Barry Jackson

Dean of local recruiting assesses UM recruiting class

With National Signing Day closing in on Wednesday, Larry Blustein, the dean of local high-school recruiting, broke down UM’s class in a phone conversation this afternoon.

His overall thoughts:

“Right now, it’s a good class. If they land two or three [among receivers Jeff Thomas and Mike Harley and cornerbacks Christopher Henderson and Jhavonta Dean], it becomes a very good class.

“Next year, they’ve got to sway a lot of the elite kids. Next year, they’ve got to make their mark. Next year has got to be a top 5 class. FSU is one of the elite teams. Why shouldn’t Miami be?”

His thoughts by position (we’ll deal with quarterback in a longer post with other material on Tuesday):

• Offensive line: “Even if they don’t get [Plantation American Heritage’s] Tedarell Slaton, they’ve got one of the most athletic offensive line classes they’ve had in a lot of years. We’re talking back to the early 90s.

“[Miami Central tackle] Navaughn Donaldson is a beast. [Iowa-based] Zach Dykstra is a big time kid – coming from an area where Nebraska linemen come from.

[Stoneman Douglas center] Corey Gaynor is the steal of this class. Nobody had a clue about him and he’s one of the most athletic linemen you will ever see.

[Plantation American Heritage’s] Kai-Leon Herbert [pictured above] has been hurt a little bit. He has been playing hurt all year. Herbert is going to be very good down the line.”

“All [four] of them have a chance to start in next couple years. Donaldson can play either tackle spot. Herbert probably is a right tackle. Dykstra could be moved inside to guard.”

• Running back: Gulliver’s Robert Burns, who had just nine carries last season (according to because of an ankle injury and other factors: “People have been asking me about him. I can’t make an assessment. He didn’t do anything this year, hasn’t done anything since his sophomore year. He’s been hurt.”

He said sophomore-to-be Travis Homer is plenty good enough to be Mark Walton’s backup.

“He’s a complete back,” Blustein said. “If Trayone Gray is fully healed [from knee surgery], I know he runs straight up but he’s a big back – he can replace Gus Edwards. You don’t want to kill Walton and make him go in every short yardage situation.”

• Receiver/tight end: “I don’t see [St. Thomas Aquinas’ undecided receiver Mike] Harley not going to Miami. He could be like Santana Moss. He’s electric. You pop in one of his videos. He doesn’t look like he’s moving but he bypasses people. He will be what Sam Bruce could be – but he catches the ball better.

“He’s a slight build guy but try to match a linebacker or safety on him, you’re wasting your time. He’s got electrifying speed. He could be a home run hitter in the slot – he can go right up the middle and score.”

He said receiver commit Evidence Njoku and tight end commit Brian Polendey are not “marquee kids” but likes their upside. Polendey is a skilled blocker.

• Defensive line: “[Dillard’s] Jon Ford is so quick. He’s like a future NFL defensive end. Miami will have to use him in the interior. [Lake Worth’s] Jonathan Garvin is quick, very athletic, comes off the ball really quickly.

[Sacramento defensive end Deonte] Johnson is a beast, the type of kid Miami used to have. I watched him for five days at the Under Armour game. This is a very good defensive line class. They hadn’t been getting that LSU, Alabama, marquee defensive tackle and now they’re starting to.”

• Linebacker: “[Central’s] Waynmon Steed will get into their rotation [despite coming off major knee surgery]. The thing I like about him is he’s as disciplined as you’re ever going to get. He put on 40 pounds a couple years ago. He took off all the weight, put on weight as muscle. Had a great year. He will be very good.

“[Carol City’s] De’Andre Wilder has to grow. He’s still thin, like 6-4, 200. But he’s going to be special… as a pass-rusher.

“[Jacksonville-based] Bradley Jennings is such a passionate kid; he will knock your block off – he’s that physical guy.”

• Defensive backs: “Getting [undecided Columbus corner] Chris Henderson is important for depth and having someone they can teach. That would be a huge pick up [though he’s not very] experienced [at corner]. Smart kid, very quiet. Did pretty well at Under Armour. He’s won every fast man competition I’ve ever seen, including The Al Golden camp. [Green Bay corner Ladarius] Gunter is a perfect [comparison.] [Gunter] just wasn’t coached well here.

“Jhavonte Dean can be in the mix [to play a lot if he picks UM over Arizona State]. Lot of potential but still has a lot of maturing to do. I watched him at South Dade and watched his JC tape [from Blinn CC in Texas], and he was great [at Blinn]. But JC kids you don’t know. He played more safety at South Dade and was a return specialist.”

“[Columbus corner] Trajan Bandy reminds me of Terrell Buckley. Fast and great arm span and great leaping ability. Short, like Buckley was, but strong and will muscle up with bigger receivers. He’s more apt to get playing time early because he’s a physical corner.

“With DeeJay Dallas, I noticed everybody on his side of the ball rallied around him every play he made. He’s rah rah and that’s contagious. Skill wise, he’s really becoming a good player and can become much better. He can be a boundary or a slot, like Bandy.

“[Palm Beach Gardens safety] Amari Carter is a long kid; great tackler; tremendous ball skills. Not as athletic as Jamal Carter but a better player.”

Again, we’ll have quarterback talk (N’Kosi Perry, Cade Weldon) in a Tuesday post, and our Susan Miller Degnan will have a Weldon feature posted shortly.


• Miramar safety Brian Edwards, a UM target, told UF he’s going there, according to, which quoted a source… Four-star receiver Jeff Thomas is down to UM, Louisville and Oregon and will announce at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, according to Canesport.

• ESPNU will have around-the-clock Signing Day coverage… Blustein will be a part of WQAM-560’s signing day coverage from 2 to 7:30 p.m., as will Joe Zagacki and Don Bailey… Brian “The Beast” London and I will talk about UM’s class from 7 to 10 p.m. Tuesday on 790 The Ticket, and The Ticket will have Signing Day guests throughout the day Wednesday before Heat coverage begins at 6:30 p.m..