Jeff Sentell/DawgNation
Marquez Ezzard was the only new commitment Miami landed during National Signing Day.

Miami recruiting: Disappointing finish sours an otherwise excellent class

David Wilson

Miami is on its way to one of the best recruiting classes in the nation. David Wilson and the DieHards.com team are in the eye of the storm to help you track the Hurricanes. Read daily notebooks here at 10 a.m. ET from Monday through Friday and follow us on Twitter for the latest Miami recruiting news.


What happened to Miami’s defensive line recruiting?

The biggest takeaway from Wednesday is obvious: Miami utterly failed to rebuild its defensive line. Sure, the Hurricanes added 4-star defensive tackle Nesta Silvera, the No. 2 player at his position in the 247Sports composite rankings. But that was it. None of Miami’s other three defensive line signees are blue-chip prospects and one won’t even wind up as a defensive lineman in college.

It wasn’t for lack of trying, however. The Hurricanes made the final group for 4-star defensive tackle Dennis Briggs, who signed with Florida State. They pushed hard to flip 4-star defensive tackle Keondre Coburn, who stuck with Texas on National Signing Day. Miami spent time in the mix for 4-star defensive tackles Michael Thompson, Tyler Friday and Trevor Trout. The Hurricanes made a late run at 4-star weakside defensive end Andrew Chatfield, who picked Florida. Miami now has to face some hard truths. The Hurricanes lost recruiting battles they should’ve won.

RELATED: 2018 Miami recruiting big board

Craig Kuligowski’s recruiting struggles, particularly in comparison to reputation as a technical coach, are now well-documented. Silvera is now only the fifth blue-chip recruit the defensive line coach has landed and only the second defensive tackle. Andy Maples, who signed with Missouri out of junior college in 2007, is the only other.

Miami should be able to land these prospects; even if a critic wants to classify some as reaches it still doesn’t excuse how thin the class wound up. The Hurricanes missed on 3-star defensive tackles Jamarcus Chatman — another Seminole — and Moro Ojomo — another Longhorn — during the final two days of the cycle. Miami settled for 3-star defensive tackle Jordan Miller, a prospect who may well become a major steal, but was also virtually unknown until January.

Defensive line was arguably the Hurricanes’ greatest strength in 2017. It’s hard to imagine it being anything but the weakness in 2018 after losing three starters and two key reserves.

Why did Miami only land 1 from American Heritage?

The eye of the college football world Wednesday fixed squarely on Plantation, Fla., a South Florida town less than 20 miles away from Hard Rock Stadium. ESPNU set up its cameras in the auditorium at American Heritage School, where the two best cornerbacks in the country, plus a slew of other blue-chip recruits, were slated to announce their college choices. The four biggest names: Silvera, Chatfield, and 5-star cornerbacks Patrick Surtain Jr. and Tyson Campbell. The Hurricanes, as they should have been, were in the mix for all four.

They finished the day with only one of their signatures.

Silvera, who initially committed to Miami last February, followed through by signing his national letter of intent. Chatfield, who only received an offer from the Hurricanes in November, picked the Gators despite Miami’s desperation for defensive linemen. Surtain went with Alabama. Campbell signed with Georgia.

Missing on Chatfield was a matter of not prioritizing a player who may not exactly be a fit. There’s a reason the Hurricanes didn’t offer the defensive end until November: as good as Chatfield is — and he’s really good — he’s a much better fit in a 3-4 defense than Miami’s 4-3. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound edge rusher spent much more time envisioning himself at Florida than he did with the Hurricanes.

Hearing both Surtain and Campbell talk about why they went elsewhere should be a bit more concerning for Miami. Surtain said the Hurricanes didn’t really start recruiting him hard until November, hence why the Hurricanes weren’t in his initial top 6. Campbell frequently listed Georgia and Alabama — his two other finalists — as the schools recruiting him hardest. Even if Miami isn’t back to the reputation it wants locally, the Hurricanes simply can’t let outside schools outwork them with top talent in the Miami metropolitan area.

Is the Class of 2018 still a success?

Of course, the Class of 2018 is still a success. The Hurricanes signed their highest-ranked group since 2008 and landed 15 blue-chip prospects. Their offensive haul legitimately stands up against just about anyone else’s with a 5-star running back, a top-100 quarterback, two top-8 tight ends, a pair of All-American guards and three 4-star wide receivers, including 4-star athlete Marquez Ezzard, who committed Wednesday. Some flaws on defense — however glaring they may be — aren’t enough to cloud these successes.

And it’s not as if the defensive recruiting efforts were an abject disaster. Miami’s plan was to not sign a true linebacker. Silvera, as noted earlier, is arguably the top interior defensive lineman in the country. The Hurricanes’ secondary haul, featuring four 4-star prospects, is one of the country’s best even without Surtain, Campbell or 4-star cornerbacks Josh Jobe and Asante Samuel Jr. Nigel Bethel, a 3-star cornerback, was the only defensive back to sign Wednesday.

Yes, the 2018 cycle ended on a sour note. That’s all it was, though — a note. Miami still has the pieces in place to contend long-term and got most of what it needs to continue succeeding short-term.

Miss a previous edition? Find every post of DieHards’ daily Miami recruiting notebook right here.