High School Sports

What Miami Hurricanes recruits are saying about Manny Diaz’s departure for Temple Owls

Mark Richt weighs in on how recent losses have affected recruiting

The Miami Hurricanes have lost on the field as well as and suffered decommitments on the recruiting trail. Coach Mark Richt explains how the two may or may not be connected.
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The Miami Hurricanes have lost on the field as well as and suffered decommitments on the recruiting trail. Coach Mark Richt explains how the two may or may not be connected.

It would be hard to blame Avery Huff for rethinking his commitment to the Miami Hurricanes right now. The four-star outside linebacker committed to Miami in May and thought he would be playing for Manny Diaz — not only as a defensive coordinator, but also potentially as his position coach.

Now, Diaz is leaving to become the coach of the Temple Owls, the Miami Herald confirmed Wednesday. As of now, it hasn’t changed anything for Huff. The senior from Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas said Wednesday he still plans to sign with the Hurricanes during the early signing period next week.

“That’s still my plan,” the linebacker said in a message after reports of Diaz’s departure surfaced.

Right now, Huff might be the most important committed defensive prospect in the class. With Diaz’s departure, the future of linebackers Zach McCloud, Shaquille Quarterman and Michael Pinckney at Miami become a bit less certain. The three juniors could all opt to enter the 2019 NFL Draft with Diaz, who was also the Hurricanes’ linebackers coach, set to leave. If they do depart, Miami might need Huff to play a massive role right away, especially given Samuel Brooks’ decommitment Wednesday.

A three-star outside linebacker in the 247Sports.com composite rankings, Brooks is the first casualty of Diaz’s departure. The Northwestern senior backed off his pledge in a Twitter post and said he now plans to sign at the traditional National Signing Day next year. Brooks still plans to officially visit his hometown team this weekend.

A day later, Jarvis Brownlee became Miami’s second decommitment. The three-star cornerback from Carol City is back on the market ahead of an upcoming official visit with the Florida State Seminoles.

Brownlee had been committed to the Hurricanes since June.

Huff isn’t the only defensive prospect doubling down on his pledge, though. Multiple other blue-chip prospects also said they remain locked in with Miami following Diaz’s departure.

Jason Blissett, a four-star defensive tackle from Poly Prep Country Day in Brooklyn, said Tuesday when reports initially surfaced linking Diaz to Temple that the assistant coach’s status with the team wouldn’t affect his commitment. Like Huff, Blissett can’t early enroll, but he still plans to sign with the Hurricanes next week.

“I’m not looking anywhere,” Blissett said Tuesday.

A day later, though, Blissett said he’s no longer sure whether he will sign Wednesday or wait until the new year.

“I’m not sure if I’m signing next week just yet,” Blissett said in a text message Wednesday. “I’m taking my time at the moment.”

Jahfari Harvey, a four-star defensive end from Vero Beach, is even more solid in his commitment. The four-star defensive end will officially visit Coral Gables this weekend — so will Blissett and Huff — then sign his National Letter of Intent next week and enroll at Miami next month.

Even with Diaz leaving, Harvey was encouraged by what defensive line coach Jess Simpson did in his first year with the Hurricanes. Defensive linemen Gerald Willis and Joe Jackson are both likely to be early-round draft picks, and Harvey is excited to follow in their footsteps at Miami.

“I was very excited because they have the No. 2 defense in the country,” Harvey said, “and I’m ready to go attack the quarterback.””

While others didn’t respond to messages and phone calls, Miami still seems likely to keep the vast majority of its defensive class intact. The trio from Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna — four-star safety Keontra Smith, four-star cornerback Te’Cory Couch and three-star defensive end Cameron Williams — haven’t visited any other schools this fall and still plan to sign next week.

Jalar Holley, a three-star defensive tackle from Buford (Georgia), and Jason Munoz, a three-star defensive end and teammate of Huff’s with the Raiders., also seem likely to stick. Both defensive linemen committed to the Hurricanes primarily on the strength of their relationships with Simpson. Holley plays at the high school where Simpson used to coach and Munoz committed to Miami the same day Simpson offered him in June.

Flip watch, however, is firmly on for Anthony Solomon. The four-star outside linebacker from St. Thomas Aquinas is set to officially visit the Michigan Wolverines this weekend while nearly every other committed Class of 2019 prospect will be down in South Florida.

A new visitor

Former FCS Butler Bulldogs offensive lineman Tommy Kennedy won’t be the only potential transfer checking out the Hurricanes this weekend. Running back Asa Martin, formerly of the Auburn Tigers, will also spend the weekend in the Miami metropolitan area, according to multiple reports.

Running back is still a position of strength for the Hurricanes with Travis Homer, DeeJay Dallas and Cam’Ron Davis all likely to be back, plus Lorenzo Lingard whenever he returns from a knee injury. Still, there’s no guarantee Miami winds up with a running back in the 2019 class after three-star Jacksonville Trinity Christian Academy running back Marcus Crowley flipped to the Ohio State Buckeyes last month. Martin would have to sit out a year, then join the fray after Homer runs out of eligibility.

The Hurricanes remain in the hunt for three-star Sebring running back DJ Williams and four-star Wellington athlete Mark-Antony Richards. Williams is an early enrollee currently committed to the Appalachian State Mountaineers, while Richards, who plays both running back and cornerback, won’t make his college choice until the new year.

Martin possesses major upside, too. Martin was the No. 9 running back in the Class of 2018 out of Austin in Decatur, Ala. Auburn, however, miscalculated the amount of games Martin played in as a freshman and accidentally burned his redshirt, The Birmingham News reported. The halfback announced his plan to transfer a few days later.

Martin also has ties to an important recruiting destination for the Hurricanes. Martin played for one season at Bradenton IMG Academy, the alma mater of wide receiver Brian Hightower, offensive lineman Tyree St. Louis and defensive lineman Scott Patchan.

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