Wednesday was National Signing Day and lets face it, we were all constantly checking our phones and Twitter for the latest news on 17-year old kids. Signing day is the day in where all the drama and speculation comes to an end and fans know for sure who will be wearing their respective school uniforms come August.
Some programs have better signing days than others, but how did the Miami Hurricanes fare with this 2014 class? I'll go position-by-position and grade the Canes' 2014 signing day class.
Whenever you get a player who is the best of anything in their state, you know you're doing something right. Brad Kaaya is very much the future of the program at the quarterback position and he has shown every sign on why we should trust him to be just that. Miami is usually criticized for offering players late, but Kaaya is the perfect example of how good this staff is at evaluating talent. When Miami offered, Kaaya was in nobody's radar but the staff decided to pull the plug because they saw the potential. Months later and a dominant senior year, Brad Kaaya turned into a 4-star hot commodity. Despite receiving some interest from schools like UCLA, USC and Boise State, Kaaya stayed committed to the first school that gave him a scholarship.
Kaaya is regarded as the future, but Miami also went out and got a really solid 3-star dual-sport Quarterback in Malik Rosier. He [Rosier] will also play baseball at Miami and is a much different quarterback than Kaaya. Rosier is more of a mobile quarterback, but has a really strong arm as well. Between Kaaya, Rosier and Kevin Olsen, the Canes will have some pretty intense battles at this position for years to come and the development of these guys is the key to future success in Coral Gables.
Before anyone starts freaking out, let me clarify something. Joseph Yearby is NOT a "B" caliber player. He is much better than that, but this is a positional grade and he was the only running back acquired in this class. The staff would have loved to add Dalvin Cook or Sony Michel, but that wasn't the case. Instead the staff will have to settle with Yearby, who suffered a broken ankle in the state-playoffs, but is already on campus as an early-enrollee. He's not expected to miss any time from training camp, but his status from spring ball is in question. If Yearby is able to learn the playbook and fully practice after he's healed, there's no question that he will compete for a lot of playing time. He might even be the guy backing up Duke Johnson before this upcoming season is all set and done.
The big question mark is where the staff plans to play Trayone Gray, or if he even qualifies (which is in question). If Miami wants him to play at running back, I think that he will be an absolute stud. He has a knack for making things happen with the ball in his hands and if Miami plays him at running back (could also play some wide receiver) the grade of this class would be significantly higher. But first, we have to wait and see if Gray can qualify and make it in for fall.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
This receiving class was a really solid one by Miami. They didn't really make the big "splash" by landing guys like Travis Rudolph or Ermon Lane, but they went out and got who they liked. Braxton Berrios seems to be everyones favorite player from this class because he never wavered with his commitment to Miami and was an avid recruiter through twitter, as well. He can also flat out play and even scored a touchdown in the Under Armour All-American game, all while running on a slight ACL tear. Berrios is already on campus, but he will have to rehab his injury before getting out on the field.
The staff also went out and got some size for this position. Tyre Brady is a really good receiver and his best football is yet to be played as he's still developing and learning the game. He has great ability to go down-field and it'll be interesting to see if Miami uses him in that capacity this year. The other guy is, Darrell Langham. Kelvin Benjamin comparisons float out there and I don't know how fair those are, but if Langham puts on some more muscle, we might have something here. At nearly 6'5'' whoever the quarterback is will have a nice goal-line target to throw to in the future. Trayone Gray is another guy who can play wide receiver, but we'll see. Not a bad class for the 'Canes.
Now on to the tight ends. Miami was able to snatch up Christopher Herndon, who is a Georgia product and can make things happen in the passing game. He's going to be really solid for Miami. The other commit Miami was able to land is David Njoku out of New Jersey. Njoku played wide receiver in high school, but he projects to be a tight end at Miami, once he puts on some more weight. He has excellent hands and has great athleticism. He was the last addition to this class and Miami beat out schools like Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers for his services.
Massive. That's the best word to describe this offensive line class. Miami got the best lineman from Palm Beach, Dade County and Broward county. That's impressive. Kc McDermott is probably the best out of the group and he's just a giant. I got a chance to see him before the Miami-Syracuse basketball game and I've never felt smaller in my life. He's going to come in and play immediately and hold his own. A lot of defensive players called him the best lineman at the Under Armour All-American game and I believe it. He's already enrolled and is in a college weight room. That's terrifying.
Another guy who is an early-enrollee is Miami Central's Trevor Darling. Darling was Miami's first commit in the 2014 class and he was solid as a rock even from the start. He's also a really big individual and will help out immediately.
The third commit is St. Thomas Aquinas' Nick Linder. Yes, we have another Linder on board. Nick projects as a center when he steps foot on campus and his playing time as a freshman would pretty much determine on depth and health. He's not as developed as Darling or McDermott, but is a very good lineman in his own right.
The only thing that kept this class at an 'A' grade instead of 'A+' was the surprise flip of Reilly Gibbons to Stanford. The offensive line has a lot of studs, but depth is always an issue at that position. Gibbons was probably headed to a redshirt year, but he's also a very good lineman. His loss stung a bit, but it does not diminish how great the other 3 guys are.
This is where the staff earned their cash this year. The best talent in this class comes, by far in the defensive line. First of all, lets talk about Chad Thomas. Every school in the country would want this guy and he's going to be a Cane. That alone should get you fired up. I would get in detail of just how good he is, but we all know how good he is. He's also a pretty good rapper. Another guy who's going to continue being his teammate is Demetrius Jackson. Also from Booker T. Washington. Only Arkansas offered Jackson before Miami, but who wants to go to Arkansas? At the time of his first offers, he had only participated in a spring game, in which he dominated with 5 sacks. That caught the attention of the coaches and they offered. Shortly there after, he committed and stuck with it, even when there was doubt. Oh, and he's now a 4-star. These two Booker T. products will cause havoc for the Canes on the edges.
Pass rushers need some dominant defensive tackles to make things happen, though. Let me get this out of the way first, Travonte Valentine decided to go to LSU, and that's his decision. If you think the staff didn't try hard enough to keep him home, you didn't pay much attention. Now, if you want to move past that, we can see that there's still some really good guys coming in to help the position.
Anthony Moten is the first which comes to mind. Al Golden said during his Wednesday presser that Moten was already at 300 pounds and that means he's very close to coming in and making an early impact. He's a 4-star recruit from St. Thomas Aquinas and has a chance to be the next great DT. Miami also went out and got Courtel Jenkins from New Jersey. Jenkins is probably behind Moten, but he's still got a lot of talent. He tweeted during the Super Bowl that Coach D'Onofrio called him and told him that he wanted him to play like "Pot-roast" which is Denver Broncos' DT Terrance Knighton. If he can play like Knighton, Canes fans should be thrilled.
One thing the staff did well was get JUCO guys to come in and contribute immediately. A JUCO is usually farther off in his development than a high school kid, which is a good thing. Miami needs immediate help at defensive tackle and they went out and grabbed 2 JUCO DT's. Calvin Heurtelou and Michael Wyche. Heurtelou is also enrolled, and Wyche will enroll in May due to some weird ACC rule. Both of these guys are grown man and will fill a nice void in the middle.
The talent at the defensive line is slowly arriving in Coral Gables. Get excited.
Miami landed four linebackers in this class. One of them being, Mike Smith out of Miami Northwestern. Smith has a good chance to come in a contribute, but I would like to see him put on a couple more pounds before he makes an impact.
Terry McCray, out of Blanche Ely is another guy Miami was able to land. McCray had an incredible amount of sacks in his senior year, but I'm not really sure where he's going to play when he gets to Miami. He clearly had the knack to get to the quarterback in high school, hopefully he can continue to do that at the next level because Miami needs that desperately.
Darrion Owens is an intriguing guy. He's one of those rare linebacker/safety hybrids. He's not big enough to play linebacker, but he's just big enough to still manage playing safety. Miami is looking at him as a linebacker, but I'm not too sure they don't just want to leave him in that hybrid role. He's a physical player and Miami has high expectations for him.
The fourth linebacker signed is Juwon Young. Young is already enrolled at Miami and has the best chance at early playing time. He had a nice body coming out of high school and being enrolled early helps every defensive player out there. When he gets everything down and adds some more muscle, he's going to be a guy to look out for. I'm a fan.
Miami needed to add some depth at safety and they did a nice job doing so. Miami added Marques Gayot from Palm Beach who was previously a Louisville commit. Gayot is a really solid player and will definitely have the opportunity to compete for playing time, due to the lack of depth at the position.
The other safety Miami landed was Kiy Hester from New Jersey (Courtel Jenkins' teammate). Hester is a physical safety and decided to come to Miami over Michigan State. He's a really good safety and he loves to hit, which is really important for the position. He covers a ton of ground and will unquestionably compete in camp and could earn quick a bit of reps.
As far as cornerbacks go, Miami failed to flip J.C. Jackson from Florida and were left with only Ryan Mayes at the position. Mayes is from Miami Northwestern and went a little under-the-radar throughout the process. He's a decent player, but I feel like Miami needed to try and get another corner in this class. The positive with Mayes is that he's already enrolled in campus and has a good chance to fill in, what is, already a good frame.
Miami did an outstanding job at attacking their class to fill out their defensive needs. This class is filled with guys who have great potential and will contribute sooner rather than later. The staff did a great job at upgrading their talent in the trenches and Golden is slowly putting together a more talented roster. There were some guys who Miami would have liked to join this class, but there isn't one position that the staff failed to add in and that is a great sign. Look for a lot of guys in this class to become important contributors in the near future.