Like every other program in the nation, the Miami Hurricanes are looking to close strong on National Signing Day next Wednesday. Al Golden and his coaching staff currently have 26 commitments—nine of which are already on campus as early enrollees, preparing for fall.
Miami will host a handful of athletes this weekend as recruiting season comes to a close, while some Hurricanes commits will head elsewhere for one last sales pitch.
5-star defensive end Chad Thomas has been solid to "The U" since last July, but is making the most of his final visits.
The 6'3", 230-pound Booker T. Washington standout spent last weekend at Florida State and is Alabama-bound this weekend—two programs that have won some recent titles and remain on a roll, yet Miami appears unfazed.
The Hurricanes remain the team to beat for the highly-coveted athlete as Thomas is even more intrigued by brass than hardware. A lifelong musician and aspiring producer, the Miami native is thinking far beyond the NFL when his college playing days are through.
"A lot of people don’t know: music was my first love, not football," Thomas recently told Matt Porter at The Palm Beach Post.
Thomas plays a variety of instruments—tuba, trumpet, euphonium, drums, piano, guitar and bass—and spent the last several years studying at Miami's elite New World School of the Arts, before football took him to another level his senior season.
The University of Miami isn't currently on par with Alabama or Florida State on the football front, but when it comes to the music department, "The U" has something special.
"It's two different music programs," Thomas told Manny Navarro at The Miami Herald, regarding Miami versus Florida State. "They look more into the production side at FSU. Miami has a great production side too. But I think the production side and band side at Miami are both great."
UM's Frost School of Music is one of the premier programs in the nation and coupled with the diversity offered by the city of Miami, Coral Gables seems like the only choice for someone like Thomas, who continues nurturing two vastly different passions.
Where many a college athlete and football-first individual would soak up small town living and larger classes at a state-funded powerhouse, Thomas appears to prefer the opposite.
While the "The U" feels like a beast in overall brand, the fact remains that Miami is a private school with smaller classes, helping properly hone an artist's craft.
The diversity of South Florida and the overall nightlife will also play a part in Thomas' decision, as well.
Weeks back, the phenom performed in front of upwards of 150 peers at the American Legion Hall in midtown Miami, taking the stage just shy of midnight and performed a handful of original tunes. Thomas also posts songs on his SoundCloud.com page—Deuce Pound Records—and produces tracks for other local artists. (Note: Some posted tracks feature explicit language.)
With everything on track off the field, the football opportunity itself at "The U" is also a perfect fit.
Thomas' affinity for the hometown program has come off as passionate and genuine—much like local running back Duke Johnson, who committed to the Hurricanes early in his process and was an ambassador for the program before eventually signing in February 2012.
In an era where many players are quick to jump on board with a frontrunner or current power, Thomas' passion for Miami has been steadfast, even with the Hurricanes struggling late in the season and finishing 90th in total defense.
The Hurricanes parted ways with five defensive linemen this offseason, hurting overall depth, but opens the door for true freshmen like Thomas to have an immediate impact—which is appealing to most incoming players.
The 2-4 finish after a 7-0 start might have scared some recruits off, but Thomas has made it clear that he's all about the orange and green next Wednesday, despite the recent visits.
"There’s no suspense," Thomas reiterated to Navarro. "I’ve been throwing up The U since the first game of the season. I’m not really trying to build any suspense, get anybody wound up, rowdy. Miami coaches knew I was going to take trips. They've just told me to have fun—not just too much fun."
Those convincing words ring like beautiful music to the ears of Miami coaches, UM music department professors and Hurricanes fans nationwide.
Follow Chris Bello on Twitter @allCanesBlog.com.
**Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.com.