Barry Jackson

Here’s what Mark Richt is expecting from his elite freshman playmakers

Miami Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt is excited about his freshman playmakers.
Miami Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt is excited about his freshman playmakers. mocner@miamiherald.com

A six-pack of Canes notes on a Monday:

▪ Longtime recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said UM’s incoming offensive playmakers are among the top five in the country.

And coach Mark Richt made clear this past weekend that he has every expectation that several of those running backs/receivers/tight ends will be impact players right away.

That group includes elite tight end combo Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory, five-star running back Lorenzo Lingard, five-star receiver Mark Pope, plus four-star receivers Marquez Ezzard and Brian Hightower and top fullback Realus George, among others.

“Oh yeah,” Richt said when asked if it’s realistic to expect that group to be impact players immediately. “We expect those guys to have a huge impact on our team from an offensive standpoint. And there will be some defensive guys that will absolutely have to play and maybe start.”

He said top freshmen play at every program but “we’re at the position now where a lot of them will have to do it.”

Lingard and Travis Homer are favorites to be the top two running backs, in some order, this season, with DeeJay Dallas and incoming Cameron Davis also in line for playing time.

It would be surprising if Pope isn’t among UM’s top five receivers this season.

And Jordan and Mallory could be the top two tight ends if they hold off Michael Irvin Jr., with Brian Polendey the other other tight end on scholarship.

Richt called Pope “dynamic.” Offensive coordinator Thomas Brown said Lingard is “a slasher, a one-cut downhill-type guy’’ who “can make you miss” without a lot of wiggling.

Tight ends coach Todd Harley said Jordan “has unbelievable ball skills, just the ability to track a football and make the catch, body control in the air. Once he makes the catch, he’s such an athlete that he makes plays in space that most big men can’t make. And then he has the size and the girth to be able to break an arm tackle or run through a DB trying to tackle him... [Mallory] can run, he’s got great length. He really reminds you of a young David [Njoku].”

▪ I asked Richt this Saturday: When he watched Alabama in the national title game (after having played Clemson without three of Miami’s key offensive weapons in early December), does he believe UM is still far away in matching the Crimson Tide’s talent or close to Alabama’s level.

He didn’t answer directly but said this: “We’re always trying to upgrade our talent. We played most of the season with only 72 on scholarship. Didn’t have a lot of guys behind some of our better players to play at the same level. That’s why we recruit. We did a really good job of getting ourselves closer, but we’re still probably at about 82 [which is three under the maximum permitted]. That’s about the max number we can get going into this year. We’re not quite to maximum numbers yet.

“But we’re getting the right guys in the program, guys we’ve evaluated and believe in. We’ve got to keep doing that. When we keep putting these recruiting classes back to back to back, then we’ll have that type of team.”

UM lost nine scholarships because of NCAA probation from the Nevin Shapiro scandal. UM came off probation more than a year ago.

▪ Richt said UM expects to open its indoor practice facility on Aug. 1. “The last piece of steel is going up on Tuesday,” he said. .... On the ongoing grueling mat drills for his players, Richt said: “Now I’ve got 85 percent of the team that really knows how to do it. When new guys come in, they know ‘I have to get to this level.’”

▪ One returning Canes player who isn’t permitted to speak on the record during this time of year said what’s impressive about Lingard, an early arrival, beyond his talent, is that he’s a very hard worker in the weight room. In other words, there’s no sense of entitlement there because of his five-star pedigree.

That player also been impressed by quarterback Jarren Williams’ skill set.

▪ At this point, UM isn’t aggressively pursuing another grad transfer (beyond the two already committed), but remains open to it if the right one emerges…

Four-star Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas cornerback Jaden Davis told Canesport’s Matt Shodell that “Miami’s in great shape” for him. “Just being the hometown team, I’m so comfortable with the program.” But he plans to visit Ohio State and Oklahoma and consider others, too.... St. Augustine Class of 2019 defensive back Kenny Logan told Canesport that UM is No. 1 on his list.

▪ The UM men’s basketball team, which plays at North Carolina at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, does not expect to get guard Bruce Brown back from foot surgery before next week’s Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

“My own opinion is no, he’s not going to play in the ACC tournament,” coach Jim Larrañaga said on a conference call Monday. “But if the doctors change their evaluation — we’ll have to wait and see what the doctors say. Right now he is not going to be evaluated again until March 12.”

Here’s what Dwyane Wade said Monday about a Stoneman Douglas shooting victim being buried in Wade’s jersey.

Here’s my Monday post with lots of Heat news, including updates on Kelly Olynyk, Josh Richardson, why Tuesday’s game is so critical and more.

Here’s my Monday post with news on another Dolphins dilemma that has surfaced.

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