When all was said and done on National Signing Day, Miami hauled in a consensus top-15 class according to most recruiting experts. That meant plenty of smiles from Hurricanes coach Al Golden when was given the chance to speak about his newest players for the first time.
Here, in his own words, are Golden's thoughts about Miami's 2014 signing class and how he expects to use the new talent as the Hurricanes try to improve after their first nine-win season since 2009:
(Spoiler: He was plenty excited.)
On how he expects these signees to impact the defensive front:
They’ll make an impact. I’m really excited about them, from explosiveness, size and really maturity when you look at [Calvin] Heurtelou and [Michael] Wyche. If we start with the front, obviously Chad Thomas is an elite player, excellent explosiveness, pass rusher, brings speed on the edge, yet physical enough to take on the block of a tackle or tight end. So we’re excited about him. On the other side, the open side, defensive end spot, Demetrius Jackson, Trent Harris, guys like that to go along with Quad Muhammad and Tyriq McCord, I feel much better about our depth there now than I did at any point last year. Inside, that’s probably where we’ve made the most gains. [Anthony] Moten, again, a premier player in the country at defensive tackle. I saw A.J. last week and he was a shade under 300 pounds. He’ll come in ready-made. We’ve got to get him in condition, he’ll come down this summer to work with us, we’ll get him ready to go and we’ll add him to a position where Jelani [Hamilton] and Olsen Pierre play. Three nose tackles that we brought in, two are junior college players. Obviously more mature physically and mentally. Calvin Heurtelou is here now at 324 pounds. He’s going to give us the type of strength that we need and we’re excited about the impact he’ll have in the spring. Michael Wyche, obviously, a highly-coveted player and someone that we think will do an incredible job for us. Michael has a great perspective on life. He’ll give us the leadership and kind of be a guy that will make an impact both on and off the field. And Courtel Jenkins is a young man we’re excited about. Those are the guys up front.
The thing I’m most excited about is the linebacker group, the sheer size of them. Juwon Young is on campus right now at 240 pounds. Darrion Owens is 6-2, 6-3 and in that 230-pound range. We’re excited about him. Michael Smith, another young man that we obviously thought the world of. Terry McCray, a very sought-after player at Blanche Ely. A guy, again, who’s 6-2 ½, 6-3, 228-pounds. Very big, physical group of linebackers. Trent Harris and Demetrius [Jackson] are kind of swing guys. They can play sam or what we call the rush in our system. That’s pretty much the breakdown of the front seven.
On how he envisions using signees Trayone Gray and David Njoku:
Gray’s a guy who can play wide receiver for us. Gray can actually play running back to in addition to obviously what he did with the ball as a quarterback. He’s another guy that came to camp and I fell in love with him after about 10 minutes. So really excited about him. And Njoku is a big athlete. He’s an ex-wide receiver. We’ll see where he goes with his body. He’s about 218 pounds now at 6-4, but certainly has the ability to be a guy that we can move around from X to H and put him in space.
On quarterbacks Brad Kaaya and Malik Rosier:
As it relates to Brad, he’s always been a winner, but now he’s a champion and he’s coming out of this year with a lot of confidence. He’s a young man that stayed with us throughout the whole process even though everybody, USC, UCLA, everybody started going in on him. We’re grateful to him and obviously to Brad Sr. and Angela for their loyalty. This is a fine young man. He’s 6-4, he’s got a big arm, and everyone that I know at the Semper Fidelis game said that he had a great week. He’s very bright. This is a young man that came and visited us 11 months ago as we were beginning spring ball. You could tell right away, just by visiting with him, just how bright he is. He came to camp, really a guy that we challenged in camp and he did a great job there, so we’re excited about Brad. He’s a winner, he’s a leader, he’s smart and he’s got the tools to go along with it.
Malik Rosier is another quarterback that we’re bringing in in this class and another kid you should get to know. He’ll be playing baseball for the ‘Canes and Jim Morris in addition to playing football. He’s a heck of an athlete and a guy that we’re excited about. Big hands, strong arm, excellent mobility and a guy that it’s easy to say because he’s athletic, that he might be a guy that can run the ball more, but the reality is, he can throw the ball in the pocket really well, but he also gives you an extra element of being able to escape and make plays with his feet. Both those kids, really good kids, winners and smart football players.
On what it meant to bring in offensive linemen Trevor Darling and Kc McDermott as early enrollees:
Huge. Huge. They are who we thought they were. That’s the biggest thing with recruiting. It doesn’t matter what anybody says, the services, the stars. Are they what you thought they were and Trevor Darling and Kc McDermott are exactly what we thought they were in the recruiting process. Those are two young men that will be able to help us right away. We’ve already seen the gains that they’ve had in the weight room the last three weeks. They’re both smart, they’re tough, they’re guys that go work every day. They get after it every day. Couldn’t have two finer families to be associated with the University of Miami than those two families.
We’re going to continue to look. We may need to get another offensive lineman in this group because I’m worried about the numbers. I’m not worried about the quality though. Nick Linder, Brandon’s brother, is going to come in and play center for us at 275, 280-pounds coming. What I say Nick I already said about Trevor and Kc. They’re all from that same cloth. They’re going to work. They’re going to scrap. They’ll be in the weight room. They’ll put in the hours. They’re smart and again, Nick is no stranger to any of that coming from St. Thomas Aquinas. We’re excited about that group. We don’t have much room, we’re basically at our max, maybe have one spot, maybe two, but offensive line is a spot that I will continue to look at just because our numbers overall are not great. Quality I like, but the numbers are not great.
Does he need expect any additions at any other positions?
I don’t know. I feel good about [the roster]. I’m excited about it. I’m excited about what we did. We needed to go out and get two safeties and we did that and we think we got two great ones. Kiy Hester had everyone out of DePaul High School and we couldn’t be more thrilled with a kid that comes in that played multiple positions in high school, that runs the alley, that can strike. He’s smart. He’s got good ball skills. He’s explosive. We’re excited about Kiy Hester. Marques Gayot is another young man…both of these kids are big, both are big safeties. Gayot is another one that’s physical. You watch his tape, and again, both play the position, they’re both comfortable in it, they’re smart kids and again, both of those families are the types of families you want with the University of Miami. Ryan Mayes is a young man that can play corner or safety, and we’re going to start him out at corner and go from there. I don’t know if we would go anywhere else.
On the emotions of the day as he watched his longtime commitments sign:
I guess, that’s the thing that’s probably the most exciting to us as a staff is that the guys who said they were coming, came. We took a run at a couple other guys, just like every team does down the stretch. But for us, unlike last year, last year I had a ceiling. I was against the cap. I didn’t have any wiggle room. We had to hold some of those spots for local kids and some of those kids didn’t come which really created a deficit. It was hard. It was hard to overcome. This was a little different because we were maybe waiting for some kids that maybe said yes today, but we really had guys at those positions. Like the defensive line, we had four defensive tackles committed already, which is what we needed. We took a run at some guys, but all the guys that said they were coming, came and that’s exciting for us. It says something about them and their families and clearly, we’re excited about the group that we have.
Does he have any thoughts of adding a bigger running back in addition to signee Joseph Yearby?
I don’t think we’re going to. Joe is not 6-foot, but Joe runs hard. Joe’s a strong runner. And even Andreu Swasey and those guys talk have been talking to me about how he works in the weight room. He’s going to be one of those guys. What you guys may not know is that Duke Johnson is 202 pounds and we’re trying to get him to 205, 206 and he’s done a good job. Joe Yearby is really following Duke’s footsteps here. He’ll get stronger and of course, we have Dallas [Crawford] and Gus [Edwards]. The depth there looks a lot better than it has for a couple of years and I’m excited for that. I don’t think we’ll go after a big back. I’d rather save that for next year and get two running backs. We really like a lot of the running backs in next year’s class so we’ll just save it and bring two in in next year’s class.
On the differences between keeping long-time commitments in the fold vs. chasing down recruits late in the process: