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Recruiting Radar: Class Breakdown 1/6

The 7th installment of our running series evaluating the Canes' 2017 recruiting class.

4-star WR Jeff Thomas (East St. Louis, IL) made defenders look silly at the Under Armour All-American game. Could he bring his considerable talents to Coral Gables?

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.


Need: 1+

Committed: 2

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.

The Canes have 2 QBs committed in this class: top target 4-star N'Kosi Perry and 3-star Cade Weldon. With those 2 in the boat, Miami is done at QB in this class.

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.

Running Back

Need: 2+

Committed: 1

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 will enroll at The U in January.

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.comhas reported that Miami leads.

Recently, news broke that McFarland will not be taking his previously-scheduled OV to Alabama, and will decide between Miami and Maryland. While Maryland is the hometown team, I don’t see him picking the Terps over the Canes. 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.

Wide Receiver

Need: 4+

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.

While at the U.S. Army All-American game, Smith has said that his January official visits will be to LSU (Jan 13), presumed leader Alabama (Jan 20) and Miami last (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. Here’s the 44 yarder:

And here’s (some of) the 79 yarder:

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 will visit Coral Gables on the weekend of January 20th. While Illinois was his recruiting leader — the local school was the only one heavily recruiting him throughout the season — Thomas has said he’s open to anything, and his visits will determine his collegiate destination. So, for Miami, a strong OV on Jan 20 could be the key to getting this dynamic playmaker to come to The U.

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. Recent reports have Harley easing off his “shut down recruitment” stance, and he may visit Coral Gables in January. While I was once confident Harley would end up in Miami, I’m admittedly lost here now. Who knows where he’ll end up.

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. Some in recruiting circles have Pouncey as all but committed to the Canes.

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.

With new targets Thomas and Pouncey, a legitimate (but probably low) chance at Smith, and Holmes’ open interest in Miami, the Canes look to be fully invested in the 2017 group at current. While it’s possible that more late offers could be on the way — 4-star WR Jamire Calvin maybe? — the Canes’ WR haul will likely come down to Njoku and whichever of quartet of Smith, Thomas, Pouncey, and Holmes they’re able to bring in.

Tight End

Need: 0

Committed: 1

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.

3-star WR/TE Nick Robinson (Oklahoma City, OK) is a player Miami has been connected to in recent weeks. He has yet to receive an offer from Miami, but that could come after the dead period. Robinson, a former Memphis commit, would be a nice prospect as a developmental receiving TE. Should they offer, Miami’s biggest competition seems to be Oklahoma.

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 Robinson and/or Haskins staying on the team moving forward, but in any event, Miami is in a good spot at TE.

Offensive Line

Need: 4+

Committed: 4

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 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.

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. Florida seems to be the team to beat in an effort to flip Herbert at current.

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. 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, and recent chatter is that Munford is going to get offered by Ohio State. If that happens, it’s a wrap, and he was a longshot for Miami anyway.

Previously listed players such as Alex Leatherwood, Adrian Ealy, and Kadeem Telfort are committed elsewhere, and Miami is no longer engaged in their recruitments.

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.

Defensive Line

Need: 4

Committed: 3

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.

Miami is still recruiting 4-star Elijah Conliffe at DT. 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.

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 13th 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.

UPDATE: Echols says he is 100% solid and shuts down his recruitment

A recent report by 247sports indicates Miami has been in contact with 4-star DE K’Lavon Chaisson. The Houston (TX) North Shore standout had a stellar performance in the Under Armour All-American game. Chaisson has official visits scheduled for all 3 weekends leading up to National Signing Day, but could potentially take a mid-week visit to Miami, if he so chooses. It’s still early in this connection, so we’ll see what happens.

Previously listed players such as Jordan Wright and Owen Carney are committed elsewhere, and Miami is no longer engaged in their recruitments. Ditto that for Phidarian Mathis, who is focusing on Alabama and LSU.

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.


Need: 2

Committed: 3

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 has stopped recruiting previously listed JUCO LB Gary Johnson.

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.

Defensive Back

Need: 5

Committed: 5-ish 4-ish

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.

UPDATE: Billy Gibson decommitted from Miami on Friday afternoon. It appears Oregon will now be his destination.

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 he’ll take an official visit to Miami on January 27th — the last weekend 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. While it once appeared that Brini would be a Cane, it seems that Miami is focused on Dean, Edwards, and Henderson as takes, and will let Brini drop.

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.

Special Teams

Need: 0

Committed: 1

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.

Go Canes