How Mark Richt is changing Miami's recruiting perception
The Lennar Foundation Medical Center sits on the edge of the University of Miami's Coral Gables campus. The shine hasn’t worn off the brand-new building’s pristine glass facade. Inside, you won’t find a single coach’s office.
Instead, doctors perform surgeries and treat patients for a variety of illnesses with state of the art technology. Scalpels are common. Stiff arms? Not so much.
But that hasn’t stopped Miami head coach Mark Richt from using the building as a recruiting tool. As it turns out, sending recruits to the hospital isn’t always a bad thing.
“The other day, we had a really nice meal up there,” Richt said of the medical center. “We realized when they built it that, from up there, you can see the Miami skyline one way and look the other way to see our practice facility. We just went up there and had a meal. We just spent time together with the recruits and hung out.”
Outside-the-box thinking is the new norm in Coral Gables. Richt admits to revamping the way he looks at recruiting upon arriving at his alma mater. The reason he currently boasts the No. 1 recruiting class in America has to do with advantageous location, sure, but he’s outperforming his recruiting history at his previous stop mostly because he’s taken a new approach.
So much for the old-dog-new-tricks cliché. The Miami Mark Richt and the Georgia Mark Richt are completely different beasts. At 57 years old, the Hurricanes’ second-year head coach has changed everything … including the results.
“I’m not a big proponent of the big junior day anymore,” Richt said “People have done that for years, and I had done that at Georgia for years. I’ve learned that you’re better off just inviting this kid on a day he can come with his mom and dad and brother and sister. You’re better off inviting them like that and making it their day and make it personal.”
This is the new era of Miami recruiting and the new era of Mark Richt – an era where every advantage is played up to the thousandth degree and every opportunity is seized. Even at the ACC Kickoff event in Charlotte last week, Richt was selling his program. He arrived at the event donning an extremely on-the-nose tan suit, complete with a “U” lapel pin, and carefully cultivated facial stubble that would pass for cool in a South Beach club. He made sure to refer to Miami as “paradise” in his opening statement and even gave a public shutout to the high school players in the South Florida area.
His words were crafted. Richt left the podium and headed to a breakout session, where, after diagramming how to eat a sandwich in 10 bites, he returned to the hard sell. Richt casually made note of the school’s average class size (18 to 22 students) and worked in a chance to call the campus “a resort."
The tireless approach is working wonders. Miami’s No. 1 recruiting ranking is enough to prove that. But the players Richt and company are pulling in have long since noticed the shift in recruiting approach that accompanied the current staff’s 2015 arrival.
“The vibe at Miami is great; this staff has lots of positive energy now,” said five-star running back Lorenzo Lingard, the crown jewel of Miami’s top-ranked class. “When they took over, the No. 1 thing was basically the staff reaching out to recruits with truthful information and positive feedback. Miami works as one team and everyone there is on the same page unlike other programs.”
The way Richt has attacked recruiting locally is also a dramatic change from the previous staff, led by the now-dismissed Al Golden. Under Richt, the local, talent-rich counties of Dade, Broward and Palm Beach are divided up among the staff like a mini country. Each assistant coach has an assigned recruiting area within the tri-county area in addition to their larger, more national recruiting responsibilities.
Eleven of Miami’s 19 commits in the 2018 class are from the three-county zone. The Miami staff has opened all practices to high school coaches and routinely invites small groups of them to intimate “chalk talk” sessions on campus. Richt routinely brings former players to local parks to address players from ages four to 14. This is, in every way, a grassroots campaign.
Then, there’s the change in approach when it comes to identifying and pursuing those coaches’ prospects. According to Richt, Miami now charges the absolute allowable minimum for its on-campus camps. The goal here is clear. There are no lines between which to read.
“We’re not trying to make money with camps,” Richt said. “We’re trying to get great players on campus.”
The revamped approach and its immediate results have inspired confidence among fans and players alike. Misplaced or not, the current recruiting avalanche has swept up a bit of swagger along the way. If attitude is the program’s historical trademark, the old standard is creeping back into the picture.
“I can promise you this: Sometime in the next three or four years Miami will be unbeaten,” said four-star running back Cameron Davis, a Miami commit. “All of us South Florida players are putting our talent in coach Richt’s hands.”
Davis’ bravado is just that. Unbeaten is a lofty goal. But whether or not it’s met is unimportant at this point. What matters in rebuilding The U is its recruiting perception, and Richt has certainly altered that. Because Davis sincerely believes his words and, true or false, others are starting to as well.