With less than three weeks before National Signing Day, UM has assembled a recruiting class that’s strong at quarterback, receiver and linebacker but bereft at offensive line (where Miami loaded up last year) and defensive tackle.
And with the new staff working to add several more high-end recruits, views differ considerably about how good this class is. Rivals has dropped UM’s class to 32nd.
But ESPN rates it 16th and ranks six UM commits between 67th and 106th among all 2016 prospects. 247sports.com has the class 18th, and Scout.com ranks it 29th.
Feedback on UM’s 17 oral commitments, five of whom are already enrolled:
### Quarterback: Jack Allison (rated 79th among all players by ESPN, Rivals’ No. 9 quarterback) enrolled last week and is expected to be the only QB in this class.
“He reminds me a lot of Brad Kaaya on how he drives the ball, how he throws the deep outs and comebacks,” former UM offensive coordinator James Coley said. “He's got a swagger about him, a lot of personality. EJ Manuel was that type, very confident, walked into the room, spoke to everybody. That's Jack. Very talented, very tall [6-5], really good athlete for his size. Doesn't run [a lot] but he can” if needed.
Said ESPN’s Jamie Newberg: “He's absolutely phenomenal. He's an old school, classic drop back passer, loves to stand in the pocket and fire away. Can make all the throws and he has the ‘it’ factor.”
### Receiver: Three are committed: two four-star prospects in Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas’ Sam Bruce (ESPN’s No. 67 prospect) and Gulliver Prep’s Dionte Mullins (ESPN’s No. 106 prospect); and speedy two-star Latrell Williams, who committed Sunday after visiting the campus.
UM hopes to add one or two more; the Canes are in hot pursuit of Wellington’s four-star Ahmmon Richards, a former UM oral commitment who’s considering Miami, Alabama, Auburn and Tennessee.
Though Bruce has expressed positive feelings about Mark Richt, he has stopped short of saying he’s definitely coming to UM and said he won’t announce until Signing Day Feb. 3. He’s visiting South Carolina this weekend and then UF and expressed a fondness for Ohio State coach Urban Meyer. So there's definitely reason for UM to feel anxiety.
Locally-based recruiting analyst Charles Fishbein calls Bruce “the best receiver I’ve seen since I’ve been doing this, over 10 years. He’s so explosive, very good in and out of breaks. Runs great routes, good hands. When the ball is in air, he will snatch it. Mullins can play corner or receiver.”
Mullins has said he’s a solid commitment.
“Mullins has some of the best ball skills you will ever see in a receiver,” Newberg said. “He makes the spectacular catch look easy. Phenomenal talent. And Sam Bruce can be the best player in the state. If there's a better inside receiver in the country, I want to see him. His game is perfectly suited to today's game, and he’s a great return man.”
Williams was a USF commit before UM offered him a scholarship. Williams, who had 11 scholarship offers (including Tennessee and Virginia Tech), finished with 1096 receiving yards last season and 10 receiving touchdowns, two rushing touchdowns and three kickoff return touchdowns (all in excess of 90 yards).
He has a big fan in receivers coach Ron Dugans, who recruited him for USF before Dugans left to join Richt's UM staff.
### Running back: West Palm Beach Oxbridge Academy’s Travis Homer, rated 15th among all running backs by Rivals and 226th overall by ESPN, is a firm commitment, and Richt is hoping to sway three-star Coral Gables prospect Amir Rasul, an FSU commit.
Homer is only 5-9 but has game-breaking speed and has good hands as a receiver out of the backfield.
“Homer is the best running back in a bad year, but he’s not in same group as Joe Yearby or Dalvin Cook,” Fishbein said.
### Tight end: Three-star Michael Irvin Jr., rated the 91st best receiver, played both receiver and tight end at St. Thomas Aquinas.
“He catches the ball well and runs routes well,” Fishbein said. “But he’s not fast enough as a receiver. He’s an H-back, tight end.”
### Linebacker: All three enrolled last week: Four-star Orange Park Oaf Leaf’s Shaquille Quarterman (ESPN’s No. 102 player overall), Jacksonville-based Mike Pinckney (Rivals’ No. 20 inside linebacker), and Lantana Santacules’ three-star Zach McCloud (Rivals’ No. 54 outside linebacker).
“Quarterman can be a really good inside guy between the tackles,” Newberg said.
Fishbein said Quarterman is what UM “has been missing at that position – a big, physical kid who can run. Pinckney played real well in the state title game. He’s not as athletic as Quarterman. He’s an inside guy. Quarterman can play inside or outside. McCloud is the most athletic of the three. He can play right away.”
### Defensive line: No tackles in the group yet; Richt is pursuing several, including four-star Louisiana-based Briston Guidry, who visited this weekend.
But there’s a potential impact four-star end in Gulliver Prep’s Joseph Jackson, rated the No. 7 weakside defensive end by Rivals, and Vero Beach three-star defensive end Patrick Bethel, who enrolled last week.
Bethel, who is rated the 88th best 2016 player by Rivals, “is very good at putting pressure on the quarterback,” Fishbein said. “Bethel is the better player, but Jackson has more upside. Jackson physically is one of the best kids in their class.”
### Defensive back: UM has one marquee corner in this class: Naples’ Tyler Byrd, perhaps UM’s best 2016 prospect and rated 67th among all players by ESPN.
With Artie Burns turning pro and Tracy Howard graduating, there’s a real opportunity for Byrd. “But he has to get more physical,” Fishbein said.
Five other commitments: Coconut Creek three-star corner Malek Young (flipped from Georgia on Friday); South Dade three-star corner James Wiggins, Gulliver three-star safety Cedrick Wright, Orlando-based safety Jeff James and ex-Hallandale cornerback Deion Jackson (this staff hasn’t called him).
“Young is a very good player; a little undersized but tough and challenges receivers,” Fishbein said. "He can play corner or the nickel.
"Wright is not the biggest or fastest, but he’s productive. He can be a better version of [former Canes cornerback] Antonio Crawford. Wiggins is a very underrated kid."
James, a nephew of former UM and NFL star Edgerrin James, had nine interceptions last season, his first year of high school football.
This staff has given no indication that it wants Jackson, a cornerback who left Hallandale High mid-season, moved to Jacksonville, now plans to enroll at South Broward High, according to Canesport.
### For the past seven seasons, Dwyane Wade led two-guards in shooting percentage four times, was second twice and was third one. So it’s disconcerting to see Wade seventh, at a career-low 45.4.
Two reasons: His mid-range shooting percentage (10 to 16 feet), excellent for so long, has plunged from 47 percent two seasons ago to 42.9 to a stunning 30.8 this season. And his fourth quarter shooting has plummeted from 53.4 percent to 45.1 to 39.9.
### Besides Ryan Tannehill needing to work with new coach Adam Gase on technical issues, the feedback inside the building is that Tannehill must become a better leader, something that frustrated at least one member of the former staff.
Tannehill is likable, but a Dolphins person described him as an introvert, and it’s telling that teammates voted center Mike Pouncey, not the quarterback, as the winner of their leadership award.
### Considering Pro Football Focus ranked Earl Mitchell by far the worst against the run of 104 defensive tackles --- one scout said he was surprised how often he was blown off the ball --- the Dolphins would have hoped Jordan Phillips would be ready to be a starter next season. The departing staff believe he’s not remotely ready for that and the front office also expects more.
Beyond issues with consistency, the Dolphins want Phillips in better shape; he has been told to lose 10 pounds (to 315) and reduce his body fat.
And “I need to get a little more physical,” he said.
### Before signing Wei Yin Chen, the Marlins made specific proposals to two teams that coveted center fielder Marcell Ozuna (Cincinnati and Texas) and decided internally that they would trade him only if those teams met their exact asking price, including starting pitching.
That didn’t happen and Ozuna appears likely to remain a Marlin, though the team would revisit this if the Reds and Rangers agree to Miami’s demands because they believe a team can never have enough pitching.