Each off season, State of The U takes a look back at the rising senior class for the Canes and reminisces their accomplishments and sometimes their blemishes. In this piece we'll be looking at the 2012 recruiting class. Most of these former highly regarded recruits are heading into their final year of college or are redshirt juniors so looking back on their impact for the Canes should be relatively translucent due to the fact that they've had three to four years to crack the starting 22.
With that said, we'll take an in-depth at each recruit from the highest ranked to the lowest (per ESPN star rankings) and see what type of legacy they've made for themselves in a Canes uniform heading into their last season or two. That is, assuming they're still on the team..
Tracy Howard, Miramar High School, #1 CB
We start the list with the number one cornerback in the country coming out of high school in Tracy Howard. When Head Coach Al Golden was recruiting this class Howard was very much a "must get" due to him being a local recruit and potential cornerstone for the defense over his next three to four years on campus.
During his three years as a Cane, Howard has had mixed results in Defensive Coordinator Mark D'Onofrio's much maligned defense. He played right away as a true freshman and showed flashes as a backup. During his freshman season he played in all 12 games and had one start against Duke. During his second season, as many predicted, Howard took a huge jump in both playing time and production. He started all but one game (12 of 13) and tallied 4 interceptions which is notable considering the opposition started to shy away from him as he earned a reputation as a solid cover corner. Curiously, during the off season of his sophomore year, Howard fell down the defensive depth chart and seemed to never recover. In his junior year Howard was a backup the entire season until the bowl game and registered lows in all the majors categories which were tackles (20), pass breakups (1) and interceptions (1).
During this series I'll try and take a stab at how I think said player will do during their senior or redshirt junior season based off of what I've learned during the offseason as well as their stats from their career.. With Howard I think he'll have a resurgent senior campaign for a few reasons. First and foremost, the cornerback depth chart is barren. There are only a handful (about 4) quality, experienced cornerbacks on the roster right now so the Canes have to hope Howard contributes. Second, from the accounts I've seen and heard, Howard has assumed a leadership role on the team. Not many people have more starts or game day action than he does so he should be leaned on as a leader in the locker room. Lastly, I think he'll do better in Coach D'Onofrio's system because there have been tweaks made (supposedly) to acquiesce to the talent on hand rather than try and stick to something that may not work to the personnel on the team. With all that said, I think Howard finishes his career as a fulltime starter next season, snatches four to five picks (assuming teams throw at him) and has an outside shot as an all-conference third team or honorable mention in the ACC.
Randy "Duke" Johnson, Miami Norland High School, #6 Athlete
Even though Tracy Howard was a signing day coup for the Canes, Duke Johnson was the exact opposite. The Canes were always his favorite team and even through the turmoil that had transpired over the last several seasons before he even set foot on campus his commitment to his dream school never wavered. The fact that he was such a skilled running back was a bonus at this point.
Johnson had unimagineable-imagineable success with Miami (is that a phrase??). Yes, everyone could tell he was a phenom coming out of the local high school ranks but really? He's arguably the top running back to ever come out of Miami, going to highlight that again... The best running back EVER to come out of the program. Let that sink in... He finished his career with the Canes, in three seasons, with 3,519 yards rushing, 26 rushing touchdowns, 719 receiving yards, four of those went for touchdowns and lastly he ran back two kickoffs for scores while tallying 1,288 yards there too. Again, doing all of this in a little under three full seasons (broke his ankle three quarters of the way through his sophomore season). Duke had a sensational career at Miami.
Looking into his future on the Browns, many of the prognosticators fully realize his talent but question his durability due to his smaller stature and injury history (besides the ankle injury he's had a concussion or two). For me, I'd wager that he starts out as a third down back catching passes but eventually takes over the starter role full time. His skill set is just too good to try and "manage" through the use of only certain plays and packages. Duke will show up and prove to the Browns they got a steal with their mid round selection.
Angelo Jean-Louis, Palm Beach Central, #4 WR
Even though the first two players have shown well for Golden, not all of his recruits turn out that way. For this class, even though we're only at the number three recruit, Golden saw his first loss in the class. Jean-Louis was an all-world receiving threat from the local area but due to his academic shortcomings he had to reroute his college dream from Coral Gables to Fork Union Military Academy, a premiere institution among the Prep School ranks. During his one season at Fork Union his grades improved but during that time he had a change of heart and decided to decommit from Miami after his visit to Marshall and commit to the Thundering Herd.
Once he got onto campus the Thundering Herd coaches thought he'd make an instant impact for the University on the football field. Instead, he committed two counts of felony credit card theft off of it. Even though the charges were later cleared up the coaching staff decided that Jean-Louis needed to redshirt. Last season was his first on the field and he had solid results. He finished the season as the starting wide receiver on the boundary (outside) and brought in six touchdown catches with 490 receiving yards.
Heading into next season Jean-Louis will again be counted on to start and hopefully improve on his pass catching totals from the previous season. He'll be a redshirt sophomore in 2015 to 2016 due to the fact that Prep School does not count against college eligibility.
Tyriq McCord, Thomas Jefferson High School, #13 Defensive End
When ranking each player in this class for the impact they've made at Miami, McCord settles in right between Howard and Johnson. McCord came to Miami as a pass rushing specialist out of the Tampa area. He was rated a solid to above average four star recruit because of his rushing abilities but he could not break the upper echelon due to his size. Being 6'3" was a fine height for a linemen but his svelte physique at 220 pounds meant he needed to grow into the position at the next level.
Unfortunately, due to the dearth of players at the defensive end position, McCord was asked to play right away. He had marginal success as a freshman but the coaching staff was encouraged by his overall output even at his diminutive size and also what could come in the future as he filled out with offseason conditioning.
McCord's sophomore season saw him again play the "edge rusher" role on the defense which put him in position's to make game breaking plays but left room for little else. With that said, he finished his sophomore campaign by tallying four sacks (an improvement from the year before) and also snagging two interceptions.
Last season McCord was able to take over the edge rushing position full time and start all season but the overall production simply wasn't there. He finished the year with marginally better numbers in sacks (three total) and interceptions (one). However, he did increase his tackle totals to 46 which doubled his previous two seasons when they were combined together (15 his freshman season and 13 his sophomore).
Heading into 2015 McCord has actually been moved in the defense from the rushing position to strong side linebacker. This is due to the fact that the Canes are again short on players at this position. However, McCord could thrive in this role as now he'll be given more responsibilities in the defense to be able to rush the quarterback or play in coverage. For my guess, I believe McCord will finish the season with 60-70 tackles, mix in a few sacks, a few picks. Nothing other-worldly but a solid contributor for the defense none-the-less.
Deon Bush, Christopher Columbus High School, #4 Safety
After looking at the first few players on this list the words that comes to mind is: potential playmakers. Howard: shut down corner, Johnson: game breaking running back, Jean-Louis: secondary shredding wide receiver, McCord: quarterback nightmare and now Deon Bush: hard hitting safety. Make no mistake, even though Bush maybe ranked fifth on this list, he was a top "get" by any programs standards. Listed as a highly rated four star recruit, Bush was counted on to strike fear into those going across the middle of the Miami secondary.
Similar to McCord, Bush was also counted on in his freshman season to provide depth along the defense. However, he wasn't thrown to the wolves necessarily out of dire need but rather he simply was making plays in practice and earned the time. For his freshman season he started six of the twelve games and collected 34 total tackles which was seen as a solid beginning for the blossoming star.
Unfortunately, the upward trending safety couldn't keep his stock rising in his sophomore season which saw him only log three starts and stagnate in production. The main factor was injuries which caused him to miss much of the season. During the offseason heading into his junior year his main goal was to be healthy for the upcoming season and he was able to accomplish that in spades. He played and started all 13 games last season and again improved his play. At the end of the season there was even talk he'd leave early for the pro's but he decided to stay for his senior year.
For 2015 I really grapple with figuring out what to project Bush doing on the field. There are a few main reasons. First of all, the Canes safety group, talent wise, is stacked. There are five to six players that could all start at one of the two safety positions. Golden has even talked about moving Bush to corner at times to get three safeties on the field (for the record, I think this is a terrible idea). The other reason I struggle with throwing out a number is because if he's making lots of tackles in the current defensive system it will usually mean that the opponent is breaking through the defensive line and linebackers which... is not good. With that, I'll say he gets 50 to 60 tackles (anything more than that and I'm worried) with three to four picks. His true impact will be the quality of his hits, not necessarily the quantity. If he can scare opponents away from going deep over the middle, he's done his job. Bush has the potential to be an All-conference player in 2015, possibly first or second team if he puts the highlight reel hits together with a few interceptions mixed in as well.
Malcolm Lewis, Miramar High School, #20 WR
You know how Miami is having a great recruiting class in 2016? How there are eight (so far) Miami recruits rated in the ESPN "top 300"? Well, Malcolm Lewis is the last of the Canes in the class of 2012 who finished in the ESPN list of "top 150." Again, Miami had 6 players in the top 150 of the ESPN rank... Pretty good.
Lewis came to Miami and similar to Deon Bush, wowed the Miami coaching staff in the preseason of his freshman season and earned playing time right away. He started one game (Bethune Cookamn) and was receiving lots of reps in the offense his first four games. In the fourth game against conference foe Georgia Tech he sustained a season ending dislocated/broken ankle that sidelined him for the rest of that season (which he received a medical redshirt) and into the first half of his next season. Last season Lewis started to get back into game shape both physically and mentally. He was able to start seven of the 13 contests and haul in 25 catches for 248 yards out of the slot and the occasionally the boundary position.
With both wide receiver Phillip Doresett and tight end Clive Walford moving on to the professional ranks, Lewis is the next man up. I look for Lewis, who's in his redshirt junior season to possibly get into the 40 catch range and up his average from the single digits from last season to probably the mid to high teens. If he's able to regain the game breaking agility he had before the injury then he could have a sneaky good season for the Canes in 2015.
Conclusion for Part 1
If you've followed my articles from the previous recruiting classes you probably noticed that the overall tone of the article was pretty tame because... well.. it is. As of the first six recruits that signed with Miami only one didn't make it onto the roster and the other five have all been good to exceptional in a Cane uniform. Can't really gripe about those results. We'll have to see how the rest of the class shapes out.. Only 27 more to go...