The Miami Hurricanes are off to a great start in the 2018 recruiting class. With 19 players having already signed their National Letters of Intent, the Canes have one of the top collections of talent already inked to their school.
For more on the action during Early Signing, including a Recruit Notebook for each of the 19 signees, you can check out our Early Signing/NSD StoryStream:
Our National Signing Day StoryStream is live. All our pieces for Early and Regular Signing Periods in one place. Bookmark this now. #Canes #TheU https://t.co/JmAguBgYKw pic.twitter.com/MBzQJKzkWA— StateOfTheU.com (@TheStateOfTheU) December 19, 2017
Now that that’s out of the way, it’s time to look forward to the rest of the 2018 recruiting cycle on multiple levels.
Let’s start here. In a recruiting-focused press conference on the first day of the Early Signing Period, Head Coach Mark Richt said that the Canes are currently at 71 scholarship players.
Richt: Our scholarship number right now is 71.— Susan Miller Degnan (@smillerdegnan) December 20, 2017
Richt says Hurricanes could have between 24-27 signees by the time February is wrapped up. Says Miami is at 71 scholarship players right now with nine seniors leaving.— Christy Chirinos (@ChristyChirinos) December 20, 2017
Richt estimates 2018 signing class will end up being between 24-27 players. That leaves 6-9 openings after today. Added team currently has 71 scholarship players.— Christopher Stock (@InsideTheU) December 20, 2017
As seen in a couple of the above-embedded tweets, Richt went on to say that this class will probably be in the 24-27 recruit range, which fits with everything we’ve projected throughout the duration of this cycle.
With 19 players currently signed, and DT Nesta Silvera already committed to make 20 (he’s signing in February), that means Miami has between 5-8 scholarship slots available in this class moving forward.
Positions of Need
It is no secret that, while this class is one of the larger (in number) and more talented groups to have signed already, there are areas where Miami still has needs and can fill in gaps.
When asked about this, Mark Richt detailed the areas where Miami is still actively recruiting players:
Mark Richt says that WR, OL, DL and DB are all positions still in play for the Hurricanes.— Andrew Ivins (@Andrew_Ivins) December 20, 2017
Let’s break that down real quick:
This group already has 2 All-Americans (Mark Pope and Brian Hightower) and a 3rd size/speed guy (Dee Wiggins) committed and signed. That’s a DAMN GOOD group, but with the dismissal of Dionte Mullins during the season, Miami has room, and a minor (not pressing) need for a WR4 in this class.
After evaluating and contacting several players, Miami seems to be focusing in on Stockbridge (GA) WR Marquez Ezzard as the top target for this scholarship slot. He’s a guy I’ve written about in the past (my early 2018 target preview), and is a former FSU commit.
Ezzard is big WR at 6’1.5” 213lbs, and plays with great physicality. He’s similar in build to Anquan Boldin for a visual comparison. Also like Boldin, Ezzard doesn’t really create separation on his routes, relying more on his brute strength and strong hands to make tough catches. Ezzard also runs like a RB in the open field, which is interesting to see, but it works.
If Ezzard isn’t the guy for the WR4 slot in this class, former UF commits St. Petersburg (FL) WR Jalynn Williams or Delray Beach (FL) Atlantic WR Corey Gammage could get looks. There is always the additional possibility that Miami makes a run at a national recruit as the cycle moves toward NSD, which is similar to what happened last cycle with the recruitment of Jeff Thomas. And, if it were up to me, I’d shoot for a higher caliber recruit than Williams or Gammage if Ezzard isn’t the guy for WR4 in this class.
Miami brought in 3 OL in the Early Signing Period, led by All-American Guards Cleveland Reed and Delone Scaife and rounded out with OT John Campbell, who is good and has good potential as well.
Miami would like to add another pure tackle prospect to the team, as there are many guard or tweener-types on the roster. The primary target at current for the OT spot is Valdosta (GA) Lowndes OT Jalen Goss. At 6’7” 265lbs, Goss has prototypical height and length coupled with a frame to add size and functional strength down the line. He’s a bit of a project, but one that could pay off big time for Miami.
Montezuma (GA) Macon County OG Christian Meadows, an FSU commit, has size and talent, and will likely visit Coral Gables in January. He’s good, but he’s a guard-type player. With plenty of those on the roster and 2 top-tier prospects of that type already in this class, Meadows isn’t at the top of my want-list, but I’ll take him if that’s what it comes down to.
I’ve written about guys like Tampa (FL) Berkeley Prep OT Nicholas Petite-Frere and Apopka (FL) OT William Barnes before, but Miami won’t likely get either of them. But trust and believe if the 5-star Petite-Frere or the 4-star Barnes wanted in, they would immediately be the best OT in this class for Miami.
There is the possibility that Miami could engage with a yet-to-be-offered player, but most signs point toward Goss or Meadows, in that order, being the 4th OL in this class.
This is the position group where Miami has the most work to do between now and National Signing day on February 7th. In the Early Signing Period, Miami only signed 1 DL: Hialeah (FL) Champagnat Catholic DE Gregory Rousseau. Miami does hold a commitment from another DL, Plantation (FL) American Heritage All-American DT Nesta Silvera. Silvera did not sign during Early Signing Period, but is planning to sign in February.
Miami needs several other DL in this class, particularly at DT where things could get thin quickly if starters RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton leave early for the NFL Draft. Kissimmee (FL) Gateway DT Dennis Briggs has been a target throughout this cycle, and continues to be. His recruitment is likely to be a Miami-FSU battle.
The top player Miami is pursuing at DT is St. Louis (MO) Parkway North DT Michael Thompson. A U.S. Army All-American, Thompson is one of the top DTs in this class nationally, and would be an immediate contributor as a freshman. Miami is working to try to get Thompson to take an OV to Coral Gables in January, but that seems like a longshot at current.
Independence (MO) William Chrisman DT Daniel Carson is a player that ha shot up the board for Miami recently. The 6’5” 260lb Carson plays DE in HS but has been compared favorably to starting DT RJ McIntosh by the Hurricanes’ staff. Carson took his official visit to Coral Gables on December 8th, and thing reportedly went well. Miami will push for a commitment from him once the dead period ends in January.
At Defensive End, the list of targets starts with Plantation (FL) American Heritage DE Andrew Chatfield. A talented and productive player, Chatfield went the majority of the cycle without a scholarship offer from Miami. But, that offer finally came, and Miami is in a good place with this recruitment. It doesn’t hurt that Chatfield plays next to commit Nesta Silvera, and with several other Miami targets (we’ll get to them in a minute).
Out of Chatfield, Silvera, Carson, Thompson, and Briggs, Miami would be in a great position if they signed 3/5 from that group. 2/5 would be alright, depending on which 2 were the signees. 1/5 would be bad.
This is a position of strength for Miami in the 2018 recruiting class, but the work still isn’t done. Miami signed 4 DBs during the Early Signing Period: CB D.J. Ivey, CB Gilbert Frierson, CB Al Blades Jr. and S Gurvan Hall. Frierson and Blades Jr. could move to S at the next level.
Missing from this group is longtime commit Josh Jobe, who flipped to Alabama days before the Early Signing Period started (but that move had been rumored for QUITE a long time) and FSU signee Asante Samuel Jr., who Miami was pursuing for a flip but decided to sign with the school he’d been committed to instead.
As far as targets, the list starts with the Plantation (FL) American Heritage duo of CB Pat Surtain Jr. and CB Tyson Campbell. Of those 2, Miami is reportedly in a better spot with the 6’2.5” 185lb Campbell, who has been Miami’s top target at CB for many months. He has the combination of size, speed, length, and skill that has teams all over America chasing him. Georgia is also heavily recruiting Campbell, so Miami is in for a fight here.
Surtain Jr. is a 5-star recruit and a top 10 player in this class. He has good bloodlines, as his father of the same name was a longtime NFL CB before retiring and moving into coaching (the elder Surtain took over as HC at American Heritage when Mike Rumph moved up to the college level to coach CBs at Miami). LSU has long been thought to be the leader for Surtain Jr’s recruitment, but Miami has continued to have contact with him. Not saying things have flipped up for Surtain Jr. but Miami keeps shooting their shot like FIU Mike at happy hour. Pretty much every major team in America is chasing Surtain Jr., with Florida State, Georgia, Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, and many others involved in this chase.
The most likely positive outcome at CB would be Miami getting Tyson Campbell to commit and sign. The DREAM is to get both Campbell AND Surtain Jr. to come to The U in this class, on top of the 4 DBs who have already signed.
Should Miami miss on one (or both) of Campbell or Surtain Jr., the most likely backup plan is Miami (FL) Northwestern CB Nigel Bethel. He’s got speed, but he played most of his senior year at WR, not CB, for The West. I’m not the biggest Bethel fan, having seen him in person multiple times and being severely underwhelmed, so I’ll have to defer to the staff in their view of this player....for now.
With clarity on the number of available scholarships, and a truncated list of targets (since, yanno, 19 players have already signed in this class), Miami is recruiting from a position of strength from here on out.
The Hurricanes have a clear idea of what they need to finish this class, and we’ve looked at a bunch of realistic/possible options for Miami to fill those needs between now and February 7th.
As always, I’ll close by reminding you that recruiting is a fluid situation, and new names could pop up on the radar at any time. For Miami, the key is not settling for “bargain basement” players just to have numbers in this class, but finding and securing Miami-caliber players to round out this class, and keep the momentum from this season (and last year’s recruiting class) moving forward.
That’s how I see it. Share your view in the comments section below.