FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Final word on this UM recruiting class that was ranked 23rd by ESPN and 26th by Rivals? We reached out to five analysts for their thoughts:
### Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell: “It’s a disappointment. Al Golden is a terrific recruiter, but this is a disappointing class. Outside the top 25, no five-star prospects. Out of 20 kids, they have seven that are four-star. It’s not a Miami-caliber class.
“I like what they did at running back with Mark Walton; he’s a dynamic back and the best player in this class. I like their offensive line recruiting. But they missed out on the skill kids, and linebacker is a concern…. Charles Perry is the best of their linebackers, rangy kid. Jamie Gordinier is a big linebacker but they can get kids like that in Florida who are faster. The biggest criticism of Golden is he has left the state to get kids he can get in Florida. Jamie is an example of that….
“They did well at cornerback --- [Alabama-based] Michael Jackson and [Miami Killian’s] Sheldrick Redwine are good players --- but there were guys in South Florida that were more highly-touted that decided to go elsewhere…
“Most underrated guy in this class is [Miami Edison’s] Robert Knowles. He can be a safety or corner… Jerome Washington has a chance to be a Jimmy Graham type tight end, one of those guys nobody knew about and turns into a star… Their biggest challenge is keeping [the 13 oral commitments] they have next year. Early commitments mean nothing.”
### Larry Blustein: “It’s not that bad. It was very decent, third-best in the ACC behind Florida State and Clemson. My only criticism is they let a lot of kids go that wanted to come here, including [linebacker] Shawn Curtis, who signed with Mississippi….
[Jacksonville defensive tackle] Kendrick Norton can make a difference… They didn’t get the marquee linebacker but they got athletic kids. James King never became a force at Booker T. but could be a Thurston Armbrister type. Charles Perry is solid; not elite but right under that… It’s a top-tier offensive line class…. Sheldrick Redwine was underrated; he’s long and quick and instinctive and he can get to balls most people can’t…. [Safety] Jaquan Johnson is a freak; he has dominated from youth football on….
“They may have the strongest running game in the nation. You have three very good backs in Joe Yearby, Gus Edwards and Walton, plus Trayone Gray. In Walton, you have a home-run hitter that can pulverize linebackers.
“At receiver, I wish they could have gotten [Florida-bound] Antonio Callaway…. They have to win eight, nine games next year. If not, Al Golden will be gone. Can they? Yes. Will they? I’m not real sure. They have to beat Pitt on the road, have to beat Nebraska at home. They should have won nine games last year.”
### Charles Fishbein: Considering “the barrage they’ve been under with people attacking the staff, they pulled through and did fairly well. You would have liked a second back and second receiver. I like the fact they were able to get on Redwine late and sign him. Redwine and Charles Perry are the most underrated players in this class; they have all-conference potential.
“I looked at [defensive end] Richard McIntosh’s senior film and he can make an impact. Finishing 6-7 really hurt them in recruiting. And they are getting beat up down here. Other schools don’t have to negative recruit against them. People down here are doing it for them.”
### Rivals.com’s Jeremy Crabtree: “You could make a very good argument that Miami has the best offensive line class in the ACC and possibly one of the best in the country. My favorite is tackle Tyree St. Louis. He's still physically raw in many ways, but he's also so athletically gifted and has a tremendous football IQ; you could see him being a franchise type of tackle prospect. His film was tremendous, but seeing him in person at the Under Armour Game sold me. He's got the potential to be a great one.”
The most underrated UM addition is offensive lineman “Hayden Mahoney. While he's only a three-star offensive tackle and doesn't crack the top 50 in the positional rankings, there's a lot to like about his upside.
But… “If you're a Miami fan, you definitely have to be concerned that none of the top 10 players in the Sunshine State ended up picking the Canes. In a year where there was coaching change with one of your biggest recruiting rivals [UF], you would have to hope you can maybe use that to your advantage and Miami really didn't.
“Then again, it's really tough to recruit against FSU now with what it has going on, but still there is an expectation for Miami to do a better job with elite talent in Florida, and that just didn't happen this season.”
### CBS’ Tom Lemming: He says UM’s gem in the class is Walton: “Great vision, balance and burst and gets stronger as the game goes on.”
He says UM’s most underrated addition is Gordinier, and that he’s similar to former Boston College and Carolina Panthers standout Luke Keuchly. “Remember, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Michigan turned down Keuchly. Gordinier is quick to the ball, in on every play.” (Keuchly was a three-star player, rated by Rivals as the 44th-best linebacker. Gordinier is a three-star and No. 60.)
Lemming has concerns at defensive tackle: “There haven’t been many in [Miami’s] area, but next year is one of best I’ve seen in 37 years for defensive tackles nationally. Miami will get a couple for sure.” Lemming said defensive tackle Rashan Gary is the No. 1 overall player in next year’s class: “He’s from Paramus Catholic in New Jersey and Golden has New Jersey ties.”
### UM today added Georgia-based quarterback Evan Shirreffs to this recruiting class. The 6-5 Shirreffs was lightly-recruited by major programs; he had offers from Old Dominion, Eastern Michigan, Columbia and Virginia Military. Shirreffs, who visited UM recently, threw for 2693 yards, 23 touchdowns and four interceptions last season. He gives UM four scholarship quarterbacks, joining starter Brad Kaaya, Malik Rosier and Gray Crow.
### The Heat is next-to-last in the league in points per game (92.6, ahead of only Philadelphia) but continues to pass on several available proven scorers who are interested in signing here, starting with veteran 6-4 guard Jordan Crawford, who’s back from China. The Heat has stayed in occasional contact with Crawford’s camp over the past several months but never summoned him for a workout in the past year. Crawford (12.2 career scoring average) would be a clear upgrade, but inside the Heat, there was concern that several teams have parted with him. But he is said to have matured.
Too often, the Heat has had to play Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers together; Miami has been outscored by 111 in their 394 minutes (by far the worst two-man pairing on the team)…. Michael Beasley is back from China after averaging 30 points and 10 rebounds there, but the Heat has shown zero interest.
### The Heat hasn’t told Tyler Johnson, who has impressed, if he will be signed for balance of the season when his second 10-day expires Monday.
### Over the past 11 games, the Heat has outscored teams by 35 with Hassan Whiteside on the court and been outscored by 55 without him.
### Dolphins executive Mike Tannenbaum said Olivier Vernon is underrated, and Vernon said he would welcome an extension beyond next season. But there haven’t been talks. The Dolphins appear to be waiting a while before engaging in substantive talks with anybody about anything.
### ESPN’s Todd McShay has Miami picking Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes at No. 14 in his mock draft.
McShay writes: “Two of Miami's top needs are inside linebacker and wide receiver, but it's too early to take an ILB here and all three of the WRs worth drafting at No. 14 overall are already off the board in this scenario (Amari Cooper, Kevin White, Devante Parker). Cornerback is another need area, and while [Washington’s] Marcus Peters has better tape, he brings with him some baggage after being kicked off of the Washington team last season. The Dolphins aren't in the business of taking chances on character risks right now, so Waynes might make more sense. He's a playmaker with very good ball skills and has the length and athleticism to hold up as a cover corner, and he shows good recognition skills and can help in run support. His biggest weakness is technique, but that's coachable.”
### Under new Dolphins defensive line coach Terrell Williams, the Raiders were 18th, 13th and 22nd against the run with Williams in the same position with Oakland the past three seasons. Williams is well-regarded.
### Highly-regarded pitcher Mat Latos, a free agent after 2015, lost his arbitration case Thursday and will make $9.4 million, not the $10.4 million he asked for. Though he would have been interested in a multiyear deal, the Marlins never offered one.
If he stays healthy (he was limited to 16 starts last season) and pitches like he usually has in his career, he would be very costly to keep. “We love what he brings to the table and we’re happy he’s with us and we’ll just see how things progress having him in house,” Marlins executive Michael Hill said.
### As our Clark Spencer noted, the Marlins are not seriously in the mix to sign free agent pitcher James Shields, whose name has been linked to the team from time to time this winter, though they have been monitoring the situation. There's no room in the budget for Shields, barring a dramatic change of heart by ownership.