Miami-Notre Dame 2017: Biggest recruiting weekend of the Mark Richt era?

Sebastian the Ibis hypes the crowd up during Hurricane Walk before Virginia Tech. (Andres Leiva/The Palm Beach Post)

[Brothers R.J., Deon McIntosh ready to rumble]

[Ahmmon Richards hoping for breakout game]

[The Rock? Pitbull? Who will be GameDay guest?]

[GameDay at UM: Here’s what you need to know]

From the still-unnamed GameDay celebrity picker to former Miami coach Dennis Erickson, there will be plenty of stars from the past and present swirling around South Florida this weekend.

And plenty of future stars, too.

The stakes of Saturday’s game, created by Miami’s 13-game winning streak and Notre Dame’s rebound, have made this weekend a Turnover Chain-golden opportunity for UM to build its program.

Saturday morning, ESPN’s College GameDay will be on Miami’s campus for the first time ever, setting up in front of the school’s Lake Osceola, for what is essentially a three-hour infomercial. The swaying palm trees, expected sunny skies and shots of the nearby beaches might pique the interest of those in cold-weather climates. Beginning at 8 p.m. (ABC), the TV broadcast is sure to capture the energy of a rejuvenated crowd at revamped Hard Rock Stadium, which has become a major advantage for UM this year.

If the seventh-ranked Hurricanes (8-0, 6-0 ACC) beat the third-ranked Irish (8-1) and climb further in the College Football Playoff rankings, that’ll obviously help. Win or lose, though, Miami is set to show recruits locally and nationally what the new ‘U’ is all about.

“In the last decade-plus, this is the biggest weekend there’s been,” said Matt Shodell, who covers recruiting for Canesport, Miami’s Rivals affiliate. “Anybody who’s anybody is going to be there in the recruiting section with their families.”

Those anybodies include top talents like five-star cornerback Tyson Campbell, who hasn’t made a commitment, and other commits heavily considering Miami, like four-star quarterback Jarren Williams (Kentucky) and junior college defensive tackle Jared Goldwire (Louisville).

They also include two of the top 2019 prospects, athletes Mark Richards and Kenny McIntosh, both of whom have older brothers at UM (and in McIntosh’s case, Notre Dame).

Also expected: nearly all the players in Miami’s 2018 class, which is ranked third nationally by Rivals, fourth by 247Sports and ESPN. This weekend should solidify that group even further.

“Who wants to leave a winning program that has a lot of depth holes, still?” Shodell said. “These kids can still play early, and be part of a team that’s going to be competing for national titles.”

One player Shodell put on commit watch is fullback Realus George, a three-star prospect from Atlanta. Richt has been looking for a player who wants to play fullback, rather than tailback, and George (6-2, 245) is eager.

Though many fans focus on the 2018 class, this weekend is more important for the high school underclassmen who are starting to narrow down their options.

“People who are committed to Clemson and Ohio State aren’t coming to Miami because it’s winning this year,” Shodell said. “This weekend helps recruits who don’t remember how great Miami was, the 2019, 2020, even 2021 kids who are seeing the excitement around Miami’s program. They realize they can get the same thing right here at home. They have new facilities, they have the excitement in the fan base, the team. It’s an even playing field with the Clemsons and Ohio States.”

Another way Miami has improved its standing with recruits: the behind-the-scenes operation, which Richt sought to upgrade when he arrived from Georgia in Dec. 2015. Shodell said recruits under previous coaches didn’t have the game-day experience they do now.

“When Al Golden was coach, I remember talking to top recruits who would show up and be turned away,” Shodell said. “Top recruits, because they didn’t have the system in place to RSVP or allot seats to the right people.”

As Duke Johnson could tell you, recruits weren’t the only attendees who ran into roadblocks.

“There haven’t been any problems” this year, Shodell said. “Last week (against Virginia Tech) was as big a weekend as they’ve had — this week will be bigger — and there were no problems, no issues.”

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[Richt Sunday: Enjoying these wins, this season]

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[UM No. 7 in AP poll | Canes home ‘dog to Irish]

 

 

 

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