It wasn’t necessarily a five-star recruiting season for the Miami Hurricanes, but the final 24-hour stretch on Wednesday had a few pleasant surprises.
UM lost one commitment – Baton Rouge, Louisiana, three-star receiver Terrell Chatman – but added three noteworthy recruits, including 6-3, 305-pound Jacksonville Trinity Christian defensive tackle Kendrick Norton, a four-star talent rated the 168th-best senior in the nation by ESPN.
UM was also able to flip two local three-star recruits and All-Miami-Dade first-team selections: Killian cornerback Sheldrick Redwine (6-2, 190, former Louisville commitment) and Booker T. Washington linebacker James King (6-2, 210, formerly FAU commitment).
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But the biggest surprise addition: former Florida Gators five-star defensive lineman Gerald Willis III, who was dismissed Jan. 6 following a troubled run at UF, including an altercation with a third-string quarterback over a pair of cleats in October.
Willis, a high school teammate of UM sophomore tight end Standish Dobard, signed a financial-aid agreement with UM, head coach Al Golden said. Ineligible until 2016 per NCAA transfer rules, Willis won’t begin classes at Miami until this summer, Golden said.
UM did an extensive background check on Willis and the rest of the 20 players the school signed Wednesday, Golden said.
“In his case it was stuff that was a lot of immaturity, things of that nature,” Golden said. “But nothing that without the right group, right mentor [can’t be addressed] and Stan has offered to do that for us.”
UM’s class is ranked 23rd by ESPN and 26th by Rivals and 247Sports — the lowest under Golden since his first year on the job in 2011. UM had been ranked in the top 15 each of the past three years.
Among the 20 signees are six offensive linemen, led by four-star prospects Bar Milo, who went to high school with quarterback Brad Kaaya in California, and Tyree St. Louis of Bradenton’s IMG Academy, who passed on a late push by the Gators to stick with UM.
There are three skill-position players: Booker T. Washington four-star running back Mark Walton (considered UM’s top recruit), U.S. Army All-American Lawrence Cager (6-5, 200) of Towson, Maryland, and top-ranked JUCO tight end Jerome Washington of Princeton Junction, New Jersey.
“On the defensive side, we sought to get two guys with length at corner, and we did that,” Golden said, referring to Redwine and three-star Alabama product Michael Jackson (6-2, 192), who had family ties to South Florida. “We sought to get two safeties and we did that.”
U.S. Army All-American Jaquan Johnson, one of those safeties and one of five early enrollees, went back to Killian on Wednesday morning to support Redwine, who said Johnson “had a huge impact” on his decision.
King, one of three linebackers in UM’s class (Golden said Miami needed three and got them), got an offer from the Canes late last week. “I just have to work hard and try to become the next Denzel Perryman or Ray Lewis,” he said.
Richard McIntosh, a burly 6-5, 278-pound defensive end from Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons, was the first UM recruit to get his signed National Letter of Intent through the fax machine in Coral Gables at 7:05 a.m.
He’s one of four large defensive linemen in UM’s class, counting Norton and IMG Academy-products Ryan Fines (6-3, 310) and Scott Patchan (6-6, 238), who are ideal in UM’s 3-4 scheme.
Golden said the low number of South Florida-area recruits (seven) in UM’s class “was skewed” by the number of offensive linemen coaches had to find outside the area. He also said UM’s total scholarship numbers are good at running back (five), receiver (nine) and tight end (five) counting Wednesday’s additions.
“I don’t think we would drive past any kid in South Florida to go somewhere else,” he said, pointing out how UM’s top-ranked 2016 class features all 13 commitments from in-state. “It wasn’t a big skill [position] year [in terms of our team need]. You can’t lose one Phillip Dorsett and replace him with three. It doesn’t work that way in terms of the roster.”
Of the nine scholarships UM was docked by the NCAA, Golden said he wants to be back at a full 85 by 2016 and projects UM will use between 78 to 79 scholarships this year. Punter Justin Vogel, a walk-on last year, will count as one of those.
As for the high number of decommitments for UM this year, Golden said reasons for them were “all the above.”
“Maybe it’s just the direction we’re going,” he said, referring to the way college football is trending. “We don’t want to get into that business. At the end of the day we’re happy with our class and the needs we met in our class.”
Andre C. Fernandez and David Furones contributed to this report.
Lawrence Cager, WR
Ryan Fines, DL
Tyler Gauthier, OL
Jamie Gordinier, LB
Red Bank, N.J.
Michael Jackson, DB
Jaquan Johnson, DB
Jahair Jones, OL
James King, LB
Miami Booker T.
Robert Knowles, DB
Brendan Loftus, OL
Hayden Mahoney, OL
Richard McIntosh, DE
Bar Milo, OL
West Hills, Calif.
Kendrick Norton, DL
Scott Patchan, DE
Charles Perry, LB
Royal Palm Beach
Sheldrick Redwine, DB
Tyree St. Louis, OL
Mark Walton, RB
Miami Booker T.
Jerome Washington, TE