Miami's firing of coach Randy Shannon left many members of the top-25 recruiting class Shannon was building surprised and uncertain of their future. While the Hurricanes have a small class working -- they have just seven commits, including three ESPNU 150 players -- and are expected to sign maybe 14 or so players this year, many of the prospects are now keeping their options open.
"Not only did I have a great relationship with Coach Shannon but I had a great relationship with the entire coaching staff. It's been three years," said ESPNU 150 DE Anthony Chickillo. "Now this happened. The relationships I built with them, to me, were the biggest thing for me and why I committed to Miami. Now I have to establish a new relationship with new staff over two months. That's tough to do.
"I will wait and see who they hire. I can tell you this recruiting will pick up and I will take my visits and see what's the best place for me. I don't know how to word it. My recruiting has opened up. I would still say I am a soft commitment to Miami."
Chickillo, an Under Armour All-American from Tampa (Fla.) Alonso High School, said he woke up this morning to more than "50 missed calls" on his cell phone. Many were from coaches just itching to get Chickillo on campus for a visit.
"I did speak with Coach [Urban] Meyer this morning and I will take a visit to Florida for sure," said Chickillo, who recorded 18 sacks and 140 tackles this season. "I am also thinking about Florida State, Alabama, Auburn, USF, Tennessee and some other teams. At this point I am willing to listen to anyone that wants me."
Miami's earliest commitment was from ESPNU 150 OG Marcus Jackson, who committed nearly a year ago. But with Shannon now gone, Jackson is taking a step back to see what happens.
"We had a real strong relationship. Right now I don't know what to do or what to think," said Jackson, who's from Vero Beach (Fla.) Senior. "I don't think it will mess me up with Miami, but they keep giving me reasons not to go there. I don't know what to do or say at this point with Miami. I want to find out who they hire first."
Before the firing, Jackson, an Under Armour All-American, had already taken two official visits despite his commitment to the Canes.
"I visited both Tennessee and Michigan State. I really liked both those schools. They were both better than I thought," he said. "I may take some more trips. At this point, I just don't know."
Miami's lone out-of-state commitment is four-star CB Albert Louis-Jean from Brockton (Mass.) High School, who said one of the big reasons he selected the Hurricanes over offers from Notre Dame, Penn State, Boston College and many others was because of the relationship he had with Shannon.
"It was good," Louis-Jean said in an e-mail. "He was the head coach of the school I committed to. That alone was a big thing. He told me they would take care of me and look out for me."
Whether he stays with the Canes or not remains to be seen.
"I just [don't] know," he said. "We'll see."
Three-star OLB Nick Menocal from Miami Belen Jesuit committed to Miami not necessarily because of Shannon, but more because it was "The U." Sure, the staff had something to do with his decision but the program's history had a lot to do with it.
"I made my decision to go to Miami because it was Miami. It wasn't about the staff but it was about the tradition, winning and how they develop players," Menocal said. "Now I did speak with Coach Shannon a few times and he's a nice guy. The coach I really like is Micheal Barrow and I just don't know whether he will be there or not."
Like the others, Menocal is already hearing from other programs, but he will take a wait-and-see approach with the rest of the recruiting process.
"I have not backed out of my Miami commitment but I will keep my options open. Stanford has already e-mailed me saying they are interested in me. I am sure a few other schools will contract me," he said. "I know I have a long time to make my decision. I still am verbally committed to Miami but I will keep my options open."
The biggest wild card might be ESPNU 150 QB Teddy Bridgewater. The four-star prospect from Miami Northwestern is a dual-threat QB who chose Miami over LSU, Florida, Tennessee, Rutgers and USF. While there were some whispers that he was reconsidering his commitment and strongly considering LSU even before Shannon was fired (to the point where some thought he would visit Baton Rouge a few weeks ago, although that didn't happen), he has never publicly wavered. Bridgewater, who has long been silent about his football future, could not be reached for comment following the news of Shannon's firing but maybe this change will be better for the Canes with Bridgewater in the long run.
To some degree, Miami recruiting started slipping last year. Yes, the Canes had the 13th-ranked class in the country last year, but it could have been better. This is a program that had the No. 1 class in 2008, and No. 7 class in 2009. It was known for closing well. The talent in South Florida in the Class of 2010 was the best it's been in several years, but the Canes only landed a small handful of prospects, including running back Eduardo Clements, wide receiver Allen Hurns, quarterback Stephen Morris and offensive lineman Brandon Linder.
Meanwhile, high-profile South Florida recruits like five-star prospects Lamarcus Joyner, Matt Elam, Jeff Luc and Demar Dorsey and four-star prospects like Chris Dunkley, Gerald Christian, James Louis, Corey Lemonier, Ivan McCartney and Willis Wright signed with other programs. These were all ESPNU 150 members from Miami's backyard. In fact, the Canes landed only two ESPNU 150 members -- Linder and DE David Perry -- from South Florida.
This season, Miami lost out on some key prospects who were thought to be Miami leans, including South Fort Myers (Fla.) teammates Dallas Crawford and Sammy Watkins. Instead, Crawford has committed to Michigan and Watkins is headed to Clemson. Miami Northwestern star receiver Eli Rogers, an ESPNU 150 member, backed out of his commitment to the Canes. Two more South Florida recruits the Canes were hard after -- ESPNU 150 DE Anthony Rabasa and four-star defensive back Jeremy Cash -- committed elsewhere. Rabasa chose Notre Dame and Cash picked Ohio State.
Now the challenge for the new coach and staff will not only be to keep current commits, but to win over the elite prospects who were considering the Hurricanes, including five-star offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, five-star wide receiver George Farmer, four-star tight ends Brandon Fulse and Nick O'Leary and four-star defensive back Jabari Gorman, among others.
Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting both in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.