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Reviewing Miami’s 5-Star Signees of the Past 20 Classes: Part IV

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The lean years: the six 5-stars Miami has signed over the past 11 classes

NCAA Football: ACC Championship-Clemson vs Miami
Miami’s Chad Thomas (9) looks to tackle Clemson’s Adam Choice (26) during the ACC Championship Game in 2017. Thomas was a 5-star recruit according to 247Sports.
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

While it seemed Miami was frequently signing 247Sports.com 5-star prospects in the 2000s, things have greatly slowed down for the Hurricanes in that regard since their top ranked recruiting class in 2008.

Miami has signed just six 5-star prospects in the last 11 recruiting classes (2009-2019) after signing 18 5-stars in the nine classes previous to that (2000-2008).

This series has taken a look at all 24 5-star prospects Miami has signed in the last 20 recruiting classes.

If you missed Part I, click here to see which former Cane (who holds 10 NFL records) is on top of this list.

If you missed Part II, click here to get caught up on which former Cane was voted “the most over-hyped college football player since 2000” by 247sports.

Part III dove into six more 5-star players, including one turned reality television personality.

Check below for the review and ranking of the final six and the entire list of 24 players from top to bottom.

2010 Recruiting Class

Seantrel Henderson, OT, Saint Paul (Mn.)-Cretin Durham Hall

As a Prep: Henderson became the first offensive lineman to ever win the USA Today High School Offensive Player of the Year award in 2009. He was named the Junior of the Year by rivals.com in 2008 and was a first team All-American according to USA Today in both his junior and senior seasons. Henderson did not allow a sack in 250 pass attempts his senior year. He was the No.2 overall player in the Class of 2010 according to 247Sports and the top offensive tackle.

With the Hurricanes: Henderson played immediately at Miami as a true freshman in 12 games and started nine of them, playing mostly at right tackle. He was named a Freshman All-American by rivals.com for his efforts. Things went awry from there for Henderson as he missed time in 2011 as he was recovering from off-season back surgery. He was suspended for violating team policy (which he later admitted was marijuana-related) during 2012 spring football and then was in a car accident in August 2012 that caused him to miss the first 12 practices of the season because of a concussion. He wound up starting just seven games during his junior year at Miami and opted to return for his senior year in 2013 rather than go pro. He played in all 12 games in 2013, starting eight, and was named third team All-ACC.

In the Pros: Henderson was selected with the 237th overall pick of the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills. He started all 16 games at right tackle for the Bills in 2014 before missing significant time in 2015 after being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. Henderson had two operations to reattach his intestines in 2016 and wound up being suspended four games and 10 games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy on two different occasions. Henderson admitted that he used marijuana to deal with his pain from Crohn’s Disease and his two surgeries. His lawyer told the NFL Network that Henderson could not take painkillers because of the way his intestines were after the surgeries. He played in seven games for the Bills in 2017 before signing with the Houston Texans for the 2018 season. He started the season opener at right tackle but broke his ankle and was placed on injured reserve. In January 2019, Henderson signed a 1-year contract extension with the Texans.

Ranking: 10 of 24. Lots of ups and downs for Henderson both at Miami and in the NFL. Staying healthy proved to be hard in both places for Henderson and staying away from marijuana has as well. Henderson is entering his sixth year of NFL football and tenth after high school so he is by no means a flop but expectations were higher for the mammoth offensive tackle.

2011 Recruiting Class

Anthony Chickillo, DL, Tampa-Alonso

As a Prep: Chickillo made 140 tackles, had 18 sacks and also had two interceptions as a senior for Alonso. As a junior in just six games, he made 80 tackles and also had 12.5 sacks. Chickillo was named the MVP of the Under Armour All-American game in 2011.

With the Hurricanes: Chickillo may have one of the oddest stories of any Miami Hurricane who did not have injury problems with the program. He started 47 games, made 171 tackles and had 14.5 sacks in four seasons at Miami but was forced to gain weight he did not want to and play out of position, according to The Athletic. Chickillo told The Athletic that Al Golden and defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio “turned (his) dream into a nightmare” because of forcing him to be at a higher weight than he wished and to play defensive tackle. Chickillo was a consistent contributor all four years at Miami but could never break out like he wanted to because of his extra weight and defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio’s scheme.

In the Pros: Chickillo was drafted with the 212th overall pick of the sixth round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. After leaving Miami, he lost the extra weight mandated by Miami’s coaches and has moved to outside linebacker for the Steelers. He has created a role for himself on Pittsburgh’s defense, playing in 47 of their last 48 games and racking up 62 tackles and seven sacks during that span. In March, the Steelers re-signed Chickillo to a 2-year deal that will keep him with the team through the 2020 season.

Ranking: 9 of 24. Chickillo was held back more by Miami’s coaching staff than arguably anybody on this list. He still had a serviceable Hurricane career and is set to embark on his fifth NFL season this fall. Who knows what Chickillo might have done had he been permitted to slim down and play a different position like he wanted to at Miami.

2012 Recruiting Class

Duke Johnson, RB, Miami-Norland

As a Prep: Johnson rushed for 1,957 yards during his senior season in 2011 for Norland. He also accounted for 36 touchdowns (29 rushing, three receiving, three kick return, one punt return) in leading the Vikings to the Class 5A state championship. Johnson played in the 2012 Under Armour All-American Game.

With the Hurricanes: Johnson (3,519 yards) is Miami’s all-time leading rusher, passing Ottis Anderson in 2014 despite playing one less season in a Hurricane uniform. He also holds the second-highest single-season rushing total in school history when he rushed for 1,652 yards in 2014. Johnson could have totaled 4,000+ for his career had he not broken his ankle in 2013 against Florida State and missed five games. Johnson finished his Miami career with 30 total touchdowns. He was named the ACC Rookie of the Year and Offensive Rookie of the Year for the ACC in 2012. In addition to his 1,652 rushing yards in 2014, Johnson also added 38 receptions for 421 yards to total 2,073 yards and 13 touchdowns total from scrimmage in his final season with Miami.

In the Pros: Johnson was drafted with the 77th overall pick of the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. He is entering his fifth season with the Browns this fall and has played in all 64 games with the team thus far compiling 1,286 rushing yards, 2,170 receiving yards and 13 total touchdowns. Johnson is under contract with the Browns through the 2021 season after signing a 3-year extension last summer but told ESPN during mini-camp this year that he wants to be traded.

Ranking: 5 of 24. Not many players on this list had a better college career at Miami than Johnson. Being an all-time leader at your position and scoring 30 touchdowns gets you in the top five on this list. How things work out with Johnson’s trade request and how whatever team he winds up on uses him will ultimately end determining how he will leave his NFL legacy.

Tracy Howard, DB, Miramar

As a Prep: Howard made 50 tackles and 10 interceptions as a senior in 2011. As a junior, he registered 45 tackles, four interceptions and a forced fumble. He made 81 tackles as a sophomore in 2009 and helped lead Miramar to the Class 6A state championship. Howard played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in 2012.

With the Hurricanes: Howard made 104 tackles and had five interceptions in his UM career. He played in 47 games at Miami, so he stayed relatively healthy compared to many players on this list. His best season by far with the Hurricanes was his sophomore year in 2013 when he started 12 games, made 38 tackles, had four interceptions and a defensive touchdown. But Howard lost his starting role to Corn Elder in 2014 and only made one start—the Duck Commander Independence Bowl loss to South Carolina. Howard started eight games his senior year in 2015 and finished with 29 tackles and four pass defenses.

In the Pros: Howard went undrafted in the 2016 NFL Draft and signed as a free agent with the Cleveland Browns. He played 15 games with the Browns in 2016, making 20 tackles. He was released by Cleveland prior to the 2017 season and signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was let go by Jacksonville prior to the 2017 season beginning. The Miami Dolphins signed Howard in 2018 but he was let go later that year after he failed a physical. The Athletic recently reported that a pelvis injury suffered while on the practice squad with the Dolphins ended his career.

Ranking: 13 of 24. Howard fell victim to not properly fitting into defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio’s passive defensive scheme. Many Hurricanes fans wonder what Howard could have been like at UM if he were permitted to play more man coverage and be more aggressive on the outside. Instead, he saw limited time as an upperclassmen and never reached his potential at Miami or in the NFL.

2014 Recruiting Class

Chad Thomas, DE, Miami-Booker T. Washington

As a Prep: Thomas helped lead Booker T. Washington to back-to-back Class 4A state championships in 2012 and 2013. He tallied 71 tackles and eight sacks as a senior and recorded 57 tackles and six sacks as a junior. He was named second team All-American by USA Today and played in the Under Armour All-American Game his senior year.

With the Hurricanes: Like Chickillo, Thomas also was held back by playing in former defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio’s passive defensive scheme. As a freshman and sophomore, Thomas had just 25 tackles and one sack combined. When Manny Diaz took over the defense in 2016, Thomas broke out with 37 tackles and 4.5 sacks. He put up similar numbers his senior year as he finished with 41 tackles and 4.5 sacks after starting all 13 games.

In the Pros: Thomas was drafted with the 67th overall pick of the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. Thomas appeared in four games for the Browns last season. He suffered a groin injury in mini-camp and missed the opportunity to workout with the team in the preseason while rehabbing. He is expected to be a contributor for the Browns this season.

Ranking: 11 of 24. Thomas still has good years ahead of him in the NFL after losing a couple of good years playing in D’Onofrio’s scheme. After making the shift to Diaz’s attacking defense, he came into his own and lived up to some of the expectations coming out of high school.

2018 Recruiting Class

Lorenzo Lingard, RB, Orange City-University

As a Prep: Lingard rushed for over 2,500 yards in his high school career, including 1,701 yards and 26 touchdowns as a senior. He was named the Gatorade Florida Player of the Year in 2017. He played in the 2018 U.S. Army All-American Bowl and was a consensus 5-star prospect by 247Sports, Rivals and ESPN.

With the Hurricanes: Lingard is entering his true sophomore season with Miami this fall so the jury is largely still out. He rushed 17 times for 136 yards and two touchdowns before suffering a season-ending knee injury during practice. His 64-yard touchdown run against Savannah State showed his potential and his explosiveness that he had prior to getting injured. Lingard figures to compete with fellow sophomore Cam’ron Harris for playing time behind junior DeeJay Dallas in Miami’s backfield this season.

In the Pros: Lingard will be eligible for the 2021 NFL Draft, which means he has at least two more seasons left in college.

Ranking: 15 of 24. Lingard is the toughest 5-star on this list to rank since we only have six games of college statistics to go off of. He has all the tools to be an elite player at Miami, but so did a lot of players on this list. Lingard can take a giant step forward this season by being reliable behind DeeJay Dallas and staying healthy for the entire year.

The Entire List

1. Devin Hester, ATH, West Palm Beach-Suncoast: As if the high school and UM stats weren’t enough, the South Florida legend has 10(!) NFL records to his name. That should be enough to get him in the NFL Hall of Fame one day and is enough to get him on top of this list. Hester was a human highlight reel dating all the way back to his days at Suncoast up until his NFL retirement. Miami has not seen a player as uniquely talented as Hester since he left and may never again. The energy that Hester brought to the teams he played was unmatched.

2. Willis McGahee, RB, Miami-Central: McGahee’s 2002 season for Miami will never be forgotten. Had Ken Dorsey not had the season he did, McGahee could have beaten out Carson Palmer for the Heisman Trophy. His lengthy NFL career after totally reconstructing his knee speaks to his work ethic and dedication to be the best. McGahee was inducted into the UM Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.

3. DJ Williams, LB, Concord (Ca.)-De La Salle: Williams’ lengthy NFL career and accolades with the Broncos on top of his contributions at Miami puts him in the top three here. Making the switch to linebacker after the 2000 season at Miami proved to be an outstanding decision for Williams.

4. Greg Olsen, TE, Wayne (N.J.)-Wayne Hills: Olsen is one of the few players on this list to exceed lofty expectations. He posted two unbelievable seasons at Miami before going pro and his 12-year professional career speaks for itself. Olsen also donated $100,000 to Miami’s Indoor Practice Facility campaign in February 2018. One of Miami’s top alums in more ways than one.

5. Duke Johnson, RB, Miami-Norland: Not many players on this list had a better college career at Miami than Johnson. Being an all-time leader at your position and scoring 30 touchdowns gets you in the top five on this list. How things work out with Johnson’s trade request and how whatever team he winds up on uses him will ultimately end determining how he will leave his NFL legacy.

6. Kenny Phillips, DB, Miami-Carol City: Phillips came to Miami with high expectations as a local 5-star player and exceeded those expectations because of his high level of play in his three seasons in Coral Gables. He had a promising NFL career that was cut short because of injuries but still was a force to be reckoned with in the back of the Giants’ defense when healthy.

7. Brandon Harris, DB, Miami-Booker T. Washington: Harris was as solid as you can be at Miami for three years but never found the sustained success he was looking for in the NFL. Starting 32 of 39 games at Miami and playing in all of those games puts him ahead of a good portion of the 5-stars on this list.

8. Leon Williams, LB, Brooklyn (N.Y.)-Canarsie: Williams certainly didn’t have bad Miami or professional careers. But when the pundits say you are the best college prospect to come out of New York City in 25 years, expectations run a little higher. Williams just sort of got lost in the shuffle on some talented teams at Miami.

9. Anthony Chickillo, DE, Tampa Alonso: Chickillo was held back more by Miami’s coaching staff than arguably anybody on this list. He still had a serviceable Hurricane career and is set to embark on his fifth NFL season this fall. Who knows what Chickillo might have done had he been permitted to slim down and play a different position like he wanted to at Miami.

10. Seantrel Henderson, OT, Saint Paul (Mn.)-Cretin Durham Hall: Lots of ups and downs for Henderson both at Miami and in the NFL. Staying healthy proved to be hard in both places for Henderson and staying away from marijuana has as well. Henderson is entering his sixth year of NFL football and tenth after high school so he is by no means a flop but expectations were higher for the mammoth offensive tackle.

11. Chad Thomas, DE, Miami-Booker T. Washington: Thomas still has good years ahead of him in the NFL after losing a couple of good years playing in D’Onofrio’s scheme. After making the shift to Diaz’s attacking defense, he came into his own and lived up to some of the expectations coming out of high school.

12. Tyrone Moss, RB, Pompano Beach-Blanche Ely: When Moss was healthy, he was on pace to be one of the top three running backs in the history of the University of Miami. His knee injury in November 2005 unfortunately derailed his career and his battle with his weight, which ultimately ended up causing him health problems that took his life last summer.

13. Tracy Howard, DB, Miramar: Howard fell victim to not properly fitting into defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio’s passive defensive scheme. Many Hurricanes fan wonder what Howard could have been like at UM if he were permitted to play more man coverage and be more aggressive on the outside. Instead, he saw limited time as an upperclassmen and never reached his potential at Miami or in the NFL.

14. Marcus Forston, DT, Miami-Northwestern: Expectations were sky high at Miami for Forston coming off a high school national championship and his dominant performance at Northwestern. He contributed in two of his four seasons at Miami but never rose to the level many thought he would in dominating games consistently. His minimal NFL resume is a reflection of that.

15. Lorenzo Lingard, RB, Orange City-University: Lingard is the toughest 5-star to rank since we only have six games of college statistics to go off of. He has all the tools to be an elite player at Miami, but so did a lot of players on this list. Lingard can take a giant step forward this season by being reliable behind DeeJay Dallas and staying healthy for the entire year.

16. Arthur Brown, Wichita (Ks.)- Wichita East: Brown’s contributions at Miami and in the NFL were minimal compared to many on this list. But his two-year stint at Kansas State was elite and can’t be totally ignored. It certainly will make you wonder what could have been for Brown and the Hurricanes’ defense had he not left Miami.

17. Reggie Youngblood, OT, Houston (Tx.)-Booker T. Washington: While some might say that Youngblood’s celebrity exploits are impressive, that doesn’t help him much on this list. His battles with injuries at UM greatly limited his ability to positively contribute to the sub-par offensive lines Miami had during his tenure. The injuries also likely kept him from reaching his potential and making an NFL roster as well.

18. Lance Leggett, WR, Arlington (Tx.)-Grace Prep: Leggett’s junior season at Miami was a flash of what he could become with the Hurricanes or in the professional ranks but he never again reached that potential.

19. Charlie Jones, RB, Homestead-South Dade: Jones did not enter Miami with as high of expectations as many on this list but he failed to ever win the starting running back job in training camp and really only played in relief and injury-replacement roles.

20. Ryan Moore, WR, Orlando-Dr. Phillips: Moore’s disciplinary troubles and injuries derailed what could have been a promising career after an encouraging redshirt freshman season at Miami. Perhaps Moore’s biggest impact on the Hurricane program is his claim that he was the first football player to flash “The U” with his hand in celebration during a game. In an article with 247Sports, he claims he did this during the 2004 Peach Bowl against Florida and it caught on with teammates and fans from there.

21. Kyle Wright, QB, Danville (Ca.)-Monte Vista: Wright was billed as the next Ken Dorsey as he was the No.1 QB prospect in the country by most scouting services and a fellow Californian. Needless to say, nearly throwing as many interceptions as touchdowns and not winning the starting job his senior year out of training camp didn’t quite fill Dorsey’s shoes.

22. Dajleon Farr, Houston (Tx.)-North Shore: Farr was one of the tight ends tasked with carrying on the “Tight End U” tradition in the mid-2000’s and failed to do so. Making just 10 catches in three seasons at Miami as a 5-star recruit while having minimal injury problems with the Hurricanes is almost inconceivable. His struggles weren’t entirely his fault however as Miami’s offense was historically bad at times during his tenure.

23. Willie Dixon, WR, Stockton (Ca.)-Brookside Christian: A 5-star who never records a statistic at Miami and he isn’t last on this list? Dixon being from California helped keep expectations lower despite his high school achievements. That can’t be said for the 24th ranked player on this list.

24. Willie Williams, LB, Miami-Carol City: With the hype surrounding Williams because of his prep glory and recruiting diary exploits, he had extremely high expectations entering Miami. Making just 36 tackles in one season played with the Hurricanes did not even sniff exceeding those expectations. Williams had the potential to be one of the best players in the history of Miami and go onto a stellar NFL career. However, his knee injury and poor choices prevented that from happening. Last summer, 247Sports voted him the most overhyped player in college football since 2000.

What are your thoughts on the list as a whole? Leave them in the comment section below.