Mark Richt weighs in on how recent losses have affected recruiting
If you’re hoping this UM recruiting class will add players who can boost an offense that ranked 93rd of 130 FBS schools in yards per game this season, you’re probably not going to get clarity on that for a while.
The Hurricanes’ 2019 class has slipped to 30th overall in the Rivals rankings and 23rd in ESPN’s rankings, and only four of the 16 players committed play offense.
Of those four, two are four-star prospects (offensive lineman Michael Tarquin and receiver Jeremiah Payton) and two are three-stars (tight end Larry Hodges and guard Kingsley Eguakun).
But whether Tarquin and Eguakun ever enroll at Miami is in doubt.
And this in troubling: UM isn’t even in the mix for many elite offensive players.
Nationally, ESPN gives 13 players in the Class of 2019 the highest recruiting designation, which is five stars. UM, at the moment, is in the mix for only one of those 13 players – Georgia-based receiver Jadon Haselwood.
In fact, of the top 50 Class of 2019 players according to ESPN.com, UM has commitments from none of them.
UM’s highest-rated recruit is Neptune Beach-based Payton, who’s rated 56th overall by ESPN.
What’s more, the highest-rated offensive player from South Florida – South Dade receiver Frank Ladson – is orally committed to Clemson. He’s 35th among ESPN’s top 300.
But here’s the good news: UM is firmly in the mix for Haselwood (the No. 12 overall prospect), four-star Texas-based tight end Jalen Wydermyer and four-star Lakeland tight end Keon Zipperer (63rd on ESPN’s top 300). And they’re in contention for IMG Academy offensive tackle Evan Neal, who’s rated a five-star by Rivals but not by ESPN.
Where things stand on offense, by position:
▪ Offensive line: Most challenging for UM is finding high-impact offensive linemen because so many of them come from other regions of the country.
Consider the five-star offensive linemen in ESPN’s rankings. Four of them are committed and three of those are committed to teams in their home states: Texas-based tackle Kenyon Green to Texas A&M, Alabama-based Pierce Quick to Alabama and Michigan based Devonta Dobbs to Michigan State. Georgia-based Wanya Morris is committed to Tennessee.
Of the three ESPN five-star offensive linemen who are uncommitted, Rivals.com says Tennessee and Alabama are the favorites for West Virginia-based tackle Darnell Wright and UM isn’t in the mix for five-star Alabama based guard Clay Webb.
But Miami is a serious contender for Neal, with Alabama, FSU and UF among others pushing.
While it’s fairly easy to find running backs, receivers and defensive backs in South Florida, finding top offensive linemen is another story, with Donaldson and Vernon Carey among the exceptions over the years.
“Unless you grow up bigger than everybody, they’re very tough to find here,” recruiting analyst Larry Blustein said. “Miami is starting to build the line with local kids.”
The question is whether three of those South Florida natives on the Canes – DJ Scaife, Corey Gaynor and Kai-Leon Herbert - will end up being high-end starting linemen.
Scaife is considered the best of those three – he started the past month - and Gaynor has a good chance to start at center next year. UM is also counting on two Class of 2018 players from upstate to be high-level starters eventually: tackle John Campbell and guard Cleveland Reed.
UM has two linemen orally committed: four-star Tarquin from Citra, Fla., and three-star Eguakun. But Tarquin, rated the 30th-best tackle by Rivals, is now strongly considering the Gators after three visits there in November and an official visit to UM last weekend. He said he’s undecided and team performance is one of several factors being considered.
Eguakun isn’t rated among the top 50 guards, and he visited Auburn, which is making a push for him. So if you’re hoping UM will find an elite lineman this year, it could rest on Evan Neal.
UM also is pursuing three-star Palm Beach Central tackle Renato Brown (a previous UM commitment), Pensacola-based three-star tackle Darius Washington and two-star tackle CJ Elmonus, a Wake Forest commitment, among others.
▪ Tight end: With Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory having three years of eligibility remaining after this season, and Hodges already committed, UM will be fine by simply adding either Wydermyer or Zipperer, and Miami has a decent chance to land one of them. Michael Irvin Jr. also returns from injury next season.
“I told Coach, ‘I want to do the exact same thing y’all did with David Njoku,’” Wydermyer told The Miami Herald after his campus visit.
Wydermyer, after a home visit from UM coaches this week, told Canesport: “Miami and [Texas] A&M are very much up there. It’s a two team battle. They’re both pretty even.”
▪ Running back: UM lost its only running-back commitment, Marcus Crowley, to Ohio State, and then lost out on four-star Kenny McIntosh to Georgia.
UM is pursuing Wellington’s four-star Mark-Antony Richards (Ahmmon’s brother), who visited Penn State, plans to visit Auburn and is looking to visit UF and UM. He won’t sign until February and says there’s no favorite.
UM also has offered Sebring three-star running back DJ Williams, an Appalachian State commitment who told Canesport.com that “Miami’s in a great position” but that he’s also considering Georgia and possibly Texas.
The Canes on Monday offered four-star Katy, Texas-based running back Deondrick Glass, who has identified Alabama as his favorite. “Very honored and blessed to have received an offer from the University of Miami,” he tweeted. But it’s unclear if Miami will get a visit.
UM also has shown some interest in Rockland three-star running back Jalen Mitchell.
▪ Receiver: UM, which added four receivers last year, has a very good one orally committed in Payton and wants to add another, with Haselwood the priority. His coach told Canesport.com that he enjoyed his visit here and that Miami has a decent shot for Rivals’ No. 3 receiver in the 2019 class. LSU, Auburn, Georgia (where he was once committed) and Oklahoma are the other top contenders.
Rivals.com says “the Hurricanes have been the school trending [for Haselwood] since the decommitment, with Georgia still fighting to get him back. We will not know who wins this war until Jan. 5 at the All-American Bowl in San Antonio.”
ESPN calls Payton a “wiry, long player with good feet. Good length to shield defenders from the ball. Will work the middle of the field. Consistently makes plays. Speed is competitive but not a burner.”
He appears to be a firm commitment. Also, UM made the final eight for three-star Lake City receiver T.J. Jones, and Miami is also trying to flip four-star Hollywood Chaminade Madonna receiver John Dunmore.
▪ Quarterback: After losing out on Michael Johnson Jr. to Penn State, UM hasn’t aggressively pursued a high school Class of 2019 quarterback but is open to adding a transfer. But Richt told ESPN’s announcers last week that he believes his 2019 starting quarterback is on the current roster.
Players can sign Dec. 19-21 or on Feb. 6.