The early signing period delivered UM two elite tight ends, a potential star running back and another hotly-recruited one, a four-star quarterback and help at receiver and on the offensive line.
On defense, though, this signing class remains a work in progress.
UM added four highly-regarded defensive backs, but Miami - so far - has signed only one defensive lineman (Hialeah Champagnat’s Gregory Rousseau), with the expectation that another (Plantation American Heritage’s Nesta Silvera) will sign in early February.
But UM wants more front four help, considering the Canes are losing ends Chad Thomas and Trent Harris and are at serious risk of losing starting tackles Kendrick Norton and Richard McIntosh Jr., who are considering turning pro.
“It’s possible we can add three guys up front,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said Wednesday after UM announced the signing of 18 players.
UM is hopeful of luring four-star defensive end/linebacker Andrew Chatfield, who is listed at 214 pounds and must put on weight. UM also hopes to lure Missouri-based Daniel Carson, a three-star prospect who is expected to visit in January.
But finding another tackle will be trickier, with target Jared Goldwire bypassing UM on Wednesday to stick with his commitment to Louisville.
How concerned is Diaz about defensive tackle with the prospect of losing McIntosh and Norton?
“I think you will see us continue to fill some spots at that position,” Diaz said. “We have been very thorough on our evaluations. We say who’s the best guy in Dade, Broward, Palm Beach at that position? We feel like we did that at secondary, linebacker, defensive end and we need to do that for sure at defensive tackle. We suspect we will.”
(That would be Silvera, who Diaz can’t discuss yet. Silvera, a strong oral commitment, didn’t sign this week only because he wants to accompany teammates Chatfield and Tyson Campbell on their UM official visits in January.)
At defensive end, Diaz is bullish on Rousseau, who also can play linebacker but will primarily be a defensive end at UM, according to Diaz.
“Greg has a unique skill set in terms of his ability to come off the edge and rush the passer first and foremost,” Diaz said. “The comparison I’ve always had in my mind is Manny Lawson, who we had at N.C. State. Kind of came in the same way. Greg was so valuable in so many different ways at Champagnat. Did a great job. State champions there. You can never have enough guys who can rush the passer and get after the quarterback. Greg does have the ability to drop in coverage and play in space, which gives us a lot of flexibility.”
As far as other defensive ends, “there may still be an add there as well,” Diaz said. “That should be a glamour position in our defense, defensive end. With coach Kool [Craig Kuligowksi] tutoring those guys every day, we always expect to have great success every day at that spot.”
UM added only one linebacker (South Dade’s three-star Patrick Joyner Jr.) but isn’t looking to add any more because it isn’t losing any linebackers after the season. UM considers Waymon Steed, who redshirted this season, as another addition of sorts. And Jamie Gordinier and Charles Perry return from knee surgery.
On Joyner, Diaz said: “Long, can run, high motor guy. Has a unique skill set with his ability to rush the passer. One of the top guys in Dade County, maybe the top guy in sacks on the season. A guy that on first and second down can chase a running back and on third down maybe a guy we can use where we showed this year playing with four defensive ends. A guy like Pat and a guy like Greg can give us more weapons to go affect the quarterback.”
Here’s Diaz’s assessment of the four defensive back signings:
• St. Thomas Aquinas cornerback Al Blades Jr.: “You can’t talk about Al without talking about his mentality and his demeanor. He plays like a Hurricane. Highly competitive in everything he does. Wants to win in everything he does.
“That learning experience of guys understanding the sense of urgency it takes to play --- Al has that. He gets more than anybody what it takes to be a Hurricane. We’re very proud to have him be a part of our family.”
• South Dade cornerback DJ Ivey: “What DJ brings is length, speed. Really in recruiting at times, guys will sort of take the foot off the gas their senior year. DJ really came on strong this year. You talk to the coaches at South Dade they couldn’t get him off the field. Played on special teams, did it all. Tackling a lot better – a lot more physical at the point of attack. What you want a guy to be in the secondary, DJ has all the skills and also very intelligent. Outstanding student and will be in our campus in January.”
• Coral Gables cornerback Gilbert Frierson: “Gilbert has corner skills. All of these guys have positional flexibility which we look at as a plus. Pass rushers and cover guys there is no such thing as having too many of them. Gilbert plays at high level of urgency, very competitive. Knows what it takes to succeed. Has locked down some great players.”
• Palm Beach Gardens safety Gurvan Hall: “Gurvan is a safety. We have always thought so highly of Gurvan for maybe two years now. Outstanding young man. We have this great group of guys from Palm Beach County. They are the greatest group of guys off the field. On the field, they’re trying to knock the taste out of your mouth. Gurvan is the next one in line, like Amari Carter, Zach McCloud, Travis Homer, and Ahmmon Richards. Palm Beach has been very good to us, and Gurvan is really the next one.”
UM is still in the mix for corners Patrick Surtain (a five-star prospect), Tyson Campbell and FSU oral commit Asante Samuel. Rivals national recruiting coordinator Mike Farrell said UM isn’t the leader for Surtain or Campbell. But Miami remains in the mix there.