Internet, ESPN, Scout, and Rivals have changed the game. What high school athlete -- especially those from underserved areas where it's not common to even get on a plane -- doesn't enjoy taking trips and fielding repeated calls from a fawning media?
Committing early changes that. By playing out their courtships and declining to tip their hands, kids enjoy a lot more attention than those who declare early and aren't fussed over. Case in point: Tennessee's Brown and UM's Mike James - both are capable of making an impact as freshman, yet only one is a household name. The other committed nine months early, and didn't look back. Brown's path -- or the slightly less dramatic version - is increasingly becoming the popular one.
Following this trend, very few of South Florida's elite prospects have committed to any school at this stage in the game. That doesn't mean Miami won't take most of the players it really goes after come Signing Day.
Finally, the 2010 class out of South Florida is widely regarded to be one of the strongest in years. How many of the prospects Navarro interviewed have actually received offers from Miami? A team typically only takes 25 on signing day, give or take a few.
In 2008, the year he made a national splash by returning to the South Florida formula after it faded away under Larry Coker, Shannon took virtually everyone he wanted from Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties in a huge class of over 30 players. Even so, as Dr. Saturday notes, four players in Rivals' Florida Top 50 signed out of state. It's like catching a waterfall in a bucket.
It's also likely some of the players who spent the day with the Herald have not received offers from UM, like Ransom Everglades' linebacker Gideon Ajagbe, whose committment to Florida last week sparked stoked the panic.
Some don't meet Miami's recently-raised academic entrance standards, and are likely to mask that with feigned indifference.
Still more will fall into the same category of "ended up elsewhere for other reasons" with the likes of Anquan Boldin (Pahokee - Florida State - Arizona Cardinals), Fred Taylor (Pahokee - Florida - New England Patriots), Santonio Holmes (Glades Central - Ohio State - Pittsburgh Steelers), Marcus Hudson (South Dade - NC State - San Francisco 49ers), and Asante Samuel (Boyd Anderson - Central Florida - Philadelphia Eagles). If there was a time to panic, it was back when Larry Coker wasn't even trying to contain South Florida and a few of the names above got away. But the point remains: it happens.
Fans, message board soldiers, and reporters with access to the prospects could be shown accurate 10 months from now about the way this class seems to be shaping up. Teams like North Carolina have been working away at South Florida for years, and with UF aiming for another championship run this fall, it's not as if there aren't attractive options to compete with.
But if UM still takes a majority of the South Florida talent within the bounds of the new normal, isn't that still a stranglehold?
Miami's nationally recognized recruiting efforts over the last two years shows no signs of stopping - only that the program can't take everyone.
But the one thing that can ensure the 'Canes are on the lips of every single recruit in Florida this year and the next?
Wins. And lots of them.