The 2021 recruiting cycle is complete for the Miami Hurricanes, as Manny Diaz and his staff put together one of the best classes the program has seen in recent memory.
For true freshmen, there’s no guarantee that they’ll see real playing time in their first year, and frankly, it shouldn’t be expected of them. In the case for many of them, the first season on campus should be used to build their body in the strength and conditioning program, become familiar with the system, and learn the ropes from the older players.
Still, there have been several players in past years that have been able to come in and make an impact as a true freshman. In 2020, Miami saw first year running backs Don Chaney Jr. and Jaylan Knighton become integral parts of the offense right from week-one. Corey Flagg Jr. became a consistent sight at linebacker, and by the end of the year, was one of Miami’s more dependable players at the position.
When you look at the freshmen coming in for the 2021 season, there are a few guys who I think can have a real impact for the Hurricanes right off the bat.
James Williams, Safety
The #1 safety in the nation for this cycle and one of two 5-stars that Miami hauled in this class, Williams is the type of player that every defensive coordinator dreams of having on their side. Come this time next year, and there’s a very good chance that Williams is one of the starting safeties for the Canes heading into 2022.
As for 2021, Miami returns Bubba Bolden and Gurvan Hall Jr. at safety, and the verdict is still out whether or not Amari Carter makes the switch to linebacker. Having said that, Williams is going to have his chance to earn considerable playing time in the secondary. Hall and Carter both played as freshmen, and Williams can provide play-making ability for a safety group that didn’t come away with many turnovers in 2020.
Leonard Taylor, Defensive Tackle
The highest ranked player in Miami’s 2021 class, Taylor was the #1 DT and #3 player in the country. Taylor, just like Williams, is a future starter and anchor of this Canes defense, though I believe we can see him this fall.
Defensive tackles aren’t supposed to move like that. Diaz wants athletes on his DL, well he just added the best one in the country in Leonard Taylor. pic.twitter.com/U8z1wSk68u— Canes Legacy (@CanesLegacy) August 6, 2020
Miami isn’t necessarily lacking at defensive tackle, with Nesta Silvera, Jon Ford, Jared Harrison-Hunte and Jordan Miller, with even more behind them. Still, given Taylor’s natural ability and knack for producing big plays at defensive tackle, I think we’ll see him earning rotation snaps right from the start of the season.
Andres Borregales, Kicker
Another year, another Borregales kicking for the Hurricanes. In 2020, Andres’ older brother, Jose, transferred to Miami where he won the Lou Groza Award for college footballs best kicker. Now that Jose is off to the NFL, it’s time for Andy to follow in his footsteps.
In Andy’s case, he’s going to see the field plenty, as he’s expected to become the starting kicker for Miami from day one. The #1 kicker in the 2021 class, expect to see more Borregales consistency for the Canes.
Malik Curtis, ATH
While the debate is still going on whether or not Curtis is going to play wide receiver or cornerback in college, I'm putting him on this list because I think Miami may have found their next dynamic return man. Curtis has insane, INSANE speed on the football field, and as a junior in high school, he returned 1 kickoff and 4 punts for touchdowns.
Miami ATH commit Malik Curtis returns the kickoff to past the 50 yard line.— Anthony Yero (@AnthonyYero1) September 25, 2020
He’s showing off his speed once again. pic.twitter.com/WCAYN1mTlS
Miami struggled mightily in the return game in 2020, with several muffed punts, whether it was Mark Pope or Mike Harley, and while Gurvan Hall Jr. didn’t fumble, it was clear the Hurricanes weren’t a threat in that special teams arena. As a freshman and given his skills, Curtis is going to be able to compete for a spot on either punt return or kickoff return.
Elijah Arroyo, Tight End
One of my favorite recruits from the 2021 class, Arroyo was a top-5 tight end in this cycle coming out of Frisco, Texas. Over the course of his collegiate career, I think Arroyo has all the talent in the world to become the next great tight end at Miami, or better known as TEU.
The Hat Trick for the @braylon_braxton and @arroyo_elijah36 connection! Braylon directing traffic and Elijah turning on the wheels, with 6:39 left in 3rd @IHSKnightsFB 42@CHSTitanNation 7@GameOnSportsPro @friday_stars #txhsfb pic.twitter.com/CYKecS7wfU— Jeremy Beadling (@JiBeadling) November 13, 2020
As a freshman, I think there’s a great opportunity for Arroyo to see early playing time. Brevin Jordan is gone, which leaves Will Mallory as the clear-cut starter, who is primed for a big season. However, after Mallory, there’s talented guys like Larry Hodges and Dominic Mammarelli, but I think if Arroyo, who’s an early enrollee, develops quickly and learns Rhett Lashlee’s system, we can see him as a valuable receiving threat behind Mallory.