Two months into the Mark Richt era National Signing Day came and went. The result, 18 new Miami Hurricanes ready to get on board, helping their new coach and veteran players rebuild this proud program.
In the end, not a lot of sizzle—much to the chagrin of the Richt fan-boys infiltrating social media sites the past few weeks, predicting a lot of last-minute flips and pushing that, no-option-but-Miami narrative, which wasn’t the case.
There were also a few who got away—would-be Canes and some long-term verbals commits who bailed at the final hour. So it goes in this fickle world of recruiting; which is why virtually zero time has been spent around here investing energy into this insane process.
Now that it’s all said and done, we’ll celebrate those who chose “The U” in the end and are officially Canes.
Sam Bruce (4-star wide receiver) —The speed wideout from nearby St. Thomas Aquinas is a great pick-up for the Canes; especially in regards to keeping local talent home. Ohio State made a push late and looked like it took the lead for Bruce’s services, but in the end the South Florida standout stayed local—helping the Canes push that, “State of Miami” narrative moving forward.
The 5-foot-8, 180-pound Bruce could be an immediate force on special teams and should factor into the 2017 game plan after some upperclassmen have moved on.
Shaquille Quarterman (4-star inside linebacker) —The linebacker position has been decimated at Miami in recent years; mostly due to cleaning-house and ridding the program of bad apples. Quarterman is a stud and an immediate-impact type of kid. An early enrollee, the Orange Park product should see the field this season.
Quarterman is 6-foot-1 and 233 pounds, turning down offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, LSU, Ohio State and several other big time programs in favor of “The U”.
Ahmmon Richards (4-star wide receiver) —The 6-foot-2, 175-pound receiver originally committed to the Canes as a junior, pulled back after Miami was routed by Clemson and was back on board as of Wednesday; despite the full court press from Alabama and Auburn.
Richards is one of three receivers in this class and is a solid prospect that will fit in nicely over the next few years.
Jack Allison (4-star quarterback) — Allison was arguably the biggest recruit from this class that Miami couldn’t lose. The local product committed to the old staff and was one of Richt’s first targets when taking the gig.
Until No. 15 showed up by way of Los Angeles a few years back, the position had been barren at a place one dubbed, “Quarterback U”. Allison looks all the part of heir apparent. Allison is an UnderArmour All-American, the top-ranked quarterback in the state, boasts a strong arm and quick release and will have time to pack some weight onto his frame and improve his footwork.
Under Richt’s tutelage the Palmetto High product should be just fine.
Dionte Mullins (4-star wide receiver) —The 5-foot-10, 180-pounder from nearby Gulliver High is another UnderArmour All-American participant with a boatload of offers. Alabama. Clemson. Florida. Florida State. Ohio State. Notre Dame. The list goes on.
Mullins made headlines with his one-handed touchdown grab at the UA game weeks back; a pass he hauled in from Allison. These two should make a dynamic duo in years to come.
Joseph Jackson (4-star defensive end) — Another Gulliver product, the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Jackson will help bolster a line that needs some bigger, better-quality bodies than what recent years have produced. This All-Dade selection will benefit from the changes to Miami’s defensive coaching staff and appears to be a solid pick-up for the Canes.
Travis Homer (4-star running back) — The Boynton Beach native was the first to get his LOI to the Canes on Wednesday morning and 5-foot-11, 195-pound back is a great nab for Miami. Homer should redshirt this season as the Canes have some depth (including the bigger-bodied No. 7, injured all of last year.)
Homer spurned offers from Alabama, Florida State, Florida and others to enroll at UM and is ranked between the 6th- and 21st-best back amongst the recruiting sites.
Zach McCloud (4-star outside linebacker) — McCloud is another early enrollee, as well as a former verbal commit for the old staff that backed off and re-upped when the new staff was on board. Another early target of Richt’s, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Santaluces product will be Quarterman-line in his impact.
It may take another year, but the Canes are on their way back to “Linebacker U” status with kids like McCloud. Yet another guy Alabama, Florida State and others were after.
Patrick Bethel (4-star defensive end) — The Vero Beach prospect is a Canes legacy and at 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds was ranked the 10th-best at his position nationally. 36 tackles (eight for loss), nine sacks and two fumbles as a senior.
Bethel appears to have that old school U in him and again, will be welcomed to a defensive line that needs a little more nasty in years to come.
Romeo Finley (4-star safety) — The 6-foot-1, 198-pound Finley was a quality late pick-up for Miami. Another player said to have some of that nasty and a mean-streak in his playing style, the Niceville product registered 110 tackles (three for loss), 2.5 sacks, two picks and 16 pass break-ups his final two seasons.
Clemson and Georgia Tech pursued. Finley—a long-time Canes fan—chose “The U”. Miami still needs some depth at corner, but always good to nab a hard-hitting safety.
Jovani Haskins (3-star tight end) — The top tight end in New Jersey, Haskins is a versatile athlete who threw for 1,090 yards and 12 touchdowns (66-of-99 passing in nine games) as a junior.
The 6-foot-5, 210-pound Haskins is a great grab for Miami and will fit in nicely over the coming years.
Michael Pinckney (3-star inside linebacker) —Another early enrollee, Pinckney comes in at 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds. He lacks the accolades that a Quarterman or McCloud boasts, but he said to be an excellent tackler with good instincts and a love for the game. Guys with those traits have succeeds at Miami in the past (while highly-touted guys have tanked) and based on all the Canes have gone through as of late—especially at linebacker—it’s a nice pick-up.
Malek Young (3-star cornerback) —The 5-foot-9, 185-pound corner played in the Army All-America Game weeks back and played receiver and running back as well at Coconut Creek. Young is said to have great play-speed and instincts and is a physical player, though supposedly a bit raw; the type of player you want on your team based on skill-set alone, worrying where to play him later (according to an ESPN scouting report.)
Cedrick Wright (3-star safety) — A 5-foot-9, 170-pound safety from Gulliver is said to be a ball hawk and playmaker that reads quarterbacks well; always in position to make a play. Wright is also a strong tackler. The size isn’t necessarily there, but everything else absolutely is—with the type of instincts needed at the safety position.
Michael Irvin Jr. (3-star tight end) — The name says it all. This 6-foot-3, 220-pound tight end out of St. Thomas Aquinas is son of “The Playmaker”. Great hands and route running ability, Irvin looks to be a tight end and h-back type of hybrid. Fundamentally sound, Irvin won’t see much action this season but will be a factor in years to come.
Tre Johnson (3-star offensive tackle) — The 6-foot-7, 285-pound product out of Orlando calls Miami his “dream school”. Johnson played both sides of the line in high school and seems an ideal candidate to redshirt this season. He’s ranked 77th amongst all offensive tackles (according to 247Sports.)
Tyreic Martin (3-star defensive end) — The Alabama native had an eye on Missouri, but found his way to Miami due to coaching shake-ups at both programs. At 6-foot-3 and 270 pounds, Martin racked up 36 tackles (nine for loss) and two sacks as a senior.
Toughness and athleticism are top traits (played high school basketball and can dunk). Ranked 51st-best defensive end (according to 247Sports.) Good pick-up for Miami based on lack of depth at the position and defensive coaching upgrades.
Jeff James (N/A safety) — Almost a bit of a Mr. Irrelevant feel to James—nephew of Miami’s legendary running back The Edge—who only played one year of high school football, didn’t attend camps or seek out a big time program, playing at Orlando-Olympia. (James broke his collarbone as a junior.)
James measures in at 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, racking up nine interceptions and over 1,000 all-purpose yards. ESPN considered James a 3-star, while 247Sports and Rivals had him unranked. James is said to be an instinctive playmaker with great physical tools and intangibles, while versatile in skills set.
IN CONCLUSION: Ten 4-star players, seven 3-stars, one unranked and no 5-star elite-on-paper athletes for what 247Sports ranked the 21st best class in the nation.
Coming off an 8-5 season and a dismal five-year run under Al Golden—who took over for Randy Shannon after five sub-par years on the former coordinator’s watch—it’s been a decade of disaster for the Hurricanes.
In short; the aura of Richt and Miami’s brand recognition wasn’t enough to vault this class into the stratosphere. (It also wasn’t enough to help UM land some quality defensive tackles; something that has been a long-running issue.)
4-star cornerback Tyler Byrd flipped last minute to Tennessee—a position where the Canes are super-thin—as did 3-star wide receiver and former commit Latrell Williams. There was also no mass exodus of Georgia verbals following Richt to Miami, as some of the social media gurus were predicting. Still, there were a few last-minute pick-ups like Richards, Finley and Johnson to help ease the blow.
“Historically I’ve been the type of coach that doesn’t want to twist anybody’s arm or coerce a guy into committing. Most of the times when you do that it’s not that solid. I want guys to really be sure of what they want to do,” Richt told the Miami Herald on Wednesday afternoon. Hard not to commend that type of personality, coach and man in an era of so many snake oil salesmen in the business; even if it will result in a few who get away.
Richt’s first class at UM is precisely what it was supposed to be. Any belief that the longtime Bulldogs head coach was going to waltz in and fix this mess overnight; both naive and foolish. It talk a long time for this Miami program to erode and it will take a few years to properly right the ship.
Dave Hyde of the Sun-Sentinel touched on it poignantly in his post-Signing Day piece—pointing out Richt’s focus on the long-term, getting things right and instilling proper habits and discipline along the way.
No short-cuts regarding hiring the wrong assistants (for short-term gains that would’ve helped this recruiting class), while cracking down within the current program and areas where the Canes were deficient. The focus on discipline? Makes sense based on Miami being the MOST PENALIZED TEAM IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL LAST SEASON, averaging 9.8 penalties-per-game.
Having the right staff to fix that culture breakdown and sloppy effort—infinitely more important than setting on assistants that might’ve resulted in a flipped player here or there.
Hyde also focused on Richt’s welcoming back of former alum to the program as well has allowing assistants and five early enrollees to talk to the media on Wednesday. When thinking back to the hush-hush Golden era and closed door policy, a culture of openness is certainly welcomed and feels healthier.
Steps are being taken in the right direction and Richt’s first class is a quality one; especially based on timing and the small window he had in which to operate.
Those intangibles won’t show up on the recruiting sites or in the rankings, but a few years from now could certainly prove to be the cornerstone of yet another rebuild in Coral Gables.