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Miami trying to hold its new class together

As signing day looms, a new coach must be named as 'Canes try to build on momentum of No. 2 finish.

By JOE FRISARO

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 2, 2001


CORAL GABLES -- During a recent recruiting trip to Texas, Butch Davis sat in prospect Marcus Maxey's living room and assured the defensive back and his parents he would remain coach of the Miami Hurricanes for years to come.

The recruit took Davis at his word and orally committed. Now, Maxey is reconsidering his decision. The Navasota High player still is leaning toward Miami, but he says he is concerned about the coaching situation.

The fallout of Davis taking the Cleveland Browns job has Miami scrambling to salvage its recruiting class.

"Coach Davis came to my house, and he told my parents he was going to be a Hurricane," Maxey said. "So when I heard that (Davis left), I thought it was a mistake somebody made. I was just in total shock. It was just deceiving how he just came and lied to me and all the other players he was recruiting."

Miami athletic director Paul Dee reiterated Thursday his desire to hire a coach before signing day, Wednesday.

"I don't want to delay the decision," Dee said. "People want to know. There is uneasiness when you have uncertainty. We want to have our coach named and have our coach in place and get ready for next season."

Until then, several recruits are weighing options. Armwood receiver Chris Murray was strongly with Miami but opted for North Carolina State after it was announced Monday that Davis left. Offensive lineman Robert Bergman from Bakersfield, Calif., also is reconsidering.

A majority of the oral commitments, however, plan to play for the Hurricanes. After the initial disappointment of losing Davis, Miami Gulliver Prep quarterback Buck Ortega said he will sign. So will offensive linemen Randy Boxill of Lantana Santaluces and Rashad Butler of Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer. Miami's best sales pitch is its history -- four national titles since 1983-84, two Heisman Trophy winners, a high graduation rate and a number of former players who are standouts in the NFL.

"You'd like to think that people come to the University of Miami because they want to play here, they want to play the schedule that's laid out here," Dee said. "They've been recruited to a great academic institution. But you can't get away from the fact that recruiting is personal. We hope (Davis' departure) will have a minimal effect."

Interim coach Larry Coker and the rest of the staff are making calls to recruits. But it is unclear if Coker, a candidate for the job, will be around. Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, who was recruiting Murray, resigned to take a job on Davis' staff. Pete Garcia, the recruiting coordinator, also is leaving for Cleveland. Garcia is staying through signing day, doing what he can to salvage the situation.

Some top recruits, such as Homestead-South Dade defensive back Antrel Rolle and Brooklyn (N.Y.) Canarsie linebacker Leon Williams, are taking a wait-and-see attitude.

"I want to go down there," said Williams, rated the nation's 27th-best prospect by SuperPrep. "But I'll wait to see what happens."

Miami players are doing their part to hold the team together.

"All the leaders on the team are going to become very active now, especially with a new coach coming in," quarterback Ken Dorsey said. "People who have made verbal commitments here are not just signing because of coach Davis. They are signing here because of everything that comes along with the University of Miami. This school just has too much to offer to not come here just because coach Davis is leaving."

Center Brett Romberg has this message for recruits: "I hope nobody changes their minds. It's the players who win football games. If they want to win a national championship, they should come here."

* * *

COMING UP: South Florida (Saturday); Florida (Sunday); Florida State (Monday).

Recruiting information

On the internet

BorderWars: www.borderwars.com

Bobby Burton: www.rivals100.com

Max Emfinger: www.maxemfinger.rivals.com

Bill Hodge: www.fansonly.com

Tom Lemming: www.espn.go.com/recruiting

PrepStar: www.prepstar.com

Allen Wallace: www.cnnsi.com/football/college/recruiting

Phone the Big Three

Florida: Gator Bait, (900) 860-4286

Florida St.: Osceola, (900) 860-4378

Miami: CaneSport, (900) 454-2263

Facts and terminology

SIGNING DAY: The first day athletes may sign binding national letters of intent. It is the first day of a signing period, which this year begins Wednesday for football. Coaches are not allowed to comment on recruits until recruits have signed.

ORAL COMMITMENT: A non-binding announcement by an athlete about what school he intends to sign with. Players may change their minds until they sign.

ALL-AMERICAN: A prospect named to a national all-star team by a publication (such as USA Today or Parade) or by a recruiting analyst.

ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS: To be eligible as a freshman in Division I-A, an athlete must have a minimum grade point average of 2.5 in a core of 13 college prep classes and an SAT score of 820 (or an ACT score of 17). A sliding scale allows slightly lower GPAs to be offset by higher test scores.

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