In his final decade at Georgia, Mark Richt signed two recruiting classes that were ranked outside the national top 10. The lowest-ranked of those: No. 12.
His first-year Miami staff hit the road Sunday — trying to boost a class currently ranked 14th — as the post-season recruiting frenzy began.
They will be allowed six in-home visits with each recruit from Sunday until Jan. 28, which is three days before signing day (Feb. 1). Aside from a period of no contact from Dec. 12 to Jan. 11, coaches will be everywhere — and oh, yeah, the Hurricanes (8-4, 5-3 ACC) will be preparing for their bowl game. They’ll learn that assignment next weekend.
In recruiting, Richt, a head coach for 16 years an an assistant for 15 more, knows what he wants. “You hope to have at least two-thirds of your class from home, so to speak. Another third are national blue-chip guys that want to be here. You’re not going to turn those guys down,” he said Sunday, in his weekly teleconference with reporters.
“That’s about how it was at Georgia. We’ll see how it ends up here.”
From 2006-15, according to 247Sports.com’s composite ratings, Georgia’s rank was third, ninth, seventh, fifth, 11th, sixth, eighth, 12th, eighth and fifth. He also laid the groundwork for Kirby Smart to sign the eight-ranked class last year.
Miami’s best class under Al Golden was 10th, in 2012. Randy Shannon signed the second-ranked class in 2008.
This year, Richt has needs in the defensive backfield, where cornerbacks Corn Elder and Adrian Colbert and safeties Rayshawn Jenkins and Jamal Carter will graduate. He’ll lose senior wide receivers Stacy Coley and Malcolm Lewis. That group is light on scholarship players as it is. Offensive line is another need, since reliable right guard Danny Isidora will graduate and UM has struggled up front.
Miami’s top-rated recruit is offensive tackle Navaughn Donaldson (Miami Central), who plans to take visits. Miami’s list of commitments also includes four-star defensive end D.J. Johnson (Sacramento, Calif.), cornerback Trajan Bandy (Miami-Columbus), quarterback N’Kosi Perry (Ocala-Vanguard) and multipurpose athlete DeeJay Dallas (Brunswick, Ga.)
“Until everybody signs on the dotted line, you can’t sit there and take for granted your commitments are going to be there in the end,” Richt said. “You have to constantly recruit, because kids take visits and all that type of things. There are people committed to other schools that visit us.
“Still, that list is obviously important. We’ve just got to keep recruiting hard at all positions across the board. We’re going to need some guys in the defensive backfield that can come in and play right away for sure. I don’t think there’s much doubt we need some help at the receiver position. Offensive line, it’s critical. Those are some of the top spots.”
This will be a full class for Miami, which is off probation for the first time in three years. UM can carry a full roster of 85 scholarships. Asked how many players he will sign — he currently has 20 commits — Richt called it a “very fluid” number.
“The rule is you can go 25 in any class and can go higher if you have room from last year’s class. If the kid comes in midyear he can count toward last year,” he said. “The other part of the rule is you can’t be over 85, obviously. Between now and signing day there might be attrition, for a variety of reasons, so you really don’t know for sure what your number is going to be. So we’re recruiting knowing that thing can move here and there.”
Several underclassmen could declare for the NFL draft, including junior quarterback Brad Kaaya and redshirt sophomore tight end David Njoku. Neither has made a public decision, though junior running back Joe Yearby plans to turn pro, according to a source. Richt said he didn’t know of Yearby’s intention, but wished him well if he planned to leave.
Richt said he will mine the junior college ranks “mostly to create depth” at thin positions, and while a “difference-maker” is always welcome, he doesn’t try to build around junior college players or graduate transfers.
“The goal is to bring in freshmen and develop them and have them ready to kick tail when the time comes,” he said.
Especially at defensive back, offensive line and receiver, he’s hoping he can find freshmen that can make the type of impact linebackers Shaq Quarterman, Michael Pinckney and Zach McCloud made this year. They were the nation’s only trio of true freshmen starting linebackers, and the only such group Miami has ever had.
“We proved that we’re not afraid to play freshmen with the linebacking corps,” Richt said. “We’ll probably have a bit of that in the defensive backfield.”