Little went right for Miami in its first year under
There was the 51-13 loss at to Oklahoma, the program's most lopsided defeat in nine seasons. Then there was the Hurricanes' last game at the Orange Bowl -- where they won three of their five national championships and once held a 58-game winning streak -- when they suffered their worst shutout loss in 71 years in the stadium, 48-0 to Virginia.
Shannon finished his debut season at 5-7 (2-6 in the ACC), which left Miami out of a bowl game for the first time in a decade. The defense, which Shannon had overseen for the previous six seasons, gave up more points (312) than any Hurricanes unit since 1984.
So of course, it should only stand to reason that a season full of frustrations ends with a recruiting class that was ranked No. 1 by ESPN, third by Scout.com and fourth by Rivals.com. Much like Notre Dame, which was second in Rivals' rankings after going 3-9, the Hurricanes were able to overcome a historically woeful campaign by cleaning up on the recruiting trail.
"If you're 5-7 and you can get some good student-athletes, some good football players to come here, you're doing pretty good," Shannon said.
The 33-player class includes the nation's top-ranked defensive tackle,
Shannon credits the impressive haul to the staff focusing on the type of players "that have a lot of passion for the game, a lot of passion for the team and a lot of passion for the University of Miami." But he might as well say it was a dedication to dominating his own backyard.
When Shannon took over for
As much as having two of the game's top recruiters in recruiting coordinator/defensive line coach
"She talked to every student-athlete that came in on his visit and she was basically one of our top recruiters because she sold the school and sold the goals of what this university is all about," Shannon said.
There's no denying that the community approach to recruiting resulted in a class Hurricanes fans will point to as tangible proof that, while the Miami brand name may have lost some of its luster after its two worst seasons since 1997, Miami remains a heavyweight.
While this class does appear to signal a bright future and speaks to the widespread reach of the program -- especially the signing of Brown, a five-star prospect out of Wichita, Kan., who chose the Hurricanes over the likes of Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and USC -- Shannon sees it as a testament to recruits buying into what he and his staff are building.
"I think it was more of the kid that we're recruiting understanding what we're trying to get done at the University of Miami and they see that our coaching staff and program is going in the right direction," Shannon said.
Prestige and upward trajectory are all well and good, but the biggest thing that Shannon had to offer recruits after going 5-7 was immediate playing time.
After ranking 110th in total offense and 33rd in total defense last season (one year after finishing seventh in the same category), Miami loses 14 starters, including seven on defense. Shannon says they sold the program as a chance at "coming in and competing for playing time and restoring what we've got done at Miami."
Shannon knows about what it takes to restore that luster at Miami because he's seen it before. He was linebackers coach in 1997 when Hurricanes went 5-6, after which they brought in a recruiting class that included
But at least for now, Shannon's not prepared to dwell too much on the perceived ranking of the newest group of Hurricanes or their chances of ushering in a rebirth, a la that '97 class. It's not like Miami hasn't been disappointed by would-be stars in the past. The 2004 class was also ranked fourth by Rivals.com but the group didn't live up to its billing. Also,
"The only thing that we've discussed about this class is the eager players that we've got to come to the University of Miami and that's the only thing that matters," Shannon said. "Now we have to coach them up and get them better for the upcoming season."
That preparation begins in less than two weeks, with spring practice starting Feb. 26. The 'Canes enter the spring without either of the two quarterbacks they used last season and the perceived frontrunner for the job, redshirt freshman
Shannon took action after the defense's mammoth decline in '07, firing coordinator
Miami looks to restore its place in the college football pecking order and it all begins with a group of players willing to buy into the Shannon way.
"This is the foundation with this recruiting class," Shannon said, "and once you set the foundation, good things happen after that."