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MIAMI'S BIG STATEMENT

Among standout classes by Florida and Florida State, the Hurricanes' stands tallest.

The science of college football recruiting analysis got a little more inexact Wednesday.

While national scouts extolled the virtues - and vertical leaps - of the blue-chippers signed by the likes of Alabama, Florida and Notre Dame, what went grossly overlooked was the seismic signing day imprint registered by - of all teams - Northwestern.

Okay, Miami Northwestern.

Eight players from the Class 6A state champion - four of whom are ranked among the top 100 by at least one major national recruiting service - signed Wednesday with the University of Miami, a mere 12 miles from their campus.

"I've never seen anything like it," College Sports TV analyst Tom Lemming said.

"It really, really, I thought, lifted Miami to something special."

"I have never seen anything like that, and I've been doing this 16 years," said Jamie Newberg, the Pinellas County-based national analyst for Scout.com.

Three other 'Canes signees came from nearby 4A state champ Miami Washington. Toss in Miami-Dade County linebackers Brandon Marti (Miami Gulliver) and Marcus Robinson (Homestead), and second-year coach Randy Shannon landed a coveted group before setting the first tire on Florida's Turnpike.

ESPN ranked it the nation's top class. Scout.com ranked it third behind only Alabama and Notre Dame.

"This, to me, will be the core nucleus to Miami restoring the roar down there in Coral Gables," Newberg said.

While Miami roared, the Tide rolled. 'Bama garnered the signature of Foley (Ala.) wideout Julio Jones - widely deemed the nation's top receiver - to round out a 33-player class ranked first by Scout.com, Lemming and Rivals.com.

"I don't even think it's close," Newberg said.

"With the additions of Julio Jones and (four-star defensive tackle) Marcel Dareus, I think (the Tide) ran away with this thing."

For its part, Florida finally got some safeties who might be able to run with them.

Despite losing a couple of oral commitments - linebacker Ramon Buchanan (to Miami) and guard Ricky Barnum (to Michigan) - Urban Meyer still hauled in a 22-member class ranked from third (by Rivals.com and Lemming) to 11th (by Scout.com).

"It has gotten to the point with Florida where they are just loading up depth-wise," South Florida-based recruiting analyst Larry Blustein said. "They've already got good front-line kids. Now they are going to the point where games are won and national championships are won, and that's by getting depth."

Highlighting Florida's signing day take: No fewer than six players who could instantly solidify a defensive secondary exposed greatly last season.

Among them are safeties Will Hill and Dee Finley, ranked third and 10th, respectively, on ESPN's list of the nation's top 150 seniors.

"Florida had a little bit of a rough day. They took a little bit on the chin losing a couple of kids who had committed to them," Newberg said. "But I think for the most part they definitely filled their needs."

FSU's 30-player class also earned widespread top-10 national recognition. The 'Noles landed their projected quarterback of the future in 6-foot-5 Virginia Beach (Va.) five-star recruit E.J. Manuel, not to mention a potential defensive cornerstone in Crawfordville linebacker Nigel Bradham.

But they took a hit when Tallahassee Lincoln cornerback T.J. Bryant signed with Southern Cal and Jones spurned them for Alabama. Another Lincoln star, quarterback B.J. Daniels, signed with USF.

"What FSU failed to do and Miami did do is they kept the kids at home," Blustein said. "The Northwestern kids stayed together, and that's the difference."

Three of USF's biggest signings among a 22-player class were recruits who hadn't committed to the Bulls until Wednesday. Daniels, who will also play basketball at USF, is one of three four-star recruits along with defensive end David Bedford and linebacker Kion Wilson.

The other late additions were cornerback George Baker, who had orally committed to Auburn, and defensive tackle Jatavious Jackson, who signed with Florida State last year but was not cleared by the NCAA.

Times staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report. Joey Knight can be reached at jknight@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3350.

FAST FACTS

What is all this?

Wednesday was national signing day, the first day players may sign binding national letters of intent for college football. Coaches are not allowed to comment on recruits until they have signed. Typically, nearly every player offered a scholarship will sign on national signing day.

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