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    Shannon hauls in solid class

    Anybody who knows Randy Shannon isn't surprised today.

    Anybody who doesn't know him was wringing his or her hands over the Miami Hurricanes' 5-7 record this past football season, unable to look beyond the rookie head coach's first year and see the future.

    For the Canes, the future arrived Wednesday, with Shannon hauling in one of the best -- if not the best -- recruiting classes in the country.

    Is Miami back?

    The Hurricanes still have to prove it where it counts the most, between the white lines. But we all know you have to have the horses, the players, the Jesses and Joes to run your X's and O's.

    "I don't get into rankings," Shannon told reporters.

    He knows, as we all do, that college football's landscape is littered with high school hotshots who couldn't transition from Friday nights to Saturday afternoons. It's a roll of the dice.

    Even still, there are two times when coaches like to say they don't get into rankings.

    # 1. When their recruiting class is ranked low, and coaches try to paste a smiley face on a disappointing day.

    # 2. When their recruiting class is ranked high, and coaches try to contain runaway enthusiasm.

    You'd rather reason No. 2 apply to you, and it applies to Miami today. So if you're a 'Canes fan, go ahead and feel good. Feel great, actually. ESPN has the 'Canes' recruiting class ranked No. 1. Scout.com has them third. Rivals.com has them fourth.

    There are other reasons to feel good. Shannon is a minority head coach in a sport sorely lacking in that area. He's from the mean streets of Liberty City, a Miami area known for its dead ends. Shannon's father was murdered when Randy was three. Two brothers and a sister, crack addicts, died of AIDS. Another brother, who once stole Shannon's identity, is in prison. Shannon himself became a father at 16.

    This is a coach who not only has the X's and O's chops, but who can also relate to so many of today's teenagers, especially those in South Florida, his backyard. There was a time when Miami owned South Florida. Other recruiters wrote off the southern part of the state because Miami had seemingly built a fortress, impenetrable.

    Those days might be coming back.

    People in the know say that this year, Dade and Broward counties had some of the best prep talent in a long, long time. Some say it matches the phenomenal talent South Florida produced in the '80s, when Miami's dynasty began. From all that talent, one school stood out -- Miami Northwestern High School. Recently crowned state champs, many experts think Miami Northwestern High was the country's best prep football team this past season.

    The 'Canes signed eight players from that high school. They also got coveted linebacker Ramon Buchanan from our own backyard, Palm Bay High, after it looked like Buchanan was headed to Florida. They got Arthur Brown, whom many believe is the nation's top linebacker. And get this, Brown is from Wichita East High School in Kansas, which proves Shannon can recruit nationally.

    Another thing about Shannon: He's not afraid to make tough decisions. This offseason, he fired two assistant coaches. Both black. If you don't think it's difficult for a black head coach to send two black assistant coaches to the unemployment line, you're just not aware of the dearth of opportunities, even now, for minority coaches.

    But Shannon fired his defensive coordinator Tim Walton, who was a friend, a morning jogging buddy, and also wide receivers coach Marquis Mosely. Shannon replaced Walton with Bill Young and Mosely with -- and Gator fans, you're going to recognize this name -- Aubrey Hill.

    Hill, of course, is a former Florida Gator wide receiver. But know this, he's also a Miami native, and he'll be a force on the recruiting trail in South Florida.

    Speaking of Florida, the Gators didn't hurt yesterday, either. ESPN and Rivals.com both had the Gators third, while Scout.com didn't even have them in the top 10. But Florida had fewer scholarships to dole out this year, and that factors into the equation.

    "Quality not quantity," Meyer said. "Overall, it is a great class. We are going to have a roster of 25 upperclassmen and 60 underclassmen. We have 11 seniors, so it is going to be a very young team. The future is awful bright, and I'm anxious to get back out there and coach our team."

    And, not to leave Florida State out of this, because there's some interesting things happening up in Tallahassee.

    With Bobby Bowden assembling an old school staff, the Seminoles have also adopted some of their old philosophies. Which is, don't be concerned with whether a recruit has a three, four or five stars. Don't obsess over the rankings. Instead, recruit for needs, and then go coach them like you know you can.

    Though not ranked as high as we normally expect for FSU, Bowden's very happy, saying he wouldn't trade his class with anybody else's in the country.

    "We based a lot of this recruiting on needs," he told reporters.

    Three very good state schools, three very good recruiting classes . . . with Miami leading the way.

    "This class is the foundation we're building on," Shannon said. "It's the start of something we needed to get done at the University of Miami."


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