Given how this has traditionally worked with Miami Hurricanes players declaring early for the NFL Draft, 2018 figures to be the final collegiate season for starting linebackers Mike Pinckney, Shaquille Quarterman and Zach McCloud.
That means that finding a linebacker is likely the No. 1 priority for the Canes as they continue to work on a Class of 2019 that can start signing in December.
Miami signed just one linebacker for 2018, Patrick Joyner of South Dade, further calling attention to the position of need.
Scouts say 2019 is a great year for linebackers in Georgia, where Canes coach Mark Richt was once employed. Georgia’s Owen Pappoe is the nation’s No. 1 linebacker — he had 10 offers before he even started high school.
Miami has made offers to two Georgia linebackers besides Pappoe: Trezman Marshall, a 6-1, 235-pounder who is ranked the nation’s No. 6 linebacker by ESPN; and Tyron Hopper, a three-star recruit.
As for Florida linebackers, here are some of Miami’s top targets:
▪ Mikel Jones (IMG): The 6-1, 220-pounder from Hialeah transferred from Mater Academy to IMG just a few days before the start of the 2017 season. To simplify things, IMG coach Kevin Wright used Jones mostly as a standup defensive end, using his 4.55 speed as a ferocious pass-rusher.
This spring, Jones has been switched to outside linebacker, where he is ranked 17th at the position by 247 Sports. Miami, Clemson and Louisville are high on his list.
“I don’t see [pass coverage] being a problem for Mikel,” Wright said. “He runs well — very athletic, good feet.”
▪ Ge’mon Eaford (Deerfield Beach): The 6-1, 220-pounder is ranked the nation’s No. 5 linebacker by ESPN and No. 14 by 247 Sports. He has already accepted an invitation to play in the 2019 Under-Armour All-America game and is being pursued heavily by Florida and Georgia.
“He will probably end up being the top [linebacker] down here,” recruiting analyst Charles Fishbein said of Eaford. “He’s a very physical kid who can play inside or outside.”
▪ Samuel Brooks (Northwestern): He’s a three-star recruit who was injured at the end of last season. But recruiting analyst Larry Blustein thinks Brooks will rise up the rankings.
“Before he got hurt, he was killing it,” Blustein said. “They couldn’t stop him — huge force on the outside.”
▪ Anthony Solomon (St. Thomas Aquinas): The 6-0, 200-pounder has Miami high on his list along with Michigan, Clemson and Florida State. He’s ranked No. 10 among outside linebackers (247 Sports).
“Alabama offered him early, and it looked like he was going to be a superstar,” Fishbein said. “But his junior year was not the same step up. This spring will be really important for him.”
▪ Jahmar Brown (St. Thomas Aquinas): The 6-1, 200-pounder is a four-star linebacker with 19 offers. In some respects, he has stolen the thunder of his teammate, Solomon.
“Jahmar is a Monsignor Pace transfer, and he’s very well-schooled in the game,” Blustein said. “He’s very quick and can chase you down.”
▪ Diamante Howard (Southridge): This three-star recruit committed to Miami in September, but opinions on him are mixed. He is ranked the No. 24 outside linebacker in the country, but Blustein said he’s “never been blown away” by Howard’s production.
But Fishbein is a fan of Howard’s athleticism. A 6-2, 200-pounder, Howard was a middle-school wrestler who started at safety as a freshman. He grew up idolizing former Hurricanes star Sean Taylor, but Howard has grown into a linebacker.
▪ Jesiah Pierre (Mount Dora): The 6-2, 220-pounder is ranked No. 40 among outside linebackers and is committed to Miami.
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: email@example.com