If you happen to be a University of Miami football fan, the past two decades have not been what the 1980’s, 90’s and the early 2000’s were like – and the frustration has long set in.
With the coaching carousel moving around for several years, along with a NCAA probation that set the program back, there has never been an opportunity to get that traction back.
Recruiting declined – and going after the same athletes that schools in lesser conferences were fighting for, was the alarming norm.
While the Hurricanes had still maintained that aura of success, it got to the point where those memories of championship football became so faint that even the die-hard fans found it tough to make excuses for the team or the coaches.
If the Hurricanes were going to return to those glory years, it needed an infusion of success, familiarity with the program, community and the players of the past.
When Mark Richt was hired to come back and rescue his alma mater, it was a day that the course of this program once again changed back around. Too many positive forces came together at once and the climb back to the top began.
The recruiting landscape that had for so long been tilted against Miami, started to slide back; and getting commitments from elite prospects such as Miami Central offensive lineman Navaughn Donaldson and Ocala Vanguard quarterback N’Kosi Perry have now become the path that this team is taking.
The Class of 2017 is the first full group that Richt and his staff have really had the opportunity to bring in and start relationships with. It is this class that will help the program continue to turn that corner and add the missing quality depth that had once been the trademark of Hurricane football.
As many watched this program make huge strides in posting an 8-4 record this season, heading to a bowl game, you could see that difference that coaching players up makes. That is what everyone expected from Richt and a staff that has never stopped pushing this program nationally.
The finger pointing that had accompanied many of the past regimes is no longer present. The objective is to win, and while it has taken some heart-wrenching losses along the way this season, the two separate four-game winning streaks illustrates that this is definitely a team that will hit the off season with a better standing with recruits and their coaches.
The objective is always to harness some of that local talent – as well as making sure that the rest of the gifted Sunshine State is included. Also, using those contacts that the entire coaching staff has been able to build up through the years is also essential in any recruiting process.
Here is a look at some of the Floridians that the Hurricanes have landed for the Class of 2017:
Trajan Bandy, CB, 5-9, 180, Miami Christopher Columbus. After committing early on to Oklahoma, this quality four-year performer continues to prove that he is indeed physical and skilled enough to elevate the program.
Robert Burns, RB, 5-11, 209, Miami Gulliver Prep. Even though he has been injured in the past, this Under Armour All-American is looking to return to the form that had many schools watching him.
Amari Carter, S, 6-2, 188, Palm Beach Gardens. Gifted playmaker that several schools started to jump on. He’s an athletic football player who will hit you as well as showcase some impressive cover skills. Carter has the chance to be very special.
Navaughn Donaldson, OT, 6-5, 335, Miami Central. Ever since he was in the ninth grade, everyone has been projecting his future. Donaldson is one of the most athletic big men in the country who has paved the way for some quality runners for the Rockets.
Jonathan Ford, DT, 6-5, 275, Fort Lauderdale Dillard. This three-year starter began his football career as a defensive end, but weights and natural progression have taken hold and now this is one of the premier interior players coming out in this class. He’s a very quick and has learned to read plays very well.
Jonathan Garvin, DE, 6-3, 225, Lake Worth. One of South Florida’s top football players who had two solid years of exposure, Garvin got taller and added plenty of weight over the past 12 months. His upside is really what everyone loves. His motor never stops.
Corey Gaynor, OC, 6-4, 285, Parkland, Douglas. Without hesitation, Gaynor is the steal of this recruiting class so far. He was a four-year starter for the Eagles, and each year he got better and better. This one-time Minnesota commit is easily one of the top five linemen in South Florida. His brother attends TCU.
Billy Gibson Jr., S, 6-1, 185, Miami Southridge. Another elite prospect that the Hurricanes added to this class early on. Gibson is a big-time prospect who is very athletic and has the ability to cover as well as make the big hit – something that every college that still comes through is impressed with. He’s a solid football talent.
Bradley Jennings Jr., OLB, 6-2, 220, Jacksonville Sandalwood. The son of a former Miami Carol City and FSU standout, here is yet another big time football talent that really has ties to this program – and Richt was the common bond. Jennings adds to a position that Miami has started to put talented athletes in place.
N’Kosi Perry, QB, 6-3, 180, Ocala Vanguard. There are few quarterbacks in the state of Florida that really excites and makes people talk so much about. Perry is one of those talented prospects that end up defining a class – and the coaches have to feel that they have one of the great ones that can continue to elevate the program.
Derrick Smith, WR, 6-3, 190, Jacksonville Trinity Christian. The most recent commit to the Hurricanes that we have had the opportunity to watch the past two years – and came away impressed. Smith is a very athletic pass catcher who has competed at a high level since he started playing. He was instrumental in leading his team to another Class 3A state football title.
Waynmon Steed, ILB, 6-1, 220, Miami Central. From the time he was in the 10th grade, everyone started to take notice that this was going to be a very special football player. Despite missing his junior season, Steed came back this past year and really impressed. This is a talent that many have overlooked. He is one of the best at the position – and will have time to prove it.
Cade Weldon, QB, 6-3, 203, Tampa Jefferson. The son of former FSU standout Casey Weldon – who Richt has a great connection with – this is a true talent that we have watched the past two seasons. He has gotten bigger, stronger and much better with the Dragons. Weldon is a student of the game.
De’Andre Wilder, OLB, 6-2, 200, Miami Carol City. With a nickname “Eye Candy” – here is a talented playmaker who really made a true impact this season of the Chiefs. Wilder is quick, strong and a very athletic playmaker who has been getting it done since the 10th grade. He will be yet another football player to add quality depth to this growing program.
2017 Outside of Florida Recruits
DeeJay Dallas, Athlete, 5-10, 191, Brunswick Glynn Academy, Georgia
Zach Dykstra, OT, 6-6, 290, Spirit Lake, Iowa
Zach Feagles, P, 6-2, 210, Glen Rock Ridgewood, New Jersey
Zalontae Hillery, OT, 6-6, 280, Brunswick Glynn Academy, Georgia
D.J. Johnson, DE, 6-5, 240, Sacramento Luther Burbank, California
Evidence Njoku, WR, 6-4, 198, Wayne Hills, New Jersey
Brian Polendey, TE, 6-5, 230, Denton Guyer (Texas)
Class of 2018 Prospects/Early Verbals
Thomas Burns, CB, 5-9, 150, Miami Northwestern
Gilbert Frierson, CB, 6-1, 185, Coral Gables
Demetrius Ivey, CB, 6-1, 180, Homestead South Dade
Josh Jobe, CB, 6-1, 180, Miami Christopher Columbus
jalen Patterson, Athlete, 5-10, 170, Citra North Marion
Delone Scaife, OL, 6-3, 285, Miami Killian
Daquris Wiggins, WR, 6-2, 180, Miami Southridge