The Miami Hurricanes are currently ranked 20th nationally (3rd in ACC) in the 2015 recruiting class, the same position they finished in 2013. Last year they were ranked 12th in the nation in recruiting, buoyed by the commitment of 5-star defensive end Chad Thomas from Booker T. Washington in Miami, a hotbed for the Hurricanes’ recruiting hopes. This season they haven’t reeled in anyone the caliber of Thomas, but have done well for themselves, despite several decommitments along the way.
Among the decommits for the Hurricanes were a pair of 4-star prospects, quarterback Dwayne Lawson and running back Dexter Williams. The 6’5″, 210-pound pro-style quarterback, who’s arm strength and mobility have drawn comparisons to an unpolished Cam Newton, committed to Virginia Tech after the new year. Miami had hoped Williams would be the athletic replacement at running back when Duke Johnson jumped to the NFL, but he will not be taking his talents to South Beach, as he decommitted last month. Another 4-star running back, Jordan Cronkrite also decommited, but remains in play for Miami before signing day.
I am officially decommitting from The U thanks for everything
— Young_Prodigy (@DexterW_22) January 2, 2015
Miami also suffered through the loss of several 3-star recruits as well, including receiver Emonee Spence, who remains uncommitted, and tight end Bowman Archibald who curiously committed to Wake Forest instead. 3-star offensive tackle Kevin Feder also flipped from his Miami commitment in favor of new national champion Ohio State. Fellow 3-star offensive lineman Leeward Brown also jumped ship on the Hurricanes and is now considering West Virginia.
Miami’s recent struggles, including a 6-7 record in 2014 following a 6-3 start, no doubt played a role in the decommitments, and highlights a bigger problem facing the Hurricane’s recruiting situation. According to the 247Sports composite rankings of the state of Florida, Miami has commitments from only three of the state’s top 25 prospects. The Hurricanes bread-and-butter in recruiting has been their ability to recruit from within their home state. The ability of former coach Howard Schnellenberger to recruit Florida based talent made “The U”…The U in the 1980s. Miami picking up talent from the Sunshine State used to be as much a part of the fabric of Hurricanes football as the team’s over-the-top swagger and smoke filled entrances. Following the inexplicably lengthy NCAA investigation over the Nevin Shapiro debacle, Miami’s in-state recruiting ability was crippled, and remains hobbled to this day.
The news wasn’t all bad for Miami on the recruiting front this year, however. The Hurricanes did pick up several 4-star recruit commits that stuck, including a pair of running backs poised to take over for Johnson, who is forgoing his senior season in favor of the NFL. As we look at the top three most crucial commitments the Canes have picked up thus far, note two of the three are running backs that will be tasked with replacing Johnson’s record setting production in the backfield.
Jordan Scarlett – Running Back
- 4-star recruit
- 5’11”, 205 pounds
- Saint Thomas Aquinas High (Ft. Lauderdale, Fl)
Scarlett’s biggest asset is his ability to combine the power of his 205-pound frame, with a quickness you wouldn’t expect from such a solidly built back. In fact, his speed in space and ability to out run defenders is perhaps his biggest upside as he much the jump to the college ranks. He ran a 4.48 40-yard dash at the Nike Camp in Miami, better than most at that camp given the challenging surface.
The only knock on Scarlett has been his inability to make moves once he has the ball in his hands. He relies on his speed to elude defenders, not an ability to break tackles, cut or change direction. His possesses a great combination of speed and physicality, but will likely need to work on his moves after the hand off at the next level.
Before signing day the Miami commit will also visit Florida and Florida State. He has already decommitted once, from Florida Atlantic, but Miami feels confident his commitment to them will hold up come signing day. In Scarlett the Hurricanes will get a hard working back, with raw, physical tools, albeit in need of some polish.
Mark Walton – Running Back
- 4-star recruit
- 5’10”, 180 pounds
- Booker T. Washington high school (Miami, Fl)
Like Scarlett, Walton possesses a combination of power despite a smaller stature, and reasonable speed. The comparisons to Scarlett stop there, however. Unlike Scarlett, Walton does have the agility and balance to cut past defenders with the ball in his hands, and the strength to break tackles. Walton plays bigger than his 180-pound frame would dictate, and has used his sheer power to require multiple defenders to bring him down, a la Marshawn Lynch in the pro ranks.
Walton does have decent speed, but doesn’t have the “extra gear” to elude defenders on the run, and will rely on his athleticism more than speed at Miami. Walton will likely need to add some bulk at the college level to avoid injury when he faces bigger defenders. However, he still might be the closest fit to replacing Duke Johnson for the Hurricanes, he boasts the same strength, elusiveness, and ability to catch passes out of the backfield.
Walton seems firmly committed to Miami, but took a visit to Louisville this weekend, and will head to West Virginia before signing day.
Jaquan Johnson – Defensive Back
- 4-star recruit
- 5’10”, 180 pounds
- Killian high school (Miami, Fl)
The secondary unit began to break down late in the season when the the Hurricanes were in the midst of a four game losing streak to close the season. Jaquan Johnson is capable of playing corner or safety, and will be a big boost to the Miami secondary, a school he enrolled at this month. He will likely be slotted at safety for the Canes in 2015, despite having the size more inline with a corner.
Johnson isn’t the fastest player running in a straight line, but his quickness to the ball in unquestionable. He also has excellent field vision, and won’t often be beaten to the ball, or make a mistake while getting there. Despite a small size he seems to relish the physicality of the position, and can lay some crushing hits on the opposition.
Tackling and the ability to wrap up receivers has been a question surrounding Johnson, and something that will need to be worked on in Miami. However, for a team looking to upgrade their secondary, having a defensive back such as Johnson locked up in January is a great start.
The Hurricanes have made some progress in recruiting with the commitments of several 4-star recruits, but they unquestionably still have some work to do as signing day approaches. Miami are losing two of their biggest offensive weapons in the aforementioned Johnson, along with senior receiver Phillip Dorsett. Johnson’s departure seems to have been addressed, but the production loss in Dorsett has not.
Receiver’s Lawrence Cager and Therrell Gosier have committed to Miami, but as only 3-star recruit’s they may not fill Dorsett’s void. Still in play is 4-star receiver Antonio Callaway, who will also be considering Florida.
The Hurricanes also have the next two weeks to work on upgrading their defensive line, an issue that hasn’t been addressed much through the recruiting period thus far.
Stay with us here at Inside The ACC for all the recruiting coverage as we head towards national signing day, and follow me on Twitter @ GQuintero_84