Miami recruiting: Leonard Manuel solid to Hurricanes despite looming visits
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.
Elite 2020 WR set with Miami, even if he won’t visit Saturday
Miami should have most of its commits in the Class of 2020 on campus on Saturday. The Hurricanes are hosting a major underclassman day for the members of Miami’s top-ranked 2020 class, top targets in the 2019 and 2021 classes, and local prospects of all ages.
The top-ranked player in the 2020 class won’t be there, though, but it shouldn’t be too much of a concern for the Hurricanes. Leonard Manuel insists he is totally locked in with Miami despite taking visits elsewhere. The 4-star wide receiver even took an under-the-radar trip to Coral Gables, Fla., earlier in March to spend the day with quarterback N’Kosi Perry.
“Last week I was down there. It wasn’t really known. It wasn’t public,” Manuel told DieHards on Sunday after an Under Armour All-America Camp in Orlando, Fla. “I was just down there chilling with Kosi.”
— John Garcia, Jr. (@JohnGarcia_Jr) March 28, 2018
As for a more official return, Manuel plans to attend the Hurricanes’ spring game April 14 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Meantime, Manuel will continue to hear from just about every high-profile program across the country. The 6-foot-5, 200-pound pass catcher is the No. 1 player in Florida, according to 247Sports, so the state’s other two Power 5 Conference teams are pushing hard. Manuel visited Florida State on March 10, then went to Florida on March 16.
RELATED: 2019 Miami recruiting big board
Both schools are breaking in new coaching staffs, so Manuel mostly wanted to get to know the new coaches. The pass catcher from Vanguard High School in Ocala, Fla., lives less than an hour from Gainesville, Fla., and grew up liking the Gators. He still is getting to know coach Dan Mullen, but his first impressions were good.
“That’s kind of what it is right now,” Manuel said. “It’s new stuff. They’re just talking you through it, and you can tell it’s better than what it was, Florida and Florida State.”
The next trip for Manuel will take him across the country. The pass catcher, who also plays defensive end, plans to hit Southern California and UCLA on a trip to Los Angeles in April. The Trojans, Manuel said, are one of the top threats to flip the athlete, while the Bruins are one of the schools he is eagerly awaiting an offer from.
Manuel, however, insists it will be hard for anyone to pry him from his commitment. The rising junior, who previously was committed to Tennessee, verbally pledged to the Hurricanes in November while on a visit and says he still talks with coaches just about every day.
“Same thing they’re doing now,” Manuel said when asked what Miami needs to do to hang on. “Everything’s good. I never second-guess myself about changing or nothing, I just get out and go to schools to make sure I’m making the right decision. That’s all.”
Until then, the Hurricanes will have a more important voice in his ear. Perry has been on top of Manuel since before the wideout made his decision.
“Even before I committed,” Manuel said, “he was like, ‘I ain’t with that de-committing junk.’ ”
Miami hosts small, loaded group of visitors at practice
Saturday is supposed to be a major visit weekend in South Florida with Miami planning to host dozens of top prospects in the 2020 and 2021 classes, plus a couple noteworthy names in the Class of 2019.
But the group of visitors who headed out to Greentree Practice Fields on Thursday was almost as impressive. The list of visitors was significantly shorter, but it included a 5-star prospect, a quarterback and one of the Hurricanes’ most important targets in 2020.
Thursday always was supposed to be the final day of Michael Johnson Jr.‘s two-day stay in the Miami metropolitan area. The 4-star dual-threat quarterback arrived Wednesday and got to the Hurricanes practice on Thursday. The rising senior from Sheldon High School now heads back to Eugene, Ore., after visiting Alabama and Ole Miss earlier during his spring break.
The bigger surprise, though, came when Frank Ladson arrived on campus. The 5-star wide receiver from South Dade High School in Homestead, Fla., attended Miami’s junior day on Saturday, then swung by Florida on Monday and Florida State on Tuesday. Ladson, who is considered the No. 3 wide receiver in the 2019 class, returned home on Thursday, though, and took the opportunity to get back to see the hometown team practice.
South Dade WR Frank Ladson out at practice today chatting with Ron Dugans pic.twitter.com/rklp6sjvco
— Stefan Adams (@stefan_adams305) March 29, 2018
In the 2020 class, the Hurricanes finally brought Henry Gray to campus on Thursday. Miami offered the 4-star cornerback from Miami Central High School on March 9, and the rising senior called the Hurricanes a dream school. He originally planned to make his first trip to Miami on Saturday before bumping up his visit a few days.
Gerand Turner, a 3-star wide receiver from South Miami High School, joined Gray at practice on Thursday.
Update: I will be at the University of Miami tomorrow 🙌🏽
— Henry Gray (@D1bound_zay2121) March 28, 2018
Update: I will be at the University of Miami tomorrow 🙌🏽 @CaneGangSavages
— Gerand Turner (@Mr_Turner1123) March 29, 2018
Miami makes first cut for pair of elite out-of-state prospects
Miami still hasn’t been able to get Chris Steele to Florida for a visit, but the 5-star cornerback still has the Hurricanes in the mix. Steele released a top-14 list on Thursday, and Miami, unsurprisingly, is part of the semi-exclusive group.
— steele 🎒 (@KinggChris7) March 29, 2018
Steele is making an effort to visit as many schools as possible in 2018, which leaves about a dozen schools with a legitimate feeling they have at least an outside chance to land the nation’s No. 3 corner. Louisville, Florida, Alabama, LSU, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Texas, Penn State, USC, Oregon and Cal make up the rest of the rising senior’s top 14.
He will trim the list to seven in the summer, then make a decision in September. Steele plans to enroll early, which means he will sign a national letter of intent in December.
The list didn’t feature many major surprises. Perhaps the biggest is the absence of UCLA, to which Steele once was committed. The 6-1, 176-pound defensive back from St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, Calif., also left off Michigan after including the Wolverines in a top 5 in October. The Gators and Cal are the two closest things to surprise inclusions on the list. Steele told DieHards earlier in March that he is unsure about a previously planned official visit to Gainesville on Sept. 8.
Steele consistently has raved about the Hurricanes since Miami offered on Jan. 23, which has turned the Hurricanes into surprise top contenders. The elite prospect said he would like to visit Miami “very, very soon,” although he is unsure if he will be able to take an official visit. Steele insists not taking an official visit wouldn’t crush any team’s chances.
“Whether I take an official or not to a certain school doesn’t really mean anything,” Steele said. “That’s not really going to mean too much in my recruitment.”
The athlete is locked in for an official visit with the Sooners on April 14, although all other dates are up in the air. Steele previously planned to officially visit the Cardinals on April 6 and LSU on April 21.
The Trojans and Ducks will be tough to beat, though, given their track record of success on the West Coast. Steele has been a frequent visitor at USC throughout his high school career.
While the Hurricanes’ inclusion on Steele’s list was anticipated, their presence on another top list released this week was a bit more surprising. Devonta Lee, a 4-star wide receiver from Amite (La.) High Magnet School, put out a top 12 on Wednesday, and Miami made the cut.
Top 12 pic.twitter.com/yg1CfqmFQm
— Devonta Lee (@DevontaleeLee) March 28, 2018
The Hurricanes were the second school to offer Lee way back in 2016, and the 6-3, 193-pound athlete visited Miami in April. The top-100 prospect hasn’t been tied to the Hurricanes much lately, though, as LSU and the Crimson Tide have emerged as early front-runners.
Still, the rising senior at least thinks about Miami, which is joined by Florida State, Ohio State, Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, LSU, Arkansas, Florida, Texas A&M, Tennessee and Texas.
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