Mark Richt and the Hurricanes are still beaming from signing one of Miami’s best recruiting classes in a very long time. An elite class offensively with quality players at defensive positions as well, Richt has been diligently building and stacking the roster with championship caliber talent. As Hurricane fans await in excitement to see these prep all-stars’ careers unfold, let’s take a look back at the recruiting class of 2015 and assess how they’ve contributed to bringing Miami back to a championship level.
Kendrick Norton, RJ McIntosh, Mark Walton, Jaquan Johnson
These four signees turned out to be the cream of the crop in the class of 2015. Rightfully so, the trio of Norton, McIntosh, and Walton have elected to end their collegiate careers early and advance to the NFL. Norton and McIntosh were a powerful defensive line tandem on the inside who truly blossomed under the tutelage of Coach Kool. Walton was one of the best running backs in the ACC who eclipsed 1100 yards in his sophomore year. It’s unfortunate his junior year was cut short to injury as he was the strategic and emotional engine of the offense. Jaquan Johnson, the Canes’ defensive leader, proved in 2017 to be one of the best safeties in the country and will hopefully finish his tenure at Miami with a similar performance in 2018.
Sheldrick Redwine, Michael Jackson, Lawrence Cager, Tyler Gauthier, Hayden Mahoney, Tyree St. Louis
It takes most recruits some time to adjust from being standouts in high school to becoming valuable contributors at the collegiate level. After three years at Miami, these six signees have proven their abilities and still have the opportunity to improve their crafts over their final year (or two). Redwine and Jackson were pleasant surprises in 2017 providing great play at safety and cornerback respectively. Redwine will have to fight off some of the younger safeties vying for his starting spot in 2018, but he is a very solid, veteran player. Jackson has traits to be an elite ACC cornerback who wisely chose to return for his senior year and raise his draft stock.
On the offensive side of the ball, Lawrence Cager has stumbled over some injuries in his career, but after redshirting, he seized multiple opportunities last year to show why he was a coveted All-American receiver in 2015. Gauthier and St. Louis anchored the offensive line at center and right tackle and will return as starters in 2018. Their leadership will be key in continuing to fortify what has been one of Miami’s weaker position groups. Mahoney has provided important depth at offensive guard, and he turned in quality performances against Syracuse and North Carolina last year. It’s doubtful he will become a full time starter, but his role will remain critical at a position that typically deals with injuries throughout the season.
Still To Be Determined
Scott Patchan, Charles Perry
Unfortunately, injuries sometimes stunt the potential of players. This is the case with both Patchan and Perry who both came in as four star recruits but have fallen upon some bad luck in their careers. Patchan tore his ACL as a high school senior and then again in the spring of 2016. He has also been switched from defensive end to tight end and then back to defense once again. Hopefully he remains healthy in 2018 as his depth and upside at d-end will be relied upon. Perry on the other hand was able to work his way up from special teams to a rotational linebacker before he injured his left leg last November. Perry is talented and was making strides to possibly earn a starting linebacker role. Both of these players are undoubtedly talented and could very well have break out seasons in 2018.
Non-Factors/No Longer on Team
Terrance Henley, Evan Shirreffs, James King, Jerome Washington, Brendan Loftus, Ryan Fines, Robert Knowles, Jahair Jones, Bar Milo, Jamie Gordinier
There’s always attrition after a class is signed and the players enroll, but the class of 2015 seems to have had more defections than normal. Henley, Shirreffs, King, Washington, Loftus, and Fines have all left the Miami program to pursue playing opportunities elsewhere. All of them were somewhat questionable takes from the start and could never develop enough to become contributors. Jamie Gordinier left the Hurricanes program for more unfortunate reasons. After battling back from two knee injuries, he made the difficult decision of retiring from football. When healthy, he was emerging as a key reserve linebacker, but of course long term health is more important than the game of football.
Knowles, Jones, and Milo are still on the team. Knowles saw a fair amount of playing time last year, and even though he made some plays, he was largely an eye sore being caught out of position and being out-ran. Jones and Milo are likely to remain practice squad players, unable to ever make an impact on the offensive line.
All in all, the return on investment of this top 30 ranked class was a bit worse than what was expected. Only 45% of the 22 total signees ended up becoming impactful contributors. While injuries to certain players did limit the overall potential value of the class, there were just too many misses. Those whiffs and players who transferred are now manifesting themselves as missing depth pieces which Richt is trying to overcome. Credit is definitely due to the players in this class who have exemplified the best of Miami football and much is expected of the remainders who enter their senior years.