Recruiting: Names to know for Miami Hurricanes’ push to signing day 2018

Mark Richt speaks on a UM-produced coaches’ show in 2017. (YouTube/CanesAllAccess)

Even if Miami stops recruiting now, it would still likely sign a top-10 class.

That’s based on its work before the Dec. 20-22 early signing period. In that span, UM signed 19 players, five of whom are ranked in the top five nationally at their positions. Eleven were ranked in the top 15, from the No. 1 tight end (Brevin Jordan) and No. 2 running back (Lorenzo Lingard) to No. 5 dual-threat quarterback (Jarren Williams).

Obviously, the Hurricanes aren’t putting their feet up. They have boots on the ground, and are charging hard at several big-time prospects before recruits are again allowed by NCAA rules to sign with schools Feb. 7.

Setting the table for what should be an interesting two weeks:

Cornerback

After losing junior-to-be Malek Young to a career-ending neck injury, Miami returns just three cornerbacks on scholarship: seniors Michael Jackson and Jhavonte Dean and sophomore Trajan Bandy. And while the Hurricanes are pleased with the development of Jackson and Bandy, cautiously optimistic about Dean, and happy with their haul for 2018 — four-stars Al Blades Jr., Gilbert Frierson and D.J. Ivey are likely to play early – UM is still far too light in numbers.

That’s why cornerback Tyson Campbell is a key recruit. Georgia, however, considers him the same. Kirby Smart and Co. sent a large delegation to Campbell’s Fort Lauderdale-area home this week. The five-star cornerback has visited UGA and Alabama, and is at Tennessee this weekend. He reportedly has plans to take an official visit to UM next weekend, a must-have trip for Mark Richt in his efforts to hold off the Dawgs.

The other five-star 2018 cornerback at Plantation-American Heritage, Patrick Surtain Jr., has long been associated with LSU, but UM is still hopeful to get him on campus for an official visit (247Sports reported he surprised some in Coral Gables by showing up at the Miami-Duke basketball game last week). Surtain and Campbell are top-15 players nationally. Either would be a major pull for cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph, who coached both at Heritage before joining UM in 2016.

Three-star cornerback Nigel Bethel, who has committed to UM, is visiting campus this weekend.

Defensive line

The loss of starters RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton to the NFL, plus the graduation of senior Anthony Moten, leaves Miami with issues at defensive tackle. But end isn’t much deeper after the graduation of Chad Thomas and Trent Harris and the transfer of DJ Johnson, a former blue-chip recruit from Sacramento who said he wanted to be closer to his family. He’s heading to Oregon.

Miami — which plays a high-energy style up front and thus rotates between eight and 10 defensive linemen to keep them fresh — has nine D-linemen on scholarship now.

At tackle, UM needs redshirt senior Gerald Willis, coming off a year-long sabbatical, to bring his dominant practice play to games. Junior Pat Bethel and sophomore Jon Ford must become effective players.

Four-star UM commit Nesta Silvera will get a chance to be in the rotation. Still unsigned, he’ll visit campus next weekend, and could play a role in swaying Campbell, Surtain and another Heritage teammate, four-star end Andrew Chatfield. Florida has been lurking, and got Silvera on campus last weekend, but it’s probably a good thing for Miami that running backs coach JaJuan Seider – the former Glades Central star who has become one of UF’s top South Florida recruiters – left for Penn State. UF is also interested in Chatfield (6-2, 221). Two UM targets, four-star Dennis Briggs and three-star Jamarcus Chatman, are visiting Florida State this weekend according to 247Sports. UM defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski is still chasing Texas commit Keondre Coburn, a four-star prospect.

Graduate transfer Tito Odenigbo, who plans to join the Canes after earning his diploma from Illinois this spring, is on campus this weekend for his official visit.

At end, junior Joe Jackson, senior Demetrius Jackson (coming off a knee injury) and sophomore Jonathan Garvin appear likely to play a lot. UM’s recently updated roster lists Scott Patchan, who played tight end last year, as a defensive end. The Hurricanes signed 6-foot-7, 220-pound three-star prospect Gregory Rousseau, who enrolled early.

Wide receiver

Miami is comparatively deep at this position. Ahmmon Richards had an injury-marred, disappointing sophomore campaign, but has All-American talent. Speedsters Jeff Thomas and Mike Harley hope to take the next step after promising freshman years. UM loses reliable veteran Braxton Berrios – a standout at the Senior Bowl practices this week — but signed an excellent class headlined by prep All-Americans Mark Pope (who did not wind up enrolling early, per UM) and Brian Hightower.

Four-star Marquez Ezzard will visit UM this weekend, after previously seeing Mississippi and Oregon. His coach at Stockbridge (Ga.) High told Canesport that South Carolina or Georgia may get his final visit. Ezzard (6-2, 210) would be another talented weapon for Ron Dugans and UM’s passing game. 247Sports praised his physicality and said he “could be that go-to guy on the next level.”

By our count, UM enters the Feb. 7 signing period with 66 players on scholarship, including 10 freshmen who enrolled early, and nine more have signed but not enrolled. The Canes would have 78 if commits Silvera and Bethel signed and Odenigbo transfers. The NCAA limit is 85, leaving plenty of room for signing day or transfer additions.

Canes at work

The Hurricanes began their offseason conditioning program this week. Clockwise from top left: Bandy, Richards, linebacker Michael Pinckney and Thomas.

Clockwise from left: receiver Dee Wiggins, Hightower and safety Gurvan Hall.

Defensive line