Welcome back to the Class Breakdown, our monthly look at the Canes’ 2017 recruiting class. We look at the commits at each position, the outlook for recruiting that position, and recap any movement in the class or targets that have previously been mentioned.
Just as a reminder as to what numbers I'm projecting in this class, here's the chart that I've been using:
Also, when you look at the class list in the sidebar (down by the Wide Receivers section of this piece), LOOK AT ALL THE GUYS ON SCHEDULE TO ENROLL EARLY! MY GOODNESS!
Let’s get into it.
If you've been reading my recruiting posts over the past few years, you know I have a closely held recruiting rule: you have to have a QB in every recruiting class. No excuses; no exceptions. Miami is in good position to follow that guideline in this class, having made it clear their desire to bring in multiple players at this position in 2017.
Perry was stellar this year, leading Ocala (FL) Vanguard to a 10-2 record and top 10 ranking in Florida’s 6A classification. He’s locked in with Miami. Weldon has been lights out as well, totaling over 3,00 yards total offense, and getting Tampa (FL) Jefferson into the Regional Semifinals in Florida’s 5A classification.
Additionally, Perry has broken 20 year old records at Ocala (FL) Vanguard which were set by Daunte Culpepper, has been compared favorably to Usain Bolt, and became the first QB at Vanguard to beat rival Forest 4 times. Weldon dominated the second half of the season, including a 383 yard, 4 TD game, and looks to be hitting his stride. In short: this 2 person group is GOOD.
Weldon will be an early enrollee, and Perry will be on campus in May. This group is really Perry QB1, Weldon QB1a, with the gap not as big as some may think. Regardless of when a battle for starting QB comes (this year or next year depending on Brad Kaaya’s draft decision), I fully expect BOTH Weldon and Perry to be involved in that fight until the bitter end.
Looking ahead to the 2018 class at QB, Miami has offered several top prospects from around the country. None have committed yet, but that's understandable as there's a new staff in place, and the QB position is one where the decision to commit is arguably the most important.
Some 2018 names to know moving forward: Cameron Rising, Arthur Sitkowski, Emory Jones, Adrian Martinez, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Jarren Williams, and Casey Thompson, who participated at Paradise Camp and showed very well. As of now, it seems Sitkowski and Thompson are the players with the greatest connection to Miami, but it’s still very early for 2018 recruits.
In a recent post-practice media session, OC/RB coach Thomas Brown confirmed what we’ve all supposed throughout this recruiting year: Miami is looking to sign 2 RBs in this class. I’ve long operated under that assumption in this piece, and will continue to do so now that Brown has confirmed my supposition. Additionally, Mark Richt said Miami “has 2 backs committed in this class” after practice one day, leading may to suspect that Miami may hold a silent commitment from one of their targets.
3-star Robert Burns is the commit at Running Back currently. He’s the latest player from Gulliver Prep to sign with Miami (last cycle brought Joseph Jackson, Dionte Mullins, and Cedrick Wright from Gulliver to Miami) and UM staffer Jorge Baez used to coach Burns at Gulliver previously. So, there’s a very strong connection on many levels between this talented player and Miami.
It has been well chronicled — by me and by many others — that Burns’ production has been lacking due to myriad injuries. However, Miami has maintained they are very excited about having Burns in this class. Hopefully for all parties, Burn’s injury history stays in the past.
Leading the target list is 4-star Anthony McFarland. The talented player from powerhouse Dematha Catholic (Hyattsville, MD) has repeatedly said Miami, Maryland, and Alabama lead his recruitment. McFarland was close to committing to Georgia when Mark Richt and Thomas Brown were on staff there. While the pair has moved from Athens to Coral Gables, their connection with McFarland has remained steady, if not increased. McFarland has said he views OC/RB coach Brown "like a brother", and has a great connection with him. All 3 of McFarland's named top schools are in the running, and Miami is in a good place to make a push — McFarland’s mom reportedly wants him to pick Miami, and Peter Ariz of CanesInSight.com has reported that Miami leads.
On top of that, McFarland recently said in reports by Rivals.com and 247sports.com that Miami is his leader in recruiting. Maryland and Alabama are tied at 2nd, but there seems to be a substantial gap here. If you’re looking for the player that could be the “silent commit” at RB — if you’re of the mind that that was what precipitated Mark Richt’s “we have 2 RBs committed in this class” comment — look no further than McFarland.
While players like 5-star Stephen Carr (Fontana, CA) and 3-star Travis Etienne (Jennings, LA) have been connected with Miami at varying levels throughout this recruiting cycle, it’s becoming clearer daily that Miami is locked in on Burns and McFarland as the 2 players at RB in this class.
Committed: 1 and a possible
Miami has a commit at WR in this class from 3-star WR Evidence Njoku. The now 6’6” (grown 2 inches in the last year) 200lb Njoku offers a good combination of size, skill, and speed. The younger brother of star TE David, Evidence is taller and leaner than David. Miami sees the younger Njoku purely as a WR, not a developmental TE like David was. The difference when watching highlights of the 2 makes that easy to see.
Miami recently dropped 3-star WR Kevaughn Dingle. There had been talk that Dingle may not have been in the staff’s plans moving forward for quite some time. After his decommitment, Dingle said he hadn’t spoken to any Miami coaches in more than 2 months. Yeah, that’s the staff making it known through inaction and lack of communication that Dingle wasn’t in the plans.
I see dropping Dingle from this class as a mistake. Dingle has size, decent athleticism, and good hands. Dingle is objectively slow — he was clocked at 4.89 in the 40 during camp season — but I think he could have played a role here. The staff disagrees, and Dingle is no longer in the plans. Onward we go.
4-star ATH DeeJay Dallas is another player that could see time on offense in college. However, it’s looking more and more like he’ll play on defense and moonlight on offense. Because of that, I’m moving him to the DB part of this article.
The WR recruiting is in an interesting spot for me. Miami needs players at this position, but now only has 1 and a possible (shoutout to all my Spades players) as of today. That’s simply not enough at a position of need, in my opinion.
The top option for WR1 in this class is 5-star WR Devonta Smith from Amite, LA. He was a dominant force at both The Opening and Paradise Camp. Smith has a longstanding connection with Mark Richt; Smith was formerly committed to Richt at Georgia. After Richt was fired by UGA, Smith decommitted, and has seen his recruiting profile continue to rise. Smith's recruitment seems to be boiling down to a battle between Alabama and Miami, something that’s happened many times in recent years (see linked piece in Must Reads for more on that).
Smith was scheduled to commit to a school on August 15th. However, due to local flooding in Louisiana, and his apparent indecision for his college choice, Smith backed off that plan and will make his commit in February. That could bode well for Miami, who could use a strong season and a couple visits from Smith to make a move to add one of the top players in America to this class. As of now, Alabama is the overwhelming favorite in Smith’s recruitment.
Despite Miami’s best efforts at the 11th hour to flip him, 5-star WR Jerry Jeudy will stick with his commitment to Alabama and enroll there in January. Miami had been running behind in the chase for Jeudy from jump, but got him on campus for his last OV. It was a valiant effort, but end the end Miami came up short.
St. Thomas Aquinas 3-star WR Mike Harley is a speedster who has been literally uncoverable for quite some time. Harley dominated several Rivals Camp Series events, and every single college-based camp that he's attended, including Paradise Camp. Harley is committed to West Virginia, but has recently, and finally, gotten a scholarship offer from Miami. While Harley maintains the fact that he’s committed to West Virginia, I fully expect him to end up at Miami.
Miami recently offered Notre Dame WR commit Jordan Pouncey (Winter Park, FL). A 3-star prospect, Pouncey told 247sports that WR coach Ron Dugans said Miami didn’t previously have a spot for him, but now that one is open, Pouncey got a scholarship offer.
Some see this as a bad move, but I disagree. Yes, it’s a late offer — Pouncey has hasn’t ruled out taking an OV to Miami in January — but at this point, Miami will need to look at WRs who are committed elsewhere to round out this class. The 6’2” 185lb Pouncey accounted for nearly 1,200 yards and 12 TDs in his senior season for Winter Park.
Former St. Thomas Aquinas WR Corey Holmes has made clear is intention to transfer from Notre Dame. A burner with 4.37 speed, Holmes has reportedly disclosed interest in Miami. Holmes will graduate from Notre Dame this semester, so he will be immediately eligible at the school of his choosing. Due to the fact that he took a RS in 2015, Holmes will have 2 years to play 2 at his next destination. Holmes would be a low-ceiling addition, but speed plays anywhere.
Miami is approaching the time when the choice has to be made whether to take a “reach” at WR — a finge player who may not have a high ceiling — in 2017 just to have numbers at the position, or take a low number of WR recruits (2?) in 2017 and focus on 2018.
Miami has plenty of interest from elite level talents in the 2018 recruiting class, and the coaches are working to build those relationships now. Depending on what happens with Smith — the only really top end prospect Miami is after at this position to close this cycle — Miami may be best served by taking what they take in 2017 and turning the focus to 2018 WRs, of which there are many, and where many top guys are very high on the Hurricanes.
On the heels of getting Jovani Haskins and Michael Irvin II in the 2016 class, I had Miami as set at TE in this class. The Canes, however, got a commitment from 3-star Brian Polendey. He is at HS in Texas now, but his family has moved all over the country. Polendey's family moved to the Tampa area months ago, but he will finish HS in TX before enrolling at Miami in January.
Miami target Tre’ McKitty flipped from Oregon to FSU recently. It was clear that McKitty would not be attending Oregon, and the move to flip was predicted by many. Why a TE prospect would pick FSU over Miami is beyond me, but hey, maybe McKitty likes blocking and catching 4 passes a year a lot. Oh well.
With Freshman TE Jovani Haskins’ future with the Canes uncertain — reports have him on thin ice because of various incidents, including one that has him suspended for the Russell Athletic Bowl — Miami is now looking for a 2nd TE in this class.
Even while they were recruiting McKitty, Miami coaches have been working behind the scenes to get 4-star TE Josh Falo (Sacramento, CA) on campus for an official visit after the dead period ends. From the same area as DE commit DJ Johnson, Falo is a very talented player with 24 offers at current. Falo has only taken 1 OV so far: to Colorado on October 14th. If Miami can get Falo on campus for an OV — hopefully on January 13th with Johnson and USC DE commit Hunter Echols (we’ll talk about him later) — then the game may be afoot.
An added bonus for Miami? Falo and Johnson are both UnderArmour All-Americans, and will be on the same team for that game. So, Johnson will have PLENTY of time to work peer-level recruiting through the week of practice and AA game. I’m with it.
Here are Falo’s HUDL highlights so you can see what kind of player he is:
Regardless of Haskins’ situation, Miami is in a good spot with Brian Polendey in this class. The position would get stronger and deeper with the addition of Falo and/or Haskins staying on the team moving forward, but in any event, Miami is in a good spot at TE.
Miami is in a good place at OL after getting 3-star Corey Gaynor to join 3-star Zalontae Hillery, 4-star Navaughn Donaldson and 3-star Zach Dykstra in the commitment group. Hillery is an athletic but raw player who is teammates with 4-star ATH commit DeeJay Dallas in Brunswick, GA. Gaynor is a player with nice size who projects as a Center down the line. Dykstra profiles well as a guard moving forward.
Donaldson recently shut down his recruitment, ending bids by Florida and Florida State to flip the 6’6” 330lb Tackle. He will enroll at Miami in January, and compete for a starting spot in 2017. Donaldson is an ELITE talent, and I fully expect him to start next year.
Miami is still looking to add a top end player to this group. 5-star Alex Leatherwood, an Alabama commit, is the top player Miami is after at Tackle. A native of Pensacola, FL in the panhandle, Leatherwood is actually closer to Bama that The U distance wise. That and the whole "committed to Alabama" part mean this is would take a yeoman's recruiting effort, but Miami is going to shoot their shot. And let's be clear: pulling Leatherwood would be the single biggest recruiting win of the year for Mark Richt and company. He would immediately become the best OT on the roster the moment he signed, and getting a player of this caliber away from Alabama and everybody else in America would be seismic for Miami. Leatherwood attended Paradise Camp, and could be in line to take an Official Visit to Coral Gables, but that seems unlikely.
3-star Kadeem Telfort, a Florida Commit, was once committed to Miami,
and the Canes are working to flip him back. Miami stopped recruiting Telfort, which he mentioned on Twitter one day. He’s going to UF, and Miami is fine with that.
4-star Kai-Leon Herbert, a Michigan commit, is a player Miami is chasing at Offensive Tackle. He has the size and skills to be an impact player for Miami at a position of great need. Herbert, who attends Ft. Lauderdale (FL) American Heritage, is yet another player Miami is trying to flip at OT. Miami will undoubtedly play the "early PT" and "family connection" cards with Herbert as National Signing Day nears.
4-star Tedarrell Slaton is also on the board for Miami at OLine. He is another local player and teammates with Herbert at American Heritage. While Miami and others are recruiting him at OG, there is at least 1 report out that the 6’5” 340lb Slaton prefers DT. I think he’s way better at OG, though, and that’s where Miami is recruiting him.
Slaton has been to Miami for an unofficial visit, but has no plans to return to Coral Gables for an official visit as of now. His recruitment has been played very close to the vest, so it’s hard to get a good read on the situation. Regardless, Miami will look to get Slaton on campus for an official visit as this cycle progresses.
4-star Adrian Ealy is another player Miami is targeting at Tackle. He's a Baton Rouge native who
attends University Lab School, which happens to be located on LSU's campus recently transferred to East Ascension HS in Gonzales, LA (about 30 minutes from LSU’s campus) for his senior year. Ealy has said he's interested in Miami, but the fact that LSU gets virtually any Louisiana-native player they want means this will be an incredibly tough pull for Miami. As of late, there are conflicting reports about Miami’s connection to Ealy. While Canesport reported he’s in the process of scheduling an OV, CanesInSight and others have reported that Miami is no longer actively recruiting Ealy.
3-star Toryque Bateman is a player that is still on Miami’s radar. Once thought to be a virtual lock for Michigan, Bateman has since expanded his horizons to consider multiple teams, including Miami. Bateman has visited Louisville on several occasions, and maintains contact with Canes OL coach Stacy Searels. Bateman has recently set his Official Visit to Coral Gables for January 27th — the last weekend before National Signing Day. A solid visit and Miami could be in a good spot here.
Another player Miami has recently offered is 4-star OT Thayer Munford. A top 300 player in this class, the Ohio-native Munford has the size and skills to be a nice player in time. It’s too soon to tell if Miami can make a move on Munford, but throwing out the offer to a player that the Canes had reportedly been evaluating is a good thing for this OL class.
Another player that should be on the radar for Miami is 3-star JUCO OT Robert Valencia. Teammates with Elliot Baker at City College of San Francisco, some think that Valencia is a better prospect than the Alabama commit Baker. Valencia has mid-tier offers, and Oregon recently got involved. But Miami would be wise to make a proactive move and get involved with Valencia now before a bunch of other P5 schools do the same.
Miami needs depth and talent at OL in this class. The 3 players currently committed are a great start, but there's still work to be done up front in this class.
Miami holds commitments from 3-star Jon Ford, 4-star D.J. Johnson, and 3-star Jonathan Garvin. Ford is a talented but raw player at DT with a 6'5" 280lb frame and brute strength. He reminds me a lot of RJ McIntosh coming out of HS; similar build, similar skills. Johnson is a top 100 player in this class. The 6’5" 240lb dynamo off the edge has the frame to grow to 275 without losing burst. Garvin is a good player with a projectable ceiling and good pass rushing skills. And, to kick off his senior season, he had 7 sacks, and an INT-TD against FSU QB commit James Blackman in the kickoff classic on August 19th. Garvin’s senior year ended with 97 tackles (59 tackle for loss) and 18 sacks in 9 games. So, that’s pretty decent.
Plenty of teams are chasing the current DL commits. Ford is being contacted by multiple teams. Johnson has taken and will take visits to other teams, and there was chatter he was going to flip to Washington after an OV there. That talk has cooled recently, but Miami still has work to do to keep him in this class. Johnson’s last OV is scheduled for Miami, so that bodes well. As was the case many times in the last cycle, Tennessee is trying to get involved with a Miami commit, this time Garvin. We’ll see what his recruitment looks like moving forward.
Looking at having multiple options on the board, Miami recently offered 4-star Elijah Conliffe. Conliffe is a very good player, and would be a nice addition to this class. Alabama and Louisville are thought to be at the top of Conliffe’s recruitment, but he maintains that Miami is a viable option for him. Conliffe is in the process of scheduling an OV to Miami. Should he make that trip, I think Miami’s chances here would skyrocket.
4-star Phidarian Mathis is another player Miami has been connected with in the late stages of this cycle. At this time, it looks like his recruitment is down to Alabama and LSU, so Miami probably won’t even get an OV from Mathis. But, we’ll see..
The story is a bit different at Defensive End. Miami is looking to bring in multiple players at this position. For now, I'm putting that number at 3, considering last year's class, and the potential to lose multiple players from this position group to the NFL after this season.
4-star Hunter Echols is a player Miami is making a late run at. The 6’4” 230lb Los Angeles, CA native is committed to hometown USC, but that hasn’t stopped Miami in their pursuit. Echols is a U.S. Army All-American, and has a wealth of talent. The Cathedral HS star had 17 sacks as a junior, and similar performance as a senior. He will be taking his Official Visit to Miami on January 14th along with Canes commit DJ Johnson. The pair of California natives would be a great get for Miami in this class, and the Canes are pushing hard for a flip from Echols.
Also worth noting, Echols has made 2 commitments already. He committed to UCLA early in his junior year, then decommitted from them to later flip to USC. So, it’s not like he’s been 100% locked in with one school through his recruitment, for what it’s worth. Echols will visit USC on January 20th, a week after his MIami visit. So, those last 3 weeks before NSD will be fun.
3-star Jordan Wright is an interesting prospect, but not one Miami is any longer engaged with. Multiple reports have stated Miami has moved on from Wright.
3-star Owen Carney is another good local prospect, but in a similar vein to Wright, one that Miami is no longer connected with.
While Miami’s DL class is starting to take shape, there’s still room to add pieces. In any event, that 3 player foundation is a very good start for Miami at this position in this cycle.
3-star Waynmon Steed is committed to Miami in this class. He is one of the longest tenured commits to the Hurricanes, having given his pledge to the previous coaching staff back in February of 2015. Steed missed most of his junior year of HS due to a shoulder injury, but should be one of the anchors for a Miami Central defense that ranks among the best in America. Steed also revealed that he played the 2016 season on a torn knee ligament, which will require surgery. He will have that surgery on December 2nd, and enroll at Miami in January.
After being committed to Florida State for several months, 3-star Bradley Jennings Jr. did what many predicted he would and flipped his commitment to the Hurricanes shortly after Paradise Camp. Jennings Jr. is an FSU legacy, but his father is originally from Carol City, so there’s familiarity with South Florida. Jennings Jr. is solid with his commitment to Miami.
The 3rd commit in this group is 3-star LB De'Andre Wilder. Wilder’s status with Miami in this class was reportedly up and down throughout this cycle, but the Canes decided they wanted the dynamic edge rushing Wilder in this class, and he wanted to stay home, so he committed to The U. Already 19 years and 9 months old, Wilder has aged out of HS eligibility. While it was thought that he would be an Early Enrollee, Wilder has academic requirements left that will likely preclude that from happening. Don’t take that to mean "bad grade issues", though; Wilder should be able to qualify at Miami. This is just a matter of him not being able to finish his remaining HS credits to enroll early, so he should be on campus in May, barring any missteps along the way.
Miami may not be done at LB in this class. 4-star JUCO LB Gary Johnson is a player that has recently popped up on the board for Miami. This one-time Alabama commit opened up his recruitment due to the SEC rule that a player has to have stayed at their JUCO for 3 consecutive semesters before transferring to a member school. Now that he's on the open market again, Johnson won't graduate from JUCO/community college until May, so he won't be an early enrollee. While Miami has time to build the connection with the #1 ranked JUCO LB before (hopefully) getting him on campus for an OV in January ahead of National Signing Day, all signs have Johnson going to Louisville.
With Steed, Jennings Jr., and now Wilders committed, Miami is in a good spot at LB in this class, even moreso when you consider the 2016 class of Mike Pinckney, Shaq Quarterman,and Zach McCloud are all already starting on defense, and playing well. Add Johnson to the group, and that's even better.
Miami has commitments from 3-star S Billy Gibson, 3-star S Amari Carter, 3-star S Derrick Smith, and 4-star CB Trajan Bandy. The "ish" part comes from 4-star ATH DeeJay Dallas, a multitalented player who could line up at a number of positions. Dallas seems to be trending more towards playing defense in College, so I’m listing him with the DBs from here on out. Bandy is a playmaker with good cover skills and surprising skill in run support. Gibson and Carter are in the box safeties who are better coming downhill than they are in coverage.
Smith is the latest player to join this group, and is a physical player at the S position. He was previously listed as a “plan b” candidate, and that ended up being due to academic concerns. Now that those have been settled, Smith’s offer became committable and he jumped in the boat. Smith has the frame to potentially grow into a LB in the future, but that may not happen. Miami needs corners in this class to join Bandy (and Dallas) and that will be the focus at this position group moving forward.
4-star JUCO CB Jhavonte Dean has emerged as Miami’s top target at CB in this class. The Homestead (FL) native attended South Dade HS before going to JUCO out of HS. He wasn’t highly recruited as a prep player, but Dean has used his time in JUCO to develop his skills greatly. While Dean is committed to Alabama, it seems unlikely that he sticks with that commitment. Miami is trending up in a big way. Dean isn’t graduating until May, so he won’t be a mid-year JUCO addition, but at this point I’m fully expecting the 6’2” 180lb Dean to end up in this class for Miami.
4-star ATH Christopher Henderson, a former Miami commit, is one of the CB targets for Miami. The HS running back profiles best on the defensive side of the ball moving forward. Henderson will need a year or two to learn the technique of the CB position, but he has 4.35 and good length, so he would still be a good get for Miami, even if he’s not a day 1 starter. Henderson has been heavily linked with Florida for months, even before his decommitment from Miami. Alabama has recently gotten involved too, but I don’t think Henderson is a take for them. Florida is the overwhelming favorite to sign Henderson.
3-star DB Brian Edwards, another former Miami commit, is another target for the Canes at DB in this class. Edwards’ decommitment was reportedly because he wanted to "feel the love" of the recruiting process from other schools, and is something that happens often, especially with kids from South Florida. Edwards wants to play CB in college, but he has great potential as a centerfield-type FS. Miami is pushing the ability and opportunity for Edwards to do both: play FS in some sets, and play CB against taller receivers in others. Louisville, where Edwards was committed as a HS Junior, is the biggest threat for Miami here. Edwards recently set OVs to Louisville, Oregon, and Florida, and said he’ll take an unofficial to Miami before NSD.
4-star CB Latavious Brini is another player on the radar for Miami. He’s another tall CB at 6’3", and has good length. He’s not the most polished player, but Brini’s size allows him to make up for some mistakes. A one-time Georgia commitment, Brini’s recruitment seems to have stalled. He’s visited Miami unofficially and has been to multiple games, but there doesn’t seem to have been much movement there, and there hasn’t been much chatter about him communicating with other teams. As of now, it stands to reason to think that Brini will end up in this class for Miami, but a surprise commitment elsewhere could happen just as easily.
3-star CB Antwan Collier was a player Miami was slow playing while looking at other options. When Smith committed, there went Collier’s scholarship spot in this class. He committed to Illinois — and former UM DB coach Paul Williams — the day after Smith committed to Miami.
3-star Kaheem Roach is a player Miami was evaluating at CB. He hasn’t been mentioned at all in recent weeks. I would be SHOCKED if Miami offered him/he ended up in this class.
3-star Shawn Davis is a player who was on the board for Miami. However, Davis has opted to stick with his commitment to Florida.
Miami loses players off the top of the roster at DB, so depth AND TALENT is sorely needed in this class. The options available that I’ve spoken about are okay, but there is still much to be desired.
After getting P Jack Spicer to transfer from Florida, and K Diego Marquez to transfer to from JUCO in 2016, Miami doesn't have a pressing need at Kicker.
That means that any commits at these positions would be gravy. To that end, Miami has a commitment from legacy P Zach Feagles. If the name sounds familiar, that's because Feagles' dad Jeff is a Miami alum and played in the NFL for 22 years. So, he knows a thing or two about punting, and passed that knowledge along to his son. Yeah, that'll work.
That’s it for this installment of the Class Breakdown. Comment away, guys.