It feels good to finally have seasoned, big-time college football professionals at the helm. Some great players signed with Miami on Wednesday. Some didn’t. But one thing is clear to me: amateur hour is over at the Hecht. The quality of the operation is something we haven’t seen in years.
Randy Shannon had a laid-back attitude towards recruiting. He didn’t kiss ass and he never outworked guys like Urban Meyer. That got him beat. This staff is different. They will pound the pavement, bake birthday cakes and do whatever it takes to get their guys. N’Kosi Perry was the number one player on our board when he decommitted in February 2016. Jon Richt camped out in Ocala and, a month later, we had our quarterback. Two months ago, Kai-Leon Herbert wasn’t even thinking about Miami. Searels visited him more than any coach in the country and it ultimately paid off. Sometimes that effort doesn’t get results, like we saw with Henderson and Edwards. But over time it will pay dividends.
The other thing that impresses me is the plan and the vision set forth by Mark Richt and Matt Doherty. Al Golden left the state for average talents and ignored local ballers. That killed our depth. Now, South Florida guys don’t fall through the cracks. It’s hard to name a single local guy who was unfairly ignored. Maybe they could’ve gone harder at Telfort, but even that decision was defensible. Guys like Mike Harley and Corey Gaynor who had incredible senior seasons were rewarded with offers. In the past, this program ignored South Florida JUCO guys like Lavonte David and Jason Pierre-Paul. Now, a guy like Jhavonte Dean gets the chance to come home after blossoming at that level.
This class is strongest at the foundational positions. When you look at the Top 10 picks of the NFL draft for the last four years, 60% of them played one of three positions: QB, OL or pass rusher. We cleaned up at those spots.
N’Kosi Perry is a natural passer who can stick throws with velocity or make bucket throws with touch. I have a weekly radio spot in the Ocala area, and everybody who’s been around Perry says that he is a future superstar. Cade Weldon brings starter-caliber tools and a football background. I like that Weldon went to a public school like Tampa Jefferson that plays a tough schedule and pumps out athletes. He shouldn’t be shocked by the competition. The days of Preston Dewey and Gray Crow are long gone.
This was the best OL class in South Florida history and Searels got the three most reliable prospects in the area. Navaughn Donaldson has Trent Williams-potential once he reshapes his body. Kai-Leon Herbert is one of the quickest guys I’ve ever seen coming off the line. He will be murder as a zone blocker and, once he adds some strength, should be lights out in pass protection. Corey Gaynor has been one of my favorite players in South Florida for a while and could play early. Keeping Zalontae Hillary was an underrated NSD victory. His mom had some reservations about sending him to Miami but Searels sealed the deal. He is flexible, athletic and mean. Zach Dykstra is the project of the group (which is ironic coming from Iowa) but he has physical tools.
The pass rushers speak for themselves. DJ Johnson might be the best size/speed prospect we’ve signed since Andre Johnson. He runs an 11.5 100M and plays even faster. Jonathan Garvin is a different type of guy but just as athletic. Both have superstar potential under Coach Kool.
Even with the misses, there are no gaping holes in the class. There’s a short-term depth issue at running back, but it’s the easiest position to plug in a freshmen. And there’s always the chance that Robert Burns—bigger and faster than Anthony McFarland—stays healthy and realizes the potential he showed against teams like Booker T.
The disappointment of losing Henderson and Edwards overshadowed the fact that we signed four, possibly five, Miami-caliber defensive backs. Trajan Bandy is a prototype nickel who will play immediately. Jhavonte Dean is one of the most precious commodities in football- a 6’1 corner who runs 4.3 and can change directions. Amari Carter and Derrick Smith both fit the same mold—explosive tacklers with the ball skills to play receiver. I think Smith was a huge upgrade from Billy Gibson. Much bigger and more versatile. Deejay Dallas will start out at receiver but I think he will ultimately find his home at corner. His ability to cut and change directions is rare.
The wide receiver class is a home run if Jeff Thomas gets on campus without an issue (and I have no reason to believe he won’t). His ability to cut without losing speed is Hesterish, and he looks to be a much more polished receiver coming out of high school. Mike Harley is a guy I’ve liked for a while. He’s in the Travis Benjamin/Phillip Dorsett mold—not elusive with the ball but blinding fast with good quickness in his routes. He torched some elite corners in pads and on the camp circuit. Evidence Njokuis a thoroughbred who snatches the ball and complements the other two as a redzone threat.
This was a down year for linebackers, but we got three competitive guys with upside in Waynmon Steed, Bradley Jennings and De’Andre Wilder. IMO, Steed has the most talent. I saw him against Booker T and, even though he was hobbled, he repeatedly made plays in the backfield. Once he reshapes his body, he brings an exciting combination of IQ and speed. Jennings is the most likely to play right away. He knows how to cut through the junk and is an explosive tackler. Wilder should help on special teams right away with his motor and speed (22.8 200M).
I would’ve liked to see a second defensive tackle, but Jon Ford has enormous upside. He’s flexible, his size is ideal and he has the right coach to get the most out of him. Brian Polendey is more of a role player to me. He should be a solid in-line guy if he gets stronger. He has the height and the want-to. Like Matt Bosher and Pat O’Donnell, Zach Feagles is a great athlete who should continue the tradition of Punter U.
Games are won and lost with quarterback play, blocking and pass rush. If those positions pan out like we expect, we will look back on this as a foundational class for the sixth national title.
And with Hillery, I'm a huge fan of his, his upside is through the roof keeping him was a huge victory for the staff.
I think he can be an all conference RT as a Red Sophomore... Big athletic frame with long arms, can add more weight with good strength & doesn't have any bad fat, is still very raw at the position but has shown drastic improvements from Junior to Senior year.
One of the highlights in the this class to me is the fact that we didn't reach for anybody when we lost a couple battles at the end. Something that hasn't been done in a long time. Grad transfers have worked out well for us and are a much better option than wasting scholarships on kids you eventually have to convince to transfer later.
Should have taken another DT. We will regret that in 2018 unless we go nuts next year with two high school kids and two JC kids. We lose a minimum of 2, and as many as 5 if they are dummy (or ballers) after 2017 season.
Great break down D-money! I felt the same about the foundation we laid for key positions. Although everyone hung up on misses, I feel great about this class. And amateur hour is def over @ the Gables! A decade of mediocrity is over! Let's go Canes! [emoji119]