When it comes to recruiting, you have to secure your own backyard. Meaning you need to recruit from the area you’re located in first and foremost. It’s a no-brainer that keeping the bevy of South Florida talent home needs to be a priority. It is Rule No. 1, or 3, in recruiting.
However, after a 7-5 regular season record, Miami head coach Mark Richt is defending himself to an agitated fanbase. As difficult as it is to please Hurricanes fans who hunger for a championship Richt has the even more challenging task of trying to recruit his own players.
Wait, “recruit your own players?” What are you talking about, these guys signed their letters of intent a long time ago?
Let me explain. As you’ve noticed if you viewed Miami’s final game of the season, the Hurricanes are set to lose 14 players to graduation/exhaustion of their eligibility. It’s stars such as Jaquan Johnson, Michael Jackson and Gerald Willis. Perennial starters such as Tyree St. Louis, Sheldrick Redwine and Tyler Gauthier. And plenty of the Canes’ depth will be walking out the door as the offseason looms. Of course, many of these players will be replaced with new names and placards beginning this spring.
Those losses are huge, but to be expected. What really could put the UM in a bind is the loss of draft-eligible underclassmen. The players, if they decide to stay, could be the difference between the program making the ACC Championship or struggling once again to merely become bowl eligible.
Disclaimer: I will never be that person who says a player shouldn’t go pro and try to earn a living from this game. Remember, career mortality for most players is relatively short.
With that out of the way, here are the players with a decision to make.
If you can flashback to two years ago, when Joe Jackson was a vaunted freshman, we had an inkling the defensive end would be a three and done player. The standout from Gulliver Prep has led the Hurricanes in sacks in each of his three seasons, accumulating 24 sacks in that time. A gifted pass rusher who uses every inch of his 6’5”, 250 pound frame to slip by blockers, yet can employ a bull rush when raw strength is required. Jackson has shown significant improvement in his run defense, holding up at the point of attack and making great strides in his backside pursuit on plays away from his side.
Edge rushers continue be one of the more sought-after commodities in the NFL, so there’s no concern about being needed. Jackson will be an older prospect in any draft class, and will be under pressure to make sure his prime years of football fall under a lucrative contract. If Jackson returns for a senior season, Miami will have one of the best DE duos in the country with Jonathan Garvin bookending the otherside. Jackson could move into the Hurricanes’ top five in all-time sacks with an additional season. His return would help negate some of the other losses across the defense.
Speaking of losses on defense, it’s hard to imagine that there would be a bigger one than seeing the Canes’ middle linebacker forego his senior year. The spokesman for the defense, Quarterman has been the leader for the unit both on and away from the field. Amassing 243 tackles, 30 tackles-for-loss and 11.5 sacks in his collegiate career, Quarterman has lived up to the standard of playing LB at UM.
The Orange Park, Florida, native arrived at UM known for his ability to thump ball carriers, laying the wood on plays underneath his coverage. As the linebacker has grown into prominence, his game has expanded. Miami will send No. 55 on blitzes from all alignments and depth, with Quarterman showing improvement in his man coverage in 2018. Quarterman has received accolades and recognition for his play throughout much of his career, but winning a championship — be it conference or national — would cement his legacy as the leader of the defense.
The more fascinating decision among Miami’s draft-eligibles lies with running back Travis Homer. The workhorse of Miami’s backfield, the tailback does it all. Lead the team in rushing: Check. Be a receiving threat coming out of the backfield:-. Check. Work on special teams coverage units despite being on the first team offense:-. Check and check.
Homer’s rushing totals with one game remaining are near identical to his numbers from the 2017 season, despite the struggles on offense at various times this season. However, the intangibles are there — speed, vision, heart and a willingness to do the dirty work — that make him an intriguing pro prospect. Plus, if you haven’t noticed, the Canes’ backfield resembles a piranha tank of talented backs. DeeJay Dallas and Cam’Ron Davis are more than capable runners who have broken free for major runs this season. Lorenzo Lingard should be healthy in 2019 and will factor into division of carries in some manner. Recent 2019 RB signee Asa Martin won’t be eligible to play until the 2020 season. There are plenty of options behind Homer itching to earn some carries this season.
While there are many mouths to feed, Homer has stepped up to be an exemplary leader and showcased his own value as a dynamic runner.
Last year, the position of concern was defensive tackle. This year, that concern moves up to the second level of the defense. Losing Shaq would be a significant blow, but that loss would grow to atomic levels combined with the departure of Michael Pinckney. No, this is not in relation to the one-game suspension of the LB against Virginia Tech. The man from Duval County has been the enforcer, edge rusher and all-around inspirational personality for the program since the day he stepped on campus. Pinckney is a throwback linebacker in an age where tweeners and hybrids are becoming the new normal in the pros.
Given his skill set, play and resume, there’s no doubt that Pinckney would be able to find a home in the NFL. Personally, I wouldn’t mind if the Raines High School alum rounded out his game with another season in Coral Gables. But we’re not going to bet against 56 in anything, except when it comes to braving cold weather.
The decisions that these aforementioned players make will have a tremendous impact on the makeup of UM’s 2019 roster. To be transparent, it’s unlikely that you hear any Hurricane selected on the first day of the 2019 NFL Draft. The draft class is loaded with defensive linemen, offensive linemen and short on outstanding skill position talent. Miami has a rich tradition of producing NFL talent and this year should be no different. How much of that talent will be in the prospect pool next year remains to be seen.
IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!