Located smack dab in the middle of what is arguably the nation’s hot-bed for skill talent, the Miami Hurricanes have never been lacking for play-makers at receiver.
Even through all the down years the Canes have gone through lately, that has never been a problem.
Top-flight guys like Ahmmon Richards, Jeff Thomas, Lawrence Cager, Darrell Langham, and Mike Harley are all returning next season to make the QB’s life (whoever it ends up being) a heck of a lot easier. And today, Miami and WR coach Ron Dugans just added to that treasure trove.
4-star Mark Pope, 4-star Brian Hightower, and 3-star Daquris Wiggins were all long-time commitments to “The U” and are now officially Hurricanes after signing their LOI’s at their respective schools today. But each brings much more to the table than just a star rating.
Pope is the top receiver in the state, a class leader, and represents a huge recruiting win for Mark Richt. Over years past, Alabama and Nick Saban has come to South Florida, picked-off the premier receiver in the area, and brought him back to Tuscaloosa. Amari Cooper, Calvin Ridley, and Jerry Jeudy just to name a few. That ended today with Miami signing Pope and he is the kind of elite player that Miami needs to keep home if the Canes want to get back to competing for National Championships.
"That's like family there at Miami," Pope said. “The future for us is real bright. Hopefully we win a national championship. I’ve always wanted to say I’m the best receiver in the country. That’s always been a goal for me, to prove I’m No. 1.”
Pope is the type of receiver that can do damage on the inside or outside, and is such an advanced route runner at an age where most kids struggle in that area. He has great body control and because he is able to adjust so well in the air, has a wide catch radius. Pope is especially dangerous on underneath routes due to his short-area quickness and ability to shake off coverage.
That’s why the bigger, burlier Brian Hightower makes for such an interesting compliment to Pope. The IMG standout has great change of direction and makes a living going up-and-over DB’s as a downfield threat on jump balls. Coming from a powerhouse high school program like IMG where half the roster goes D-1, Hightower is excited to play in an offense where he can again be surrounded by plenty of explosive talent.
"It means you’re going out there and you’re going to be with high-caliber guys,” Hightower said of signing with Miami. “It’s super exciting to know I’m going to be on the team with other great players.”
Hightower is enrolling early for spring ball. Who else is enrolling early? That’d be Daquris Wiggins, and him and Hightower plan to challenge guys like Cager, Langham, and Harley for early playing time. With the work ethic that both bring to the table, they could easily stake a claim to a role in UM’s receiver rotation next year.
“I want to get everything down pat, get the plays down pat before everyone comes in so when the season comes around I’ll know what I’m doing,” Wiggins said. “It’s going to be a lot of hard extra work, but it is what it is. I’ll do whatever it takes to play as a freshman.”
Pope’s high school teammate from State Championship winning Miami Southridge, Wiggins has flown under the radar a bit in part because he wasn’t as active on the camp circuit, and partially because Wiggins was Miami’s first commit in this class way back when. Wiggins actually committed to Miami interim head coach Larry Coach over 2 years ago and has been a forgotten man of sorts, while his classmates were followed incessantly by the fanbase until they made their choice much later. But make no mistake, he is every bit as talented as his Storm18 counterparts: at Paradise Camp earlier this year, Wiggins went catch for catch with Pope. And, even as the most underrated player in this class, he still bleeds orange and green.
"I've wanted to be a Hurricane since I was a kid," Wiggins said. "Miami is my home."
At 6’3, Wiggins is so incredibly smooth and fluid in his movements that he can be a match-up problem for any style of cornerback; there’s no wasted motion when he runs and it looks like he’s gliding out on the field. Wiggins gets to another gear quickly and also sports a good frame to add weight.
So, when you put everything together, just how do you sum up this receiver haul for Miami?
“We’re going to be unstoppable, put it like that,” Pope said. “I don’t see anybody beating us when we get there."