National Signing Day Coverage
Squad 17 Microsite: Everything you need to know about Squad 17 including high school, hometown, player bios, measurables and quotes from coaches.
National Signing Day Central (this page): Website hub for up-to-the-minute coverage of National Signing Day.
National Signing Day Show (9 a.m.- noon): Watch up-to-the-minute Canes coverage of National Signing Day with Joe Zagacki and Don Bailey Jr. on ACC Network Extra.
Facebook: Live video features throughout the day including behind-the-scenes coverage, Q&A sessions with current football student-athletes, Coach Mark Richt’s press conference at 3 p.m. and more.
Twitter: Official announcement and graphics of signees, highlight video of signees and behind-the-scenes video and photos.
Instagram: Photos of signees, behind-the-scenes photos and information about each signee on Instagram Story.
Snapchat: Watch the fax machine as National Letters of Intent arrive and Miami compliance officials authenticate each NLI.
|Trajan Bandy||DB||5'9"||180||Miami, Fla./Columbus High School|
|Robert Burns||RB||5'11"||215||Miami, Fla./Gulliver Preparatory School|
|Amari Carter||DB||6'2"||188||Palm Beach Gardens, Fla./Palm Beach Gardens High School|
|DeeJay Dallas||DB||5'10"||191||Brunswick, Ga./Glynn Academy|
|Jhavonte Dean||DB||6'2"||185||Homestead, Fla./Blinn College (Texas)/South Dade High School|
|Navaughn Donaldson||OL||6'5"||335||Miami, Fla./Miami Central High School|
|Zach Dykstra||OL||6'6"||290||Spirit Lake, Iowa/Spirit Lake High School|
|Zach Feagles||P||6'2"||210||Glen Rock, N.J./Ridgewood High School|
|Jonathan Ford||DL||6'5"||275||Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Dillard High School|
|Jonathan Garvin||DL||6'3"||222||Lake Worth, Fla./Lake Worth Community High School|
|Corey Gaynor||OL||6'4"||285||Parkland, Fla./Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School|
|Mike Harley||WR||5'9"||160||Fort Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas High School|
|Kai-Leon Herbert||OL||6'5"||285||Plantation, Fla./Plantation American Heritage High School|
|Zalon’tae Hillery||OL||6'6"||287||Brunswick, Ga./Glynn Academy|
|Bradley Jennings, Jr.||LB||6'2"||218||Jacksonville, Fla./Sandalwood High School|
|D.J. Johnson||DL||6'5"||240||Sacramento, Calif./Luther Burbank High School|
|Evidence Njoku||WR||6'6"||196||Cedar Grove, N.J./Wayne Hills High School|
|N'Kosi Perry||QB||6'4"||185||Ocala, Fla./Vanguard High School|
|Brian Polendey||TE||6'5"||230||Denton, Texas/Guyer High School|
|Derrick Smith||DB||6'2"||200||Jacksonville, Fla./Trinity Christian Academy|
|Waynmon Steed||LB||6'0"||221||Miami, Fla./Miami Central High School|
|Jeff Thomas||WR||5'10"||175||East St. Louis, Ill./East St. Louis High School|
|Cade Weldon||QB||6'2"||203||Tampa, Fla./Thomas Jefferson High School|
|De'Andre Wilder||LB||6'3"||202||Opa Locka, Fla./Miami Carol City High School|
Robert Burns (Miami, Fla.) – Running Back – Gulliver Preparatory School
Four-star running back prospect by ESPN... Three-star prospect by 247Sports, Rivals and Scout...Selected to 2017 Under Armour All-America Game... Rated No. 67 prospect nationwide regardless of position on ESPN300...Ranked No. 7 running back nationwide by ESPN...Rated No. 25 running back nationwide in 247Sports’ Composite Rankings...Rushed for over 1,200 yards in high school career with 15 rushing touchdowns...Had 265 yards junior year...Totaled 900 yards with 13 touchdowns in first two varsity seasons...Coached by Earl Sims at Gulliver Prep...Chose Miami over offers from Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Florida State and Ohio State, among others.
Amari Carter (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) – Safety – Palm Beach Gardens High School
Four-star safety prospect by ESPN...Three-star prospect by 247Sports, Rivals and Scout...Ranked No. 238 player nationwide regardless of position in ESPN300...Ranked No.5 on Palm Beach Big Board and Super 11 pick by Palm Beach Post...Had 60 tackles and three interceptions during junior year at Palm Beach Gardens...Coached by Rob Freeman at Palm Beach Gardens...Chose Miami over offers from Auburn, Clemson, LSU, Michigan and Notre Dame, among others.
DeeJay Dallas (Brunswick, Ga.) – Athlete – Glynn Academy
Consensus four-star prospect by 247Sports, ESPN, Rivals and Scout...Played quarterback, receiver, running back and defensive back at Glynn Academy...Also returned punts and kicks...Ranked No. 15 athlete nationwide by Rivals and No. 190 overall prospect regardless of position...Rated No. 230 prospect nationwide on ESPN300...Earned No. 259 ranking on 247Sports’ Composite Rankings...Rushed for 1,139 yards and 13 touchdowns during junior year at Glynn...Added 678 passing yards and seven passing touchdowns...Led Terrors to 11-2 record in final year...Rushed for 168 yards to go along with 135 passing yards in final game of high school career in state quarterfinals ...Chose Miami over offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State and Georgia, among others.
Navaughn Donaldson (Miami, Fla.) – Offensive Lineman - Miami Central High School
Consensus four-star offensive line prospect by 247Sports, ESPN, Rivals and Scout...Selected to 2017 Under Armour All-America Game...Ranked No. 8 offensive tackle nationwide and No. 44 prospect regardless of position by Rivals...Rated 87 prospect nationwide on ESPN300...Ranked fifth-best player at position by ESPN...Rated No. 69 player nationwide on 247Sports Composite Rankings and No. 68 in Top247 rankings...Preseason All-America by USA TODAY entering senior season at Miami Central...Won state championship junior year with Rockets...High school teammate of fellow early enrollee Waynmon Steed...Coached by Roland Smith at Central...Chose Miami over offers from Florida, Florida State, Georgia and Louisville, among others.
Zach Dykstra (Spirit Lake, Iowa) – Offensive Line – Spirit Lake High School
Consensus three-star offensive line prospect by 247Sports, ESPN, Rivals and Scout...Ranked top-50 offensive tackle nationwide by ESPN...Ranked No. 5 player in state of Iowa by ESPN...Rated No. 7 player in state by Rivals...Chose Miami over offers from Iowa, Iowa State and Vanderbilt, among others.
Jonathan Garvin (Lake Worth, Fla.) – Defensive Line – Lake Worth Community High School
Four-star defensive end prospect by ESPN...Three-star prospect by 247Sports, Rivals and Scout...Ranked No. 279 player regardless of position on ESPN300 rankings...Ranked No. 22 defensive end by ESPN and No. 33 by Scout...Dominated in final year at Lake Worth, finishing with 97 tackles, 59 tackles for loss and school-record 18 sacks...Totaled 93 tackles, including 36 tackles for loss and nine sacks in junior year at Lake Worth...Added six forced fumbles and one interception for Trojans in 2015...Coached by Micah Mays at Lake Worth...Chose Miami over offers from Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, Oklahoma and Tennessee, among others.
Bradley Jennings Jr. (Jacksonville, Fla.) – Linebacker – Sandalwood High School
Consensus three-star linebacker prospect by 247Sports, ESPN, Rivals and Scout...Ranked No. 36 outside linebacker nationwide by Rivals...Had 146 tackles and 10 tackles for loss in junior season at Sandalwood...Added three forced fumbles and two sacks for Saints in 2015...Selected to 2015 Florida Times-Union All-First Coast Second Team...Coached by Adam Geis at Sandalwood...Chose Miami over offers from Florida State, Louisville, Michigan and North Carolina, among others.
Brian Polendey (Denton, Texas) – Tight End – Guyer
Consensus three-star tight end prospect by 247Sports, ESPN, Rivals and Scout...Ranked No. 11 tight end nationwide by ESPN...Ranked No. 20 tight end in 247Sports’ Composite Rankings...Rated No. 24 tight end by Rivals and No. 25 tight end by Scout...Born in Eugene, Ore., and grew up in state of Washington...Finished junior year with nine receptions for 117 yards and two touchdowns...Coached by John Walsh at Guyer...Chose Miami over offers from Arkansas, Colorado, Houston and Michigan, among others.
Waynmon Steed (Miami, Fla.) – Linebacker - Miami Central High School
Consensus-three-star linebacker prospect by 247Sports, ESPN, Rivals and Scout...Ranked No. 19 inside linebacker nationwide by Rivals...Rated No. 22 inside linebacker by 247Sports... Suffered torn ACL during senior year... Missed junior season with shoulder injury...Finished sophomore season at Central with 83 tackles, leading team to state championship...High school teammate of fellow early enrollee Navaughn Donaldson at Miami Central...Coached by Roland Smith at Central...Chose Miami over offers from Colorado, LSU and NC State, among others.
Cade Weldon (Tampa, Fla.) – Pro-style Quarterback – Thomas Jefferson High School
Consensus three-star pro-style quarterback prospect by 247Sports, ESPN, Rivals and Scout...Ranked No. 19 pro-style quarterback nationwide by Rivals...Rated No. 23 pro-style quarterback by ESPN...Totaled 3,135 passing yards and 19 touchdowns in senior year...Completed 61 percent of passes in final campaign and rushed for 368 yards and one touchdown...Missed junior year due to knee injury...Threw for over 2,100 yards with 20 touchdowns in sophomore year at Jefferson...Father Casey was 1991 Heisman Trophy runner-up under then-Florida State offensive coordinator Mark Richt...Chose Miami over offers from Kentucky, South Carolina and Wake Forest, among others.
Trajan Bandy | Jhavonte Dean | Zach Feagles | Jonathan Ford | Corey Gaynor | Mike Harley | Kai-Leon Herbert | Zalon’tae Hillery | D.J. Johnson | Evidence Njoku | N'Kosi Perry | Derrick Smith | Jeff Thomas | De'Andre Wilder
Trajan Bandy (Miami, Fla.) – Defensive Back – Columbus High School
Consensus four-star prospect by 247Sports, ESPN, Rivals and Scout…Rated as the 30th –best cornerback by 247Sports…Earned a No. 33 ranking in the state of Florida by 247Sports… Rated as the 267th prospect nationwide on ESPN300…Participated in The Opening in 2016…Earned a Top 300 PrepStar All-America ranking…Named First Team All-Dade by the Miami Herald…Totaled a pair of returns for touchdowns as a senior…Coached by Chris Merritt at Columbus High School…Chose Miami over offers from Alabama, Auburn, Cincinnati, Clemson, Oklahoma and Colorado.
Jhavonte Dean (Homestead, Fla.) – Defensive Back – Blinn College – South Dade High School
Consensus four-star prospect by 247Sports, ESPN, Rivals and Scout…Ranked No. 12 in the 247Sports composite rankings…Rated as the second-best cornerback by 247Sports…Listed as the nation’s No. 1 junior college cornerback…Played two seasons for Keith Thomas at Blinn College…Played for Nathaniel Hudson at South Dade High School…Comes to Miami with three years to play two seasons…Chose Miami over offers from Alabama, Arizona State, Cincinnati and Kentucky.
Zach Feagles (Glen Rock, N.J.) – Punter – Ridgewood High School
Earned a three-star rating from ESPN and Scout…Listed as a two-star recruit by 247Sports and Rivals…Participated in the 2017 Under Armour All-America Game…Rated No. 7 among punters nationally by Kohl’s Kicking…Averaged 36.1 yards per punt during his high school career…Dropped seven punts inside the 20-yard-line as a senior…His longest punt of 57 yards came during his junior season…Chose Miami over offers from Rutgers and North Carolina…Son of 22-year NFL veteran and Miami alum Jeff Feagles.
Jonathan Ford (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) – Defensive Line – Dillard High School
Consensus three-star defensive line prospect by from 247Sports, Scout and ESPN…Rated as the 27th-best defensive tackle by 247Sports…Ranked as the 52nd- best prospect in the state of Florida according to 247Sports…Selected Sun-Sentinel First Team All-County…Coached by Lorenzo Davis at Dillard High School…Chose Miami over offers from Kentucky, Tennessee, USC, Auburn, Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma and West Virginia.
Corey Gaynor (Parkland, Fla.) – Offensive Line – Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School
Listed as a three-star prospect by 247Sports, Scout and ESPN…Rated as the 20th-ranked offensive guard out of the South according to Scout… Named Miami Herald First Team All-Broward…Selected Sun-Sentinel First Team All-County…Recorded 97 pancake blocks as a senior…Versatile offensive lineman, who has seen action at center and guard…Coached by Willis May at Marjory Stoneman Douglass…Chose Miami over offers from Arizona, Houston, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, UCF and West Virginia.
Mike Harley (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) – Wide Receiver – St. Thomas Aquinas High School
Consensus four-star wide receiver prospect by 247Sports, ESPN, Rivals and Scout…Took part in the U.S. Army All-American Game…Ranked as the 24th-best player in the state of Florida according to Rivals…Ranked as the 40th–best player in the state of Florida by 247Sports…Named Miami Herald First Team All-Broward…Selected Sun-Sentinel First Team All-County…Helped guide St. Thomas Aquinas to a 12-2 record and the 7A Florida State High School Championship during his senior season…Caught three touchdown passes in the state championship game…Coached by Roger Harriott at St. Thomas Aquinas…Chose Miami over offers from Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland, Michigan, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Kai-Leon Herbert (Plantation, Fla.) – Offensive Line – American Heritage School
Consensus four-star offensive line prospect by 247Sports, ESPN, Rivals and Scout…Rated as the 28th–best offensive tackle in the class of 2017 by 247Sports…Ranked No. 99 regardless of position on the ESPN300 rankings…Participated in The Opening in 2016… Selected to 2017 Under Armour All-America Game…Earned a Top 300 PrepStar All-America ranking…Named Miami Herald First Team All-Broward… Selected First Team Sun-Sentinel All-County…Helped anchor an offensive line that posted over 4,700 total yards…Spent his senior season playing for former Miami Dolphin Patrick Surtain at American Heritage High School…Played three seasons for cornerbacks UM coach Mike Rumph at American Heritage High School…Chose Miami over offers Michigan, Auburn, Florida, California, Colorado, Georgia and LSU.
Zalon’tae Hillery (Brunswick, Ga.) – Offensive Line – Glynn Academy
Earned a three-star ranking from 247Sports, ESPN and Rivals…Rated as the 49th-best player at his position by ESPN…Ranked as the 50th–best player in the state of Georgia by 247Sports…Coached by Rocky Hidalgo at Gylnn Academy…Helped guide Glynn Academy to an 11-2 record during his senior season…Chose Miami over offers from Florida, Kentucky, Alabama and Clemson.
D.J. Johnson (Sacramento Calif.) – Defensive Line – Luther Burbank High School
Consensus four-star defensive lineman by 247Sports, ESPN, Rivals and Scout…Rated as the 72nd–best prospect in the country according to 247Sports…Selected as the ninth-best player in the state of California by 247Sports…Ranked No. 62 in the final ESPN300 rankings…Rated as the No. 5 position prospect by ESPN…Ranked No. 34 on the PrepStar Top 150 Dream Team…Totaled 85 tackles (47 solo), 14.5 sacks and 31 tackles for loss during his senior season…Took part in the 2017 Under Armour All-America Bowl…Coached by John Heffernan at Luther Burbank High School…Had offers from 100 schools...Chose Miami over Washington, USC, Ohio State and Alabama.
Evidence Njoku (Cedar Grove, N.J.) – Wide Receiver – Wayne Hills High School
Consensus three-star prospect by 247Sports, ESPN, Rivals and Scout...One of the top recruits in the state of New Jersey, ranking No. 10 according to ESPN...Spent three season at Cedar Grove High School before transferring to Wayne Hills as a senior...Caught 18 pass for 306 yards and five touchdowns as a junior at Cedar Grove...Also excelled on kickoff returns Cedar Grove as he accumulated 350 yards and four additional touchdowns during his junior season... Finished his senior season with over 400 yards receiving and eight touchdowns...Coached by Wayne Demikoff at Wayne Hills...Young brother of former Hurricane wide receiver David Njoku...Chose Miami over offers from Boston College, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, Oregon and Penn State among others.
N'Kosi Perry (Ocala, Fla.) – Quarterback – Vanguard High School
Widely regarded as one of the most dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation…Consensus four-star quarterback by 247Sports, ESPN, Rivals and Scout…Rated as the sixth-best quarterback at his position according to 247Sports…Comes to Miami ranked No. 29 in the state of Florida by 247Sports…Ranked No. 84 in the final ESPN300 rankings…Earned a Top 300 PrepStar All-America ranking…Received FHSAA 6A Player of the Year honors...Helped guide Vanguard to an impressive 10-2 overall record during his senior season…Totaled 24 touchdowns and completed 64 percent of his passes during his senior season…Scored 43 total touchdowns with 11 coming on the ground during his junior season…Threw for over 2,000 yards during his junior campaign…Coached by Edwin Farmer at Vanguard High School…Chose Miami over offers from Auburn, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida State and West Virginia.
Derrick Smith (Jacksonville, Fla.) – Defensive Back – Trinity Christian Academy
Consensus three-star prospect by 247Sports, ESPN, Rivals and Scout…Listed as the 76th-best prospect at his position by ESPN…Listed as the 124th-best recruit in the state of Florida by 247Sports…Helped guide Trinity Christian Academy to an 11-3 record…Coached by Verlon Dorminey at Trinity Christian Academy…Chose Miami over offers from USC, Mississippi State, North Carolina, Kentucky and Cincinnati.
Jeff Thomas (East St. Louis, Ill.) – Wide Receiver – East St. Louis
Consensus four-star wide receiver prospect by 247Sports, ESPN, Rivals and Scout...Rated as the No. 1 player in the state of Illinois…Listed as the sixth-rated wide receiver and the No. 2 player in the state of Illinois by 247Sports…Ranked No. 55 in the final ESPN300 rankings… Took part in The Opening in 2016…Starred in the 2017 Under Armour All-America Game and posted game records of 148 yards receiving and two touchdowns…Selected to the Top 150 PrepStar All-America Dream Team…Was a three-year starter in high school…Finished his career with 177 receptions for 3,532 yards and 41 touchdowns…Helped guide East Saint Louis High School to a perfect 14-0 season and its first Illinois State Championship in eight years…Hauled in a pair of touchdowns in the state championship…Caught 50 passes for 1,101 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior…Coached by Darren Sunkett at East Saint Louis High School…Chose Miami over offers from Louisville, Oregon, Illinois, Michigan and Alabama among others.
De'Andre Wilder (Opa Locka, Fla.) – Linebacker – Miami Carol City Senior High School
Earned a four-star ranking by ESPN…Listed as the 22nd–best prospect at his position by ESPN…Ranked as the 51st–best player in the state of Florida by ESPN…Rated as four star prospect by Rivals…Listed as the 26th-best linebacker and 40th-best prospect in the state by Rivals…Earned a three-star rating from 247Sports…Named Miami Herald Second Team All-Dade…Helped guide Carol City to the 6A Florida State High School Championship…Coached by Aubrey Hill at Carol City…Choose Miami over offers from Georgia, USF, Florida, LSU, Louisville and Alabama.
Quotes from Mark Richt
“I’m very excited to announce our class today, our 2017 recruiting class. Before I do that, there’s a lot of people I want to thank, so if you could bear with me, I wrote down a few names and have a few groups of people that have made this thing work. It’s just amazing how many people that get involved in this recruiting process. I want to start with President Frenk and the leadership that he has given this university and the strength of our university, our academics – it’s a very easy sell when you bring student-athletes on our campus and just get to see the beauty of the campus, and also get to see the way our university is ranked among other universities across America in so many different areas, and overall. For just a great job of leadership of this university, I want to thank Dr. Frenk. Then Blake James, our athletic director, and the rest of his administrative staff - I can’t tell you how much cooperation I’ve had with him, and just to be able to pick up the phone or go by his office and talk to him about things we might need, or ways we can become better, and his willingness to do everything that he possibly can to help be great, I want to thank him.
“Our assistant coaches obviously – they’re the ones that get on the road and do the pounding the pavement, so to speak. Maybe even more so, their wives - our coaches’ wives - in just trying to hold down the fort while everybody is out there doing their job and taking care of business. I want to thank the coaches’ wives as well. Our graduate assistants, our quality control coaches – it’s kind of like all hands on deck in every area of our program, and recruiting is a part of that as well. Our recruiting and player personnel department, headed up by Matt Doherty - just a great job by them. Just their title lets you know that they’re in the heart of all of our recruiting. Football operations, Don Corzine and his group. David Case and our equipment staff. I know you saw pictures of the players that have come on our campus and put on the gear and got a chance to see all the other things we had. But when they put that uniform on, you can just about tell who’s coming. They don’t want to take it off. It’s an awesome job that they do. Gus Felder and our strength & conditioning staff, and also Kyle Bellamy, who heads up our nutrition – those guys do such a great job of obviously developing our players, but obviously in the recruiting process, letting young men know what’s going to happen once they get here. Vinny Scavo and our athletic training staff. So many questions that parents have about, ‘what’s going to happen to my son if he gets hurt? What about the physicals? What about if something happens with dental work?’ Whatever t might be, there’s just so many things Vinny and his staff take care of for our players, and they do such a great job of explaining that to our recruits and their parents. That’s awesome. You can add the Lennar Hospital and its staff. That new hospital is beautiful, it’s fantastic just to know your student-athlete or your son, when they get here, has that hospital right across the street from us, it gives people peace of mind and they’ve been very gracious to host some of our events. It’s been wonderful there. Dave Wyman, Demetrius Darden and our academic support staff. They do a great job explaining everything academically to our student-athletes, our recruits and their families. Shirelle Jackson and the student-athlete development office. “What’s my son going to do besides play football and academics? Is there anything else?” We have life skills, we have community service and all the things we do that really enhances the holistic approach to these student-athletes that we bring here at Miami.
“Our professors, the University of Miami faculty, the deans of schools – I can’t tell how many times professors have sat down with families and young men to just take an afternoon or breakfast time out of their life to sit there and talk to our student-athletes and prospective student-athletes…I can’t thank them enough. We have such an intimate group of professors and deans and all that. We’re not a huge university – we’re a small private institution. Because of that, our student-athletes and our prospective student-athletes understand how easy it is to get to know your professor, where in other places, there’s so many kids in class you can’t even see your professor half the time. We love that. Drew Rossetti and the video department, there’s so many things that he has done to help us prepare for our weekends. Leo Ramos and our graphic design. Our compliance staff - Craig Anderson and his group.
“And our current Miami players. How many times do young men come on campus and they see everything that we show them, but then they spend time with their player host and the player hosts are our current players. It takes a sacrifice. You may give up your Friday night or your Saturday night or sometimes we have player panels where kids will come in the afternoon, they might help us demonstrate strength and conditioning. Our current players are really bought in to helping us be great. I want to thank our current players for that. Our fans. You can’t create excitement without fans. Our fans are very rabid. They love this university, they love this team and they create a lot of excitement around recruiting. They create a lot of excitement at our ballgames, when recruits come to a ballgame and see our fans respond to players, it’s just paramount. Just a lot of people to thank, even our custodial staff who keeps the building clean when we bring our prospects on recruiting weekends. Almost every weekend is a recruiting weekend. There’s official visits and unofficial visits. Almost weekly, there’s somebody coming onto our campus to spend time.
“With that, I guess I’ll just open it up to questions. I know you all know the list of people, of our players. I’ll just say this. We have 24, I think it is, in the house right now, counting the guys that are already here at midyear. I think it’s 16 out of 24 are from the state of Florida. One of our junior college kids, Jhavonte Dean, didn’t play junior college ball in the state, but he’s a local kid. He’s an in-state guy and actually a south Florida guy. If you count him in the 16, two-thirds of our [class] is from the state. Because of our national brand, and because of popularity of our program, we can attract great plyers outside the state. I’ll say one more thing before I open it up: we really hit, across the board, all the position needs we have. There’s at least one guy at every single position across the board. We feel real comfortable that we hit the number. There’s a couple spots we may look into the possibility of graduate transfers or someone who might transfer before it’s over, so there are a couple spots available, which I think is a smart thing to do, the way recruiting goes nowadays. We do have a space or two left for that type of thing. Other than that, I thought we nailed it and we’re very excited about this class. With that, I’ll open it up.”
On adding speed at the wide receiver position in Mike Harley, Jr. and Jeff Thomas…
“As you mentioned - Harley and Jeff Thomas, we also have Evidence Njoku. He’s pretty fast too. As of right this second, Deejay Dallas, we believe, will start at the receiver position. There’s always a chance - he’s so versatile, he can really probably play three different positions for this team. We did need speed. We know Ahmmon [Richards] can really run on the edge, and we have some other guys in the program that run well. If you have a superfast guy on this side of the field and you don’t have much speed to balance it, then guess what? The defenses starts to tilt towards the speed and all of a sudden you get guys double-covered and all that. But if you have speed on each side, you have speed in the slot, you have speed at tailback, it’s hard to just sit there defensively and try to shut a guy down. We’re excited about that. But not only are they fast, they’re very skilled, they can make people miss. I think they’re very legitimate receivers. They’re not just fast guys that happen to play football. They’re football players who happened to be fast.”
On if there is added boost when players make their commitments on national television…
“These guys pick their own timetables as far as when they announce. We don’t. We don’t say, ‘Hey, do it signing day for extra good drama’ and all that kind of thing. When you have good news like that, on a day like today, when fans aren’t 100-percent sure – and I’ll be honest with you, we’re never 100-percent sure until the fax or I guess nowadays email or even a picture of the NLI come through - it’s good to have that positive momentum on signing day.”
On putting a fence around south Florida in his first full recruiting cycle…
“Everybody talks about putting a fence around south Florida, but if you put a fence around it, there might be 120 guys that are going major Division I - guess what? You can only take 15 or 20 a year, on average. You can’t get every great player in the tri-county area. It’s impossible. The goal is to get the ones you want or at least a high percentage of those. Some kids want to stay at home. Some kids want to leave. There’s a lot of different dynamics to the whole thing. But when you have that many great players in your backyard, you have to make sure you are creating those relationships with those kids as early as possible. People will say, ‘you had a whole year to recruit those guys.’ That’s true, but guess what? You start recruiting kids in the eighth grade, ninth grade, 10th grade, 11th grade…it’s not like we had a full year. You really need a recruiting cycle, nowadays, [which] is three or four years long. There’s a lot of seeds that have been planted with young kids. I probably went to close to 20 youth parks, maybe up to the eighth grade, maybe, and just trying to spread the love right away because it takes a lot of time to create those relationships. Because we’re close to so many, it’s easy for them to come on campus - come watch a basketball game, come watch practice, come hang out for no good reason. It’s not that hard to get in the car and come see us. Because of that, we want to continue to get all the young great talent in this area to feel comfortable around us.”
On the addition of quarterbacks Cade Weldon and N’Kosi Perry and how the race will unfold…
“The quarterback position, talking about having two that we’ve signed, one is already here in Cade Weldon and N’Kosi [Perry] on the way - both of these guys are very talented guys. They’re quality quarterbacks that are athletic. Sometimes you have quarterbacks who can run, but they’re a runner who can throw decent. These guys are true quarterbacks who happen to be able to run well, which is a nice dynamic to have. It doesn’t mean you have to have a guy that can run like a deer to be great, because it’s has been happening for years without it. But I do like the fact that they can move. Like you mentioned, Cade is in town and he’ll get a chance to compete this spring. He’ll be in practice, he’ll be in the meetings, he’ll do all those things - he’ll get about as many reps as everyone else on scholarship this spring. It’s a wide open competition. I absolutely don’t have a front runner, in my mind. You would think I would after being here a year, but it’s as wide open as it can possibly be and my guess is it’ll go well into the summer and fall camp before we figure out who it is.”
On the difference in recruiting student-athletes to a small, private school like Miami…
“When you have a private school institution, a private school education, people pay a lot of money to get a lot of value. When you’re at a private school, just like if you go to a private school in high school, you tend to have certain things you might not get at a public university or public high school. One of the things, I think, that people pay for and the value of education is the number of students in the class. If you average 18 to 24 students in a class, that’s a great ratio. It’s just like our strength program - if you lift 60 guys a time with five coaches, that’s about 11 guys per coach. But if you lift 20 guys with five coaches, that’s four guys per coach…hat’s a great ratio. The same thing is true educationally. If you have a small classroom setting, you have a chance to actually get to know your professor. You might ask your professor for help and not just rely on a tutor in a certain class. Of course, the beauty of the campus and the fact that we’re in south Florida, I call it ‘paradise.’ It’s a beautiful place. Beautiful weather. That’s why everyone wants to live down here.”
On keeping spots open for potential additions to the class, including high school or grad transfers…
“Sure. If a high school player hasn’t signed at this point…no one has to sign on signing day. They can sign tomorrow, they can sign a week from now, they can enroll in school in August if they want do. We have space if there are guys still out there who have interest in Miami, we would entertain that and we welcome the opportunity to have them join our team. I think it’s healthy to have one or two at the end of your class, because things do happen. Sometimes the ability to have space for another guy to join your team - whether it’s a high school kid who didn’t sign or a graduate transfer or whatever it may be, even a walk-on you might be able to put on aid and those types of things.”
On the addition of local offensive linemen Navaughn Donaldson, Corey Gaynor and Kai-Leon Herbert…
“We thought we did great with our offensive line. The whole class we’re excited about, but we just felt there was a tremendous need to get our numbers up at that position, but also bringing in guys we really thought could help us be great. All three of those guys are guys that will compete for playing time right now. I say right now, [I mean] this season coming up. There’s no doubt in our minds they have the skillset eventually become a starter and be great before this thing is over. It’s hard to be a really great offensive football team if you can’t provide space for your runners and time and space for your quarterback. I feel like we’re well on our way to having that group be special for us in the near future.”
On the difference between recruiting in a time crunch last year to a full first year….
“A year ago, we were just trying to see who was committed, trying to see who was still on the board as far as the previous staff. Of course the recruiting staff was still here, and they were holding things together. There were some assistant coaches that were still here and they were working. They were continue to recruit these kids. I gave credit a year ago, I’ll give credit again - they did a very nice job of recruiting that class last year. Some guys fell by the wayside in the transition, and we added a couple here and there, but there were some tremendous football players already committed, that when we made our evaluation, we agreed that they could help us win and we continued to recruit those kids. Some of them just had a true love for the university, some felt like they were excited about the possibility of what we might be able to bring as a staff. It was very good.
“This year, obviously having a lot more time to get into the high schools, spend times with the high school coaches in our tri-county area and in the state, and all the other places we went to, just try to help them understand what we’re about, and getting faith in confidence that if they send their young men to our school, they’re going to get everything they need. And a chance to get to know these players more. There were some NCAA restrictions on guys being able to come to your campus. A year ago, a kid could only go to one event – one football game, basketball, baseball, track…if they wanted to come to a sporting event, they could come to one. That was it. After that got lifted, that allowed us to bring guys to every home game if they wanted to come, come to basketball games, come to baseball games. Getting them on your campus is huge. The previous staff was fighting with one hand tied behind their back. This is the first year we’ve had 85 scholarships. We were at 80 a year ago. There’s a huge difference.”
On if he noticed any difference in recruiting with the addition of new coaches in the state of Florida…
“Not really. I think we’re always going to be an exciting place for young men to go. I don’t think we’ll have any trouble attracting guys to our school. As I said before, there’s such a large talent base in this area, I think there’s enough talent for all of our state schools to have success. There will be battles, for sure, but I think if we do our job the way we should, the University of Miami will have great, great classes in the future.”
Quotes from Coordinators
Manny Diaz, Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers
On if he thinks anyone signed will be able to make an immediate impact Day 1…
“You know it is always hard to predict. Certainly when you have guys like Amari Carter or Jonathan Garvin that are in early. [Waynmon] Steed and [Bradley] Jennings [Jr.] will be in early. Therefore, they get a chance to be here like the linebackers were a year ago. But let’s also talk about, when you look at our football team from last year, [freshmen defensive lineman] Joe Jackson, [defensive back] Malek Young, [wide receiver] Ahmmon Richards, who were not here in the spring, but they had that maturity level to contribute as freshman. I think that is now the challenge for all of them, it’s not so much what you can do talent-wise it is really more about your mental make up to see how quickly you can acclimate yourself to the speed and the demands, mentally and physically, of the college game. I know this, it is not a recruiting ploy anymore, we know we need them to come in and do it right away. There is not a mentality to bring these guys in and sit the bench and redshirt. And for sure in the backend we need these guys to come in with the mentality that they can crack our lineup and make an impact right away.”
On getting the news last night, that Jhavonte Dean was committing…
“Jhavonte Dean is the only junior college player that we recruited in the back end. We wanted age in the secondary. What I mean by that is that we did not want to bring in all freshman in the backend. We have an eye on the 2018 class, which is outstanding at that position, and we did not want to mark it down necessarily with all young guys there. So we wanted to have somebody that would come in and a little bit like [redshirt senior defensive back] Adrian Colbert did a year ago, but maybe have two years to play. And there may still be room for another player like that in the backend. He is also a south Florida guy, a South Dade guy. That is what we told him early on in recruiting–we want age, we want a junior college player but we aren’t scouring the country, looking for guys from anywhere. We want guys that are from down here and understand what it means to play for The U.”
On Trajan Bandy’s personality…
“Trajan is a Cane, and whatever that means that is what he is. He is a guy, if you cut him open, who bleeds orange and green. He aches for this program. And with guys like that, it really was the identity of the guys we wanted to recruit in this class. Especially when we got here and we sort of understood what we had on our roster going back to last spring, and the more we got to know about Trajan we knew Trajan was the guy we had to have in our class. He is a guy who is respected by a lot of other recruits that came in. Also his mentality. It would not surprise me if he had a role on our football team in the fall, because he is just a guy who is all business. His toughness is not a question, he is super tough and he plays the game very fast and we just can’t wait until he gets here.”
Thomas Brown, Offensive Coordinator / Running Backs
On the incoming recruits on offense…
“It gives us some production for what we lost with Brad [Kaaya] leaving, David Njoku leaving, Malcolm Lewis and Stacy Coley leaving and being able to replace those guys. We got really big and explosive guys like Evidence Njoku, who’s a great athlete and has great range, but Jeff [Thomas] and [Mike] Harley are guys that can score from anywhere on the field. The linemen we got is going to be a huge help for us up front.”
On the quarterback competition…
“Every position is up for grabs, I don’t care what you did last year. I’m very excited about this first string of offense, but being able to be productive and consistent is going to be a huge part coming forward. We have both those guys on campus from a quarterback standpoint outside of N’Kosi [Perry]. They will go through the competition process this spring time and we’ll see what happens”