A Miami Hurricanes offense that ranked a mediocre 59th in the country in scoring and loses its top tight end (Chris Herndon), best running back (Mark Walton) and most productive 2017 receiver (Braxton Berrios) clearly needed an injection of playmaking.
And that’s exactly what the Hurricanes are getting, with a group of incoming skill position players that longtime recruiting analyst Tom Lemming calls among the best in the country.
As far as quarterbacks, running backs, receivers and tight ends, this UM class “is outstanding, top five along with Georgia and Ohio State,” Lemming said.
UM could add one more skill position player if four-star receiver Marquez Ezzard chooses UM over Mississippi on Wednesday. Either way, this should be UM’s most skilled incoming collection of playmakers this decade.
▪ Running back: Orange Park’s Lorenzo Lingard, already enrolled, averaged 8.2 yards per carry last season and “he’s an elite back,” recruiting guru Larry Blustein said.
“He’s fast as lightning, elusive, doesn’t go down on the first hit. They have to make sure he doesn’t lose too much weight from [competing in] track. He went into the 180s last year.”
Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell and Lemming call Lingard UM’s best offensive player in this class.
“He’s is always gaining significant yards after contact,” Lemming said. “He can be an impact back right away.”
Carol City’s four-star Camron Davis has signed but hasn’t enrolled. His numbers were modest last season, “but Carol City didn’t run very much and was a low-scoring team,” Blustein said. “He went off against smaller teams. He’s good.”
Lemming said Davis “is really under the radar.”
▪ Receiver: Southridge’s Mark Pope, Rivals’ No. 6 receiver in this 2018 class, is already enrolled at UM and will be a “big-time playmaker,” Blustein said. “He separates from defensive backs. He’s right there with Ahmmon Richards [in talent]. Whereas Ahmmon comes from Wellington, which is not really a football program, Southridge players play at a high level.”
Lemming agrees: “He has real good hands and plays in an exceptionally strong league.”
The other two receivers — Brian Hightower and Pope’s teammate/three-star Daquris Wiggins — also have already enrolled.
“Wiggins is not at the Pope level but he’s a four-year varsity starter,” Blustein said. “Started at Killian, then came to Southridge. He has good hands. I’ve seen Hightower twice and you watch him and say, ‘Wow.’ Excellent combo of size and speed.”
But Farrell cautions that if Hightower was not involved in the passing game early in games at IMG Academy, “he can disappear. He has to get involved early and then he’s great.”
▪ Tight end: UM is adding the best combo in the country, with four-star Las Vegas-based Brevin Jordan and four-star Jacksonville-based Will Mallory both signed and set to enroll this spring or summer.
Blustein said Jordan “has got a chance to be as good as Miami has had” — on a level with Jeremy Shockey and Jimmy Graham. And Mallory “is more like Rob Gronkowski. Has speed and size; he’s a freak.”
Lemming said Mallory “has got a ways to go to put on weight and strength. Jordan and [Penn State-bound] Zack Kuntz are the most athletic tight ends in this class.”
▪ Quarterback: Though early enrollee Jarren Williams enters spring ball behind Malik Rosier and N’Kosi Perry, UM believes he has all the attributes to compete early.
“I think he has a chance to be an All-American,” Lemming said. “He's equal to N’Kosi Perry in talent. For the college game, they are outstanding quarterbacks who can throw and run. Both have real good arms.”
Farrell said Williams is a better natural passer than Perry.
▪ As for the rest of the offensive additions, Atlanta-based Realus George will give UM the nation’s top fullback recruit and help an offense that ranked among the bottom five in third-and-short conversions.
And UM has a solid offensive line group in Orlando-based tackle John Campbell, Fort Meade-based guard Cleveland Reed and Southridge guard/tackle Delone Scaife, who is considered the best of the bunch (No. 6 tackle, No. 58 overall prospect).
Blustein said none are quite at the level that Navaughn Donaldson was when he entered UM last year and became an immediate starter.
“Scaife is a hard-nosed kid, but not like Donaldson where you put him right in,” Blustein said.
Farrell said “Scaife has the most upside.”
UM isn’t believed to have offered scholarships to any 2018 backs, tight ends or offensive linemen beyond the ones who have signed.
Among ESPN’s top 300 prospects, Jordan is 20th, Lingard 60th, Williams 106th, Hightower 141st, Reed 143rd, Davis 167th, Mallory 190th, Scaife 218th and Pope 227th. (Conversely, Rivals has Pope as the 28th best player in the nation.)
So that’s nine UM offensive recruits among ESPN’s top 227 with a chance to add Ezzard, who’s 255th.
That’s good work by a UM staff that needed to find playmakers.
▪ Defensive tackle Keondre Coburn will announce his college choice (UM or Texas) at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. ... The coveted Plantation American Heritage defensive recruits (Pat Surtain Jr., Tyson Campbell, Andrew Chatfield, Nesta Silvera) are scheduled to announce at 10 a.m. on ESPNU. Silvera, a defensive tackle, is orally committed to UM; the Canes are battling SEC schools for the others.