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Can 2023 be Miami’s Best Recruiting Class in Recent History?

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Cristobal and company look to step things up in a big way.

McClain is a must-have, lockdown cornerback that hails from Lake Gibson, Florida.
247Sports

When Mario Cristobal was hired as the University of Miami’s next head coach, it was at a bad time for recruiting. Most of the class was committed or down to their last few schools. Even though the relentless Cristobal made an immense impact, signing multiple Top247 recruits, it wasn’t enough time for him to produce a truly elite class.

In one of his first interviews, Cristobal said a full cycle is two years. It takes time to recruit and build relationships. Going into the 2023 class, this will be Cristobal’s first chance as the ‘Canes HC to have the time to produce an elite recruiting class.

Out of 38 five-star recruits, Miami has made an early impression with a large portion of them, though some are more than others. Today, I’ll be focusing on the ones that have actual smoke to them. Realistically speaking, Miami is in play for about seven five-star prospects. Who are they?

No. 3 overall: CB Cormani McClain (Lakeland, FL)

How long has it been since Miami has had a true lockdown corner? According to 247sports All-Time football recruit database, McClain would rank as the second best commit in Miami’s history since 2000. The 6’1 corner is as elite as they come. Cristobal is doing his due diligence on him, going as far as to be the speaker at McClain’s high school’s end of season banquet. When speaking about Miami, McClain mentioned that it was one of his favorites. “It has been my dream school,“ said McClain.

Elite corners have been hard to come by for the ‘Canes, even in South Florida. We missed on NFL talent in Patrick Surtain Jr. and Tyson Campbell. McClain is the type of talent we can’t miss out on. He needs to be a ‘Cane.

No. 4 overall: DL David Hicks (Allen, TX)

Hicks, a 6’4, 250 pound defensive lineman, is a force to be reckoned with in the interior defensive line. The interior force finished the 2021-2022 season with 22 sacks. He just recently finished a three-day visit at Miami, enjoying the new facilities.

He talked up his relationship with Miami’s new defensive ends coach Rod Wright, mentioning that the two’s relationship dates back to his time at UTSA. Though it will be hard to pry Hicks out of the hands of college football’s elite programs, it’s possible that Cristobal and co. can get it done.

No. 11 overall: LB Anthony Hill (Denton, TX)

Another prospect from the state of Texas, Hill is the No. 1 LB in the 2023 class. It’s been a long, long time since Miami recruited the LB position at an elite level. He would be an immense addition for the ‘Canes. Linebackers coach Charlie Strong has Texas ties, and Hill has to know that. He ended his junior season with 131 tackles, two forced fumbles and two interceptions. An elite linebacker that can create takeaways.

Outside of offensive line, a recent weakness for the ‘Canes has been the linebacker position. Hill would have the opportunity to start immediately as a true freshman. With such elite talent in the secondary, a linebacker like Hill could be the missing piece to a National Champion-level defense. Hill named Miami in his Top Six final schools, though he hasn’t announced a commitment date.

No. 27 overall: OLB Malik Bryant (Orlando, FL)

A versatile outside linebacker from Orlando, Bryant is one of the most important, and realistic, commits that the ‘Canes could possibly have. The dynamic Bryant lives in the backfield, but he is also very capable in coverage. Bryant has a quick first step that allows him to get around the edge with ease. As mentioned before, with such an elite secondary behind him, he would flourish as a ‘Cane.

Along with two of his friends and Miami targets in Payton Kirkland and Derrick Leblanc, Bryant will be committing on July 23.

No. 29 overall: WR Jalen Brown (Miami, FL)

A smooth route-runner with game-breaking speed, Brown is a must-get for Miami. The Gulliver Prep product is the elite deep threat that the ‘Canes have been looking for since Jeff Thomas’ departure. In 2021, Brown reeled in 56 catches for 1,033 yards and 11 touchdowns. Though he is a bit on the smaller side, give him a year or two in Coach Feld’s program and Brown will be a sure-fire first round pick in the NFL Draft.

Brown’s speed is truly extraordinary, as the two-sport athlete ran the fastest 200M in the USA at 21.11 seconds. In recent history, Miami has missed on elite wide receiver talent from the 305 like Jacorey Brooks, but Brown is someone that Cristobal will do his absolute best to keep in Miami.

No. 30 overall: DE Jayden Wayne (Tacoma, WA)

Wayne is an elite edge that Cristobal would love to have in Miami. The Tacoma, WA product recorded nine sacks in eight games, along with 16 tackles for loss and 44 total tackles. Wayne has built a relationship with Cristobal that dates back to the Oregon days. He mentions that Cristobal’s effort in recruiting him, even when he was at Oregon, is very special to him.

The Washington native took a visit to Miami in January. Like Hicks, Wayne mentioned the facilities and how he enjoyed them. Miami knows a thing or two about edge rushers and defensive ends. Like Gregory Rousseau, Jaelan Phillips and Quincy Roche, Wayne could be the next elite edge rusher to wear orange and green.

No. 31 overall: QB Jaden Rashada (Pittsburg, CA)

The quarterback position is one of large interest for the ‘Canes. Despite prior interest in Dante Moore and Nico Iamaleava, it seems that both parties are looking elsewhere. That leads us to Jaden Rashada, and according to Andrew Ivins, the two sides have mutual interest. Rashada is the No. 5 ranked QB in the 2023 class, and while Miami may not be the favorites at this point, they could be a potential spot for the gunslinger. Rashada hails from the West Coast and his relationship with Cristobal, like Wayne, dates back to his Oregon days, when he received an offer directly from Cristobal.

Rashada would be Miami’s highest-rated quarterback commit since Kyle Wright in 2003, and just the second five-star quarterback to ever become a Hurricane since 2000. Rashada is a large priority for Cristobal in 2023. On Twitter, Rashada speaks about going somewhere that he will be valued at.

A Dominant, Skillful Class

If Miami were to sign these seven players in addition to the commitments of Antonio Tripp, Andy Jean and Lamar Seymore, they would have a class ranking of 224.5 with just ten players. That would’ve ranked as class No. 20 in 2021, just ten points behind Miami’s actual class.

While five of the seven five-stars are on the defensive side of the ball, I actually think that works pretty well for the ‘Canes. They find themselves in good standing with a number of four-star offensive players, including Florida natives WR Hykeem Williams and RBs Cedric Baxter Jr. and Mark Fletcher. OT Payton Kirkland has recently been leaning towards Miami, and will commit with Bryant on July 23.

While nothing is guaranteed, I trust that Cristobal could possibly have some of these guys in orange and green come signing day. Get excited ‘Canes fans, because this is the year that could be the turning point for Miami. Cristobal is a coach that recruits and players want to play for.