In this installment of The Recruiting Notebook, we meet the thunder in Miami’s thunder-and-lightning RB combo in the 2023 recruiting class: Ft. Lauderdale (FL) American Heritage 4-star RB Mark Fletcher.
Miami’s offense could always use talented skill position players. To add to the talent on that side of the ball, Miami turned their recruiting attention to Ft. Lauderdale (FL) American Heritage RB Mark Fletcher.
A powerfully built 6’1” 225lbs, Fletcher is the prototype of a lead RB for an elite team. He’s played his HS ball at one of the powerhouse programs in the State of Florida, so he’s a known commodity in the world of HSFB and, by extension, recruiting. Starting from his freshman year, Fletcher has been a name to know in South Florida football.
After posting 319 yards and 2 TDs rushing with 188 yards and 3 TDs receiving as a freshman for a 10-2 American Heritage team that made the regional finals, Fletcher announced his status as a major college recruit with a massive year as a sophomore. 1411 yards rushing with 11 TDs, leading the way for Heritage on the ground as the Patriots to a 5A State Championship. And, with that, he was firmly on the radar as a high-major college recruit.
Teams started offering Fletcher scholarships during his freshman year, and that continued pretty non-stop from there. Playing for South Florida Express, one of the nation’s elite 7v7 teams, Fletcher continued to be a high profile prospect even in the offseason.
In terms of Miami, the Canes were among the first teams to offer Fletcher a scholarship back in June of 2019. That was ahead of his freshman year, so like...yeah he’s been on the radar for a while. After earning 2nd Team sophomore All-American honors from MaxPreps, Fletcher’s profile continued to rise.
From there, Fletcher started taking visits. Unofficial visits to Miami, Penn State, the Miami-Alabama season opener (yiiiiikes), UCF, USC (the real one, in California), and Miami again were all a prelude a visit to Ohio State. Shortly after that visit, Fletcher joined American Heritage teammate WR Brandon Inniss in committing to OSU. But, despite that commitment, Fletcher continued to take visits, though he maintained a steadfast commitment whenever asked.
Mixed in there with his visits and before his commitment to OSU was a solid junior season, but one that was not as productive as the previous year for American Heritage or Fletcher. Their QB went down to injury, WR Innis had to play QB, and Flecher’s production was roughly half what it had been as a sophomore. Despite missing some time with a shoulder injury during the year, Fletcher posted 779 yards and 13 TDs rushing in 2021 for a Heritage team that lost to eventual State Champion Cardinal Gibbons in the playoffs.
Heading into his senior year, committed to OSU, Fletcher focused on the field, but Miami, Florida, and others continued to recruit the talented back. OSU figured they were good, what with Fletcher having taken a June OV to Columbus, and the fact that his teammate was also committed there. But, appearances aren’t always what they seem to be.
After an unofficial visit to Gainesville in November, Fletcher finally decommmitted from OSU, and the game was afoot. Due to the proximity of his visit to Gainesville to his decommitment, Florida was thought to be the leaders at the time. But Miami wasn’t going to go down without a fight here. Coaches from both Miami and Florida visited Fletcher, setting up a heads up duel to the end for Fletcher’s services.
After an Official Visit to UF, Fletcher seemed to be trending to the Gators. At the Florida 2M State Championship game — a game American Heritage wound up losing to Miami Central — Fletcher said he already had his mind made up regarding his commitment. With an OV to Coral Gables scheduled to start after the game, that didn’t bode well.
But, as is wont to happen in the world of recruiting, another twist was around the corner. Fletcher’s dream school all along has actually been Miami, and the visit to Coral Gables was enough to remind Fletcher of this, show him that Cristobal and company had the plan to rebuild the U, and picking Miami over Florida was DEFINITELY the wise choice. Fletcher agreed, and committed to Miami on Sunday evening before the Early Signing Period.
Lest I leave it unsaid, Mark Fletcher is very, very good. Though his team lost in the State Championship game, the senior RB had a season to remember. 1934 yards and 23 TD on 8.6 yards per carry rushing on the year for the All-American Bowl invitee was a solid close to his prep career, and his commitment to the Canes gives Miami yet another head to head recruiting win over the Gators. Man. I love it!!!!
On the 247sports composite, Fletcher is a 4-star prospect, the #15 RB nationally, #48 in the State of Florida, and #243 player overall in this class.
Fletcher committed to Miami after flipping his commitment from Ohio State, with Auburn and UCF being the other early finalists from a robust list of 32 offers from around the country.
As A Player
Like many other players in this class, Fletcher looks the part for his position physically. A muscular 6’1” 225lbs, he’s got game-ready size right now. Fletcher’s body will naturally develop as he matures, and that should be fine. He doesn’t need to reshape his body at all, so whichever way he takes it (other than gaining 60lbs) would work.
You’d expect a player of Fletcher’s size to run powerfully behind his pads, and he does. Fletcher routinely moves the pile, and it’s rare that one man can tackle him alone. Fletcher is also quicker than you think, with the ability to change directions with ease. This mainly shows up in quick moves in the hole before getting up the field.
Fletcher is more elusive than his frame might make you think. He’s adept at breaking tackles and extending runs after contact. Most of Fletcher’s moves are made while still going forward, so he doesn’t lose momentum from dancing around. Even though he shows some elusiveness, Fletcher is really a 1-cut-and-go back. Find daylight, get up the field, and let your physicality handle the rest. Something like....this, maybe:
With Miami’s desire to employ a heavy run game, Fletcher is a perfect fit for the pro-style offense. He is very good between the tackles, but can show decent burst on outside runs. Fletcher isn’t going to run away from many 2nd or 3rd level defenders in college, but having the ability to stretch the field laterally with him in the run game to some extent should help eliminate opposing teams just crowding the box every time he’s in the game.
Fletcher had nearly 50 catches over his 4 HSFB seasons, and played on an elite 7v7 team. As such, I think he can be a minor part of the passing game, with checkdowns, swing passes, the occasional screen, and Texas/Angle routes being the ways he can have a positive impact in the passing game.
Additionally to that, Fletcher is a big back, so he’ll need to be solid in pass protection/blitz pickup to find his way on the field. Even Miami’s smaller backs (like Jaylan Knighton and Henry Parrish) have demonstrated solid performance in this area, so a bigger back like Fletcher should most decidedly be able to keep that going as well.
Fletcher was clearly the workhorse back for American Heritage over the last 3 years. And, he’s someone who seems to get stronger as the game goes on. Again, this fits Miami’s/Cristobal’s preferred offensive paradigm perfectly, as the goal is to run the ball, run the ball, and run the ball some more, wearing the opponent down and beating them into submission.
Moving to the college level, there will be games where Fletcher can carry the load for the offense all the way. But, a better engagement is Fletcher being the Thunder to someone else’s Lightning in a rotational RB system. Good thing for him that Miami has an elite speedster in Dillard RB Christopher Johnson in this class to be the Dash to Fletcher’s Smash in the run game. But, when push comes to shove and you need a yard in a close game, or a touchdown inside the 5, Mark Fletcher is the guy who will go get it for you, no matter what the defense may try to do to stop him.
Here’s another eval of Fletcher from 247sports Director of Recruiting Andrew Ivins:
A big, physically imposing running back that produced for four straight years at one of South Florida’s top NFL factories. Limited verified data available when it comes to testing and measurements, but is believed to be over 6-foot-1 and pushing 230 pounds. The type of ball carrier that loves contact and is difficult for defenders to get on the ground as he keeps his legs pumping and is always trying to fall forward. Efficient with his cuts and usually one that hits the whole with a full head of steam. Owns a bit of an up-right run style, but makes it work as he powers his way through arm tackles and likes to throw a stiff arm of his own in the open field. Wasn’t asked to catch a ton of passes throughout his prep career, but showed that he was more than capable of moving the chains via swing or screen passes. Also proved to be rather effective in pass protection as his size allowed him to square up with most edge players.
Top-end speed is a bit of a concern, but does his best to make up for it by consistently fighting for yardage in the trenches. Missed some time as a junior with a shoulder injury, but rebounded nicely as a senior racking up just under 2,000 rushing yards in 15 games. Should be viewed as a future multi-year contributor at the Power Five level based upon everything that we have seen. Could likely carve out a role as a workhorse on Saturdays, but might also thrive as a ground-and-pound option in a committee.
- Game-ready size
- Championship pedigree
- Average speed
- Average as receiver
- Runs a bit too upright for my liking
Even with several departures following the 2022 season, Miami has a RB room full of talented players. With that being the case, Fletcher could see some minor rotational snaps early in his career, with his role growing through the course of his time at Miami.
Fletcher fits as a solid, 3 down lead back in what Miami hopes to be a run-based, power spread offense. He’s got the physical build to handle upwards of 20 carries a game, and the history of performance to project solid performance with those carries. Due to Miami’s depth at RB, other players will get carries as well...and could even be the #1 back in front of Fletcher. Even with that being the case, Fletcher will be a valuable player here in Miami, and the potential exists for All-Conference accolades in his career, if the optimal path for him becomes reality.
That’s it for this installment of The Recruiting Notebook.