Ephraim Banda on Manny Diaz: ‘He’s going to be the best head coach ... in the country”
The follow-up to the Hurricanes’ vaunted 2018 recruiting class hasn’t exactly taken shape the way the University of Miami hoped. The Class of 2018 finished No. 8 in the country, according to the 247Sports.com composite rankings. Their Class of 2019 currently sits all the way down at No. 33, which would be their worst since 2011.
Manny Diaz has less than a month to somehow salvage it and the new coach can get to work Thursday, when the recruiting dead period ends. Last month, Miami assistant coaches said there are eight spots left in the class, so what’s left? On offense, needs could change depending on what sort of a staff Diaz puts in place, but safeties coach Ephraim Banda laid out last month what the defense would like to add before National Signing Day in February: two defensive ends, another defensive tackle, another linebacker and three more defensive backs.
Former offensive coordinator Thomas Brown laid out the offense’s plans for four remaining spots in the class: another tackle, certainly, plus some combination of a quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end.
Since the two coaches outlined the plan, Miami filled one of its defensive end slots by signing three-star Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna defensive end Cameron Williams and landed its offensive lineman with three-star tackle Adam ElGammal of Christ the King in MIddle Village, New York.
The list of options to fill those remaining holes has dwindled, particularly after the Hurricanes whiffed on four-star Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons defensive end Khris Bogle and four-star SMiami outhridge cornerback Tyrique Stevenson on Sunday, but there are still quality options on the market. Here’s who:
Quarterbacks and running backs: Brown mentioned these two together last month, saying the Hurricanes’ roster makeup left them in position to probably fill one of the two needs in this class, with quarterback being the priority. Most of the remaining quarterback options involve scouring the transfer market, but Miami has reached out to John Rhys Plumlee, a four-star quarterback from Oak Grove in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The four-star dual-threat quarterback is orally committed to the Georgia Bulldogs, but opted not to sign in the early signing period, leaving open the possibility he flips. He has yet to take any of his official visits.
At running back, Miami has a chance to pull in one more elite prospect if it can land four-star athlete Mark-Antony Richards. The four-star athlete from Wellington is wide receiver Ahmmon Richards’ younger brother and at one point seemed destined to follow in his brothers footsteps to Coral Gables. The Hurricanes, however, initially recruited him as a defensive back, while other teams, most notably the Auburn Tigers, always pitched him as a running back. Miami can’t be picky right now. It just has to figure out a way to get Richards on campus and can still bring him in on an official visit. If things don’t work out with Richards, the Hurricanes could offer three-star Rockledge running back Jalen Mitchell, who is hoping Miami finally pulls the trigger.
Receivers: Heading into the early signing period, Miami was firmly in the mix for four-star Lakeland tight end Keon Zipperer and five-star wide receiver Jadon Haselwood from Cedar Grove in Ellenwood, Georgia, but both headed elsewhere. Last month, Brown grouped wide receivers and tight ends together when discussing remaining possibilities.
The top wideout left on the board is George Pickens, a four-star wide receiver from Hoover, Alabama. Miami just offered the Auburn commit last month, but has heard from the staff since coach Mark Richt’s sudden retirement. Depending how the Hurricanes fill out the staff, Pickens could visit in the next month. Three-star Lake City Columbia wide receiver T.J. Jones has long been an option, too. At tight end, the Hurricanes recently offered three-star Clearwater Central Catholic tight end Brett Seither a scholarship, and an official visit is a possibility. The Texas Christian Horned Frogs are out front for Seither right now.
Defensive line: Miami actively began looking for its final defensive end Monday, offering Ja’Darien Boykin, a four-star defensive end from Jones County in Gray, Georgia. The defensive lineman is already set to officially visit the Hurricanes the weekend of Jan. 18, and his recruitment seems to be pretty open right now beyond heavy interest from the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
For the interior, three-star defensive tackle Jared Harrison-Hunte, a teammate of ElGammal’s with the Crusaders, is the top target after he officially visited the Miami metropolitan area last month. The Ohio State Buckeyes and Penn State Nittany Lions are the perceived favorites, but the Hurricanes’ two signees from New York — ElGammal and four-star defensive tackle Jason Blissett — should help their cause. Four-star Lehigh Acres Lehigh defensive end Quashon Fuller, who is still committed to the Florida State Seminoles, has long been an option at defensive tackle, too.
Linebacker: When four-star Frot Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas outside linebacker Anthony Solomon flipped to the Michigan Wolverines last month, it left a seemingly solid part of the class uncertain. Miami quickly moved to find Solomon’s replacement, though, and offered three-star outside linebacker Octavius Brothers, a teammate of Mitchell’s with the Raiders. The Rockledge linebacker called the Hurricanes his “dream school” and should visit before National Signing Day. Miami also recently offered Eugene Asante, a three-star outside linebacker from Westfield in Chantilly, Virginia.
Defensive back: Missing on Stevenson is tough, especially after three-star Carol City cornerback Jarvis Brownlee decommitted flipped from the Hurricanes to the Seminoles last month. Filling three spots with top talent will be tough at this point, but four-star Benjamin cornerback Kaiir Elam is the top uncommitted player left in Florida and officially visited Miami last month. Still, it might be too late to make up ground on some of Elam’s other suitors, like the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs.
The most realistic option might be three-star Pensacola Pine Forest cornerback Martin Emerson. He officially visited the Hurricanes last month and would like to get back down to South Florida before Signing Day after choosing not to sign with the Mississippi State Bulldogs last month. Richards could also be an option in the secondary, although he’d prefer to play offense at the next level. Four-star Lakeland Kathleen safety Brendan Gant is another prospect who has visited Miami in the past and he opted not to sign with Florida State last month.