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Rebuilding The U: Canes’ roster talent increasing, nears “Blue Chip Ratio” standard

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How’s the talent on the roster for Miami? Good. Very good.

NCAA Football: Orange Bowl-Wisconsin vs Miami Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Two years ago (before the 2016 season), I wrote this piece looking at the road ahead for Mark Richt to rebuild Miami’s roster to a championship-contender level.

In looking at the standard, I went with SBNation Recruiting Analyst Bud Elliot’s “Blue Chip Ratio”, which is having more than half the scholarship roster be 4-star or 5-star recruits coming out of HS. With the scholarship limit 85 players, that means 43 players would need to be “Blue Chips” to meet that standard.

UPDATE: Here is the 2017 version of the Blue Chip Ratio piece, for a more current representation of the numbers heading into last season (the previous/first piece of this type was from 2014, and is slightly outdated because of its age, coming up on 5 full seasons ago)

Now, there could be 3-star players who develop into top tier players, and that has been case for Miami in recent years. Players such as RJ McIntosh, Kendrick Norton, Michael Pinckney and others have out performed their recruiting ranking at the college level. BUT, while we all know that can happen, that won’t be a part of this piece, which will stick strictly by the numbers.

So, now that you know what the standard is — 50% of the roster being “Blue Chip” recruits — where does Miami stand? Let’s take a look, position by position, at the team the Canes will field in 2018.

Miami Hurricanes Blue Chip Players, by position

Quarterback (2): N’Kosi Perry, Jarren Williams

I know what you’re thinking, but I went with the numbers. While starting QB Malik Rosier has the QB1 spot for now, the real talent at the position lies with Perry and Williams. Rosier and Cade Weldon are the other players at the position, with Rosier being the player who will likely play of the two. Whether this year or next, the future is bright with Miami’s most talented QBs yet to hit the field.

Running Back (5): Travis Homer, DeeJay Dallas, Lorenzo Lingard, Camron Davis, Realus George (fullback)

This position is stacked. L-O-A-D-E-D with talent. Homer was just short of 1,000 yards in 2017 after Mark Walton went down with a broken ankle. Dallas showed dynamic playmaking ability from RB, Wildcat QB, and slot WR. Lingard is a 5-star recruit — the only one on Miami’s roster currently — and a U.S. Army All-American. Davis was 1st team All-State in Florida in 2017. And George was the nation’s highest rated FB in the 2018 recruiting class.

Add in Trayone Gray, Robert Burns (who was once a 4-star before injuries plagued his last 2 years of HS and his RS year at Miami), and Crispian Atkins — a walk-on who was put on scholarship in 2017 with numbers at RB low — and Miami has even more talent than just the blue chippers at this position.

Wide Receiver (7): Lawrence Cager, Ahmmon Richards, Mike Harley, Jeff Thomas, Mark Pope, Brian Hightower, Marquez Ezzard

Miami’s WR corps is one of the deepest in America. On top of the 7 blue chip players listed, there are Dayall Harris, Darrell Langham, he of the game-winning catches at FSU and vs GT last year, and Evidence Njoku, the younger brother of former Canes star TE David Njoku.

This position is the prototype on how you stack classes and develop depth. Miami went from having just 2 “Blue Chips” at WR in 2016 to the above-listed 7 in 2018. I mean....that’s how you do it. And shoutout to WR coach Ron Dugans for making it happen.

Tight End (2): Brevin Jordan, Will Mallory

After losing Clive Walford, David Njoku, and Christopher Herndon IV to the NFL in recent years, along with a transfer or two, there is a dearth of talent returning at this position. Both of “Blue Chip” players listed are incoming freshmen, with Jordan being the nation’s top TE, and Mallory ranking 8th in the 2018 recruiting class.

Offensive Line (6): Tyree St. Louis, Bar Milo, Navaughn Donaldson, Kai-Leon Herbert, Delone Scaife, Cleveland Reed

Miami is developing nice depth along the O-Line, and it’s showing up on the field as well. Of the “Blue Chips” the most shocking name is clearly Bar Milo, a player who hasn’t played a meaningful snap in 3 years at Miami.

On top of these players, 3-stars such as Tyler Gauthier, Hayden Mahoney, and Corey Gaynor have developed into nice starters or rotation players for Miami (although they don’t count in the ratio for this piece).

Defensive Line (6): Gerald Willis III, Scott Patchan, Joe Jackson, Patrick Bethel, Jonathan Garvin, Nesta Silvera

This position would have better numbers if it weren’t for DJ Johnson having transferred out. RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton both left early for the NFL draft, but neither was a Blue Chip recruit, so that’s not a ding to the ratio, but their losses are big to the roster at large.

Linebacker (2): Zach McCloud, Shaquille Quarterman

I know, I expected Michael Pinckney to be on the list too, but by the rankings, he’s not. There’s been a lot of discussion about Miami’s recruiting at LB over the last 2 years, and the fact that there are only 2 players of “Blue Chip” caliber at this position group speaks to that. Obviously, I’m taking Pinckney — an honorable mention All-ACC player in 2017 — on my team, but more talent is needed here.

Cornerback (5): Jhavonte Dean, Trajan Bandy, Gilbert Frierson, Al Blades Jr, D.J. Ivey

Obviously missing from the “Blue Chip” list is 2nd Team All-ACC CB Michael Jackson. Additionally, the loss of Malek Young to a career-ending injury hurts the depth and talent at CB for Miami, as well. But, Miami has plenty of players that meet the standard, even if they don’t all stick at CB for the duration of their college careers.

Safety (3): Jaquan Johnson, Sheldrick Redwine, Gurvan Hall

Johnson is the franchise. Redwine, a former CB, was still a 4-star recruit. Hall is a top prospect who enrolled early in 2018. Players like Amari Carter and Derrick Smith also play snaps for Miami at S, but this position, like LB, could use more “Blue Chip” talent in the future.


Recap

Offensive “Blue Chips”: 22

Defensive “Blue Chips”: 16

Total “Blue Chips”: 38

With 80 players on scholarship at my last count — which you can see here in the scholarship matrix — that puts Miami at 47.5% “Blue Chips” on the roster. If you’ve been following recruiting for a while, you know that the ratio championship teams have is 50% of the roster or more being “Blue Chips”. So, Miami is well on the way there.

In the piece from Mark Richt’s first recruiting cycle, I said that Miami would hit the magic number, 50% blue chips, in 3 years. And, if not for a couple defections due to transfer and injury, Miami did just that.

Told y’all to listen to me.

Obviously, the other component to recruiting blue chip players is coaching and developing talent. There are several 3-stars on the roster who have grown into solid or even great college players, and that matters. Many South Florida HSFB recruits are underrated coming out of HS — that’s a conversation for another day — and they routinely outperform their ranking. Such is the case with players like Michael Pinckney and others on the Canes’ roster.

As an aside, one could argue that #5 ranked P Zach Feagles and #2 ranked K Bubba Baxa are “Blue Chips” at their respective positions and warrant inclusion as well. But, going strictly by the letter of the ratio, not the spirit thereof, we’ll leave specialists off the list. BUT, if you WANTED to include them, there’s an argument to do so.

With another recruiting class in the mold of those signed in 2017 and 2018, the Hurricanes should officially cross the 50% blue chip threshold heading into the 2019 season. Obviously, defections such as 4-star DE DJ Johnson leaving Miami for Oregon — with 3 years of eligibility left, no less — will need to stay to a minimum (read: 0), but the foundation of the roster is trending in a positive way.

47.5%

Championship roster, here we come.

Go Canes