Alrighty guys, we’re back with the “The Top 10 Over 10.” In this segment we’re going to turn our gaze back to recruiting. Previously we’ve broken down the top names, greatest wins and worst losses. Now we’re going to turn back the clock to the “Top 10 Gems Over the last 10 Years.”
The criteria to be a “Gem” is a recruit who entered Miami as a three star recruit by ESPN rankings and below. Over the last 10 years Miami has usually brought in a few three star players and then the occasional “not rated” player because said player was a junior college (JUCO) recruit or post graduate (POST GRAD) player.
Besides using the above formula, once I organized who was a three star and below rated player, I then went through the list and asked myself two things. First, who had a great career at Miami? And second, who has made an impact in the pro ranks?
Let’s get going, first up are the honorable mentions:
HM 2006 Richard Gordon NR (POST GRAD)
Gordon came to Miami and for most of his career was used as a blocking tight end and special team coverage unit player. Overall he wasn’t too impactful in the passing game. For his career he had 10 catches for 62 yards as a Cane.
Even though he may not have had eye popping stats after he left Coral Gables he was still selected in the pro ranks in the 6th round by the Oakland Raiders in the 2011 NFL Draft. Even as a low round pick, Gordon was able to cling to a roster spot for two seasons with the Raiders. His niche specifically was again on special teams and also as a run blocking tight end. During his second season with the Raiders he did have one catch which went for a touchdown.
Even though he was able to survive two preseason camps worth of cuts he was not able to make it a third year. Oakland released Gordon and ever since he’s been bouncing around the NFL hoping to latch on to another team. From 2012 to 2016 he’s been on the following teams: Pittsburgh, Kansas City (twice), Tennessee, Denver (twice) and Baltimore. Currently Gordon is a free agent.
HM 2010 Jonathan Feliciano ***
Feliciano was able to redshirt his first year on campus but once he learned the ropes, he was off and running when it came to being a lead blocker in the run game and a bull in the passing attack. Feliciano mainly saw his time on the field as a starter at left guard but would occasionally kick out to tackle when the team needed a spot starter. In total, for his career, he made 45 starts.
Just like Gordon (and the rest of the players on this list) Feliciano went on to continue his football career at the professional level. The Oakland Raiders selected Feliciano in the 4th round of the NFL draft. In his rookie season Feliciano was active for 6 games and started 3 of the contests. During last season Feliciano had a more active role and actually was on the active roster for all 16 games but did not start.
HM 2010 Shane McDermott ***
Sometimes those before you can pave the way to make future endeavors easier or at least have less constraints. Shane McDermott, you could argue, did just that for his younger brother KC who is on the Canes roster right now. The elder McDermott was a local product who came in to Miami to play center. Just like Feliciano before him, McDermott sat out his freshman year to learn the Miami blocking scheme. Also like McDermott, he saw immediate playing time along the offensive and eventually from the beginning of his sophomore year and on would be penciled in as a starter on the offensive line. He finished his Canes career with 35 starts and earned first team All-ACC in his senior year.
After his college career ended McDermott entered the NFL Draft but went unselected. Last season the Giants had him on their roster and he took part in two games.
HM 2010 Stephen Morris ***
Ah… The “what could have been?” candidate. Morris during his first two seasons as a Cane backed up Jacory Harris at quarterback. In his junior season though, Morris exploded onto the scene with an exceptional first season at the helm of Coach Al Golden’s offense. His 2012 stats were: 3,345 yards passing, 21 touchdowns to seven interceptions. After such an efficient and effective first season, many draft pundits predicted with an even improved senior year Morris could be a future top round draft pick.
Here’s where the “could have been” feature comes in, I remember it distinctly too.. Morris and the Canes were playing against an IA team to start 2013, I think it was either FAMU or Bethune; one of those play-in game types. Morris scrambled out to his right to evade the pressure from the pocket; after he threw the ball down field an opponent fell on the back of both legs. Morris injured his achilles or foot during the play and the rest of his 2013 season wasn’t really the same for him. He started the rest of the year as the quarterback but never really had the same zip on his passes like he did in his junior year and also he was wildly inaccurate at times.
Morris went pro and has bounced around in the three years he’s been employed in the NFL. He was signed as an undrafted free agent after the NFL Draft in 2014 by the Jaguars and then was released after the season was completed. In 2015 he joined the Eagles roster as a practice squad participant. Later on that same season though, the Cults decided to claim Morris as an active roster player away from the Eagles and ever since then he’s been backing up Andrew Luck in Indianapolis.
HM 2012 Herb Waters ***
Waters, to me, had a nice career at Miami. He never truly dominated but he was involved from his freshman season through to his last season as a senior. As he worked his way up the pecking order at receiver during his time at Miami he got more opportunities and capitalized on them. To finish out his career he had 41 catches for 624 and one touchdown as a senior. For his career he had 99 catches for 1,534 yards and nine touchdowns.
Even though Waters was seen as an offensive player in college, the Greenbay Packers had different plans. Due to the franchise’s myriad of injuries in the secondary, the Packers activated Waters last season for the last few games as a cornerback. Waters saw the field too in his new position. He recorded one tackle against the Giants in the first round of the playoffs. We’ll see if Waters can also move up the Packers depth chart in the secondary just like he did as a Cane.
HM 2012 Ladarius Gunter NR (JUCO)
Coming into Coral Gables as a JUCO player, Gunter was counted on by Coach Golden and his defensive counterparts as a player who could make an immediate impact. Gunter delivered on that hope and in three seasons on campus started 32 games. Gunter was a mainstay in the secondary while playing mostly corner he also would play a “centerfielder” type role as a safety on long passing downs during his junior and senior year.
After college, just like Waters before him, Gunter signed as an undrafted free agent with the Greenbay Packers after the 2015 NFL draft. However, Gunter has had a tremendous amount of success in the Packers defense as he started almost all season last year (15 out of 16 games) and looks to lock down his position again heading into 2017.
Okay guys, we’re heading into the Top 10 “Gem” recruits who were maybe thought of as “lower level” talents heading into college but made it big both as Canes and then the next level. Here we go!
10 2009 Mike James ***
I’ll be honest, I’m writing through these mini bio’s and lists and I did the listings on memory and now that I’m researching deeper into the stats for both the NFL and college information for each player, I’m kind of flummoxed on James. I remember he seemed to always have big plays throughout his career at Miami. It’s true that he did play all four years as a Cane but only during his senior year did he start the full campaign all year and even so, he only totaled 642 yards on the ground. Huh, I thought he had more numbers than that.. Okay.. lets take a look at what he’s done in the pro ranks then…
After James graduated in 2013, James was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. During his first season in the pro’s was when he had the most impact on the grid iron. He amassed 60 carries for 294 yards and no touchdowns. Since that time he’s participated in a total of 15 games for the Bucs and had minimal carries. He currently signed on with the Detroit Lions this last offseason.
9 2007 Leonard Hankerson ***
It helps that I wrote up a player profile for Hankerson a few weeks ago so this write up will be easy, let’s get to it… Hankerson had one really good year at Miami his junior year where he had 800 receiving yards and then he had a record breaking season his senior year with over 1,500 yards and 13 touchdowns. Hankerson was named an All-ACC player and the NFL took notice of the long strider and potential red zone threat. The Washington Redskins selected Hankerson in the third round of the NFL Draft in 2011.
Unfortunately for Hankerson he never quite lived up to his production the last two seasons at Miami in the pro ranks. Multiple season ending injuries to his legs and then an inability to be consistent with his pass catching has caused him to be dropped and added numerous times by multiple teams in the NFL the last few seasons.
8 2014 David Njoku ***
Njoku, you could argue, could be a fast riser up this board in a few years. Njoku came to Miami as an out of state recruit from the New Jersey. Former Head Coach Al Golden tried to pilfer away each year a top recruit or two from the Garden State and Njoku truly became a gem under both Golden’s tutelage and his one season in Mark Richt’s offense.
In his two seasons on the field, Njoku was a matchup nightmare for opponents. The former high school long jumping champion was able to be an inline blocker as a tight end, a security blanket for the quarterback and also a deep threat over the middle in the passing game. Njoku did it all at Miami and had the highlights to boot. Last season, as a redshirt sophomore, Njoku recorded 43 catches for 698 yards and eight touchdowns.
If I’m not mistaken, right after the bowl game victory against West Virginia concluded Njoku announced he was going pro that night. This is where Njoku could climb the rankings on this top 10. The Cleveland Browns selected Njoku in the late first round last April and he has a chance to make an instant impact in Cleveland. We’ll see how he does in his rookie year in the pro’s and beyond.
7 Phillip Dorsett ***
As we slowly deep dive this list we’re starting to see the big playmakers pop up. Dorsett was one of those deep ball playmakers for the Canes. When Dorsett arrived on campus he had an instant impact as a freshman playing as both a wide receiver as well as having occasional kick and punt return duties. The rest of his tenure on the field at Miami was up and down. As a sophomore and senior Dorsett hauled in over 800 receiving yardage. However, as a junior, many injuries slowed him down and he missed quite a few games with multiple leg injuries.
In the end, because of his blazing speed and 10 touchdown senior year, Dorsett was selected in the first round by the Indianapolis Colts. In his rookie season two years ago Dorsett really didn’t make much of an impact, he only tallied 18 receptions for 225 yards and a touchdown. Last season though Dorsett was given more playing time and took advantage of it. He improved his year two numbers to 33 catches and 528 yards with two touchdowns. He almost doubled his previous output in every category! We’ll see what year three brings for Dorsett as he’s set to be a regular in the Colts passing attack in 2017.
6 2006 Colin McCarthy ***
McCarthy was a tackling machine at Miami, plain and simple. When he first arrived at Miami he spent his first season as the special teams ace, he led the team with 6 tackles on special teams. During his sophomore year he earned a starting outside linebacker position and didn’t relinquish his spot until he’d graduate three years later. He had one bump in the road at Miami, during his junior year he played in the first four games but injured his shoulder and had to miss the rest of year. Due to the severity of the injury McCarthy was able to gain a medical redshirt and retain another year of eligibility. During his “second” junior year McCarthy was able to stay “healthy” (we’ll get to that in a second) and made 95 tackles on the year, placing him second on the team. In his senior season McCarthy was moved to the middle linebacker spot and thrived even more, he led the Canes in tackles for the year by making 119 tackles.
After his senior season McCarthy went pro and was selected by the Tennessee Titans in the 4th round. McCarthy’s career in the NFL unfortunately was a short one. McCarthy played only three seasons before retiring due to multiple shoulder injuries he had sustained both in the NFL and in college. In his three years playing for the Titans, McCarthy started 19 games out of a possible 36 games (he was injured for the other 12 games over the three years) and made 161 tackles with three interceptions and three forced fumbles.
5 2006 Jason Fox ***
When Fox signed his national letter of intent to play at Miami he was already a player in development. Before his senior season of high school started in Texas, Fox and the coaching staff thought it’d be best for him to transition to the offensive line. During his senior year in high school, Fox played tackle. When he was recruited to Miami the coaching staff saw his potential as an offensive tackle and decided they wanted him to stay-put at the position and grow into it both physically and mentally. It didn’t take Fox long for either of those two tasks.
Just like others on this list, Fox saw immediate playing time as a freshman and didn’t relinquish his starting role until he declared for the NFL Draft. In his three years on campus Fox started 36 games out of a possible 37. The only reason he missed one start was due to an injury. In his final season he was nominated for the Outland trophy which goes to the Nation’s best Offensive Lineman.
At the next level Fox was selected in the fourth round by the Detroit Lions. During his time with the Lion’s he was seen as a potential starter down the road at left tackle but the plan never seemed to come to fruition due to injuries. Fox, in his four years on the Lions was only able to start in three games.
After his rookie contract expired, Fox was signed by the Miami Dolphins in 2014. He’s actually been a nice addition to the Dolphins roster the last two seasons. In 2015 Fox started 11 games for the Fish.
4 2012 Ereck Flowers ***
The next player on our list, Ereck Flowers, was a mainstay along the offensive line almost as soon as he stepped on campus his freshman year. During his sophomore and junior season Flowers was penciled in exclusively as the starting right and then left tackle for Miami offensive line. Due to his dominance at the premiere position, Flowers decided to also go pro and leave the college ranks early just like both Dorsett and Njoku. Just like the two previously mentioned, he was also selected in the first round. Flowers was selected by the Giants.
As a pro, from what I’ve gathered by doing a little research, Flowers had had middling success as a starting tackle for the Giants. Pro Football Focus (PFF) statistically has rated Flowers as the 63rd best tackle in the league due to overall pass blocking, run blocking and penalties given up. The other articles I saw for Flowers were “when will he reach his potential?” and the like. We’ll have to see if year three can be a defining year for Flowers and if he can cement himself as a starting tackle caliber player or if he becomes a journey man.
3 2010 Clive Walford NR
Similar to Njoku previously mentioned on the list, Walford was a big time developmental player who signed with Miami out of Glades Central. Walford was a dominant basketball player that the Canes coaching staff thought could eventually be developed into a potential redzone threat with his size (6’ 4” ~240 pounds) and his soft hands.
Over the course of his five year career at Miami, Walford developed each and every year to be a solid blocker and dynamic pass catcher. In his senior year he blossomed. Walford caught 44 passes for 676 yards and seven touchdowns. Due to his monster senior season Walford was recognized as a third team All-American. After his senior year ended, Walford entered the NFL Draft.
The Oakland Raiders selected Walford in the third round of the NFL Draft in 2015. In the two years of playing for the Oakland Raiders, Walford has been a steady contributor. In his first year in the Bay area, Walford caught 28 passes for 329 yards and three touchdowns. Last year Walford improved his numbers slightly with 33 catches for 359 yards and again three scores. Playing on a Raiders team with the likes of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree infront of you in the pass catching pecking order can be a tall task in accruing stats but Walford is a reliable if not undervalued piece of the Raiders offense.
Now we get to the top two. The crème de la crème.
2 2011 Denzel Perryman ***
Our second overall “gem” is Denzel “The President” Perryman. Perryman was a local talent out of Coral Gables high school that, quite frankly, should have been rated a four star coming into Miami. He really shouldn’t be in this list to be honest because the coaching staff at the time (Shannon then Golden) knew he was a pertinent piece to the recruiting class and would earn valuable playing time right away. Boy did he ever earn playing time, too. In his tenure at Miami he started 37 out of 47 total games he was illegible to play in (was injured for much of the 2012 season) and racked up monster career numbers playing outside and then later inside linebacker for the Canes. For his career Perryman recorded 351 tackles, 27 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and 7 forced fumbles. To finish out his career at Miami, Perryman was a third team All American and also a Butkus finalist.
Naturally once Perryman graduated from Miami he entered the NFL draft and was scooped up quickly by the San Diego Chargers in the second round. In his two years at the NFL level Perryman has made a solid impact on the field. In 2016 he played in 12 games and accrued 72 tackles, two sacks and an interceptions. In 2017 Perryman had about the same numbers: 73 tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble. When looking at articles heading into 2017, many local pundits believe Perryman could take the next step and be a potential all pro heading into 2018.
Our number one “gem” was a great at Miami and has gone on to play at an All pro level in the NFL and he is:
1 2010 Allen Hurns ***
I’m about to go on a small tangent, bear with me a minute. One of my chief problems with Randy Shannon, and to a certain extent Al Golden was that they very rarely redshirted players. There seemed to be so many players that would really come into their own as seniors and I’d wish “man, if he only had one more year at Miami he’d leave as an all-time great.” Hurns was one of those players, in my opinion.
Hurns signed on to play at Miami as a lowly three start recruit no one really knew about and, to at least me anyways, was kind of an afterthought. In his freshman season Hurns was literally only used as a goal line blocker. He’d go out wide inside the 5 yard line of the opponent and block a defender.
He did that about 3-5 times a game.
He ended his freshman season with zero receptions for zero yardage.
After his freshman season however, Hurns started to slowly gain more and more reps on the offense which led up to a beast senior year for Hurns. He ended his fourth year with 62 catches, 1,162 yards and six trips to the end zone. After exhausting his eligibility (should have been a redshirt junior in my eyes but it is what it is) Hurns went pro.
Just like when he was recruited to Miami, Hurns went relatively unnoticed in the NFL draft and therefore undrafted. The Jacksonville Jaguars “took a flier” on the local product out of Miami and have been rewarded with their choice. Hurns worked his way onto the roster out of training camp (which is always cool to see an undrafted player do so) and then, almost stunningly, saw him work his way into a primary receiver role week one. In 2014, his rookie season, Hurns concluded his inaugural season with 51 catches, 677 yards and six touchdowns. Pretty good for a guy who was “picked up off the street.”
The 2015 season was Hurns’ most prolific season on the grid-iron but also his most painful. Hurns was simply a revelation on a national scale, not just in the Jaguars locker room. Hurns played in 15 of the 16 contests (started every game) and accounted for 64 catches, 1,031 yards and ten touchdowns. What makes his numbers even more impressive is that he played through a sports hernia for much of the year and in week 15 was lost for the final contest due to a nasty concussion he suffered when he hit the ground diving for a catch.
Before last season started, the Jaguars decided to lock down Hurns for the foreseeable future with a four year contract extension. Due to the Jaguars being the Jaguars (if you’re not familiar, they’re quarterback situation is terrible), Hurns’ totals slipped in 2016 to career lows while also sustaining a season ending hamstring injury. Hurns totaled 35 catches, 477 yards and three touchdowns. We’ll have to see how the 2017 season treats Hurns as he’s now a primary receiver and won’t sneak up on opponents.
What are your thoughts on the list? Leave your comments below! Did we miss anyone over the last 10 years?