football Edit

Momentum in Miami

Camron Davis
Camron Davis

MORE: Which team is off to the most surprising start to 2018?

MIAMI – Sometimes a run of commitments is simply a run of commitments. Other times, it’s a full-fledged movement. Four-star wide receiver Elijah Moore thinks this situation seems like the latter.

Moore took note of the situation in early February, when the Miami football program dominated the conversation between him and his teammates on a trip from Miami to Orlando for a 7-on-7 tournament. The topic didn’t change when they arrived.

Once off the bus and on the field, any recruiting conversation Moore had with another prospect on another team quickly turned to the Hurricanes. It was then that the Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas standout says he knew something had shifted. Perception of his hometown team had changed. He didn’t need to squint to see the transformation.

“I had kinda noticed that my teammates [at St. Thomas] had been talking about Miami more this year,” Moore said. “But when we were in Orlando and everyone there was talking about Miami too, that’s when I knew it was different. That’s when I knew it was happening.”

The “it” Moore references is a string of Rivals250 commitments. In the month following the adidas Tournament in Orlando, second-year head coach Mark Richt has assembled an 11-man 2018 recruiting class that includes a five-star (running back Lorenzo Lingard) and six four-stars.

The commitments from highly-ranked prospects came quickly and sometimes without warning. This was a full-fledged assault on in-state talent – the execution of a keep-talent-home mantra that began to feel like lip service months ago.

Rivals100 running back Camron Davis, who was part of Miami’s February run on Florida-based talent, has a simple explanation for the situation. Recruiting is a momentum-based game And with spots in recruiting classes at a premium, it pays to be trendy.

“That’s how it goes,” Davis said. “We all started hearing who was going to commit and we all starting getting excited. Then, it started happening. We all get together now, man, and we talk. When people start seeing, 'Hey, Lorenzo just committed to Miami. Hey, Cam just committed to Miami. Randy Russell just committed to Miami. Al Blades is gonna commit to Miami.' … That’s when other people start favoring Miami. That’s when other people start committing. That’s what’s going on now.”

Lorenzo Lingard
Lorenzo Lingard

But such a perception didn’t take hold on its own. Even as a high school student, Davis isn’t naive enough to think this is some coincidence. The last month in Miami recruiting is the product of work. These are year-old plants beginning to bear fruit.

“The old [Miami staff] was only really into the class they were recruiting at the time,” Davis said. “They were trying to get all these five-stars in 2017. When coach Richt came in, they worked on the younger guys. They worked with 2018 like the old staff didn’t. They started talking to us from the beginning.”

Ask those that have been around South Florida and seen Miami recruit up close for decades, and it becomes clear that the system Richt is attempting to create runs well beyond high school underclassmen.

The term “grassroots” is painfully overused. In this case, however, it fits.

“The hires they have made this time have not just done a good job with the recruits, but you can see them becoming an actual part of the community again,” said Miami Central head coach Roland Smith, who played for the Hurricanes from 1987 until 1990. “You see this working at the youth level. They are a full part of the community.

“They are getting these youth league kids more involved with the school and with the program like they did when I played. This is the sort of things that happened back in the day. You would see a lot of these youth league teams sporting the jerseys and being involved with The U. This staff has the program involved with and giving back to the Miami community. And people have no idea how much that works.”

Chickens are still uncounted, though. Years full of empty “The U is back” proclamations make seeing believing in this case. A poor 2018 season could undo a lot of the work Richt and company have done on the recruiting. But reason for optimism exists. That much is clear.

Skepticism is warranted, sure. Then, so too is the feeling that the year ahead could be different. So is the hope that the Hurricanes could flirt with a top-five class for the first time since 2008.

“Miami never even talked to me or my coach I don’t think before Coach Richt“ said Rivals100 wide receiver Mark Pope, who now names Miami as his leader. “Now they’re talking to everyone. It just seems like they’re more involved with everyone.”