FROM: JORDAN NELSON
11:00 AM, 1/11/2019
With the sun having set on Mark Richt era in South Beach, all eyes have turned toward Manny Diaz and National Signing Day on February 6th. To put it bluntly, this recruiting cycle has for the most part been a disaster. The Canes currently have the worst class they have had this century. Not sure exactly what went down this last season under Mark Richt, but the class on offense is a good indicator that something was very wrong in Coral Gables. Of the 15 high school players that have already signed, only five played on offense. This side of the ball will be the main focus for the Canes in the next few weeks. The local South Florida talent continues to slip away, with Miami failing to sign the top prospects in Dade and Broward counties. There is hope, however, as the rumored offensive staff could possibly stabilize the class and return Diaz’ class to the ranks of the elite.
Quarterbacks: (currently on roster) N’kosi Perry, Jarren Williams, Cade Weldon
Miami does not currently have a QB in this recruiting class, which should be seen as a massive failure. Diaz has been very open about his pursuit of grad transfers at this cycle, and was reportedly in pursuit of former Buffalo QB, Tyree Jackson before he declared for the NFL draft. There are options for the Canes though, as they recently offered Mississippi-based quarterback John Rhys Plumlee. A current Georgia commit, Plumlee is believed to be looking for other options at the moment and would be a great fit in the spread offense that Miami will be running next season. According to reports across the web, Plumlee will be visiting Miami in the coming weeks. Ohio State QB Tate Martell has been linked to the Canes after being listed in the transfer portal. The redshirt freshman was high school teammates with Brevin Jordan and new safety commit Bubba Bolden at Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas. Martell was a highly rated dual threat QB coming out of high school and is believed to be leaning toward choosing The U. The most attractive option to me, of course, is to watch the Jalen Hurts situation, as he is currently listed on the transfer portal. If the rumors of Major Applewhite becoming the offensive coordinator in Coral Gables are true, the possibility of Hurts might become a hot topic. Hurts is from the Houston area and took an official visit to the school while Applewhite was offensive coordinator in 2015. My biggest concern is that neither this staff nor the last have shown any faith in the current quarterbacks on the roster. Perry has had a hard time behaving himself and Williams can’t seem to get on the field. The Hurricanes will have a hard time winning if this position does not get figured out.
Running Backs: Deejay Dallas, Cam’Ron Davis, Lorenzo Lingard, Robert Burns, Asa Martin (new addition)
Another position that Miami has no current signees or commits, although the situation seems less bleak. The current stable of backs are young and dynamic, with Dallas being the only upperclassmen of the group. Davis and Lingard showed super-star potential as true freshmen and the sky is the limit for them. Former Auburn RB Asa Martin has announced that he will transfer to Miami and is trying to become eligible immediately. However, it seems unlikely at the moment. I’d expect him to make his debut for the Canes as a redshirt sophomore in 2020. There is still a big move that Manny Diaz can make here, as Penn State RB coach Ja’Juan Seider has been linked to the new offensive staff and could potentially help land local 4-star back Mark-Anthony Richards. Richards is currently considering Miami, Penn State and Auburn. Miami should definitely take at least one back in this class, but the current talent on roster would prevent disaster if that doesn’t happen.
Wide Receivers: Mike Harley, Evidence Njoku, Mark Pope, Dee Wiggins, Brian Hightower, Marquez Ezzard, Jeremiah Payton, KJ Osborn
Ironically, heading into the season, wideout was easily Miami’s most talented group on the roster. After the departures of Ahmmon Richards, Jeff Thomas, Darrell Langham, and an expected transfer of Lawrence Cager, the Canes are depleted of experience at the position. Pope was highly touted heading into his freshman year and we saw some flashes of brilliance from Wiggins and Hightower. My biggest concern here was the lack of leadership and depth as there isn’t really a “go-to” guy from this group. The news isn’t all bad though, new signee Jeremiah Payton has star potential and was the highest rated prospect in the recruiting class this year. Payton is a long 6’3 180lb wideout from the Jacksonville-area with great quickness. His top end speed is somewhat concerning to me as his fastest official 40-yard dash time is 4.74. Landing KJ Osborn as a grad transfer from Buffalo was a huge get for the new coaching staff. Osborn had a stellar season for the Bulls with almost 900 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns. Hopefully he is able to step up and add the leadership and experience that this receiving corps is severely lacking. I expect UM to add another WR or two before this recruiting cycle comes to a close.
Defensive Tackles: Jon Ford, Nesta Silvera, Pat Bethel, Tyreic Martin, Jordan Miller, Jalar Holley, Jason Blissett
Miami’s defense made a name for itself in the Mark Richt era for the ferocious play of the defensive line. In their first year under coach Jess Simpson, the Canes front four led the charge in racking up 136 tackles for loss, far and away the best in the country. With the departures of Kendrick Norton, RJ McIntosh, and former coach Craig Kuligowski, it was expected for the elite play up front to regress somewhat. However, Gerald Willis, Simpson and grad transfer Tito Odenigbo proved to not only replace their predecessors, but somehow reach new heights statistically. 2019 could prove to be a different story though, as much of the experience and leadership up front has graduated and moved on. Young stud Nesta Silvera will be heavily relied on to make plays for Miami and lead the unit. Pat Bethel had a nice 2018 campaign with 2 sacks and 5 tackles for loss, and would presumably get the starting nod next to Silvera with how the roster currently stands. That being said, the Canes really need another grad transfer at this spot. Manny Diaz has extended an offer to Chigozie Nnrouka of UCLA in hopes of doing just that. Nnoruka had an impressive 2017 with 49 tackles and 8.5 TFL before struggling to fit into Chip Kelly’s new 3-4 scheme. New signee Jason Blissett is an intriguing prospect. at 6’3 271lb, I’m not sure he will be ready for a lot of burn as a true freshman, but he certainly has upside. In high school, he played both defensive end and running back, rushing for over 400 yards and 11 touchdowns while proving to be the best lineman in the New York on the defensive side of the ball. That level of athleticism could help Blissett become a game changer up front, he will just need to pack on some weight to his already-massive frame. Simpson is trying hard to land another NY-based DT in Jared Harrison-Hunte, who is believed to be favoring Penn State, but is definitely considering the Canes.
Defensive Backs: Trajan Bandy, Gilbert Frierson, Gurvan Hall, Amari Carter, Al Blades Jr., Nigel Bethel, Derrick Smith, DJ Ivey, Robert Knowles, Colvin Alford, Keontra Smith, Bubba Bolden, Te’Cory Couch
Another position group that will lose some NFL-level talent is the defensive backs unit. Michael Jackson, Sheldrick Redwine, and Jaquan Johnson will all get their shot at the pros this coming season, leaving 3 of the 4 starting spots open in the defensive backfield. This position group seems to be better situated than Defensive Tackles and Wide Receivers though, as Trajan Bandy will immediately fill the role of leader left by Johnson. Young guns Gurvan Hall, DJ Ivey, and Al Blades seem poised to make an impact this year. Freshly minted transfer from USC, Bubba Bolden will be eligible to play immediately and could possibly pin down a starting spot at safety. Bolden played just a few games for the Trojans before withdrawing from school and leaving the team. He did, however, secure the starting strong safety spot heading into the season opener as a true freshman. It seems as though Bolden is mostly looking for a fresh start in Coral Gables and could be an impact player from the get-go. Keontra Smith is the highest rated recruit that UM was able to sign from either Dade or Broward counties. The 4-star safety is a sure-tackler and can really lay the wood on receivers crossing the middle. His high school teammate at Chaminade-Madonna, Te’Cory Couch, is the lone commit at corner for the Miami. Couch has a lot of upside, but at this point I don’t expect him to make a huge impact as a true freshman. As of this week, the coaching staff has offered a safety out of San Diego, CA that was previously committed to Washington State named Don Chapman. The 3-star prospect is long at 6’2 185 and physical in coverage. Watch for the canes to add at least one more DB, possibly two.
It’s amazing the difference that a week can make. I was much less optimistic about this class just a few days ago until Manny Diaz made due on his word to pursue the best transfers around the country. The additions of Bolden and Osborn are huge and cannot be understated. UM will continue to pursue experienced grad transfers at DT, DE, QB, and OL at the very least. I applaud Diaz for making the most out of a seemingly dire situation resulting after missing on every big target the Canes went after during the early signing period. It appears that the youthful exuberance in Coral Gables is not only contagious, but very attractive to young players across the country. Depending on the offensive staff that is hired, the Canes should be just fine heading into the next recruiting cycle. Lets just hope they don’t become too dependent on the transfer market and can start to lock down some of the local guys that make the so U special.
You can follow Jordan on Twitter @JRNelson17.
(Above Photo From: CBS Miami)