On Friday night, Miami landed four-star ATH/DB Chris Graves over offers from a number of schools including his three other finalists: LSU, Florida, and South Carolina. Wherein, the latter program became a huge focal point immediately following Graves’ commitment based on his subsequent explanation of his commitment selection.
Notably, during the CBSSports HQ broadcast of his announcement, the Fort Myers (Fla.) Bishop Verot product made comments regarding making his decision based on discussing his selection process with former Gamecock and this year’s 8th overall pick, DB Jaycee Horn. A conversation with Horn is important because Horn was mentored and developed by current Canes’ DB Coach, Travaris Robinson.
“He’s my favorite corner,” Graves told 247Sports on Friday just a few hours before he went public with a commitment to the Hurricanes during a CBSSports HQ broadcast. “He gave me a call. We were just talking about a lot of things. He was telling me how T-Rob made him a better corner [at South Carolina] and I think T-Rob can do the same thing for me.”
Considering Graves had both Miami and South Carolina in his top four, there is an obvious potential conflict of interest in Horn imparting wisdom on Graves’ selection. And in reading between the lines, the fans’ knee jerk reactions was split: an inflamed Gamecock faithful and an excited Canes’ contingent.
Jaycee Horn, a Travaris Robinson pupil, goes No. 8.— David Wilson (@DBWilson2) April 30, 2021
However, Horn quickly eradicated the sentiment on twitter and dispelled of the notion that he was actively recruiting for the Canes by stating “People believe anything,” which was clearly in reference to Graves’ commitment and Horn’s involvement. He went on to say a number of things showing he is still a Gamecock through and through and would not unconditionally recruit for Miami just because of T-Rob.
“He was choosing between Miami and another school. SC wasn’t in the conversation!!” Horn later stated in reference to Graves’ decision, as well as, “And they don’t bring up the fact that I just helped bring in a corner. Some of these fans ridiculous.” The latter tweet likely referencing one of the five DBs South Carolina has hauled in for their 2022 class.
He also went on to say “Fasho! Gamecock 4L,” in response to one twitter user.
People believe anything ♂️— Jaycee Horn (@jayceehorn_10) July 10, 2021
And they don’t bring up the fact that I just helped bring in a corner. Some of these fans ridiculous— Jaycee Horn (@jayceehorn_10) July 10, 2021
Fasho! Gamecock 4L— Jaycee Horn (@jayceehorn_10) July 10, 2021
He was choosing between Miami and another school. SC wasn’t in the conversation!!— Jaycee Horn (@jayceehorn_10) July 10, 2021
It is unclear exactly what was stated between Graves and Horn, nor should the public be privy to that information.
Regardless, Horn has had success on the field and has an inherent right to vouch for T-Rob. Take Jaelan Phillips for example. He has been standing on the proverbial table vouching for the entire Miami program for turning his career around, which led to his selection at 18 overall in this past April’s draft.
Let’s say, hypothetically, Miami’s Strength & Conditioning Coach, David Feeley (who Phillips’ stated helped with his hulk-like transformation), departed the Canes’ program and coached elsewhere. Would you blame Phillips for advising high schoolers that Feeley is a great Strength & Conditioning Coach? So long as the player wasn’t in a direct recruiting battle with the Canes’, the answer should be no. Similarly, Horn has a right to give an honest assessment to recruits considering playing with any of his former coaches. This includes T-Rob, as well as his South Carolina Head Coach, Will Muschamp, who is now an analyst at Georgia.
Essentially, still showing allegiance to your alma mater while also vouching for individual coaches who helped you should be mutually exclusive. This is a reason why Paradise Camp is such a great event for recruits in Miami. Players from decades of play come back to the U and show pride in being a Cane regardless of the current state of the program.
Horn stating he’s a “Gamecock for life” makes it clear he supports his alma mater even though they have struggled as a team in recent years (22-26 record during his career). Horn can still recruit for his former team and separately give case-by-case analysis to DBs about his experience with Robinson, as well as other coaches he had while he was a Gamecock. This is especially with all of the turnover in the coaching world.
It is no secret Miami’s passing defense has struggled recently both by way on Saturdays and for NFL placement. To that end, T-Rob should not only be using his laundry list of player who are currently on NFL rosters (Duke Dawson, JC Jackson, Carlton Davis, Vernon Hargreaves, Jaylen Watkins, Quincy Wilson, Brian Poole, Jonathan Jones, Rudy Ford, Rashad Fenton, Chris Lammons, and Keisean Nixon. Also worked with Matt Elam, a former first round pick), but should also be pointing directly to Horn.
Allowing high schoolers to discuss with Horn (and other players currently in the NFL including other Gamecock 2021 DB draftee, Israel Mukuamu) the benefits of T-Rob’s mentorship and development is part of the recruiting process. The factual evidence of Horn’s growth from a three-star recruit out of high school to first defensive player taken in the NFL Draft was in large part due to T-Rob. Ignoring this fact when selling players on coming to the U would just be weird and likely unnecessarily strain his relationship with Horn. This dynamic should help transform Miami’s defensive backs corps, along with other factors which are discussed more in depth in this article from early June.
Since Robinson has arrived at the U, he has already made an immediate impact as Miami added Georgia DB, Tyrique Stevenson, through the NCAA Transfer Portal shortly after he joined the coaching staff. Miami has also landed commitments from Graves and four-star CB, Khamauri Rogers. They don’t appear to be close to done either, hopefully, as they target CBs Trequon Fegans, Nick Cull, and Ja’Cari Henderson, as well as safeties Kamari Wilson, Markeith Williams, Jordan Allen and Demari Henderson.
T-Rob will also work closely with former Cane player, Demarcus Van Dyke, who is entering his first season as cornerbacks coach for Miami, and he is already showing great strides in development as a recruiter. Add in Miami legend and former Safety, Ed Reed, as Chief of Staff to oversee the entire operation, and the coaching personnel looks prime for a turnaround.
It has not been all rosy on the recruiting trail as the Graves commitment occurred a day after Canes’ target LB, Demario Tolan, committed to LSU. Tolan choosing LSU also resulted in some assistant coach attention because the Tigers recently hired former Miami defensive coordinator, Blake Baker, who was often deemed the scapegoat after some of the Canes’ 2020 games (notably UNC where the run defense was non-existent).
Baker took to twitter for what appeared to be a quick jab at Miami when he said “Always love coming to the Sunshine State and getting BIG fish in the boat! #HoldThatTiger.” Coach DVD clapped back with his own jab after landing Graves when stating, “The BIG fish still here.”
Gotta love the recruiting drama. It’s year-round, involves SO many factors including coaching transitions, player history, state of the respective programs, among much more, clearly. With the new developments in the NIL arena, expect the recruiting battles to get even more convoluted. In that regard, Miami is already a huge early adopter as it relates to the ’Bring Back the U’ push and it is just a matter of time before it begins to pay dividends, literally.