WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Five four-star recruits on offense are enrolling at UM in the next week, led by Miami Central running back Joseph Yearby. But as far as numbers, UM’s recruiting class (28 strong at the moment) is tilted more toward defense, with 16 players orally committed on that side of the ball, including three January arrivals: three-star linebackers Juwon Young and Trent Harris and defensive tackle Calvin Heurtelou.
With a month to go before National Signing Day, UM has assembled a defensive recruiting class with several high-quality defensive ends/outside linebackers, tackles and safeties, but questions at cornerback and uncertainty about a key tackle recruit who decommitted last weekend.
A look at UM's class on defense:
### Defensive tackle: UM’s biggest need, and the Canes are adding a solid group with four-star St. Thomas Aquinas standout Anthony Moten (rated the No. 6 defensive tackle), emerging three-star New Jersey based Courtel Jenkins (“great quickness for his size,” according to Rivals.com) and two junior college players who had other major offers and should help immediately: Michael Wyche (he has signed a letter of intent, but is awaiting an ACC decision on an obscure rule involving junior colleges before he’s cleared to enroll, as detailed in our last post); and Heurtelou, who had 14 tackles for loss and four sacks at Scottsdale, Ariz. Community College despite getting double- and triple-teamed a lot.
But this group needs Hialeah Champagnat four-star tackle Travonte Valentine to be considered exceptional. Valentine recently de-committed, but his coach, Mike Tunsil, told my colleague Manny Navarro on Tuesday that Valentine “loves UM” and might end up there but wants to meet with Al Golden to “make sure everyone is on the same page….
"For coach Golden to go interview for another job was unsettling. He wants to find out why [Golden] interviewed and if he is really planning to be there for the long haul.”
[As long as we're on the topic of Golden, we interrupt this column briefly for this: The NBC station in Philadelphia reported Tuesday night that Penn State still considers Golden a candidate for the job. Golden was not offered the job when he interviewed, leading to questions about whether he would take it if offered. He announced on Sunday that he wasn't a candidate for any job (without mentioning Penn State) after the UM administration asked him to address the matter publicly. We pass on the NBC Philadelphia report, because it's being reported by a major news outlet, but we don't have any indication whether Golden would even consider the job at this point. CBS reports Vanderbilt's James Franklin is the front-runner for the Penn State job. Now back to the column...]
Valentine, who also plans to visit LSU, previously dropped oral commitments to Louisville and Florida.
“Valentine is key because he’s a guy you would have to double-team, the first big guy who can move that they’ve had since Antonio Dixon,” local recruiting analyst Charles Fishbein said. “You really need him. People around him, his family, want him in Miami. [But] I like Moten, also. And I have a scout who works for me in New Jersey who loves Courtel Jenkins. He thinks he’s a big-time player.”
Said analyst Tom Lemming: “I love Moten: long arms, quick feet, can play end or tackle in college. He plays against the best competition in the country. Four-star player with five-star potential.”
Also, UM is among 22 schools that have offered Plantation American Heritage defensive tackle Edgar Cerenord, who had 75 tackles and five sacks last season. He has said UM has ground to make up.
### Defensive end/3-4 outside linebacker: Might be UM’s best position in this class presuming the Hurricanes can hold on to five-star Booker T. Washington end Chad Thomas (rated the No. 1 defensive end and 26th among all prospects, by Rivals.com); his teammate, four-star end Demetrius Jackson (14.5 sacks this past season); Miami Northwestern three-star defensive end Mike Smith (16 tackles for loss, 10 sacks); and Winter Park’s Harris, who had 39 tackles for loss, 16 sacks and four forced fumbles in 2013 and whose high-school coach who has compared him with former NFL great Michael Strahan.
Golden expects Harris to play linebacker. So will Young, who had 141 tackles last season for Albany (Ga.) High. “Both those kids are 6-2, 6-3, have range, length,” Golden said.
Thomas, who had eight sacks, has never wavered on his UM commitment. “Explosive, game-changing speed,” Lemming said. “But he needs to put on a lot of strength.”
Smith said he is planning a late-January visit to Louisville, which has five Northwestern players on its roster. Contrary to perception, Blustein insists Smith is the “most impactful defensive player they’ve got in this class,” even more than Thomas. “He’s like Tyriq McCord as a pass-rusher but faster and better.”
And Blustein said Jackson “has unlimited potential. Once he puts weight on, he’s going to be a beast. A pure pass rusher who plays off instincts. He’s just learning how to play the run.”
### Inside linebacker: A concern, with largely unproven players (Raphael Kirby, Jermaine Grace) expected to assume major roles.
Three-star Pompano Beach Ely inside linebacker Terry McCray has told Rivals.com that his UM oral commitment is “between solid and soft” and that LSU has piqued his interest. McCray had 25 tackles for loss, 16 sacks and blocked a punt for a touchdown.
“One of the most underrated players in this class,” Blustein said. “Great tackler, reads plays well, very quick.”
Lemming said McCray “has a high ceiling, can really run, but not a great player yet."
USC oral commitment Olajuwon Tucker, a four-star end/outside linebacker, from Gardena, Cal., plans to visit UM Jan. 25, but it will be difficult to get him to flip.
### Cornerback: How this group will be rated will hinge entirely on whether UM can lure Immokalee’s four-star J.C. Jackson (a soft UF oral commitment who is considering UM, UF and FSU) and whether it can hang on to oral commitment Nigel Bethel, the four-star Booker T. Washington cornerback who said he wants to see the Hurricanes change their defensive scheme.
But Bethel told me Monday he “more than likely” will end up at UM, though he earlier told others he will consider Georgia and Arkansas if they make him offers.
“The one thing about Bethel is he will challenge you, wants to go against the best guy across from him,” Fishbein said. “Miami needs more kids like that in their program, who are around successful programs.”
Three-star Miami Northwestern cornerback Ryan Mayes appears firmly committed, but “Ryan didn’t have the year Miami expected,” Fishbein said. “He will end up having to play safety." Carol City receiver Trayone Gray, a UM oral commitment, could play cornerback if needed.
### Safety: UM looks in good shape here after adding four-star New Jersey-based Kiy Hester (five interceptions in 2013 and rated by ESPN as the 196th-best player overall), Lake Worth Park Vista’s three-star Marques Goyat (32 career interceptions) and Orange Park Oakleaf High’s three-star Darrion Owens (three sacks, interception, forced fumble).
“Hester is a major catch,” Lemming said. “He can play corner, receiver, kick returner. I see him as a corner.”
Fishbein: “Goyat is more of strong safety, a will linebacker, can play the run, not as good in coverage as he is against the run… I like Darrion Owens. He may grow into a linebacker.”
### One name to keep in mind in the Dolphins GM search: Eagles and former 49ers player personnel executive Tom Gamble. He has been highly recommended to Dolphins owner Stephen Ross. But the Dolphins will do a broad search.
### Ross is a big fan of Dawn Aponte, the Dolphins' executive vice president/football administration, and she might emerge from these ongoing organizational changes with more power. But the Dolphins know that player personnel is not her expertise and are not considering her to fill Jeff Ireland's role or have final say on player procurement.
"For all the terrific things Dawn Aponte does, you need someone that knows personnel," former Colts general manager Bill Polian said on Sirius XM Radio. "That's not her."
### With Mike Sherman gone as offensive coordinator, the Dolphins should be able to move past that ridiculous pattern of Ryan Tannehill shouting “go” before passes and “go-go” before most runs. Several former players have been mystified why the Dolphins would do that, and some Dolphins players realize opponents likely picked up their snap counts.
“You could see the ease of the defense timing the Dolphins’ snap count,” WINZ-940 analyst and former quarterback John Congemi said, adding that the rhythms of Tannehill's cadence could also tip off the defense.
Congemi explains it this way: “In the huddle, you would know if it’s a run or pass. If you’re not huddling [or on audibles], you might have words that represent a run or pass” or Ryan Tannehill could use a silent count. But Congemi said the words should be changed so they’re not predictable. The Dolphins didn’t seem to do that.
### Heat president Pat Riley offered insight ingo his relationship with Erik Spoelstra in an interview with Index Universe: “We talk every day,” Riley said. “I will make X-and-O suggestions and things like that. But I trust that what he’s set up for this team is a winning formula…. I feel I made the right choice in selecting him because he’s a young coach. He’s achievement oriented. He’s ambitious. He’s analytic. He’s technological. He’s an X-and-O master. He’s not as loud a motivator as I was, but he motivates in a different way. And the team respects him for that.”
### Please see the last post for more Heat news (Andrew Bynum, Greg Oden, more Riley, etc.).... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz