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A trend to watch in football recruiting: Cornerbacks are not only ones getting bigger

Northwestern's Samuel Brooks (1) sacks American's quarterback Tyree Bibby in the first quarter during American High School vs Northwestern High School football game at Traz Powell Stadium on Saturday, August 27, 2016.
Northwestern's Samuel Brooks (1) sacks American's quarterback Tyree Bibby in the first quarter during American High School vs Northwestern High School football game at Traz Powell Stadium on Saturday, August 27, 2016. adiaz@miamiherald.com

College football recruits are getting bigger at virtually every position — except linebacker.

Wide receivers, for example, keep growing taller and stronger, and coaches are now unearthing more stout cornerbacks to keep pace with that reality. We saw the latter trend locally in high school football’s Class of 2018 as American Heritage lined up two of the biggest and best cornerbacks in the nation in 6-2½ Tyson Campbell and 6-1, 200-pound Patrick Surtain Jr.

At linebacker, however, the trend is going in the opposite direction. The three linebackers currently committed to the University of Miami’s 2019 class all weigh between 190 and 200 pounds.

That includes two St. Thomas Aquinas’ four-star recruits in Anthony Solomon (6-0, 190 pounds) and Avery Huff (6-3, 200) as well as three-star Miami Northwestern standout Samuel Brooks (6-1 1/2, 195).

All three will likely get bigger between now and National Signing Day and their college days, and that is especially true for Huff because of his frame.

State of the U writer Cam Underwood said Miami’s smaller and presumably quicker linebacker recruits are a blast from the past.

“I think Miami is tapping into its history of a defense built on speed,” Underwood said.

To that point, ex-UM linebacker Sean Spence — who has played six years in the NFL — weighed just 186 pounds in his senior year of high school. Other ex-Hurricanes linebackers who were a bit undersized in high school but went on to productive NFL careers include Jon Beason (212 pounds) and Jonathan Vilma (210).

Then again, Miami has signed undersized linebackers who haven’t worked out, with recent examples including 2012’s JeWand Blue (195); Gabe Terry (200); and Josh Witt (208); and 2015’s James King (200).

But regardless of whether these smaller LBs go bust or to the NFL, the trend is likely here for a while — out of necessity.

“A lot of teams have gone to spread offenses,” Underwood said, “and you need faster athletes on the field defensively.”

The question then is how good are Huff, Solomon and Brooks, and recruiting expert Charles Fishbein said all three of these recruits figure as outside linebackers.

“Brooks probably has the biggest adjustment,” Fishbein said, “because he’s been a hybrid defensive end/linebacker in high school.”

Indeed, Brooks has been a terror as a pass-rusher, producing 16 1/2 sacks in just seven games last year before suffering a knee injury.

Of course, it remains to be seen if any of these linebackers make it to UM. Two linebackers who had been committed to Miami for 2019 have already changed their minds: Jesiah Pierre this month and Diamante Howard in March.

Miami would love if its 2019 linebacker class rivals the trio the Canes signed in 2016: immediate starters and standouts Shaq Quarterman, Zach McCloud and Mike Pinckney.

By the way, Quarterman was 233 pounds as a prep senior, McCloud was at 218, and Pinckey weighed 215.

THIS AND THAT

The ACC in men’s basketball is never easy, but UM’s challenge just gets tougher with no freshmen recruits this school year.

Meanwhile, ACC rival Duke is bringing in five freshmen, including the top three recruits in the nation, forwards RJ Barrett from Montverde Academy, Zion Williams of South Carolina and Cam Reddish of Pennsylvania. In total, Duke has five of the top 40 recruits and the No. 1 class in the nation.

Notre Dame has also had a strong recruiting year with four top-100 players on the ESPN list: 6-9 forward Nate Laszewski; 6-3 shooting guard Prentiss Hubb; 6-4 wing Robby Carmody and 6-5 wing Dane Goodwin.

North Carolina signed three top-50 players in 6-7 forwards Nassir Little and Rechon Black and 6-3 point guard Coby White.

Seven other top-100 recruits have signed with ACC schools, including two with Wake Forest and one each at Syracuse, Georgia Tech, Boston College, Virginia Tech and North Carolina State.

The Recruiting Column is a year-round feature of the Miami Herald. If you have a tip or story idea regarding recruiting or an impending college commitment, please contact Walter Villa at: wvilla07@yahoo.com
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