Barry Jackson

Examining UM’s No. 1-rated recruiting class and remaining targets

Miami Hurricane's head coach Mark Richt speaks to journalists about how his team did on National Signing Day at the University of Miami's Schwartz Center in Coral Gables on Feb. 1, 2017.
Miami Hurricane's head coach Mark Richt speaks to journalists about how his team did on National Signing Day at the University of Miami's Schwartz Center in Coral Gables on Feb. 1, 2017. For the Miami Herald

What do Mark Richt and his assistants do with a 2018 recruiting class rated No. 1 in the country by Rivals and No. 2 by ESPN, behind only Ohio State? Try to make it even better.

Already with commitments from five of ESPN’s top 100 players and seven more ranked between 100 and 200, UM added a top offensive tackle on Monday and is very much in the mix for more coveted players, including elite Plantation American Heritage cornerbacks Patrick Surtain Jr. and Tyson Campbell.

“It’s an exceptional class,” local recruiting guru Larry Blustein said, “and if they do the same thing in 2019 and 2020, they will be in the top 10 in the country and with a key win here or there, could get into the final four [and a thus a playoff berth]. Miami still has to get where Florida State is, as far as depth.

“What helps is the staff is a lot more experienced and they’ve been at this high level of recruiting. It makes a difference when you have recruiting down to a science. But they still don’t have enough defensive tackles. You’re good at end, good at linebacker. Miami has to get more guys up front, o-line and d-linemen if they’re going to win a championship.”

An update on where things stand:

• Of UM’s 19 commitments, 12 are rated in ESPN’s top 300.

• The top 100 prospects: Las Vegas based tight end Brevin Jordan (30th), St. Thomas Aquinas cornerback Al Blades Jr. (37th), Bradenton IMG Academy receiver Brian Hightower (83rd), Bradenton IMG Academy quarterback Artur Sitkowski (84th) and Orange City-based running back Lorenzo Lingard (91st).

Of UM’s top prospect, Blustein said: “I asked Brevin Jordan about coming to a middle-of-the-pack school in the ACC - when he could have gone to USC or a lot of other places closer to him - but he said it’s more of a family here. And people don’t understand that until they come here that Miami is a small school. That really helps. You get here and say, ‘I’m in a huge city but a school that’s manageable.’ Jordan has great hands, gets upfield really well.”

Blustein on the other top 100 prospects: “Al Blades has come a long way, matured a lot. He's like [longtime NFL corner] Asante Samuel. He is an aggressive player like [his deceased father, the former UM safety]. Not blazing speed but good enough. He has played against a lot of high profile receivers….

“Hightower is a physical freak, can take over a game. He’s a beast. Sitkowski is big, physical kid, a pro-style quarterback with a very good arm. Lingard is electrifying and quick as heck; a big-time get. Reminds me of [former UM back] Stephen McGuire.”

• The oral commitments rated by ESPN between 100 and 200: Miami Columbus cornerback Josh Jobe (110), Palm Beach Lakes safety Gurvan Hall (138), Lakeland High guard Cleveland Reed (141), Plantation American Heritage defensive tackle Nesta Silvera (153), Carol City running back Camron Davis (161), Coral Gables cornerback Gilbert Frierson (183) and Jacksonville tight end Will Mallory (185).

Recruiting analyst Charles Fishbein on those players: “Jobe is an elite player; one of the top corners in the state and versatile enough like Amari Rolle to play corner or safety. Instant impact player. Gurvan Hall is one of my favorite players; very physical, can play run and pass; very good ball skills and will contribute right away….

“Camron Davis is more of a power back, pound-it-between-the-tackles type back…. Nesta is an undersized tackle but you watch him play live and he goes hard on every down, constantly in the backfield. Frierson is a free safety who will strike you.”

On Mallory, Blustein said: “You can tell he gets off the ball real well. He’s 6-5. That’s what Miami needs. North Florida was the epicenter for Georgia recruiting, and this staff has a feel for a kid like that. In the past, Miami wouldn’t get a kid from a small school like that in North Florida.”

UM loses its only proven tight end (Chris Herndon) after this upcoming season, but the Jordan/Mallory combo has elite potential.

• Rated between 200 and 300: Miami Southridge receiver Mark Pope (215). Fishbein: “He looks great on film; has very good hands, runs good routes.” Pope has indicated he’s still considering other options.

• The other oral commitments: Orlando left tackle John Campbell (committed Monday), Hialeah Champagnat athlete Gregory Rousseau (rated the 233rd best player by, Killian three-star offensive tackle Delone Scaife, Southridge three-star receiver Daquris Wiggins, South Dade three-star cornerback D.J. Ivey and Texas-based Bubba Baxa (considered one of the nation’s best kickers).

Blustein: “Scaife and [incoming guard/center] Corey Gaynor could be plugged into that line for years to come. Ivey will be a huge surprise because he’s so athletic.”

Rivals rates Campbell the 12th best player in the 2018 class, but ESPN doesn’t have him in its top 300.

“He’s the athlete Navaughn Donaldson is; not as big but quick feet,” Blustein said

As for the others, “Rousseau is a project,” Fishbein said. “He played receiver early on. They’re looking at him as more of a defensive end and he will need a redshirt year to put on weight. Wiggins, if he had gone through the recruiting process, would have ended up a four star. Not as smooth as Pope but more upside because he’s a bigger kid.”

Who’s left: UM is in the mix for a bunch of high-end players. Among them: American Heritage cornerback Tyson Campbell, rated the 69th best player in the nation, is looking strongly at UM; Canes cornerback coach Mike Rumph was Campbell’s optimist coach. But Ohio State and Clemson are formidable challengers…. American Heritage cornerback Patrick Surtain Jr., rated the No. 2 player in the nation, also is being courted by UM. He told Canesport that UM has a good chance to make his final five....

Among defensive linemen, UM is pursuing five-star Pennsylvania-based Micah Parsons (Ohio State considered the favorite by some), three-star Kissimmee defensive tackle Dennis Briggs ( says he’s leaning toward UM), New Jersey-based defensive tackle Tyler Friday (UM trying to play catch-up to Michigan), Missouri-based defensive tackle Trevor Trout (UM among 10 or so under consideration) and three-star Georgia-based defensive lineman JaMarcus Chatman (a Tennessee oral commit).

Briggs, Friday and Trout are priorities because they play a position where UM could need significant help as early as 2018 if Richard McIntosh Jr. and Kendrick Norton turn pro after their junior years. Orlando’s Campbell told Rivals that there’s a 99 percent chance that Briggs will pick Miami.

“Briggs is very good,” Blustein said.

At linebacker, UM is the mix for Miami Central’s Robert Hicks, rated by Rivals as the No. 20 inside linebacker. The Canes are also pursuing Jensen Beach’s Jamien Sherwood, the No. 17 safety. “Sherwood is the No. 1 kid in that area; rangy, runs extremely well,” Blustein said.

On the offensive line, UM is after Apopka tackle William Barnes, but UF is considered the favorite.

Among receivers, UM is competing with Notre Dame for North Broward Prep’s Kevin Austin (rated by Rivals as the 141st-best player); Booker T. Washington 6-3 receiver Tyquan Thornton (UF considered the slight favorite), St. Thomas Aquinas’ Elijah Moore (88th best player, according to Rivals) and Georgia-based Marquez Ezzard (176th overall by Rivals), who said he will commit to FSU or Georgia on Saturday.

In case you missed it on July 4, here are a bunch more UM personnel notes, including a notable absence from their 2017 class and other stuff.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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