The Hurricanes already have some pieces in place to put together an offensive line class that could go toe-to-toe with any haul they’ve brought onto campus in recent history.
The class features Jalen Rivers, the 151st ranked player in the country according to the 247 Composite ratings, Antonio Smith, a guard from Vanguard High School in Ocala, and Chris Washington, a 6’7 tackle out of Nashville that fits the mold of the type of athletic offensive lineman coach Butch Barry wants to bring in.
Apart from Rivers, it’s nothing to write home about — yet. But as I said, the pieces are in place. Washington has the frame that schools like Iowa and Wisconsin recruit and build up into their prototypical maulers that they have become so great at producing.
There isn’t much, if any, bad weight on the kid which allows strength and conditioning coach David Feely to beef him up rather than slim him down. That’s the ideal process when it comes to developing offensive lineman in my opinion.
Look no further than true freshman Zion Nelson, who came to Miami ridiculously thin for an offensive lineman and has gained a substantial amount of weight since arriving in January. In fact, it’s not even far-fetched to say that he could potentially be our starting left tackle — or at the very least be a regular member of the Hurricanes rotation from day one.
Moving forward, the Nelson’s and Washington’s should be the poster boys of recruiting the line going forward. There isn’t always top tier talent down here in South Florida, so finding those guys elsewhere and identifying them is key to building up one of the weakest units on the team.
And speaking of South Florida rarely having top tier talent on the offensive line, they have one this cycle and he has recently opened up his recruitment by decommitting from South Carolina.
Issiah Walker is a 6’4 tackle out of Miami Norland and he has to be the number one priority moving forward. He is a phenomenal player at a position of need that goes to school just four minutes away from Hard Rock Stadium.
On top of that Larry Blustein of Blustein Recruiting, who has been around the high school football scene in South Florida for a very, very long time said in an interview on the Storm Surge podcast that he believes Walker will be walking across the NFL Draft stage as a first round pick when his time comes.
And the interest is certainly mutual between Walker and the Hurricanes. He has been on Miami’s campus multiple times and was wearing a Canes bracelet as he checked into The Opening Finals in Frisco, Texas last week.
I had an amazing time today pic.twitter.com/TbPGPHwiI5— Issiah Walker 〽️ (@walker_issiah) June 16, 2019
So, IF Miami were to go the distance with Walker, beating out Florida and others for his talents, how would this offensive line class compare to others?
The 2018 class featured DJ Scaife and Cleveland Reed, who were ranked 149th and 259th respectively. That was a solid haul, but Rivers and Walker would be a better class in my opinion. Walker is currently rated as the 149th player on the Composite, but will likely get a bump after performing well at The Opening.
Gervon Dexter rushing against Issiah Walker pic.twitter.com/DBV7whU0SF— Clint Brewster (@clintbrew247) July 3, 2019
OT Issiah Walker Jr. in 1on1 drills at The Opening Finals pic.twitter.com/ZUk8h2G4p9— Luke Stampini (@LukeStampini) July 3, 2019
Navaughn Donaldson and Kai-Leon Herbert were two highly ranked guys in the class prior to Scaife and Reed, and, similarly, only one has actually contributed. Donaldson has been a regular starter for the Hurricanes since he got on campus.
The KC McDermott and Trevor Darling class in 2014 is going to be tough to beat. From a recruiting standpoint, both were top 100 players nationally and they were both South Florida kids. It was a home run class for Al Golden that simply didn't result in anything overly productive from either of them.
The last class I will highlight is the 2010 Seantrel Henderson class simply because he was the number two player in the entire country and is the second highest rated guy Miami has ever signed behind D.J. Williams in 2000.
The class also featured Brandon Linder, who was the 139th ranked player out of St. Thomas Aquinas and has 54 career starts in six years for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Jon Feliciano, who wasn't ranked high but had a productive college career and is currently playing for the Buffalo Bills, and Shane McDermott, who is the older brother of KC and was a 2014 First Team All-ACC center.
That being said, a class featuring Walker and Rivers would at the very least be the best class the Hurricanes have had since Mark Richt took over and, based on productivity, could be the best class they have had since 2010 if they both turn out to be as productive at the next level as people believe they can be.
For now, Manny Diaz, Butch Barry, and company have to put on the full court press for Walker and solidify a weak position for the future.