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:
This is the last version of this piece before National Signing Day, so this is a final snapshot of where we stand before players sign.
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. You can read more about that in the link below:
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 prior to the Russell Athletic Bowl, and Thomas Brown also hinted at “players who are solidly committed but haven’t made it public yet” leading may to suspect that Miami may hold a silent commitment from one or more 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. Burns has signed a Grant-in-aid agreement with Miami, and has enrolled at The U.
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. This is down to a 2 team race: Miami and Maryland
Yesterday, news broke that McFarland, who had set a January 25th announcement date months ago, would be pushing back his announcement. This is at the reported behest of Maryland, who had an in-home visit with McFarland a day ahead of his scheduled announcement. The subtext here is clear: McFarland was going to announce a commitment to Miami, and Maryland convinced him to delay that. Miami can — and probably will — still get McFarland in this class, but this is recruiting and nothing is certain. So, stay tuned.
Miami has stopped recruiting all other players they were connected to at this position. In the quest to get 2 RBs in this class, it’s either McFarland or nothing. Gotta close.
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.
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. But, Miami seems to be reshaping the WR board on the fly, so at least there’s movement and a sense of urgency here.
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.
Smith has taken January official visits to LSU (Jan 13) and presumed leader Alabama (Jan 20), with a trip to Miami this weekend (Jan 27). Smith maintains despite outside perception, Miami is a realistic option for him. For Miami, beating Bama for Smith would be huge. The Canes did it last year with Ahmmon Richards, and doing it again for a player of Smith’s caliber would be massive. This one will go all the way until National Signing Day on February 1st.
I wrote about Miami vs Alabama on the recruiting trail last summer. I think that, in light of Smith’s recruitment, this is a good time to bring that piece back to your attention.
A player shooting up recruiting boards all over America is dynamic 4-star WR Jeff Thomas. The East St. Louis (IL) native is one of the most electric players in space in this class, and had a dominant showing in the Under Armour All-American game, earning MVP honors by having 3 catches for 148 yards and 2 TDs, along with a 45 yard kickoff return. Thomas set records for yards receiving and receiving TDs in the UA game, and made defenders look silly in doing so. Thomas’ TDs were on his first 2 catches, covering 44 and 79 yards, respectively.
Thomas is a player Miami has been monitoring behind the scenes for quite some time according to reports. Thomas was at one time kicked off his HS team and even removed from the UA Game roster due to academic issues, among other things. Thomas earned his way back onto both his HS team and the UA game, and appears to have righted the ship academically. Multiple reports have said Miami feels that Thomas is in a place where he’ll be able to qualify, and the Canes — and others — are making moves to get Thomas in their class.
Thomas visited Coral Gables on the weekend of January 20th. All reports were that this visit was outstanding for Thomas, who was accompanied by his family to Coral Gables. All signs are pointing toward Thomas signing with Miami on National Signing Day.
Ft. Lauderdale (FL) 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, and despite getting a Miami offer, says he’s going to stick with WVU.
Well, not quite. After taking his official visit to Morgantown, Harley decommitted from West Virginia.
West Virginia fans are spinning this to say that the Mountaineers dropped Harley, but that just isn’t the case. While they may have surmised that his heart was in Miami and he wouldn’t be coming to Morgantown and then parted ways, the thought that Harley wanted to go to WVU and the team pulled his offer — which is what WVU fans are saying — simply isn’t true. The “we dropped him” storyline is a narrative for WVU to save face. But, regardless of the WVU fan narrative being spun, it’s clear that Harley will likely (certainly?) be committing to and signing with Miami on National Signing Day.
Miami recently offered Notre Dame WR commit Jordan Pouncey (Winter Park, FL). A 3-star prospect, the 6’2” 185lb Pouncey accounted for nearly 1,200 yards and 12 TDs in his senior season for Winter Park. Pouncey has visited Miami and Texas so far, with a visit to Tennessee on the books for the final weekend (Jan27). Pouncey has reportedly already filmed his commitment video, but the thought of where he will be signing seems to change on a daily basis. Miami is in a good spot here, but Pouncey’s status is far less certain than that of Thomas and Harley.
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 needs WRs in this class, and with Thomas and Harley likely to join this class, the focus is on Smith and Pouncey to round out the group. We’ll get to Holmes (or other transfers) later.
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, and he enrolled at Miami earlier in January.
Freshman TE Jovani Haskins’ future with the Canes was uncertain — reports had him on thin ice because of various incidents, including one that has him suspended for the Russell Athletic Bowl — but he was at the opening team meeting of the Spring Semester, and seems likely to stay on the team. Haskins has athleticism and good potential, so this is a good thing for the Canes.
3-star WR/TE Nick Robinson (Oklahoma City, OK) was a player Miami had been connected to in recent weeks. With the potentially positive developments regarding Haskins, Robinson hasn’t received an offer from Miami, and probably won’t. Miami seems fine with taking 1 TE (Polendey) in this class.
4 5 AS OF NOW
Miami is in a good place at OL with 4-star Navaughn Donaldson, 3-star Corey Gaynor, 3-star Zalontae Hillery, 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 enrolled 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.
4-star Kai-Leon Herbert, who recently decommitted from Michigan, 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. Florida — where Herbert will visit on January 27th — seems to be the team to beat in an effort to flip Herbert at current.
UPDATE: KAI-LEON HERBERT COMMITTED TO MIAMI ON WEDNESDAY NIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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, which he reiterated during U.S. Army All-American game practices. Slaton has Florida and Kentucky — the 2 main schools recruiting him at DT — in front, with Miami, Georgia, and others trailing. It seems unlikely that Slaton will end up at Miami.
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 set his Official Visit to Coral Gables for January 27th — the last weekend before National Signing Day. Bateman recently named Louisville his leader, so Miami will need to pull out all the stops on this weekend’s visit to make up ground in the chase for the 6’8” 320lb Bateman.
Miami needs depth and talent at OL in this class.
The 4 players currently committed are a great start, Donaldson especially, but Miami could use even more talent up front in this class. 5 players committed. PLENTY of talent. Mission: Accomplished.
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.
At times, various teams tried to pry each of the trio of Ford, Garvin, and Johnson away from Miami. Those efforts failed, however, and those 3 will be on the Canes’ roster next year, and Garvin has already enrolled at Miami.
Miami was recruiting 4-star Elijah Conliffe at DT, but that shipp seems to have sailed. Conliffe doesn’t have a Miami OV scheduled, and is visiting Louisville this weekend. Safe to cross him off the list.
While it once appeared that Miami’s DL class might have grown in numbers, it appears as though the Canes are going to stick with this 3 person group in 2017.
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. Wilder has aged out of HS eligibility after his final regular season game after hitting 19 years 9 months. He turns 20 just days after National Signing Day. Because of his advanced chronology, it was thought that he would be an Early Enrollee. However, 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.
Wilder is one of a number of players that has become connected to Oregon in the wake of Willie Taggart’s hiring, and there’s a chance for a late flip to the Ducks. We’ll see.
With Steed, Jennings Jr., and now Wilders committed, Miami is in a good spot at LB in this class, even if Wilder flips. This is bolstered when you consider the 2016 class of Mike Pinckney, Shaq Quarterman,and Zach McCloud are all already entrenched as starters on defense, and one of the top LB trios in CFB.
Miami has commitments from 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.
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. Dean recently decommitted from Alabama, which many, myself included, predicted would happen. 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, but Miami is still recruiting him hard.
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 visited both Louisville (Jan13) and Miami (Jan20) and those teams are battling it out for his services. Edwards will visit Florida on January 27th, so they could work their way into the conversation as well.
3-star S Tariq Carpenter recently popped up on the radar and took a visit to Miami on January 20th. The UCF commit has seen his recruiting profile raise significantly through his senior year, and could be a late-add option for Miami. Carpenter visits Georgia Tech this weekend, and I think he’ll flip there. Miami has openly told Carpenter they’re waiting on their other targets to make decision before offering him a scholarship. I think he jumps in the boat at GT because that’s a certainty, while an offer from Miami is a possibility that may not happen.
Miami loses players off the top of the roster at DB, so depth AND TALENT is sorely needed in this class. Miami needs to add at least 2 of the targets on the board at DB, with Dean being the likely add at this point.
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.
NSD is around the corner. Man, time flies.