In the span of two weeks, the Miami Hurricanes’ cornerbacks group of the Class of 2020 went from possibly complete to absolutely uncertain.
On Oct. 4, four-star South Dade cornerback Jaiden Francois decommitted from Miami. On Sunday, three-star Davie Western safety Justin Hodges, whom the Hurricanes recruited as a cornerback, followed suit. Miami began the month with four potential cornerbacks committed. Now the Hurricanes are down to two: three-star cornerbacks Marcus Clarke and Daran Branch, and Branch could potentially move to striker.
Miami will have to pivot in the coming months, and the Hurricanes have already started to. They offered a scholarship to a new cornerback target last month and are firmly in the mix for another corner who decommitted Tuesday. Let’s take a look at some of Miami’s options:
Daemon Hill: One of the newest prospects to land an offer from the Hurricanes, Hill remains an under-the-radar 2020 prospect. Unranked by all the major recruiting services, Hill claims additional offers from the Kansas State Wildcats, Iowa State Cyclones and Central Michigan Chippewas, and he’s starting to pick up more attention as the centerpiece of one of the best defenses in Florida. The Louisville Cardinals gave him an offer him the day after Miami.
Strikers coach Jonathan Patke made the trip across the state on the bye week last month to scout a handful of teams across the Tampa Bay area. Hill had just watched the Hurricanes beat Central Michigan in Miami Gardens a few days earlier, and Patke decided to offer the defensive back after meeting with him at Miami Palmetto High.
“They’d been talking to me for a little while and stuff, but it was surprising when they offered me, too,” Hill said last week. “They liked how I can tackle and stuff, and I can cover and stuff like that, so that’s what they’re really looking for in DBs. He said I’ve got what they’re looking for.”
Despite his low profile, Hill possesses a lot of tools the Hurricanes like in their corners. His lanky 6-foot, 170-pound frame fits the mold cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph likes, and Hill is the sort of willing tackler coach Manny Diaz needs in his downhill defense. Like with Branch, it’s not crazy to imagine Hill as an option at striker, too.
The senior has official visits lined up with Louisville and Kansas State for the next month while Miami will try to take things slow. There are other prospects higher on the board, but there’s still a lot the Hurricanes like.
Brian George: The four-star cornerback doesn’t do many interviews, but Miami has seemed like a factor for a long time with the junior college defensive back. George, who played at Glades Central before landing at Highland Community College in Kansas, visited Coral Gables for Paradise Camp in June and could return for an official visit later this year. The No. 6 overall JUCO prospect in the 247Sports.com composite rankings for the 2020 recruiting class, George is the Hurricanes’ top target at corner.
One official visit is already down, though, after George visited the Texas A&M Aggies over the weekend. The Auburn Tigers, Kentucky Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks and Nebraska Cornhuskers have also been linked to the 6-2, 190-pound sophomore. He will have two seasons of eligibility remaining after a competitive recruitment ends.
Jalen Harrell: The four-star cornerback from Hialeah Champagnat Catholic decommitted from the Florida State Seminoles on Tuesday, and Miami immediately jumps back into serious contention to land the 6-2, 180-pound defensive back.
The Hurricanes sent an official offer to Harrell in August and kept tabs on him into the fall. Now they have started to make him a priority. It’s still early, but Miami should be considered the favorite for now.
Jaiden Francois: The local star might test just how serious Diaz is in all his talk about making commitments to the Hurricanes more meaningful. The four-star cornerback has already decommitted from Miami twice — although once was when Diaz left to briefly become the coach of the Temple Owls last year — and was open about his interest in visiting other schools even before he backed off his oral pledge.
Francois, who matched a Miami-Dade County record for interceptions in 2018, is plans to officially visit the Ohio State Buckeyes and Penn State Nittany Lions, but the defensive back hasn’t been a major priority for either of them. Francois also decommitted on the heels of an unofficial visit with the Florida Gators, although Florida hasn’t yet offered the senior. The Hurricanes will inevitably keep tabs on him, too, because they hold an oral commitment from three-star safety Keshawn Washington, a classmate of Francois’.