The 2018 Miami recruiting class has a chance to be special. With 15 blue-chip commitments — including 10 on offense — coach Mark Richt has a core he can use to turn the Hurricanes into a consistent national factor. Easily a dozen players from this class could turn into all-ACC players sometime during their careers, and half of those could turn into All-Americans. It wouldn’t be crazy for Miami to wind up with a Heisman contender, either.
But who are these prospects? It’s not just about who the highest-ranked players are. The Hurricanes did a great job finding elite players at positions they specialize in. These are the athletes who could — and maybe should — contend for awards during their time in South Florida:
The Heisman hopeful
The crown jewel of Miami’s class comes at a position which garners as much national attention as any. Lorenzo Lingard, an in-state 5-star running back, finished the 2018 cycle as the No. 2 running back in the class. He’s an every-down player at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, and with track-star speed he’s a threat to break off a big play at any moment.
Lingard is everything scouts look for in an NFL prospect. He runs fluidly and explosively. He can run over linebackers and past defensive backs. Lingard approached 2,000 yards as a senior at University High School in Orange City, Fla., despite missing the postseason and running behind an offensive line without a Division I prospect. He also became the first Hurricanes commit to be Florida’s Gatorade Player of the Year since Willis McGahee. Not bad company.
The halfback will almost certainly contribute immediately as a freshman, and by his sophomore year he could take the reins if running back Travis Homer leaves. Lingard will get two or three cracks at a Heisman Trophy campaign. It would be a surprise if he doesn’t earn all-conference honors at some point, and because of his position he has the best shot of anyone to have his name listed on Heisman odds sheets in Las Vegas. The only question is how soon will the chatter start?
Cracking the All-American teams at the running back position is tough, but Lingard has the potential. The Hurricanes running game should thrive with Lingard carrying the ball.
He’s not the only reason they should be able to steamroll opponents on the ground. Delone Scaife, a 4-star prospect, is the No. 5 guard in the 2018 class, and 3-star fullback Realus George is the No. 2 player at his position. If Scaife sticks as an interior lineman, the Miami Southridge High School product has a chance to be one of the best in the country. The same goes for George, whom Richt will find creative ways to use. He won’t just be counted on to create massive holes for Lingard. The running back from Atlanta’s Pace Academy will catch passes, get carries on the goal line and play a major role on special teams.
Still, it’s possible none of these three have a better chance to be an All-American than Brevin Jordan. The 4-star tight end finished the cycle as the No. 1 player at his position. He had more than 1,000 receiving yards during his senior year at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas. Jordan is the next great product of “tight end U.”
While the offense is getting a lot of the attention, the 2018 class isn’t lacking for potential stars on the other side of the ball. Nesta Silvera is the best of the bunch. The 4-star defensive tackle skyrocketed to No. 2 at his position in the 247Sports composite rankings and has drawn comparisons to Warren Sapp. Given how thin the Hurricanes are along the defensive line, Silvera could start immediately. The defensive lineman from American Heritage School in Plantation, Fla., will have plenty of time to make his All-American case with defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski’s instruction.
— David Wilson (@DBWilson2) February 7, 2018
Just about every member of Miami’s class will have a chance to contend for spots on an all-ACC team. That’s what happens when you land a top-10 class. Lingard, Jordan, Silvera, George and Scaife will all have an excellent chance. So will about 10 others — too many to name. These are just a few:
If Miami’s offense pans out, Jarren Williams will be a major reason why. This quarterback class is loaded, which could make it difficult for Williams to grab All-American honors. A few all-ACC seasons will be well within reach for the 4-star pro-style quarterback. The same is true for 4-star wide receiver Mark Pope, who could turn into Williams’ most dangerous weapon. Don’t rule out a potential All-American nod for Pope, either. He could make it as a punt returner even if he never quite reaches that level as a pass catcher.
This class is so deep on offense that players who are only “the other guy” at their position should be all-conference contenders, too. Cam’Ron Davis will be a threat even when Lingard is around because of his versatility. If Lingard leaves after his junior year, the 4-star running back will have a chance for a monster season or two as the primary ball carrier. Will Mallory is in a similar boat. Richt wants to use multiple tight ends, so the presence of Jordan won’t keep the 4-star tight end from contributing. But if Jordan leaves after his junior year, Mallory will get a chance to be one of the ACC’s best tight ends.
Again, as good as this offensive class has a chance to be, there are some on defense who should play at an all-ACC level. With four blue-chip defensive backs coming in, the Hurricanes hope they can find at least one all-conference talent. Al Blades Jr., a 4-star cornerback, may be the safest bet. His upside is as high as anyone’s in the class.