FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN
The initial concern, weeks ago, was whether UM could salvage this well-regarded recruiting class assembled by Al Golden and his staff. Now, with Mark Richt hired, UM has a good chance to put together an even better group.
Several of the top UM oral commitments in a 2016 class that’s rated 23rd by Rivals.com have reacted with excitement about Richt’s hiring and appear intent on honoring their UM pledges.
What’s more, a few high-end undecided players --- as well as oral commitments in Georgia’s class (rated sixth nationally) --- are also now in play for Miami.
According to Rivals’ rankings, six of UM’s 17 oral commitments are four-star prospects. Updating those six:
### Jack Allison, rated the nation’s No. 5 quarterback, is pleased with the Richt hire and intends to enroll at UM in January, his father Sean said by phone.
### St. Thomas Aquinas receiver Sam Bruce, rated the nation’s eighth-best receiver, has consistently indicated he’s likely to end up at UM. “Welcome coach Mark Richt,” he tweeted. “You’re about to be a part of history.”
### Tyler Byrd, the 18th-ranked cornerback, was pleased with Richt’s hiring and has said he plans to stick with UM.
### Shaquille Quarterman, the nation’s eighth-ranked linebacker, told Rivals that Richt was the first coach to offer him a scholarship in person, when he was 16, and tweeted: “We Canes now.”
### Gulliver’s Dionte Mullins, the 36th ranked receiver, already said his commitment was strong even after Golden’s firing. And his teammate, Joseph Jackson (the eighth-ranked defensive end), also remains committed.
Other key three-star pieces of this UM class, including linebacker Mike Pinckney (the No. 18 linebacker) and Travis Homer (the No. 16 running back), also expressed eagerness to play for Richt.
What’s more, UM is now in the mix for Georgia oral commit/Washington-state based Jacob Eason, rated the nation’s No. 1 quarterback prospect by Rivals, and five-star Georgia-based cornerback/running back Mecole Hardman Jr., who’s undecided but told Canesport that Richt’s hiring boosts Miami “a lot” in his eyes.
Eason is close with Richt and Miami is expected to be a contender, though Georgia and UF could offer something UM cannot: immediate playing time. Eason considered UM before committing to Georgia.
If Eason commits to UM, would Allison stay committed? “Too many ifs,” Sean Allison said, declining to elaborate.
Both players want to enroll at their new schools in January, incidentally. Allison plans to enroll at UM on Jan. 7.
Sean Allison said his son and family are “really pleased” with the Richt hire: “Coach Richt is the type of man you want your son mentored by and developed by. It’s a cool match.”
This was a bit awkward: The Allison family and UM coaches Larry Scott, James Coley and Art Kehoe were enjoying a meal of roast cilantro beef, Jamaican pulled chicken, Spanish rice, green beans, chopped salad and cornbread at the Allison home on Wednesday night when Jack’s older brother, Sam, texted his dad that he saw on TV, while on a YMCA treadmill, that Miami hired Richt.
That was news to the UM coaches.
“We didn’t discuss it [at dinner],” Sean Allison said. “It wasn’t appropriate to start a discussion about the staff. Coach Kehoe said he was a teammate of coach Richt but that they hadn’t had recent contact.
"It was an interesting dinner. They talked about what the team accomplished, where they might play in a bowl game --- the Pinstripe or Jacksonville.”
Missouri keeps pursuing Allison, but Sean Allison said his son fully intends to come to Miami.
Since Golden's firing, UM has lost six oral commitments for 2016 (and one for 2017), but several could return to the fold.
One of them, three-star linebacker Zach McCloud, told Rivals he plans to re-commit. Another, four-star receiver Ahmmon Richards, tweeted Wednesday that Richt is a “great coach, better man.”
Columbus’ Joshua Uche, rated the No. 20 defensive end, de-committed from Miami but will now reconsider, his coach, Chris Merritt, told our Manny Navarro.
But running back Zack Moss, who previously dropped his commitment to UM, told our David Furones that Richt's hiring "does nothing for me." OK then.
ESPN rates five UM oral commitments among its top 106 for the Class of 2016: Byrd (67th), Bruce (74th), Allison (79th) Quarterman (102nd) and Mullins (106).
### Among numerous other players now considering UM: highly-regarded Coconut Creek four-star receiver Binjimen Victor and his three-star teammate, cornerback Malek Young (a Georgia oral commitment).
“If this class stays together and adds a little more, it has a chance to be one of Miami’s best classes because you still have key playmakers in this class,” recruiting analyst Larry Blustein said.
Richt was an exceptional recruiter at Georgia. None of his classes were ranked worse than 15th by Rivals since 2002; 11 were in the top 10.
### Richt is beloved among many of his former players, including Dolphins safety Reshad Jones.
“Great dude; he cares about his players more as a person than a player,” Jones said. “He’s a great fit for the job. He preaches fundamentals, technique. He’s good with X's and O's. He doesn’t yell at all. He’s kind of soft spoken. He tells you what needs to be done and guys respect him and get it done.”
Jones said Richt would stick his head “every now and then” in defensive meetings but focused on the offense, as he will at UM.
Jones said he planned on leaving Georgia after his junior year and Richt “had a talk with me and said, ‘You've got a little more to prove on the college level.' I respected him, took his word and went with it.”
### How frustrated were Dolphins players about the shackles dismissed coordinator Bill Lazor placed on them, not allowing Ryan Tannehill to change plays to ones he hadn’t pre-approved?
One called it problematic, noting times that Tannehill wanted to get “us out of bad plays” and Lazor wouldn’t let him. That will now change, at least to an extent, under Zac Taylor.
One team source said Lazor was as unpopular, if not more so, than dismissed defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle.
DeVante Parker will play more now, with Rishard Matthews sidelined with cracked ribs, but Parker is still not doing things exactly how coaches want.
“There are some plays you would like to see his routes be much more sharp than they were,” Dan Campbell said. And “he needs to reach out for the ball and use his size.”
### Celtics players were saying Monday that the way to negate Hassan Whiteside’s shot-blocking has become clear: Having big men who can shoot jumpers “is a huge advantage, because Whiteside doesn’t come out of the paint,” Celtics center Jared Sullinger said.
“That’s their system," Sullinger added. "They live and die on the jumper [by opponents]. If someone is hitting their jumpers, it’s going to be a long night for them.”
### Though the Marlins continue to consider trades for outfielder Marcell Ozuna, there is no ownership edict to trade him if Miami can’t get a quality pitcher in return. "Contrary to some of the rumors out there, we are not actively shopping him," Marlins executive Michael Hill said today. "…. When someone calls [in general about talented players], we listen to see if it is something that makes sense."
Add Baltimore’s Wei-Yin Chen (11-8, 3.34 ERA) to the list of free agent pitchers that interest the Marlins, as Fox’s Ken Rosenthal noted.