Brandon Cunningham/Twitter
Brandon Cunningham flipped from Miami to Mississippi State on Friday after a recent visit with the Hurricanes.

Miami recruiting: Hurricanes lose third commitment in last month

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 his daily notebooks here at 6:30 p.m. ET from Sunday through Thursday and follow us on Twitter for the latest Miami recruiting news.


Longtime Miami tackle commit flips to Mississippi State

For the third time in the last month, Miami has lost one of its longest-standing commitments. The latest defection is 3-star tackle Brandon Cunningham, a rising senior at St. Martin High School in Ocean Springs, Miss.

Like most of the Hurricanes’ other recent de-commitments in the Class of 2019, the writing seemed to be on the wall with Cunningham’s departure. Before an unofficial visit to Miami on April 5, he hadn’t been in South Florida since July. Meanwhile, Mississippi State offered the 6-foot-5, 305-pound offensive lineman in November and hosted him for an unofficial visit April 3. Cunningham publicly expressed much more excitement about his stay in Starkville, Miss., than his trip to Florida, and a few days later he backed off his commitment to the Hurricanes. Cunningham, who also plays tight end and defensive end, de-committed Friday and announced his new pledge to the in-state Bulldogs only a few hours later.

“Their whole staff has been blowing up my phone and it made me feel like a priority,” Cunningham told 247Sports.com’s Paul Jones. “I love everybody on their staff and I love how they all recruited me, from Coach [Joe] Moorhead to every single person on the staff.”

Cunningham’s de-commitment leaves Miami with only two offensive linemen and one tackle in the 2019 class, and the remaining tackle is just as likely to wind up on defense as he is offense.

Renato Brown, a 3-star tackle in the 247Sports composite rankings, remains the lone commitment at his position in the class, and the 6-5, 310-pound senior from Palm Beach Central High School in Wellington, Fla., hopes to play defensive line for Miami. Kingsley Eguakun, a 3-star guard, is a true offensive lineman, and the senior from Jacksonville’s Atlantic Coast High School will wind up as either a guard or center. Tackle was already going to be a major priority in this class, and Cunningham’s defection further emphasizes the need.

The current top target for the Hurricanes is Evan Neal. Technically a 4-star guard, Neal measures in at 6-8, 385 pounds and started at left tackle for IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., in 2017. The senior is a native of Okeechobee, Fla., and a cousin of former Miami running back Cleveland Gary. The Hurricanes must fend off Florida State, Alabama, Georgia and Oklahoma to land the blue-chip offensive lineman, but they probably hold a slight edge at this point. The former Crimson Tide commit visited for Miami’s junior day March 24.

The Hurricanes are also somewhat in the mix for 5-star tackle for Darnell Wright. Miami sent coaches to visit the 5-star tackle from Huntington (W.Va.) High School in January and probably will return sometime during the current evaluation period. The Hurricanes are a long shot, clearly sitting behind Virginia Tech, Alabama, Tennessee and Ohio State, but the 6-6, 290-pound lineman is too talented a prospect to not pursue. Tight ends coach Todd Hartley, who has become the Hurricanes’ ace recruiter, is heading up Wright’s recruitment.

It might not take Miami long to upgrade Cunningham’s spot. Michael Tarquin plans to announce a commitment by the end of the month. The 4-star tackle from Belleview (Fla.) High School officially visited the Sooners this weekend and once seemed like a significant Buckeyes lean, although a recent trip south to Miami for junior day seems to have flipped things. The Hurricanes at least even with the two superpowers and probably will host Tarquin’s final visit before an announcement. The 6-5, 290-pound offensive lineman plans to visit Saturday.

Frank Ladson-Miami recruiting-Clemson recruiting
Frank Ladson committed to Clemson while on an unofficial visit. (David Wilson/DieHards)

No. 1 Miami WR target Frank Ladson picks Clemson

With a recent de-commitment from 4-star wide receiver Brieon Fuller and a relatively thin list of targets, Miami positioned itself with a short-term Frank Ladson-or-bust situation at wide receiver. Now the Hurricanes will have to get creative.

The 5-star wide receiver from South Dade High School in Homestead, Fla., made a somewhat unsurprising decision Saturday. The 6-4, 170-pound pass catcher ended his recruitment by committing to Clemson while in South Carolina for the Tigers spring game.

Clemson had looked like the favorite for a little while now, but Miami hoped it could change the senior’s mind by lengthening his recruitment. Instead, the U.S. Army All-American shunned the Hurricanes and Georgia, among others, by sticking with a school more successful at producing elite wideouts than anyone.

“I knew for a while now that I was very strong on Clemson, [wide receivers coach Jeff] Scott and the whole staff. Everything felt right. It felt good,” Ladson told 247Sports’ Anna Hickey. “I came into this visit knowing there was a strong possibility that I wanted to go ahead and shut it down.”

There isn’t an obvious pivot for Miami, which means it’s possible the Hurricanes may stick with just Jeremiah Payton in 2019. The 4-star wide receiver from Duncan U. Fletcher High School in Neptune Beach, Fla., committed Feb. 20 and recently accepted an invitation to the Under Armour All-America Game.

Kendrell Scurry seems to be the wideout Miami has the best traction with right now. The 4-star wide receiver recently transferred to Maplewood High School in Nashville and visited the Hurricanes in November. The 6-3, 185-pound pass catcher recently updated his top 5, and Miami is still in the picture along with Louisville, Virginia, Mississippi State and Kentucky. He is a former Volunteers commit.

The Hurricanes are also still in the mix for some athletes with experience playing wide receiver. Miami is battling Stanford for 4-star athlete Josh Sanguinetti, who plays both wide receiver and cornerback at NSU University School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The 6-2, 170-pound rising senior, however, projects as a defensive back. The same is true for 4-star athlete Jaylin Simpson, who named the Hurricanes to a top 5 with Clemson, Georgia, Auburn and Ohio State in November. The 5-11, 160-pound senior from Frederica Academy in St. Simons, Ga., also projects best on defense.

Dontae Lucas-Miami recruiting-Florida State recruiting
Dontae Lucas picked Florida State over Miami and six other teams. (David Wilson/DieHards)

Miami’s offensive line situation also got a bit more dire Saturday as 4-star guard Dontae Lucas, who is originally from Miami, committed to the Seminoles while in Tallahassee, Fla., for Florida State’s spring game.

The 6-4, 330-pound offensive lineman, who is now at IMG, recently announced a top 8, which also included Oregon, Florida, South Carolina, Missouri, Alabama and Louisville.

As noted earlier, Neal, who can play tackle or guard, is still the clear top priority. There are still other interior linemen, however, the Hurricanes will have to push for now to join Eguakun.

William Putnam might be the most important name to know. The 4-star guard from Plant High School in Tampa, Fla., visited Miami in November and raved about the Hurricanes when he left Miami Gardens, Fla. The 6-4, 285-pound lineman originally hails from the Midwest, so Ohio State could reemerge as a factor. Putnam also recently visited the Seminoles, although he is certainly lower on their list of priorities now.

Chis Steele-Miami recruiting-Oklahoma recruiting
Chris Steele took his first official visit to Oklahoma this weekend. (Student Sports/courtesy)

CB Chris Steele sets commitment date after Oklahoma visit

While a double dose of bad news hit the Hurricanes from ACC country this weekend, Miami managed to escape a key official visit date in Oklahoma unscathed — for now.

Four major Miami targets spent the weekend in Norman to watch the Sooners spring game and take an official visit. None of the four locked in with Oklahoma, although the highest-profile visitor with major Hurricanes ties did update his timeline. Chris Steele, a 5-star cornerback with Miami as part of his top 14, said he will announce his commitment July 7.

The senior from St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, Calif., has yet to visit the Hurricanes, although he has repeatedly insisted a trip Coral Gables, Fla., is coming soon. A trip to LSU this weekend is the only other official visit scheduled before Steele plans to commit. Florida, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Texas, Penn State, California, Southern Cal, South Carolina and Oregon are among the other notable suitors.

The potential decision date would put the 6-1, 176-pound defensive back on a similar timeline to another of the blue-chip Hurricanes targets who visited the Sooners this weekend. Jaden Davis, a 4-star cornerback, plans to announce his commitment in July, as well. The 5-11, 170-pound rising senior from Fort Lauderdale’s St. Thomas Aquinas High School has seemed to have Miami and the Gators at the top of his list, although Oklahoma helped itself this weekend. Davis will officially visit the Nittany Lions this weekend and has the Buckeyes high on his list.

Braylen Ingraham, who recently transferred to St. Thomas Aquinas from Fort Lauderdale’s Dillard High School, joined Davis on the visit. The 4-star strongside defensive end listed the Hurricanes as the favorite heading into the weekend with Oklahoma pushing from behind. Miami escaping the weekend without the 6-4, 255-pound end committing is a victory.

Tarquin also left without committing. While neither seemed particularly likely to commit this weekend, the Hurricanes are now in the driver’s seat to land both.

Two Miami commits, meanwhile, spent their weekend on unofficial visits in Gainesville, Fla. Both Renato Brown and 3-star outside linebacker Jesiah Pierre made their way to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday for Florida’s spring game. While Brown has seems to be totally firm in his commitment, Pierre admits the Gators are giving him plenty to think about.

The visit was Pierre’s second to Florida since the start of the year. The 6-3, 215-pound rising senior from Mount Dora (Fla.) Christian Academy, formerly known as Christian Home & Bible School, also plans to visit North Carolina this spring.

The Hurricanes, instead, used their spring game as an opportunity to host some of the best in the Classes of 2020 and 2021, plus some 2019 commits.

Payton headlined the group of 2019 commits at Hard Rock Stadium, and the elite pass catcher was joined by 4-star outside linebacker Anthony Solomon, 3-star running back Marcus Crowley, 3-star tight end Larry Hodges, 3-star defensive tackle Denzel Daxon, 3-star outside linebacker Samuel Brooks and 2-star outside linebacker Zac Smith, who is committed as a preferred walk-on fullback. Miami also hosted 3-star outside linebackers Jahmar Brown and Darius Williams, the former of whom is now near the top of the Hurricanes’ board at the position. The Hurricanes are battling South Carolina, Ohio State, Stanford and Oklahoma for the Raiders linebacker.

At least one notable 2019 prospect without an offer visited, too, as unranked athlete Willie Gaines was in attendance. He claims a handful of Power 5 conference offers.

In the 2020 class, Miami hosted five commits and a number of other key targets. The commits: 4-star tight end Dominic Mammarelli, 4-star strongside defensive end Samuel Anaele, 4-star cornerback Henry Gray, 4-star athlete Avantae Williams and 3-star strongside defensive end Tre’von Riggins.

The most notable other visitor was Don Chaney Jr., a 4-star running back in the 247Sports rankings. Chaney is a Gamecocks legacy, but the junior from Miami’s Belen Jesuit Preparatory School has frequently called the Hurricanes his favorite. Unranked Cocoa (Fla.) High School athlete Caziah Holmes, another visitor Saturday, also has the Hurricanes alone at the top of his list. Marcus Dumervil, a 4-star St. Thomas Aquinas tackle, visited for the second time in two weeks, as well. Miami is battling Louisville, LSU, Michigan and the Buckeyes for the nephew of former All-Pro defensive end Elvis Dumervil. The Hurricanes also welcomed unranked weakside defensive end Elijah Roberts back to visit after Miami offered March 31.

At least four notable 2020 prospects without Hurricanes offers also visited. Miami continues to evaluate 3-star wide receiver Marcus Fleming, 3-star outside linebacker Andy Garcia, unranked tackle Richard Leonard, unranked guard Gage Gaynor and unranked cornerback Jaheem Joseph.

And in the 2021 class, unranked safety James Williams was back for a visit after committing March 31. A potential quarterback target visited, too, as Walter Simmons III spent warm-ups on the field. The unranked dual-threat quarterback has yet to receive any Division I offers.

Miami offers No. 1 junior college cornerback

Miami didn’t sign any junior college prospects in the Class of 2018. The Hurricanes are looking to potentially change that in 2019. Miami offered a pair of JUCO prospects last week, including the No. 1 JUCO cornerback in the 247Sports.com rankings.

Elijah Blades, a 4-star cornerback and the nation’s No. 3 JUCO prospect, climbed up to a dozen offers Thursday when the Hurricanes offered.

Blades is already one of the most coveted JUCO prospects in the country, claiming offers from Illinois, Oregon, Florida Atlantic, Alabama, LSU, Kentucky, Mississippi, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas. The 6-2, 175-pound defensive back from Pasadena, Calif., initially signed with Nebraska in the Class of 2017 before enrolling at Arizona Western College in Yuma.

Miami’s JUCO recruiting didn’t end with Blades. On Friday, the Hurricanes offered another JUCO prospect, reaching out to unranked weakside defensive end Jermaine Johnson.

Like Blades, Johnson is shaping up to be one of the most coveted JUCO prospects in the 2019 cycle. The Hurricanes are the 13th team to offer the Independence (Kan.) Community College defensive end.

Unlike Blades, Johnson went straight to junior college. The 6-5, 245-pound defensive lineman originally hails from Eden Prairie, Minn., and visited Minnesota a handful of times, although it doesn’t seem to have much of a bearing on his current recruitment. UCLA appears to be the program currently positioned best for Johnson.

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