A couple years ago (crazy, but true), I wrote 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 2021 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
Miami not only got a QB in this class, they got a REALLY GOOD QB in this class.
A top 50 player in the 2021 recruiting class, former USC commit Jake Garcia finally completed the flip and signed with the Miami Hurricanes on the first day of the Early Signing Period in December.
Welcome to the U, Jake Garcia. Miami gets their 2021 QB as @jakegarcia14 completes the flip from USC and announces his commitment to the #Canes on the first day of the Early Signing Period. (LOL and FSU thought they had a chance. LMAOOOOO. Suckers.) #TheU https://t.co/USJHuT4yBv pic.twitter.com/DoGAmUSLQP— StateOfTheU.com (@TheStateOfTheU) December 17, 2020
Garcia has played at multiple schools, both in the Los Angeles area and in Georgia, where he moved to play his senior season when it looked like there would be no HSFB in SoCal this year, and has been a top-level performer at every stop. Garcia was always thought to be a top 10 (or better) QB in this class since his sophomore year of HS. He played at an elite level, continued to develop along the way, and is clearly one of the top signal callers in the 2021 recruiting class.
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. Not only did they just get “a warm body” for the roster, Miami got an incredibly talented player who had high level P5 offers from teams across the country. Miami did well to add depth and talent — heavy on the talent part — by adding Garcia to the roster in this class.
Recruiting Rule #2 - Communication is Key
This rule isn’t as cut and dry as the first rule, but it still matters.
With the presence of the Coronavirus Pandemic, in-person visits of any type were not allowed since March 2020. So, an entire recruiting cycle was transacted entirely virtually. So, the communication between programs and players was the entire foundation of the recruiting process. It may not sound like it, but without any in-person visits, that’s a MASSIVE paradigm change, and one that was enacted on the fly as the NCAA continually extended the dead period month after month as the cycle continued.
As the Pandemic continued, virtual visits — those “zoom meetings” that we all have become incredibly familiar with — became the contact outside of texts or calls that players and programs used to cultivate their connections. This was a boon for Miami, as the majority of the Canes’ 21 signees were committed by September 2020. The lone additions past that were STRIKER Chase Smith and QB Jake Garcia, so there wasn’t much Miami had to do in terms of convincing players to pick UM. They mainly focused on strengthening their already strong connection to the players who had already decided they wanted to be Hurricanes.
There were other players on the radar for Miami through this cycle. And several of them probably had virtual visits with the Canes. But, the high profile targets didn’t have a chance to do what was necessary for Miami to have a real shot at them: visit. For major blue-chip prospects, particularly those who are not from Florida, teams usually need 2 visits — one unofficial (on the recruit’s dime) and one official (paid for by the school) — to have a realistic shot at landing the player. With in-person visits of any kind official or unofficial restricted due to the pandemic, that simply wasn’t possible for Miami this cycle.
With every player that Miami signed, and the many they did not, communication was constant between school and player. This “new normal” of virtual visits was a boon for Miami in the 2021 cycle. It will be very interesting to see what parts of the digital recruiting blueprint will become industry standard moving forward, even when in-person visits are able to happen again.
Recruiting Rule #3 - Recruit Locally first, then Nationally
After a 2019 cycle were Miami had some struggles with this Rule, the Canes continued their run of progress in this area with a very strong, and very VERY locally focused 2021 recruiting class.
The stats to support this are staggering. Of Miami’s 21 signees, 18 are from Florida, 2 from Georgia, and 1 from Texas. When you consider TE signee Elijah Arroyo is actually from Miami and moved to Texas in Middle School, that means 19 of the 21 signees are actually from the State of Florida. That means 90.4% of the signees in this class are Florida natives. If that’s not recruiting locally first, I don’t know what is.
To augment that group, Miami went to Georgia to get DE Thomas Davis, the 2019 Georgia Region 1-7A defensive player of the year. So, an elite player from a stacked HSFB state is the first player Miami truly went out of State to get. Yeah, that’ll work.
Lastly, Miami went to Georgia* to get QB Jake Garcia. I put the asterisk because Garcia played his senior year at 2 HS programs in Georgia, but he hails from California. Looking nationally for a QB is something Miami routinely does, as the local crop of HS QBs isn’t normally the strongest, and many project to play other positions in college. But, as noted above in Rule #1, Garcia is a top 5 QB Nationally. He could be from anywhere and this would be a good get.
No, Miami didn’t get every single blue chip player locally in this recruiting class. There are too many of them every year, and this isn’t Pokemon so you’re not gonna catch ‘em all. But, Miami got their fair share of the top recruits available in-state, filled their needs, and went National to get a couple selected players to round out the group.
That’s how you do it.
Recruiting Rule #4 - Size Matters
On the numbers, Miami did okay on Recruiting Rule #4. The Canes were able to pull in 4 DL, 3 OL, and a pair of Tight Ends. That’s not the greatest number of players along the line, but it’s not bad.
When you look at the DL, 5-star Leonard Taylor is the name to know. The #3 player in the country this class, Taylor immediately validates this group as a whole by himself. When you add in 4-star Jabari Ishamel, a 6’6” edge rusher with great potential and a growing frame (one he will help hone under the tutelage of his father Victor, a longtime Strength and Conditioning assistant), 3-stars Thomas Davis, who has a Defensive Player of the Year award in Georgia to his credit, and Allan Haye, there are additional numbers and talent to go along with Taylor. Sure, the dream would have been to add another blue chip prospect or two, but when you have the #1 DT in the country in your class, it’s hard to find faults with the group as a whole.
On the OL, 4-star Michael McLaughlin is a converted TE who stands 6’7”-6’8” and is up to 290lbs. That a great frame for a Tackle prospect, and McLaughlin should continue to develop over time. 4-star Laurence Seymore is a top level player at Guard, and could find his way into the rotation early. And 3-star Ryan Rodriguez played all over the OL in HS, but will be Miami’s Center of the future. Again, another body — particularly a blue-chip one — would have really elevated this group. But, overall, a high ceiling tackle prospect, a very high end guard prospect, and the center of the future is a good haul along the OL. Oh, and all 3 are from South Florida (though McLaughlin did move here from Indiana after his HS sophomore year), so that helps.
While, 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, it was decent in numbers, and anytime you get a DT the likes of Taylor, you can’t really call this a failure, in my opinion (though, again, there was still room for improvement).
Recruiting Rule #5 - Speed Kills
Here’s another rule, like Rules #1 and #3, that Miami executed flawlessly. Really good job on this one.
Miami added speed to the roster with receivers Romello Brinson, Jacolby George, and Brashard Smith (the fastest of the bunch and one of the fastest players anywhere in the country this cycle), TE Elijah Arroyo (fast relative to his position and the players who would likely cover him), and ATH Malik Curtis, who has the same kind of speed as Smith, but will likely use it on defense instead of offense.
When you add players with the speed that Smith and Curtis boast, that’s a serious upgrade to the roster. Then you have the league-average-or-better speed that Brinson, George, Arroyo, LB Deshawn Troutman and S Kam Kinchens possess, and that further upgrades this specific trait on the roster as a whole.
Again, Miami targeted players to fulfill this need, and the Canes got them to sign their NLIs. Another Recruiting Rule down, another Recruiting Rule Miami followed to perfection in this class. I like the way this piece is trending this year!
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 between player and program.
The thing with this rule in 2021 is.....there were no in-person visits. So, this rule became a bit tougher to really evaluate. Yes, virtual visits took place, but unless the player who visited spoke about it, or if the school leaked it (yes, it happens, lol), those are visits that would go by unseen. This is different than in-person visits, because you can hide the plans to have a player visit as long as you want, but when they inevitably show up on campus, the cat is out of the bag because someone will see them.
The other part of this, at least for Miami’s 2021 recruiting class, is the fact that the majority of the group was locked in for the majority of this cycle. So, there wasn’t the same fervor around getting uncommitted guys to visit. That, combined with the prohibition on in-person visits, changed the look and feel of this recruiting rule. But, in the end, the visits, virtual though they may have been, were important to building relationships, and propelled Miami to the #12 recruiting class in the country. We just weren’t able to follow them in the same was as in the past.
Recruiting Rule #7 - Stack elite classes
After the 16th ranked class in America in 2020, Miami jumped up to the 12th ranked class in 2021. That’s good by itself, but when you consider the additions from the Transfer Portal in the last 2 years that augmented these recruiting classes, a good situation gets even better.
Yet another Recruiting Rule Miami was able to fulfill this year. Feels good.
Recruiting Rule #8 - Recruit to your strengths
I know this is going to sound like a broken record, but Miami did follow this Recruiting Rule.
Miami leveraged the change in OC and offensive scheme to secure blue chip recruits at every offensive position.
Miami leveraged long-term relationships to secure a pair of 5-star defenders — DT Leonard Taylor and S James Williams — and keep elite talent home in Miami.
Miami leveraged family relationships to get a trio of legacies — DE Victor Ishmael, ATH Chase Smith and K Andres Borregales — to commit to the Canes.
Miami leveraged early evaluations to get a couple players — ATH Malik Curtis and OT Michael McLaughlin — who would have been 25+ offer kids down the line given their specific skills and performance as HS seniors.
Everywhere you look, Miami recruited to their strengths. And, by doing so, the Canes were able to get the #12 class in America signed. That. Will. Work.
Recruiting Rule #9 - Win
There were plenty of wins on the field and in recruiting trail for Miami this year. But, at the same time, there were losses on both that cannot be ignored.
Miami won 8 of 11 games during the 2020 season. Several games were rescheduled or postponed so that’s why the overall number of games was lower than normal. And while winning is great, even close games that maybe shouldn’t have been close, there were losses to temper that emotion.
Miami lost every game against a team with similar or greater talent: 42-17 at Clemson, 62-26 vs North Carolina (the worst game of the year BY FAR), and 37-34 vs Oklahoma State in the bowl game. Those losses, more than the wins, really defined Miami’s 2020 season. BUT, there was a winning record in 2020, as opposed to the 6-7 record in 2019, so that was a step forward overall.
On the recruiting trail, Miami still lost out on several high-profile local recruits. Guys like WR Jacorey Brooks, Edge Dallas Turner, Offensive Lineman Marcus Tate and more all decided to take their talents elsewhere. Those losses hurt, sure, but Miami was able to rebound well, secure the #12 overall class this cycle, and keep several other blue-chip recruits home, which is something the Canes haven’t been able to do in recent years.
So for this Recruiting Rule, I’ll say Miami kiiiiinda got the job done, but there is still room for improvement.
More and more, it seem Manny Diaz has the right idea when it comes to recruiting. But, in the end, Miami will need to find ways to keep even a higher number of blue chip prospects home (to bump up the class, and raise the talent level through the middle of the roster), and win more games on the field (which isn’t DIRECTLY a recruiting event, but it also kinda is).
On to the 2021 season and 2022 recruiting class we go!