Last-minute flips highlight Miami’s ACC-leading recruiting class

Junior safety Kamren Kinchens and redshirt freshman defensive back Jaden Harris celebrate Kinchens' interception during Miami's game against Clemson at Hard Rock Stadium on Oct. 21, 2023. Photo credit: Emily Rice

Christmas may fall on Dec. 25, but for Miami Hurricanes fans, the holiday came five days early as the ‘Canes put together a second consecutive top-10 recruiting class on Early National Signing Day. With big names abound and plenty of last-minute drama, let’s look at how head coach Mario Cristobal has continued to shape Miami’s roster through this year’s recruiting class.

Continued dominance on the defensive line

Miami relentlessly pursued its top two recruits, five-star defensive linemen Justin Scott and Armondo Blount, despite the highly coveted players initially committing to Ohio State and Florida State, respectively. The team’s efforts paid off, as Scott flipped in late November, and Blount chose the ‘Canes over the rival Seminoles on Wednesday evening.

“Justin is a massive, massive man,” Cristobal proclaimed. “About as explosive as you can be for a big man.”

The defensive duo, who weigh 560 pounds, are joined in the trenches by DL Artavius Jones and edge rushers Marquise Lightfoot, Booker Pickett Jr., and Elias Rudolph. All four players are considered four-star recruits by 247Sports.

“All these guys are relentless. All these guys play with a high motor,” Cristobal raved. “They’re really good technically.”

Miami’s defensive line was stout this past season, highlighted by Leonard Taylor III and ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year Rueben Bain Jr. But with Taylor departing the program in pursuit of the NFL Draft, the ‘Canes brought in more than enough high-end talent to remain dominant in the trenches.

Replenishing the offense

Though the most prominent names of Miami’s recruiting class were in the trenches, the ‘Canes also made waves at the offensive skill positions, bringing in four-star players at running back, wide receiver, and tight end.

Jordan Lyle, a six-foot runningback out of Fort Lauderdale, followed in the footsteps of future teammate Mark Fletcher Jr., committing to Ohio State but ultimately flipping to Miami precisely one year after Fletcher did the same. Lyle amassed 2391 rushing yards and 34 total touchdowns in his past two high school seasons, averaging over 10 yards per carry.

“Two guys that just amassed a massive amount of yardage this year,” Cristobal said of Lyle and three-star back Chris Wheatley-Humphrey. “Really talented, really intelligent, high IQ guys both on and off the field.”

Lyle and Wheatley-Humphrey join a crowded Miami backfield that features Fletcher, Henry Parrish Jr., and Ajay Allen, who combined for 1441 yards last season. Donald Chaney Jr., who was third on the team in rushing yards this past season, officially transferred to Louisville on Dec. 16.

The ‘Canes hoped to flip wide receiver Jeremiah Smith, the nation’s top recruit according to 247Sports, from Ohio State. However, the Hollywood, FL native signed a letter of intent with the Buckeyes on Wednesday. Since the effort will not come to fruition, Miami still bolstered its receiving corps by bringing in three four-star receivers: Ny Carr, Joshisa Trader, and Chance Robinson.

“They’re human highlight films,” Cristobal gushed. “That room just took a monstrous step in the right direction.”

Miami’s receiver room is set to take a hit with junior Colbie Young, who was third on the team in receiving yards, entering the transfer portal. Furthermore, Xavier Restrepo’s future is still in the air; the sure-handed slot receiver, who paced the Hurricanes in both receiving yards and receptions this past season, could enter the transfer portal or declare for the NFL Draft. But no matter Restrepo’s fate, Miami took a significant step toward restocking its receiving corps.

Miami added six-foot-two tight end Elija Lofton to cap off the offensive haul. “As versatile a football player as I have ever seen,” Cristobal said, praising the four-star pass-catcher out of Las Vegas.

Unlike its receiver group, Miami’s tight end room was largely underwhelming this past season—four players combined for 141 yards on 17 receptions. Last year’s starter, Cam McCormick, was granted a ninth year of eligibility but has yet to commit to another season. Whether or not McCormick, about a month older than six-year NFL starter Tremaine Edmunds, returns, the hope is that Lofton and former four-star recruit Riley Williams can bring more excellent production to a position synonymous with Miami football.

The quarterback remains up in the air

The quarterback position was arguably Miami’s most significant weakness this past season, with longtime starter Tyler Van Dyke struggling after a hot start to the year. Van Dyke was ultimately benched in favor of freshman Emory Williams, who showed flashes before suffering a season-ending injury against Florida State.

Van Dyke is transferring to Wisconsin, and Williams’ timeline is still unclear. Thus, many eyes have turned to the transfer portal, where the Hurricanes have been linked to several high-profile targets.

The team’s convoluted quarterback situation has many names to follow, which means the signing of three-star signal-caller Judd Anderson may have gone under the radar. Anderson, who stands at a colossal six-foot-six, put up gaudy numbers this past season. In 13 games for Warner Robins, he completed nearly 74 percent of his passes for 2917 yards and 30 touchdowns.

“Judd Anderson impresses from day one with a couple of different things,” Cristobal remarked. “It’s hard to do that: that many yards, that type of completion percentage, that many touchdowns, natural leadership skills and just flat-out tough.”

However, Anderson is a raw prospect: the prior season, he completed only 56 percent of his passes while throwing 13 interceptions and only 15 touchdowns. The Hurricanes will likely add a more experienced passer in the next few weeks.

“Obviously, the transfer portal is something that we’re going to be very active in,” Cristobal stated. “We’re not done yet.”