The Miami Hurricanes have had 22 recruiting classes since 2002. Those classes have pretty consistently been ranked in the top 15 in the industry-based composite rankings. In 2008, the Hurricanes had the top-ranked class in the nation while having the 33rd-ranked class in 2011.
A position of need over much of the last decade has been linebacker. Outside of one recruiting cycle, Miami has struggled to add meaningful talent at the position they have historically been dominant at.
With Malik Bryant committing to play for the Hurricanes, he becomes the second four-star linebacker in the class along with Raul Aguirre. Bobby Washington also rounds out the group as a three-star recruit. But where would this class rank against the other linebacker classes over the last 22 cycles?
This is based on the classes when signed. If we knew what players like Sean Spence and Denzel Perryman would have become, they would have been ranked much higher than three stars. The opposite goes for many of the top recruits who were some of the best recruits in the country but never had the career envisioned for them coming out of high school.
Group E - No Signings
19-22) 2006, 2007, 2009, 2018
There have been four different cycles in which Miami didn’t add any linebackers. Three of these classes came after signing three linebackers the year before. In 2007, it was the second consecutive class without signing a player at the position though.
Group D - Three-Star Classes
There were almost a third of these classes took just a handful of three-star recruits with nothing higher than that. Surprisingly, some of the best linebackers over the last two decades were a part of these classes.
The only linebacker in this class was three-star Antonio Reynolds. Miami was still absolutely stacked at linebacker at this point, so they weren’t exactly desperate with guys like Jonathan Vilma and DJ Williams. But at the height of Hurricanes football, to only sign one player at an important position and be just a three-star seems like a failure.
Another class with just one player signed who was a three-star recruit. James King signed with Miami and transferred after one season. This is the problem with signing just one linebacker. There is such little room for error.
In the last full recruiting cycle for Manny Diaz, he put together his linebacker class with three three-star linebackers. Thomas Davis, Tyler Johnson, and Deshawn Troutman were ranked in the top 100 at their positions, but they have been desperate for good linebacker play for quite a few years and missed out on not only some four stars during this cycle, but a five-star as well.
Knowing they were going to be thin at linebacker after losing their four-year starters at linebacker, you would think they would go after some big names and hopefully land at least one four-star. Instead, they were able to land just two three-stars.
Tirek Austin-Cave and Corey Flagg made up the 2020 class and were a part of a long run on classes of linebackers that have yet to have any player stand out and become much better than their ranking.
Another class of three three-star linebackers. De’Andre Wilder, Waynmon Steed, and Bradley Jennings Jr. were brought in as solid options as Wilder was the 27th ranked inside linebacker and Steed the 25th ranked outside linebacker.
I think it’s important to note this class was being recruited while the previous class had three linebackers all starting as true freshmen. Not many recruits viewed this as an ideal situation to come in and play in the near future.
After taking just one linebacker a year earlier, Miami wanted a larger group in 2014. They took Darrion Owens, Mike Smith, Juwon Young, and Terry McCray, all three-star linebackers. They had taken a four-star in the previous two cycles, but they loaded up on three-stars as well over this three-year run.
After not taking a linebacker in 2009, the Hurricanes took five linebackers in 2010. Four of them were three stars while James Gaines was a two-star. Travis Williams, Kevin Nelson, Tyrone Cornelius, Kelvin Cain, and Gaines. Nelson was the 13th-ranked inside linebacker in the country though.
After taking five linebackers in 2010, Miami followed that up with another big class of three-star recruits. Denzel Perryman, Gionni Paul, Antonio Kinard, and Eddie Johnson were a part of the worst recruiting class as a whole for the Hurricanes since classes have been tracked. But this linebacker class was solid. Perryman was the 21st-ranked outside linebacker in the country and just outside the top 300 players at 306 overall. He also became one of the best linebackers in South Florida since the mid-2000s.
Group C - Includes Four-Stars
I know everyone says stars don’t matter. But recruiting and signing the most talented players out of high school is usually a recipe for success. These classes added at least one four-star at linebacker.
This class added just one linebacker after taking five the cycle before. Jermaine Grace was the 19th-ranked linebacker and 288th player nationally. It may have been a small class, but they got a talented player.
Another class with just one linebacker, at least it was a four-star recruit. Wesley Bissainthe was the first four-star linebacker Miami signed in three cycles and the highest-rated linebacker since Shaquille Quarterman in 2016.
This class could have used more with linebacker being a hole for the Hurricanes, but they got the linebacker they chased all cycle nonetheless.
The importance of getting some linebackers into this class can’t be understated. After not taking any in the class before, Miami signed a four-star linebacker in Avery Huff and a three-star with Sam Brooks.
With the loss of three starting linebackers on the horizon, they needed talent and did get some. It hasn’t quite materialized for either of Huff and Brooks though.
With linebackers being a position of strength at this point for the Hurricanes, they still went out and signed three linebackers, one being a four-star recruit. Spencer Adkins, Eric Houston, and Daryl Sharpton added depth to a room that had some really good players like Jon Beason.
In 2012, Miami was starting to get a little thin at linebacker with just freshman Denzel Perryman being the best in the room. They went out and signed five linebackers with four-star Raphael Kirby being the best of the bunch.
Dwayne Hoilett, JaWand Blue, Gabe Terry, and Josh Witt were each rated as three stars.
Group B - Multiple Four-Stars
Stacking really good talent is what leads to competing for championships. At linebacker, these were classes that began to do that with multiple four-star recruits being signed.
After a few seasons of average linebacker play, the Hurricanes required some good players at the position. They hit a home run with this class, signing two four-stars and a three-star who all came in and made an immediate impact.
Shaquille Quarterman, Zach McCloud, and Michael Pinckney were a class that Miami fans will remember for a long time because of how their careers turned out, but even before they stepped on campus were huge signings.
Quarterman was the highest-rated linebacker recruit Miami signed since 2008 and only two linebacker recruits had a higher grade than McCloud in that time.
With two four-star recruits and three three-stars, the Hurricanes put together a pretty good class. Tavares Gooden and Jon Beason are two of the top 20 linebackers they have signed over the past 20 seasons and added Leo Waiters, Ali Highsmith, and Glenn Cook for depth at the position.
Over the last two decades, I don’t think Miami has ever needed to succeed in recruiting linebackers more. In head coach Mario Cristobal’s first full cycle, he has pulled together a hell of a class.
Malik Bryant is the highest-rated linebacker the Hurricanes have pulled since 2008 and ahead of players who have had long careers in the NFL. On top of having an elite recruit like Bryant, they also have Raul Aguirre on board who sits just behind Quarterman for grading.
And if two elite four-star linebackers weren’t enough, three-star linebacker Bobby Washington is a top-300 recruit who could have been the top linebacker in many classes over this time frame.
Group A - Top-Tier Talent
In 2004, Miami has just had some of the best linebackers in the country leave and they signed a really solid group of players with two four stars. How do you follow that up? You go out and get the best linebacker in the country in five-star linebacker Willie Williams. On top of that, you also sign the 44th-ranked player in the country, James Bryant. Romeo Davis was a three-star recruit in this class as well.
Now we all know Williams didn’t work out, transferring to Louisville and eventually having many other issues. Nonetheless, the third-best recruit in the country is still a great get in recruiting. Bryant was the fourth-best player inside linebacker, but he played fullback for much of his career. Davis probably had the best linebacker career as a Hurricane from these three.
Group S - Dream Class
If you were putting together a dream class of linebackers, it would probably look something like the class Miami signed in 2008. They went and signed the best linebacker in the country in Arthur Brown, a five-star recruit and eighth-ranked overall recruit in the country.
On top of that, they also signed three four-star linebackers in Ramon Buchanan, Jordan Futch, and Sean Spence. Buchanon was the third-rated linebacker, Futch was ranked fifth at the position, and Spence was seventh in the class.
They also added two three-star recruits Gavin Hardin and Antonio Harper for a huge, incredible class of linebackers.
The class didn’t have the careers many would have envisioned, with Brown transferring to Kansas State after two seasons. Buchanon had some off-the-field issues and injuries. Futch had a solid career as a Hurricane, but it was Spence who had by far the best career in the group. He had two seasons with over 100 tackles and was a third-round pick.