It has been five days since Miami’s season ended with a 34-24 loss to Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl. Mark Richt is already seeing the 2018 team take shape. Such things move quickly.
“I’ve already had guys texting me, excited about the future and wanting to take on leadership roles and things of that nature,” he said Thursday. “I feel really good about us moving forward.”
Part of that feeling comes from a consensus top-10 recruiting class, several members of which are competing in high school All-American games this week in Tampa and San Antonio. Richt estimated nine or so of those players — a group that includes highly touted running back Lorenzo Lingard, receiver Mark Pope, and quarterback Jarren Williams — will enroll for the Jan. 16 start of classes. Much of the affirmation, naturally, comes from the players who are already in the program.
Miami will lose some steady hands, valuable players who both produced on the field and guided the proceedings off it. Veterans like Chad Thomas, Braxton Berrios, Chris Herndon, Mark Walton, Kc McDermott and Trent Harris will leave holes. Richt is encouraged by the next wave on defense, like safety Jaquan Johnson and linebacker Shaq Quarterman, a pair of All-ACC candidates. Defensive end Demetrius Jackson, returning from injury, is another respected voice.
“Those guys have already been leaders, as far as I see it,” Richt said. “Offensively, I would think some of the linemen, [seniors-to-be Tyler] Gauthier and Tyree [St. Louis], those guys you would expect to do that. You’ve got [quarterback] Malik [Rosier]. One guy who stepped up his game and his leadership started to grow, I thought, or at least sprout, was DeeJay Dallas. The guy played big in some big games. He’s got an energy about him that’s contagious. That’s outstanding. [Receiver] Ahmmon Richards will be a leader for us. There’s a lot of good candidates that can do that.
“What happens too, you’ve got a freshman class that comes in. There will be leadership in that bunch. … There’s a couple of them that may be able to step up and play enough and gain enough respect of their teammates to have a voice.”
Lingard, a five-star prospect, could be one of those players. He is considered one of the ambassadors for UM’s 2018 recruiting class, as Dallas was last year, and could play quite a bit with UM losing Walton to the NFL. He no doubt feels the same as one of his future teammates, rising sophomore wideout Mike Harley, who on Thursday posted a photo of a Hurricanes ACC Coastal Division Champions hat with the caption, “Not good enough.”
Lingard will play in the Army All-American Bowl on Saturday (1 p.m., NBC) with signees Pope, Williams and receiver Brian Hightower, and commit Nesta Silvera, a defensive tackle.
Another potential freshman standout, tight end Brevin Jordan, will play in Thursday’s Under Armour All-America Game with offensive linemen Delone Scaife and Cleveland Reed and safeties Gurvan Hall and Al Blades Jr. The game begins at 6 p.m. on ESPN2.
“We’ve heard a lot of good reports about our guys,” Richt said, when asked what he’s heard from sources at this week’s All-American game practices. “Obviously it’s an all-star game, and there are a lot of good players. From what I hear, our guys are doing exceptionally well and people are pleased with them.”
Schedule updates: “Somewhere around nine” midyear enrollees will join the program this month, Richt said. UM’s spring semester begins Jan. 16. UM is expected to begin spring practices after spring break, which ends March 18. UM’s offseason “mat drills,” he said, will begin “when coaches get off the road from recruiting.” The contact period for recruiting, during which coaches are permitted to visit recruits off-campus, ends Feb. 3. Players who didn’t sign in December can sign letters of intent again beginning Feb. 7.