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The Recruiting Rules Recap for Miami’s 2019 recruiting class

Let’s see how things stacked up between the Recruiting Rules in theory and Miami’s recruiting class in practice.

State of the U illustration by Mike Meredith

Over the summer, I published a feature entitled The Recruiting Rules. (Click the link. Trust me). It’s a handy guide for how teams build championship caliber rosters. If you haven’t read The Recruiting Rules yet and you’re a recruiting fan, you’re missing out. And I’m saying that both because I wrote it AND it’s really good. So, you should read it.

Here’s what I’m setting out to do today: I’m taking my theory from The Recruiting Rules for the optimal way things are supposed to go and evaluating how Miami’s 2019 class stacked up to the prescribed way teams should build rosters. Simple, right? I thought so too.

With no further ado, here we go:

Recruiting Rule #1 - Get a QB every year

After missing on the only QB target of the year when the previous staff was here, Miami’s new staff — really, OC/QB coach Dan Enos — made the quick move once hired to lock in Houston (TX) St. Thomas 3-star QB Peyton Matocha in this class.

This year’s QB signee: Peyton Matocha
Matocha’s twitter accout

Matocha put up big numbers in HS — nearly 3700 yards and 35 TDs passing to go along with nearly 800 yards and 14 TDs rushing — but it wasn’t against the greatest competition in the world. Matocha has good size at 6’4” 204lbs and has high jumped 6’8” as a track athlete as well, so there’s good athletic potential there, too.

Insofar as this Recruiting Rule, Miami did what they needed to do. The standard is to get a QB every year, without fail, and Miami did just that. And, in a year where the available QBs from the HS ranks wasn’t the greatest, getting a system fit player with decent potential down the line is about the best that one could ask for, ESPECIALLY to get that job done in only a couple of weeks with the new staff in place.

Why does this matter? Really, in Miami’s case, because the QB position was one of the worst in CFB last year. Adding talent to this group was a necessity. Matocha might not raise the ceiling at QB, but his addition should raise the floor considerably. Couple his addition with a year of development for the returning QBs, a new scheme to hopefully highlight their strengths, and the doubly added bonus of a 5-star QB transfer — former Ohio State QB Tate Martell — and now you’re cooking with gas.

This was about as good a job as possible given the dearth of talent and short time frame in which Miami’s new staff had to recruit QBs. Bravo.

Recruiting Rule #2 - Communication is Key

This rule isn’t as cut and dry as the first rule, but it still matters.

Miami was obviously and clearly in communication with all 17 players that signed NLIs, and several other top targets who elected to go elsewhere. Though the school cannot comment on specific players per NCAA rules, the players routinely mentioned the contact and communication with Miami staffers throughout the process.

The thing about communication, however, is that it’s just words. Actions — visits, commitments — are the payoff for that relationship building, but in a few cases, that never came. There were a few players this cycle — DL Braylen Ingraham, DE Khris Bogle, RB Kenny McIntosh, and more — who were hours if not days from committing to Miami at one time. But, that didn’t happen, so all that communication, while good, didn’t pay off.

Additionally, several players said they had interest in Miami with varying levels of communication, but nothing tangible — visit or otherwise — ever materialized. The most notable player on this list was 5-star OT Darnell Wright. He routinely stated in interviews that Miami was one of his top 3-5 schools, but when asked about a visit, Wright was always cryptically elusive. So, communication mattered to get Miami on Wright’s radar (maybe?) but it pretty much ended there.

With every player that Miami signed, and the many they did not, communication was constant between school and player. But, due to other factors (which we’ll get into as this piece continues), things didn’t go as well as they could have this year.

Recruiting Rule #3 - Recruit Locally first, then Nationally

Whereas Miami was 100% able to abide by Rule #1, the Canes failed in their pursuit to do the same with Rule #3.

Miami STARTED by recruiting a ton of local kids, same as with 2018, and the early foundation of the 2019 class was based on local prospects. And there were plenty of additional local SoFLA players that Miami was recruiting to add depth and talent to the roster.

And then the decommitments started.

Of Miami’s 17 decommitments in the 2019 recruiting class, 4 players — 4-star CB Akeem Dent (FSU), 4-star LB Anthony Solomon (Michigan), 4-star S Cornelius Nunn (Syracuse flipped to Miami flipped back to Syracuse), 3-star CB Jarvis Brownlee (FSU) — were from South Florida. Add in players who were dropped from this class — WR Breion Fuller, OL/DL Renato Brown, DL Jason Munoz, S/LB Diamante Howard — and that’s 8 local players there. Another decommit — LB Samuel Brooks — ended up recommitting and signing with Miami, so that should take the functional number down to 16 decommits.

But, like I just listed, 8 of them were from South Florida. Miami obviously wanted the first group of players more than the second group, but they all still count.

And then the whiffs happened. Man. ALL the whiffs happened.

On top of the previously listed decommitments and drops, Miami whiffed time and time again on local players of quality. This has been a struggle for Miami in recent years, as plenty of top talent has elected to go out of state to the likes of Alabama, Clemson, and Georgia, after Miami had spent countless hours and resources recruiting the players.

In 2019, the list of blue chip players from the local South Florida area who spurned Miami to go elsewhere — in or out of state — is staggering. Here we go: 4-star DB Tyrique Stevenson (Georgia), 4-star WR Frank Ladson (Clemson), 4-star S Jordan Battle (Ohio State, flipped to Alabama), 4-star DB Kaiir Elam (Florida, but he’s a legacy), 4-star CB Akeem Dent (FSU), 4-star DE Khris Bogle (Alabama, flipped to Florida), 4-star ATH Mark-Antony Richards (Auburn), 4-star WR John Dunmore (Penn State), 4-star DL Braylen Ingraham (Alabama), 4-star OL Dontae Lucas (FSU) — yes he counts since he’s FROM Miami, even though he played his senior year at IMG Academy — and 4-star RB Kenny McIntosh (Georgia).

Look at that list again. All of those players are from the Tri-County (West Palm Beach, Broward, Dade) area. Miami going 0-for-11 out of that group is BAADDDDDDDD. Really bad. Terrible, even. Just think what 1 or 2 of those players being added to this class an roster could have meant. But...that’s not what happened. Instead, it was strikeout central for the Canes with the majority of top local talent in this class.

Now, to be fair, Miami did pull in 4-star DE Jahfari Harvey (West Palm Beach), and teammates 4-star S Keontra Smith and 4-star CB Te’Cory Couch (Broward) from the local SoFLA area. But that’s it. And even though those guys are good, that’s 3/14 on the blue chips out of the tri-county area is horrific.

And, on top of that, Miami signed only ONE player from Miami-Dade county: 3-star LB Samuel Brooks. For The University of Miami to have only one player in this class from Dade County is laughable. And it speaks to the malaise of Mark Richt and the lack of momentum the 2018 season begat on the trail.

SB Nation National Recruiting Analyst Bud Elliott annually asks the question “who recruited the state of Florida the best?” I hate to inform you guys, but it was most decidedly NOT Miami in the 2019 recruiting cycle.

Because of the misses locally with the list of players I’ve already discussed (and several other targets from elsewhere around the State of Florida), Miami had to lean more heavily on the National side of their recruiting to find players for this class. The Canes were able to leverage some relationships elsewhere (Georgia, New York) to pull in talent. And that’s good. But when the 9 of your 17 signees are from Out of State, that isn’t the greatest ratio in the world.

So yeah.....Miami and Recruiting Rule #3 were not good friends, or friends at all, in the 2019 recruiting class. It was BAD bad, you guys.

Recruiting Rule #4 - Size Matters

On the numbers, Miami did okay on Recruiting Rule #4. The Canes were able to pull in 5 DL, 3 OL, and an H-Back Tight End. That’s not the greatest number of players along the line, but it’s not bad.

When you look at the DL, 4-stars Jahfari Harvey and Jason Blissett are freaks. Cam Williams is long and lithely built but knows how to get after the QB. Jalar Holley is a stout player. And Jared Harrison-Hunte is super athletic and could be a steal. That group of linemen would have been bolstered by an additional body or two, but that’s not bad.

On the OL, there are some nice prospects, but they are all a year (maybe 2? maybe more?) away from being rotation players let alone starters on the Canes’ OL. This is the position where misses and flips hurt the most.

Miami missed on 5-star OT Evan Neal after being all-in on him as their #1 target. And commits Kingsley Eguakun and Michael Tarquin BOTH flipped from Miami to Florida. None of that is good, and the lowest ranked of those players — Eguakun — was more highly ranked than any lineman Miami signed this year. So yeah, not the greatest OL haul in the world.

But, getting 8 linemen + an H-Back means there are at least bodies coming on to the roster, more on defense than offense, so it’s better than nothing. But, it wasn’t the optimal haul — that would have needed more numbers AND a big higher quality, especially on the OL side of things — to really fit this Recruiting Rule, either.

Recruiting Rule #5 - Speed Kills

Miami actually did a decent job fulfilling this Recruiting Rule, but not in a traditional way you might think.

Traditionally, when you think about Speed Kills, you think about skill players. Santana Moss. Devin Hester. Sam Shields. Artie Burns. Darryl Jones. Roscoe Parrish. Lorenzo Lingard. Jeff Thomas. Mark Pope. Guys who play (mainly) on the outside of the offensive or defensive formation who can just BURN.

For Miami, the lone WR in this class, Jeremiah Payton, has about average speed. Same could be said for the DBs — Te’Cory Couch, Keontra Smith, and Christian Williams. So, on first glance, there isn’t the gamebreaking straight-line speed that is most normally associated with this rule.

Where Miami was able to get speed in this class was in non-standard speed positions. LB Avery Huff is VERY fast for his position. The same is true for DT Jason Blissett, whose short area quickness (and even straight-line speed for a man his size) is in the top 90-95%. Fellow DT Jared Harrison-Hunte is a former basketball player who is INCREDIBLY athletic for his size, and that goes with being faster and more agile than most 284lb players you’ll see. Even QB Peyton Matocha, though he’s not Michael Vick in terms of speed, is faster than most QBs you’ll find, and is arguably the fastest player on the roster at the position. And, being a 6’8” high jumper in HS, Matocha is plenty athletic, too.

As evidenced by the recruiting this year, Miami added fast, athletic players at position where those guys are hard to find and few to come by. That still added speed to the roster, but in a unique way for this cycle.

So, the Canes kinda fulfilled this rule, but not in the way most would normally think. Which is good, the creativity to get speed on the roster in non-standard ways. But also bad, because they were unable to get speed on the roster in the traditional way, which is the spirit of the rule, yanno?

Recruiting Rule #6 - Follow the visits

This Recruiting Rule is the payoff for Rule #2 about communication. Talk is what builds relationships between coaches and players, but the visits are the tangible evidence of real connection in recruiting.

Under Mark Richt, Miami wanted to get the last visit for each player, if possible, so as to build momentum from their trip to Coral Gables into their decision date. But, Miami may have missed their window to make moves with several players this cycle by trying to wait too long, and then by the time the visit happened, things had already been decided, and those decisions didn’t include Miami.

Visits to Coral Gables were instrumental in Miami getting several players to sign. Sam Brooks recommitted on a visit. Jakai Clark, Adam ElGammal, Peyton Matocha, Zion Nelson and Christian Williams committed on or after visits.

But, Miami also missed on several players who visited. DE Khris Bogle visited Miami 50 11 times, and spurned Miami two DIFFERENT times, with commitments to Alabama and Florida coming after spending time in Miami. DE JJ Weaver picked Kentucky after visiting Miami and then going to Kentucky (so the visits, and order of visits, mattered).

In the end, following the visits, both to Miami and elsewhere, told a big part of the story of Miami’s 2019 recruiting class. The next step for Miami is to figure out a way to leverage the visits to Coral Gables into more tangible results for the Canes’ recruiting efforts.

Recruiting Rule #7 - Stack elite classes

After the 8th ranked class in America in 2018, Miami slipped to 28th in 2019. I’ve already talked at length about Miami’s inability to add top players, especially top local players to the roster in this class. I mean, what else is there to say, really?

So, no, Miami was not able to fulfill this Recruiting Rule this year.

Recruiting Rule #8 - Recruit to your strengths

Miami did follow this Recruiting Rule...kinda.

It was hard to have many strengths to recruit to this year because the season was so bad, and coupled with the expectations heading into the year, that made it almost doubly bad on the trail.

After missing on a metric ton of local talent, Miami leveraged relationships and connections out of state for linemen. 6 of the 8 signees on OL and DL were from other States (Georgia, South Carolina, New York). Knowing where to go to get players who could sign was a good thing, and that recruited to the strength of the staff.

Also, Miami hit Jacksonville hard with former TE coach Todd Hartley. WR Jeremiah Payton, the highest rated offensive signee this year, hails from the Jacksonville area, and Hartley’s connections to that area were a key reason why Payton picked the Canes.

Obviously, the downward trajectory of the program throughout the 2018 season kind of killed some of the built in strengths Miami has in recruiting — connection to local talent being the biggest one — and that will (hopefully?) improve in the future.

Recruiting Rule #9 - Win

Whether you’re looking on the field or on the recruiting trail, Miami’s wins were modest in number. A 7-6 record on the field for a preseason top-10 team isn’t good enough. And the recruiting in this cycle showed that to be true.

As you read the quote on the right, the unsaid part of things is that the inverse is also true. Losing is NOT the goal. Losing feels bad. Losing (usually) looks bad — and BOY did Miami’s losses look TERRIBLE in 2018. Losing just makes everything worse. And, for recruiting, that’s a bad thing.

Miami won 10 games in 2017. Miami’s 2018 recruiting class ranked 8th nationally.

Miami won 7 games in 2018, and lost a bunch of games badly while looking horrible along the way. Miami’s 2019 recruiting class ranked 28th nationally — and that took a couple late additions to get it even that high.

There was a direct correlation, at least in Miami’s case, of W/L record and recruiting success. Other staffs were able to overcome bad seasons with good (or better) classes. Hell, Florida State went 5-7 and looked like TRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAASH nearly every time anyone watched them, and they had a top 15 recruiting class.

Miami unequivocally did not fulfill this Recruiting Rule, neither on the field nor on the recruiting trail. And now that means that the Canes GOTTA produce in 2019 season and 2020 class.

Those are my thoughts on how Miami was able to enact The Recruiting Rules in 2019. What are yours, friends? Hop in the comments and let me know what you think.

Go Canes