Barry Jackson

Examining UM’s recruiting class on offense

Miami-Dade All-County athlete Navaughn Donaldson of Miami Central football team.
Miami-Dade All-County athlete Navaughn Donaldson of Miami Central football team. cjuste@miamiherald.com

A bit more than six weeks before National Signing Day, UM has assembled an offensive recruiting class with three top-90 players orally committed, according to ESPN --- Miami Gulliver running back Robert Burns (67th), Ocala quarterback N’Kosi Perry (82nd) and Miami Central offensive tackle Navaughn Donaldson (87th) – and is making a full-court press to lure several others.

UM knows it needs more elite players on offense, players comparable to the first-rounders that Mark Richt had at Georgia with Todd Gurley and AJ Green.

UM’s Ahmmon Richards is one, and Mark Walton shows flashes, but Richt is determined to add at least a couple of high-end talents to supplement a list of nine offensive oral commitments.

A look at where UM stands with offensive recruiting:

• Quarterback: Perry might be UM’s second-best offensive commitment (after Donaldson) and Tampa-based Cade Weldon is also committed.

Both Perry and Weldon are mobile, and UM coaches know the value of quarterbacks with mobility. Richt has said running will be more important out of that position in the post-Brad Kaaya era at UM.

Rated the No. 82 overall 2017 prospect by Rivals, Perry threw 22 touchdowns and two interceptions this past season and ran for four touchdowns. His yardage numbers weren’t extraordinary (1682 passing, 132 rushing on 41 carries), but UM believes he has star potential.

ESPN says the 6-4 Perry is “a great combination of height, size, potential and athleticism. Capable of buying time with his feet, completing passes on the move, or picking up chunks of yardage on designed runs. Very raw mechanically and in terms of footwork. Lot of upside. His deficiencies are coachable.”

Recruiting analyst Larry Blustein said: “I love Perry. I’ve seen him a lot. He’s got Lamar Jackson type of ability, and he may have a better arm than Lamar [the Louisville quarterback who won the Heisman Trophy]. He’s very good. Fast, tall, can whip the ball around.”

Weldon, at Tampa Jefferson, had bigger yardage numbers than Perry (3135 yrds passing; 368 rushing on 96 carries; and 11 rushing touchdowns), but threw fewer TDs (19) than Perry and had more interceptions (11).

Rivals rates Weldon the No. 19 pro-style prospect. He isn’t in ESPN’s top 300, and most consider Perry the better prospect.

“Weldon is not as tall as [UM freshman] Jack Allison but mechanically he’s very good and has a big arm,” Blustein said. “Perry is a really athletic kid. Weldon is a pure quarterback.

“Perry is so athletic, in one day, he could have a massive practice and Richt could say, ‘I’m starting him’” next season if Kaaya turns pro.

Weldon, 6-2, plans to enroll at UM in January. Perry, 6-3, intends to enroll next summer.

• Running back: Gulliver Prep’s Robert Burns is committed, but UM wants another high-end back and is making a strong push for Maryland-based Anthony McFarland, a 5-8 jitterbug rated the No. 3 all-purpose back in the country and the No. 135 player overall. McFarland recently named UM as his favorite.

As for Burns, reviews vary among recruiting services. “He didn’t do anything this year, hasn’t done anything since his sophomore year,” Blustein said. “He’s been hurt.”

An ankle injury limited his carries this year, but he was invited to the Under Armour All-American game.

Blustein said Burns isn’t as skilled as UM freshman running back Travis Homer.

• Receiver:With last week’s decommitment from Carol City’s Kevaughn Dingle (UM hadn’t shown interest in him recently), UM has only one commitment: New Jersey-based Evidence Njoku (rated 95th among 2017 receivers, by Rivals.com).

UM wants to add another elite receiver or two and has been pushing for Louisiana-based DeVonta Smith (a long shot; rated the nation’s No. 48 player), and Deerfield Beach High’s Jerry Jeudy, who visited recently but still plans to go to Alabama, according to his high school coach.

UM also has shown more interest lately in four-star St. Thomas Aquinas receiver Mike Harley, a West Virginia commit who has said he will consider UM. Because UM and West Virginia are competing for him, Harley tweeted that their Russell Athletic bowl matchup is the “Harley Bowl.”

• Offensive line: Four commitments: Donaldson, Iowa-based tackle Zach Dykstra, Georgia-based tackle Zalon’tae Hillery and Parkland Douglas guard Corey Gaynor.

Dykstra and Hillery are decent three-star developmental prospects, and Donaldson is a potential All-ACC player who could start immediately. Donaldson said last week that he definitely will enroll at UM.

“Donaldson can be as good as anyone they’ve had [recently], probably better than Trevor Darling coming in,” Blustein said.

UM also is pushing hard to land another top linemen or two. Among the targets: American Heritage teammates Kai-Leon Herbert (a Michigan oral commitment) and Tedarrell Slaton, plus Ohio-based three-star tackle Thayer Munfort, Alabama-based three-star tackle Toryque Bateman and Louisiana-based four-star tackle Adrian Ealy.

“Slaton has got a huge upside; he has a lot to learn,” Blustein said. “I’ve seen him and Donaldson next to each other and Donaldson is the much better player.”

ESPN says Dykstra “doesn't excel in one particular area, but an effective player that we feel can develop into a good, productive starter at the FBS level.”

Gaynor is rated only a two-star prospect by Rivals but had multiple offers from Power 5 schools, including Minnesota (he was once committed there), West Virginia and Pittsburgh.

• Tight end: UM has an oral commitment from Texas-based Brian Polendey, rated 24th nationally at his position by Rivals. He’s a skilled blocker who caught only eight passes for 85 yards this season.

Polendey “has the tools to develop into a well-rounded college tight end,” ESPN said. “Looks to be predominantly used as an underneath-to-intermediate target and that is his strength, but possesses enough speed to work the seam.”

UM’s No. 1 target at tight end had been Bradenton-based Tre McKitty, a former Oregon commit, but he recently committed to FSU. Richt spent a full day with him recently (before his FSU commitment). Rivals rates McKitty the No. 17 tight end.

UM is pursuing Sacramento-based four star tight end Josh Falo, according to caneinsight.com’s and Herald contributor Peter Ariz. Falo, who’s uncommitted, is rated by Rivals as the No. 6 tight end in the country.

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