The University of Miami announced seven early enrollees today. These guys will be able to compete immediately for playing time and will allow Miami to squeeze more players into its nominal 2012 recruiting class, since they all will count for 2011. Here are details on who will be in Coral Gables this March.
Gray Crow, QB, Countryside (Clearwater, Fla.)
Crow is a pro-style QB in the mold of ex-Canes Kyle Wright and Brock Berlin, which is expected to be the type of signal caller recruited to Miami by Al Golden. Crow is rated as a three-star prospect by the major recruiting services (for the benefit of my own sanity, I'm using rankings from Rivals, ESPN and 24/7), but if all goes right for Miami, he'll never see extended playing time as a Cane. Crow is rated as the 28th overall pro-style QB by Rivals, the 35th by 24/7 and the 80th overall QB by ESPN, and historically speaking no one in that ranking range from that position has ever made much of an impact at the major college level. Those rankings also place Crow behind fellow early enrollee Preston Dewey and presumably whichever QBs are brought in by Golden in his 2013 class. Crow will be just about the rawest QB at UM, and though it will be good for him to get work with college coaches, he will undoubtedly take a redshirt in 2012 and try and work his way up from there.
Preston Dewey, QB, Saint Andrews Episcopal (Austin, Tex.)
Of the three QBs (along with Crow and David Thompson) being brought in by Golden in the 2012 class, Dewey is the headliner. He's rated as a three-star prospect by Rivals and 24/7, but ESPN has him as a four-star and the No. 133 overall player in the 2012 class. Dewey had most of his senior season erased due to a wrist injury (he'll be 100% come spring practice), but he has excellent size at 6' 3" and 205 pounds and he can make most throws, though his calling card as a thrower is more his accuracy than his arm strength. Dewey will have a chance to start at Miami sometime down the line, though his chances in that department will be heavily dependent on the caliber of quarterbacks in Miami's 2013 class, as it seems unlikely that Dewey, or anyone on Miami's roster, will unseat Stephen Morris as long as Morris is at UM.
Ereck Flowers, OT, Norland (Miami, FL)
Flowers is flying slightly under the radar so to speak, but he could end up being one of the most key signees in the 2012 class. Miami still has solid depth at offensive line, but Seantrel Henderson's imminent departure next year or the year after will leave a gaping hole at left tackle, and if all goes right for Flowers, he may be called upon to fill that void. Flowers is rated as a four-star prospect by both Rivals (24 OT, 200 overall) and 24/7 (13 OT, 106 overall), and a three-star by ESPN (62 OT, 79 in Florida). Flowers has the size you'd look for in a cornerstone tackle, but, like almost all incoming offensive linemen, he will need time to get in better shape and adjust to the overall complexity of the college game. But come 2013, he could start seeing the field if Miami continues to use a three or four tackle rotation.
Taylor Gadbois, OT, Fork Union/East Paulding (Fork Union, Va./Dallas, Ga.)
Gadbois was Miami's lone commitment at offensive tackle in the 2011 class, but grades forced him off to prep school for a year. He is back now, which, despite not always being a guarantee when players go off to prep school, is not that surprising in Gadbois' case considering how eagerly he committed to Miami nearly a year ago. Gabois is a three-star prospect across the board, and Miami was the only major program truly recruiting him then and now. At 6' 8" and 290-ish pounds, Gadbois will have to get stronger at Miami before he can see the field, as a tackle that tall needs to be pretty strong to prevent getting bull rushed and flattened by more compact ends. Gabois is a project, and might just be depth chart fodder in the long run, but you can never really have enough offensive linemen.
Ladarius Gunter, CB, Fort Scott CC (Fort Scott, Kan.)
Of all the players on this list, Gunter has the best opportunity of seeing the field for the Canes in 2012, which tells you a whole hell of a lot more about the current state of Miami's secondary than it does Gunter, who is rated as a three-star prospect by Rivals and 24/7. As a junior college transfer, Gunter was lightly recruited, flirting with the Indiana Hoosiers and South Florida Bulls before signing with Miami, and he's likely only a Cane because Golden whiffed on more celebrated, and better, JC defensive backs. Nonetheless, Gunter has good size at 6' 2" and 200 pounds, but he's bordering on the dimensions of a safety, and whether he can lock down BCS receivers at that size remains to be seen. He'll enter a crowded and muddled race for playing time in Miami's secondary, but if the case of Mike Williams in 2011 was any indication, the Canes coaching staff, at least at the moment, values experience over talent.
Raphael Kirby, OLB, Stephenson (Stone Mountain, Ga.)
Along with Randy "Duke" Johnson and Deon Bush, Kirby may end up being the most important player signed by Miami in the 2012 class. Along with Johnson and Bush, Kirby is the best match of talent and need in this year's class. As for the talent part, Kirby is a consensus four-star prospect, and is rated by Rivals as the No. 94 overall recruit and by 24/7 as the No. 99. ESPN is slightly less high on Kirby, but still has him as the No. 11 outside linebacker prospect and the No. 12 prospect in the state of Georgia. As for the need part, linebacker is one of the major question marks for the Canes heading into the 2012 season. Denzel Perryman will be a rock for UM, but surrounding him is a mix of guys like Kelvin Cain, Jimmy Gaines and Gionni Paul who are all much less talented than Kirby, and have yet to prove much while at Miami. Linebacker is one of the hardest positions in college football for a freshman to step in and contribute at, but Kirby will have a head start by enrolling early, and may be able to graduate from special teams duty to a part-time job on the defense sometime around midseason, barring some miraculous play by the aforementioned guys.
Josh Witt, OLB, Cypress Bay (Weston, Fla.)
Witt is an unheralded prospect that jumped on an early Miami offer in the summer of 2011. He is rated as a three-star prospect by Rivals and ESPN (where he rates as the No. 47 OLB and 72nd best player in the state) and a two-star by 24/7. At 6' 2" and 200-ish pounds, Witt will need to put on around 10-15 pounds at Miami, and he's almost certain to be redshirted unless he works his way onto special teams. As for his long term future, he's likely just depth chart foundation for Golden and Mark D'Onfrio, but Witt was taken on for a reason, and it's because he will likely work hard, play on special teams with no complaints, and be able to provide competent, if unspectacular, play in a reserve role.