Being everybody's All-American is not always such a great thing. At least that's the way 17-year-old Cro Thorpe felt Tuesday.
Last fall, the 6-2, 180-pound WR from Tallahassee gave hometown Florida State a verbal. But over the past month, Thorpe became increasingly curious about Miami. He liked the small-classroom environment and the team's family atmosphere. He visited the campus two weeks ago and felt like he belonged. Then everything got weird.
On Monday, Thorpe heard the news that UM coach Butch Davis was bolting for the NFL. Later that night, Bobby Bowden and son Jeff dropped by the Thorpe home for a visit.
The Bowdens tried to reassure Thorpe about the Seminole QB situation. They sold him on the potential of freshman Chris Rix. Thorpe, still in haze of the news about Davis, asked Bowden what he thought. The 71-year-old coach explained the nature of big-time college football. Then, half-kiddingly, he threw his arms up in the air and screamed out, "Thank you Jesus!"
But Thorpe still was not prepared for the ambush that was waiting for him at Lincoln High School on Tuesday. "Everybody -- students, teachers, guidance counselors -- wanted to know what was up with me," says Thorpe. "It was crazy. I just thought 'I gotta go.'" Thorpe dodged the chaos at 11 a.m. and chilled at home for the rest of the afternoon, where he listened to the answering machine record calls from his mom's family -- Seminole fans -- about the Davis departure. "I kept hearing 'We can't wait 'til you get to FSU'," he says.
But Thorpe hasn't made any decisions yet. He still likes Miami, and hopes the school stays in-house by promoting Larry Coker. "I want to sign on the 7th," he says. "Because I don't want this dragging on. I hope [Miami] names someone, but if I have to wait a little longer, maybe I'll do that."
And for now, as the race to Signing Day becomes a sprint, the Hurricanes' recruiting struggle has become a battle of attrition. Will their prime targets wait for them? In some cases, no.
Chris Murray, a rangy 6-4 WR from Tampa who had verballed to Miami, told ESPNMAG.com Tuesday night that he is going to N.C. State. "I'm red-and-white now," Murray said. "Raleigh's a beautiful city, I love the coaching staff and it feels right. I can be the next Koren Robinson, except I'm going to graduate."
Thomas Carroll, another Miami-bound blue-chipper, said he's still leaning to Miami, although his phone has been ringing off the hook. Even Alabama and K-State, two schools who never recruited the speed-rushing 6-4, 225-pound DE from New Jersey, are trying to make a push. "I'm committed to the school," says Carroll. "I do want to see who they hire, but I'm sure it'll be someone who is very good. It's really going to take a whole lot for me not to go there."
Still, expect for suitors to continue to rush the 'Cane commits. Most preps remain on board and are waiting to see if the assistants who recruited them stay at UM. Miami director of football operations Pete Garcia, who had been rumored to be headed to Cleveland with Davis, will remain. At least through Signing Day.
Safety Sean Taylor, who just committed last Thursday night, says Miami coaches have told him a head coach probably will be named by Sunday. "They have to make a move I think," says the 6-3, 205-pound DB. "Because they can't let people go into Signing Day blind."
The team's two highest-profile prospects, DB Antrel Rolle and LB Leon Williams, both are still considering Miami, while LB Matt Roth told ESPNMAG.com Tuesday night that he has crossed the 'Canes off his list and will decide between Purdue, Iowa and Nebraska.
"Miami's in a tight spot," says one rival recruiter. "Just when it looked like they were gonna finish with a huge kick, Davis leaves and now we're all trying to pull everything apart. Kids get frustrated pretty fast. We know the longer they wait to name a coach, the better it is for us to get a player who's sick of hanging on."
Bruce Feldman covers college football for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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