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Miami Hurricanes Recruiting: Class Grades

We bring in a former SOTU contributor to grade the Canes’ 2017 recruiting class. Just like the old days.


I gave you like 35 pieces of commentary today. So, for the class grades, I enlisted the help of friend and former-SOTU contributor Joe Garcia to give a look at the class. Here’s what he had to say:

Not every recruiting class is equal. Services give you a nice measuring stick but rarely take into account needs and fits. Without the larger context of how well the 2017 class fit the concepts and depth chart of the Miami Hurricanes, we'll never understand just how good they actually made out. No more waiting. Here are your Squad 17 class grades.


N'kosi Perry (4* - #6 DT/QB)

Cade Weldon (3* - #38 Pro/QB)

Miami has a QB room that's already talented if inexperienced. Rozier is the front runner but Sherriffs and Allison are both more physically gifted. Miami had a need for more talent and depth here and and hit on the best targets available to them. Everyone would love to nab the next Jacob Eason that can plug in right away but Miami could've done worse. Just ask our friends to the north (looking at you, Gators).

Perry is the future here at some point. He needs to add weight but he's got the tools. I think of him as something of an odd blend of Big Ben and Teddy B. Has a good, not great arm but that is capable of making all the throws at this level and offers the ability to make plays with his legs. Shows good pocket awareness and keeps his eyes downfield. Im not sure a RS year wouldn't be in his best interest but he's got all the tools to be Miami's next QB to get drafted.

Cade Weldon is everything you expect from an Ex-QB's son. Really refined in his mechanics and stands tall in the pocket. Sneaky strong arm with even sneaker wheels. In many ways, he's got similarities to Perry. Should be a reliable long term backup that could start in a pinch if needed. The question is how much potential he has left given how well coached he is.

Given what's on the roster. Miami really just needed depth and upside to create competition and let the cream rise. They certainly hit the nail on the head here. Couldn't realistically ask for more.

Grade: A

Running Back:

Robert Burns (3* - #25 RB)

Miami is losing Joe Yearby to the NFL and Gus Edwards to transfer. Team MVP Mark Walton returns but is backed only by inexperienced (but super talented) Travis Homer and Trayone Gray who is recovering from a torn ACL. That's a REALLY thin stable for a position prone to getting banged up.

Miami really needed 2 backs this cycle and both needed to be of the elite variety. On that front, this class is a failure.

That said, I'm a Robert Burns fan. His 3 Star Ranking is a bit misleading. His talent and tape is worthy of being a top 10 (if not top 5) back in this class. He has burst, vision, power, incredible balance, and can take it the distance. As a ball carrier, there are shades of Adrian Peterson to his game.

The caveat to that is: he hasn't played much football and the last significant snaps came two years ago. Hence his 3* ranking. Injuries completely ruined his HS career. I like the talent but for a team that needed two elite backs, bringing in exactly one that is mostly a question mark at this stage is pretty disastrous.

Grade: D (And I'm being pretty generous)

Wide Receiver:

Jeff Thomas (4* - #6 WR)

Michael Harley (4* - #42 WR)

Deejay Dallas (4* - #13 ATH)

Evidence Njoku (3* - #75 WR)

There's no debate that Miami's top 3 targets at WR were Jerry Jeudy, Devonta Smith, and Jeremiah Holloman. [editorial note: those players picked Alabama, Alabama, and Georgia] And they missed on all 3 which has to be reflected in the grade.

But Miami is really only losing Stacy Coley and Malcolm Lewis from the roster and Ahmmon Richards has established himself as a #1 go to WR. They needed 3 or 4 bodies here and in infusion of speed and overall talent was needed. Mission (mostly) accomplished.

Jeff Thomas is one of the most explosive playmakers in the country who reminds me a lot of NFL Star Tavon Austin. Grades will be a concern until he gets cleared but is a potential difference maker that can score from anywhere on the field and he'll keep defenses honest. His ability to change direction in tight spaces without losing speed is going to cause complete choas for every opponent he faces. No doubt in my mind, he will house a kick or punt during his Frosh campaign.

Michael Harley is another undersized speedster although his game is patterned more closely to former St Thomas and Miami star Phillip Dorsett. If used correctly, he should be able to stretch defenses downfield and keep teams from shading extra help towards Richards without paying for it. There's a chance he plays early if he catches on quickly in the playbook.

Njoku has enormous upside. He's massive at almost 6'6" and is easily the most impressive kid "off the bus". He adjusts well, has great hands, and can move for a kid of his size. Should be a nightmare for teams in the red zone. Might need a RS year much like his brother did but the upside is pretty huge here.

The real wildcard is the class ambassador, Deejay Dallas. He's one of the best pure athletes in the class and the staff reportedly is trying him at WR first but he also has the potential to play CB and KR at the next level. He'll be somewhat of a project since he played mostly QB at the HS level but there's plenty to like about his potential.

In an ideal world, Miami would have landed one of the Jeudy, Smith, Holloman trio to round up this class almost perfectly. As is, it will play here with a nice mix of diverse talents that add plenty to the WR room moving forward.

Grade: A

Tight End:

Brian Polendey (3* - #20 TE)

Miami loses Standish Dobard to graduation and David Njoku to the NFL. Jovani Haskins is in the doghouse to boot. This went from an unquestioned strength to a very scary weakness beyond 2017. Herndon will hold it down for a year but right now Playmaker Jr is the only thing that seems in stable ground beyond that.

Brian Polendey is a solid take out of Texas. Has a decent build that needs to add more mass and strength but he's mean as piss as a blocker and really gets after it. That will be his strength once he refines his game.

He also offers some ability as a pass catcher. Has decent hands and works well through traffic. Can create some mismatches in the middle of the field. Adjusts well to the ball. He does everything well but nothing exceptional.

The real issue is that Miami needed a 2nd guy in this class. They made a strong run at Tre’ McKitty but ultimately lost him to FSU. He would've been the ideal fit next to Polendey. It's fair to question whether or not they should've been far more involved with former commit Kemore Gamble.

Grade: C+

Offensive Line:

Navaughn Donaldson (4* - #11 OT)

Kai-Leon Herbert (4* - #26 OT)

Zalontae Hillery (3* - #53 OT)

Zack Dykstra (3* - #68 OT)

Corey Gaynor (3* - #15 C)

This should tell you everything. Miami started the 2016 season with Sonny Odogwu, Kc McDermott, and Tyree St Louis as really the only 3 real tackle options on the roster (and they weren't great options).

In short order Miami has added George Brown via transfer and gain commitments from Donaldson, Herbert, and Hillery to secure the OT spot for the foresee able future.

Donaldson is the biggest prize as one of the handful of elite OL in the country. He really needs to get his weight in check but runs like a deer with incredible feet, agility, and a mean streak to boot. Could be the team's future at LT but might be an even better fit at RT. Will play right away and is versatile to handle the guard spots as well.

Herbert is the prototype LT. Ideal frame with good feet and balance. He's light right not and needs to add functional strength but has upside to be drafted as a blindside protector down the road.

Hillery is the project of the group. He's super raw but some have argued that he possesses more pure talent that Herbert. He's essentially the guy they picked over Kadeem Telfort who eventually ended up with the Gators. He's a sure bet to RS and likely will need plenty of time to mature after that, but you could have a real player here a few years down the line.

Dykstra, out of Iowa, is a kid that I go back and forth on. At times I watch his tape and think we got a steal and at times I think we could've done better. I will say this, he has quick feet and can move (notice the trend?). He's also somewhat of a project but he's versatile and comes with some upside.

Gaynor is easily the most underrated player in the class. Mean as can be with an elite motor that really gets after it. He's going to be Miami's starting C sooner rather than later in my mind. The services missed on this kid. He's a somewhat limited athlete but he shows awareness in space to pull, knocks people back on contact, and finishes all his blocks.

TJ Slaton was the one guy that got away from Miami here but it's otherwise hard to see how they could've done any better. Great work here by Coach Searels.

Grade: A

Defensive End:

Deonte "DJ" Johnson (4* - #6 WDE)

Jonathan Garvin (4* - #13 SDE)

Miami is stocked here. Chad Thomas, Trusty Trent Harris, Joe Jackson, Demetrius Jackson, and Patrick Bethel are ready now and have plenty of eligibility left between them. The need here was minimal but Miami went out and landed DJ Johnson and Jonathan Garvin, two of the best talents in the country.

Garvin is big and strong with surprising quickness. Won't be an elite speed rusher but should generate pressure from a bull rush and will really take a huge step once he learns to counter. His productivity in HS cannot be questioned. He'll play plenty of football for Miami.

The real prize here though, is Johnson. He might actually end up at DT long term if he gains enough weight (much the same way RJ McIntosh has) but he's versatile enough to handle both spots. He has quick, violent hands and is a great athlete. Profiles similarly to Garvin as a pass rusher but he has more speed at the edge.

There wasn't much need at this spot for Miami so adding those two studs to the mix is incredible.

Grade: A+

Defensive Tackle:

Jonathan Ford (3* - #28 DT)

This one is a tough one for me. I like Jon Ford well enough. He stacks and sheds pretty well and gives solid effort to go with good size and a great frame capable of adding more clean bulk. He should be a solid contributor here even if he's maybe not quick twitch enough to be a star.

My issue is this: we have a stocked roster at the moment with Kendrick Norton, RJ McIntosh, Gerald Willis, Anthony Moten, and (as of this writing) Courtel Jenkins. All those guys are gone within the next 2 years. Meaning Miami has put itself in a position where we need at least 3 strong tackles in next years class because Tyreic Martin and Jon Ford is a pretty thin two year haul. Fred Hansard was a guy that had interest early. Kane Taylor looked decent. We never really made the push for Elijah Conliffe that we probably should have. I think it was somewhat short sighted on our end.

This is the single most important spot in next year's class in my mind. Pressure is on.

Grade: C


DeAndre Wilder (3* - #23 OLB)

Waynmon Steed (3* - #25 ILB)

Bradley Jennings Jr (3* - #49 OLB)

Miami had an elite LB class last year by every measure of the word. They also have Darrion Owens and Jamie Gordinier who should both help so really all that was technically needed was some depth because this is a thin spot which also impacts the special teams coverage units.

Miami did well to take a 3rd LB here, especially given that none is a sure bet. DeAndre Wilder is a little bit of a square peg in a round hole because he's more of a pass rusher than pure 4-3 SLB but used correctly, he will help even if he is on the thinner side. At a minimum he will contribute on special teams. He probably has the highest upside of the 3 but that isn't saying much.

Bradley Jennings is a coach favorite. I'm not crazy about him. He has no special physical traits and is prone to over-pursuing and miss steps. I'm not sure what the staff sees here to be totally honest but FSU liked him enough to take him as well so I'll have to give the benefit of the doubt.

Steed is probably my personal favorite. Again, not a world beater and undersized but strong at the point of attack, mean, and comes with tons of football IQ. He fills gaps well. He's probably a WILL here.

I would've loved to have seen at least one of these 3 have more upside and overall talent. VanDarius Cowan is the local guy I would've loved to have approached. Breon Dixon was another I liked throughout but he was also undersized. Miami was in somewhat of a tough spot here cause there wasn't many great alternatives but I felt they should've looked a little harder OOS at this particular spot. Even a kid like Ventrell Miller who they liked early on would've been a better take that Jennings and Wilder in my mind. But then again, what do I know?

In any event, they did get 3 kids to help address the depth issues at the position moving forward so credit for identifying and attacking that need.

Grade: C+


Trajan Bandy (4* - #30 CB)

Deejay Dallas (4* - #13 ATH)

Jhavonte Dean (4* - #2 JUCO CB)

This was easily my biggest concern for most of the recruiting cycle. Given the lack of depth and the loss of Corn Elder and Adrian Colbert this might have been the single most important spot for Miami this cycle needing to lack at least 4 talented bodies.

They got part of the way there. Bandy will definitely see the field early and could start from Day 1 in nickel packages. Short but stout, Bandy hits hard and plays a physical brand of football. He should have a long productive career at Miami.

Dean will also get snaps immediately as a JUCO that is the most polished of the incoming class. Unlike most JUCO prospects, he also has plenty of untapped potential. He needs to bulk up some to hold up better against he next level of competition.

Miami needed this class to be the foundation to build upon with a stacked DB likely coming in 2018 where they hold several early elite verbal. This class has enough to get them by heading into 2018 but misses on Wilson, Henderson, and Davis all hurt badly here.

Grade: C


Amari Carter (3* - #34 S)

Derrick Smith (3* - #131 WR)

What an epic failure this class is at safety. Losing both starters from last season and they whiff on most their top targets in Cyrus Fagan, Daniel Wright, Brian Edwards, and Billy Gibson.

I'm a big Amari Carter here and he will play for sure. Ideal build with a well rounded game not all that different from former Palm Beach Gardens and current Notre Dame safety Devin Studsill.

Smith looks like a waste to me to be honest. I don't see the fit. Impressive physique but lumbering and more likely to move to LB than stick at S long term. I think he's a JAG. Just a bad class overall here. Can't miss on basically all your main targets and be happy with the work you've done here.

Grade: D


Zach Feagles (2* - #7 P)

The Canes needed a punter and got one of the best Prep punters in the nation. Enough said.

Grade: A

Overall Class Grade: B-

There's some talent and I'm excited to see what guys like Thomas, Johnson, Perry are going to do here, but the list of misses is large and there's way to many holes in this class.

This class isn't going to set Miami back, but it's also not going to give them the level of talent infusion that was needed to help them take the next step towards title contention.

Miami needs next year to be the year that gets them over that hump

Thanks to Joe for the Grades.

Agree? Disagree? I’m sure you have something to say, so say it in the comments, huh?

Go Canes