CORAL GABLES — A year ago, Miami coach Al Golden sat around the fax machine on National Signing Day with the knowledge that sooner or later the NCAA was going to come around with penalties.
There were no such worries Wednesday — just happiness — as the Hurricanes reeled in their best signing class in Golden’s four years in Coral Gables.
Among the big fish UM reeled in: Miami Booker T. Washington five-star defensive end Chad Thomas and pass rushing teammate Demetrius Jackson, California All-American quarterback Brad Kaaya, three All-American offensive linemen and a quartet of talented defensive tackles led by 6-4, 287-pound defensive tackle Anthony Moten from Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas.
“A lot better,” Golden said ESPN Wednesday morning when asked how this year’s signing day compared to last year. “We’re excited. ... We have a lot of kids that fill a lot of needs for us, particularly in the front seven, which we really think we did a great job there.”
The day could have gone even better had UM been able to add a couple of late additions. But Booker T. Washington quarterback Treon Harris and Immokalee cornerback J.C. Jackson — who UM made strong late pushes for — both opted to sign with the Florida Gators.
Hialeah Champagnat defensive tackle Travonte Valentine, a U.S. Army All-American committed to the Hurricanes until January, opted to sign with LSU over UM.
“Not a surprise in the end, but still a crushing blow for Miami,” Corey Long, editor-in-chief of FUEL Recruiting, said of the 6-3, 338-pound Valentine. “That was the prospect they needed.”
Thomas, the 6-5, 240-pound Under Armour All-American who visited Alabama and Florida State the past couple weekends, had UM fans nervous before making his announcement in front of family, friends and teammates inside Booker T. Washington’s auditorium.
“For the next four years I plan to be at ... the University of Miami,” Thomas said as he pulled out his Hurricanes jacket and put it on.
Golden said during an appearance on ESPN that he was “absolutely concerned” that Miami might lose Thomas to Alabama “until all the faxes” were in.