Howard picks Miami, giving 'Canes class a boost

TIM REYNOLDS AP Sports Writer Published:

MIRAMAR, Fla. (AP) -- Tracy Howard knows Miami's future is uncertain.

He also believes it's bright.

The nation's top-rated cornerback announced his decision to play for the Hurricanes on Wednesday, giving Miami's signing-day class a huge boost and spurning offers from Florida and Florida State in the process. Howard visited Miami's campus last weekend and made up his mind, saying he was undeterred by the ongoing NCAA inquiry into the actions of a former booster who provided extra benefits from athletes and recruits from 2002 through 2010.

Miami self-imposed a bowl ban this past season, and eight players were suspended for at least one game because of their interactions with the former booster, convicted Ponzi scheme architect Nevin Shapiro.

"Nobody knows what's going to happen," Howard said. "Nobody knows what the sanctions are going to be. ... They took a bowl game away this year and players got suspended. They did their punishment. So what more can there be? There's going to be a sanction. No doubt about it. I'm taking a chance."

When he lifted a Hurricanes cap at Miramar High, surrounded by family members, Miami coaches working on campus about 25 miles away roared.

"Extremely relieved," said Howard's mother, Shaiy Howard.

Howard immediately became the gem of the Miami class, one that already included other highly rated players like Miami Columbus High defensive back Deon Bush, defensive tackle Jelani Hamilton of perennial national power St. Thomas Aquinas of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., wide receiver Angelo Jean-Louis of Palm Beach Central High and running back Randy "Duke" Johnson of Miami Norland High -- Florida's "Mr. Football" winner this past season.

Also Miami-bound: Howard's Miramar teammate, wide receiver Malcolm Lewis, who said he left Howard alone in order to make his own decision.

"I just let everything play out," Lewis said. "And it played out well. He committed. We're going to do big things there."

Miami coach Al Golden and his staff sold Howard, Johnson and other standouts from talent-rich South Florida on the notion of playing at home and being part of the latest Hurricanes' rebuilding project.

Johnson committed to Miami more than year ago, even before Golden was hired as Randy Shannon's replacement late in 2010. Johnson never wavered, and even became a de facto recruiter for the Hurricanes in recent weeks, doing what he could to woo his close friends like Howard into teaming up at Miami.

"That's something we've been looking forward to," said Johnson, who ran for 2,087 yards -- an average of 10 per carry -- and 29 touchdowns this past season for Norland, which won Florida's Class 5A title and went a perfect 15-0. "Now that signing day is out of the way, we're going to start figuring out how we're going to do our next four years at Miami."