Barry Jackson

UM’s QB commit flourishing. And Richt explains who deserves credit for Jarren Williams

A six-pack of Miami Hurricanes notes on a Thursday:

▪ Four-star Connecticut-based prospect Tyler Van Dyke, who will be UM’s only quarterback in the 2020 recruiting class, is off to a strong start. Through three games, he has completed 31 of 45 passes for 640 yards, seven touchdowns, two interceptions and a 132.6 NFL passer rating.

In his most recent game, he played only the first half of a blowout win over Worcester Academy, completing 7-of-7 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown.

As a junior last season at Suffield Academy, he threw for 1,899 yard, 14 touchdowns and five interceptions and produced a 96.9 passer rating.

Van Dyke is a strong nonbinding commitment and has said he expects to enroll early at UM, in January.

As for UM’s quarterback of the present, ACC Network analyst and former UM coach Mark Richt weighed in during an interview with WQAM’s Marc Hochman and Channing Crowder this week, noting that his son, former quarterbacks coach Jon Richt, deserves credit for pursuing Williams.

“Well to give the credit where it belongs, it would be be my son Jon,” Richt said. “We had Art Sitkowski committed that class, and we were only going to take one QB. Jon had a relationship with Jarren, and Jarren knew what the deal was, but they just kept in contact. When Art decided to go to Rutgers, there was enough of a relationship to get Jarren on a visit. He just happened to visit the Notre Dame game that year, and it was enough to get him excited about being a Hurricane. If Jon just said well we got Art, I’m not going to talk to this kid anymore, I’m not sure we’d have gotten him.”

Mark Richt never played Williams last season except for the September Savannah State blowout, a decision that led Williams to seriously consider transferring. Though Richt has never confirmed this, UM sources have said he believed Williams lost focus after losing the starting quarterback battle in August and allowed himself to get out of shape.

What Richt sees now, he told WQAM, is a quarterback whose “fundamentals are tremendous. What he throws at he hits. Ssometimes he wasn’t sure who he was throwing to because he was just learning. I knew once he learned the system he was in, I really believed he’d do well. I think what he’s doing is very impressive considering the amount of time he got knocked around. … The thing I love about him is games where he’s been knocked around he still drops back the next time expecting a good pocket and throwing dimes. I’m really impressed.”

▪ Richt’s overall thoughts on the program, via WQAM: “I think Miami’s defense is getting nasty again. I think they gave up more big plays than they have all last season the first few games, got that straightened out. They have a lot of skill guys that are starting to sprout.... Everybody wants to throw it all on the O-line. I’ll say this: The O-line is the toughest position in football to get cohesive and to where they’re playing really good. Just about everyone in America has got some problems up front.

“But I think they have enough of a talent base up front, made some good moves putting DJ Scaife out there to tackle. I think was smart because I know the kid can pass [protect] even though he’s not that typical 6-5 guy. I’d say Miami’s on the rise this season, think they’ll do well, have as good a chance as anybody to win it. My guess today is the winner of Miami and Virginia is who will win the Coastal. That’s how I see it right now.”

▪ Winning on the field begets winning in recruiting, and here’s the problem for UM: Clemson already has commitments from the 2020 recruits ranked first, second, eighth, 24th and 25th by Rivals, including No. 1 QB D.J. Uiagealelei, who will eventually succeed Trevor Lawrence. Miami has only one top-50 recruit (running back Don Chaney at 38).

The good news: Miami’s 2020 class is ranked ninth by Rivals, with 11 four-star kids and 13 three-star recruits.

But Miami is in the mix for a top-10 player in the 2021 class — Western High five-star defensive back James Williams, who told Rivals that he has narrowed his choices to Miami, Clemson, Alabama, Auburn and Georgia.

▪ UM really likes how receiver Brian Hightower is coming on.

“The great thing Brian has a knack for is he finds a way to come down with the ball, contested catches, DB draped all over him, contorting his body,” Manny Diaz told WQAM’s Hurricane Hotline. “He’s good at making tough catches. Has a large catch radius. The more he does that, the more his confidence starts to grow.”

▪ UM’s defensive tackle play has been as good as UM could have possibly expected in the post-Gerald Willis era.

“In the attack Miami 4-3, which goes back to Miami in the ‘80s, it’s an equal-opportunity defense,” Diaz said. “We’ve got a lot of good players attacking the ball. If we do our job in the front seven, the running game decides who makes the tackle. … You can’t put up the numbers we’re putting up in run defense without having great play from our defensive tackles. A lot of the success we’ve had comes from that position.”

As for the offensive line, even though left tackle Zion Nelson has struggled, Diaz said Wednesday: “He’s got to play. You’re talking about a true freshman playing left tackle. Give me a history of that ... you develop those guys, get them in the game. Every rep matters.

“You get to the game with what you’ve got, try to get better and better and better. The thing I love about Zion, Zion competes, man. He doesn’t flinch, doesn’t blink, gets back in there.”

▪ Quick stuff: Bernie Kosar, the quarterback on UM’s first national championship team (1983 season) will be the honorary speaker to the team this weekend. “I’m so honored, so humbled to come back to Hard Rock and be honorary captain for a big game against Virginia Tech,” he told WQAM’s Joe Zagacki and Don Bailey. ... Diaz, explaining on Hotline how he envisions UM’s safeties being used: “Bubba Bolden adds a little more athleticism. He and Gurvan Hall can play more to the wide side of the field, cover some slots, man to man. Amari Carter and Rob Knowles can play more on the boundary in the Jaquan Johnson role.” ... Four-star New Jersey-based shooting guard Niels Lane, rated by Rivals as the 63rd best player in the 2020 basketball recruiting class, is down to UM, UF and Texas and will announce his decision Oct. 8.

Please click here for my two Thursday Heat pieces from training camp in West Palm Beach and my Thursday Dolphins piece.