Heritage OL Kai-Leon Herbert picks Miami Hurricane
Welcome to National Signing Day 2017.
“Squad 17” as the University of Miami calls its newest recruiting class, is pumped to get this campaign going —and going in the right direction.
Without further ado...
SIGNING ALERT: Linebacker De’Andre Wilder is all yours, Canes fans. Wilder is listed as 6-3 and 202 pounds and hails from Miami Carol City High. He was rated four stars by ESPN, which named him the 22nd best outside linebacker prospect in the nation. He helped send Carol City to the 6A Florida State High School state championship and chose Miami over Georgia, USF, Florida, LSU, Louisville and Alabama. “Wilder has elite speed for a linebacker and is a disruptive nature in the backfield,’’ UM linebackers coach Manny Diaz said in a statement released on the Canes’ website. “He was a stalwart on Carol City’s state championship team. He can run sideline-to-sideline and packs a punch on contact.’’ Wilder told the Miami Herald’s Andre Fernandez: “It’s a great thing to be a Hurricane. It was a long process, like a relationship with a girl, except this was about football. I want to go there, become a better person and bring a championhip back home. I was 100 percent committed to the Canes.’’
SIGNING ALERT: Punter Zach Feagles is all yours, Canes fans. Another foot specialist from New Jersey just joined Michael “Jersey Mike’’ Badgley as an official Miami Hurricane. Feagles will be a punter like his father, former Hurricane Jeff Feagles, who is in the UM Sports Hall of Fame. The elder Feagles, now 50, punted in the NFL from 1988 through 2009 and lettered at UM from 1985 through ‘87. The younger Feagles, a solid 6-3, 215-pounder who attends Ridgewood High School, rushed for 1,049 yards and 22 touchdowns this season, kicked off and punted. He punted 19 times, according to Max Preps, for 697 yards for an average of 36.7, with seven punts inside the 20-yard line.
SIGNING ALERT: Defensive lineman Deonte “D.J.” Johnson is all yours, Canes fans. This 6-5, 240-pound defensive end was rated the No. 5 DE by ESPN, No. 7 by Rivals. He played at Sacramento Luther Burbank and is a consensus four-star prospect. He chose Miami over Washington, USC, Ohio State and Alabama. According to Max Preps, he had 15 sacks his senior year and 85 total tackles. He caused five fumbles and recovered three. He also had a ton of scholarship offers. UM defensive coordinator Manny Diaz might be doing a little jig right about now.
SIGNING ALERT: Receiver Jeff Thomas is all yours, Canes fans. As if Harley wasn’t a big catch, here comes consensus four-star pass-catcher Jeff Thomas of East St. Louis in Illinois, rated the 8th best receiver in the nation by ESPN. He was named MVP of the Under Armour All-America game. Thomas, 6-0 and 210 pounds. Thomas runs a 4.38, according to ESPN, and was one of the major players who were still uncommitted —until now. With Thomas, Harley and Njoku complementing freshman All-American Ahmmon Richards, this receiving unit just got a whole lot better. All the big dogs went after Thomas, including Alabama, Florida State, Michigan and on and on. ““Football has taken me places I never thought it would take me in life,’’ Thomas said during his videotaped announcement, “and I’m grateful that the lord has blessed me with this opportunity. …I would like to announce that I will be attending (looks for cap for a long time under table) the University of Miami.’’ Then, all cheers.
SIGNING ALERT: Receiver Mike Harley is all yours, Canes fans. This is a huge get. Everyone who covers Broward high schools knows that this young man, about 5-10 and 160 pounds, is a big-time talent. A consensus four-star prospect, Harley hails from that football breeding ground of Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas and is rated the 18th best wide receiver in the country by Rivals. He has phenomenal hands and finds a way to get open. Harley was committed to West Virginia before he dropped that pledge to come to his hometown Hurricanes. With Stacy Coley off to the NFL and Malcolm Lewis also gone, UM knew it needed some receiver depth. “It was a family decision,’’ Harley said on CBS Sports, with his family gathered around him. “It’s a blessing to have my family behind me... And now, for the next three or four years, I’ll be attending the University of...’’ At that point he put his UM hat on.
SIGNING ALERT: Offensive lineman Zalon’tae Hillery is all yours, Canes fans. Hillery, a 6-5, 285-pound offensive lineman out of Brunswick (Ga.) Glynn Academy, the same school as UM early enrollee Dee Jay Dallas, officially was announced as a Cane at about 10:15 a.m. Wednesday. He earned a four-star rating from 247Sports and three stars from ESPN and Rivals. He chose the Hurricanes over Alabama, Clemson, Florida and Kentucky, among others. And the offensive line is getting deeper and deeper.
SIGNING ALERT: Offensive lineman Corey Gaynor is all yours, Canes fans. He is a 6-4, 285-pound Hurricane with “all the mean streak you could ask for in an offensive lineman,’’ UM posted on Twitter after he signed. Gaynor is a three-star prospect and chose Miami over offers from Arizona, Houston, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, UCF and West Virginia. Gaynor will likely be practicing at center.
SIGNING ALERT: Offensive lineman Kai-Leon Herbert is all yours, Canes fans. He is out of Plantation American Heritage High and was formally committed to Michigan, which has one of the top recruiting classes in the nation. But Herbert decommitted after recently visiting the U. And the U is thrilled about it. Herbert, 6-5 and 285 pounds, is rated four stars by Rivals and ESPN and three by 247Sports. The Canes need offensive lineman in a big way, and this is a valuable addition.
SIGNING ALERT: Defensive lineman Jonathan Ford is all yours, Canes fans. He is 6-5 and 275 pounds and a three-star prospect out of Fort Lauderdale Dillard. He chose UM over Kentucky, Tennessee, USC, Auburn, Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma and West Virginia. And judging by his tweets, he’s very excited to be among the new wave of D-linemen ready to continue attacking the opponent’s quarterback. Said UM D-line coach Craig Kuligowski: “Jonathan has gained 50 pounds in a year. He has great length and is extremely physical. He was the best defensive tackle we saw live in action during the recruiting process. His upside is through the roof.’’
SIGNING ALERT: Quarterback N’Kosi Perry is all yours, Canes fans. He could be the quarterback of the future, and he’ll be competing with veteran Malik Rosier and others, as well as early enrollee Cade Weldon for a shot to take over for NFL-bound Brad Kaaya. He is a consensus four-star signal-caller and one of the top-rated dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation. N’Kosi attends Ocala Vanguard High School and will be arriving in Coral Gables sometime in the summer. He’s 6-4, 170 pounds (they’re all pretty thin when they arrive, then steadily bulk up) and threw for 2,267 yards and 32 touchdowns as a junior, with only two interceptions; and 1,778 yards and 24 touchdowns with four interceptions this past season. His career numbers, according to Max Preps: 5,127 yards, 64 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He rushed for 494 yards and 20 touchdowns in his high school career.
SIGNING ALERT: Cornerback Jhavonte Dean is all yours, Canes fans. Just after Midnight Saturday, the 6-2, 185-pound junior college CB Dean committed to Miami, and now he’s officially a Miami Hurricane. Dean played two seasons at Brenhnam (Texas) Blinn College, and played high school ball here in South Florida at Homestead South Dade High. He’s ranked the nation’s No. 2 junior college cornerback by 247Sports and according to the recruiting website, runs a 4.3-second 40-yard dash. He would be Miami’s 22nd commit. And guess what? He was formerly committed to Alabama.
SIGNING ALERT: Safety Derrick Smith of Jacksonville Trinity is all yours, Canes fans. Listed as 6-2 and 200 pounds, he has faxed his scholarship papers back to UM. He is a consensus three-star DB who had 52 tackles and three interceptions, not to mention two touchdowns as a receiver. He chose UM over UCLA, Colorado State, UCF and Iowa State. UM could use him, as it has lost safeties Rayshawn Jenkins and Jamal Carter to graduation.
SIGNING ALERT: Cornerback Trajan Bandy of Miami Columbus is all yours, Canes fans. And he’s a really good one. Bandy, 5-9, 180 pounds and a consensus four-star prospect, is out of Miami Columbus, where, if you recall, another talent emerged to grace the U: safety Deon Bush, now in the NFL. Bandy is compact, fast, has great leaping ability and can also be used as a kick returner.”
SIGNING ALERT: Wide receiver Evidence Njoku is all yours, Canes fans. He’s the first official UM signee of 2017, and his name tells you the genes are already in high gear. Evidence is the younger brother of NFL-bound tight end David Njoku, who recently left the Canes after his redshirt sophomore season. Evidence, 6-6 and 196 pounds, is from Wayne Hills High in Wayne, N.J., and is rated four stars by 247Sports and three stars by Rivals and ESPN. He scored eight touchdowns and caught 27 passes for 415 yards this past season. He also returned kicks. Nice, big target for the Hurricanes. “Evidence has a huge upside,’’ UM receivers coach Ron Dugans said in a UM-released statement. “He is a tall wide receiver that moves very well for his size. He has good speed and is a deep ball red zone threat.”
Heading into the day, Miami’s recruiting class was ranked 12th nationally (behind, in order, Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma, Florida State, LSU, Texas A&M, USC, Penn State and Tennessee) by rivals.com, with seven prospects rated with four stars and 13 with three.
247Sports had the Canes ranked 16th (behind, in order, Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia, Michigan, Florida State, LSU, Oklahoma, USC, Auburn, Texas A&M, Stanford, Notre Dame, Clemson, Tennessee and Penn State), with eight prospects rated with four sstars and 14 with three.
And ESPN.com had Miami’s class ranked 14th (behind, in order, Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia, Michigan, Florida State, LSU, Oklhoma, Clemson, USC, Stanford, Texas A&M, Auburn and Tennesse).
Remember, UM already has 10 early enrollees on campus, taking classes and preparing for spring football (see end of blog for list of early enrollees):
They are running back Robert Burns of Miami Gulliver Prep, safety Amari Carter of Palm Beach Gardens High, athlete DeeJay Dallas of Brunswick (Ga) Glynn Academy, offensive lineman Navaughn Donaldson of Miami Central, offensive lineman Zach Dykstra of Spirit Lake (Iowa), defensive lineman Jonathan Garvin of Lake Worth, linebacker Bradley Jennings of Jacksonville Sandalwood, tight end Brian Polendey of Denton, Texas, Guyer High, linebacer Waynmon Steed of Miami Central and quarterback Cade Weldon of Tampa Jefferson.