Miami football fans, players, and coaches crave a return to the glory days.
There was a time not too long ago where the Hurricanes owned the FBS. For the last 10 or so years, Miami has rotated coaches and searched for the answer. There have been a few above average seasons, and several glimmers of hope, but the Hurricanes have a long way to go before they regain national prominence.
Somehow, some way, Miami seems to always remain relevant on the recruiting trail. It's almost as if the nation's best prospects want to be the reason the Hurricanes turn the tide. They want to help return "The U" return to the promised land.
Let's just take a quick look at these recruiting classes since 2010. (Information is according to 24/7 Sports.)
|Year||ACC Rank||National Rank|
These may not be eye-popping right away, but let's just consider these numbers. Miami has had at least the third best recruiting class in the ACC for six-straight years. In four of the last six years, the Hurricanes have had one of the Top 15 classes in the nation. One would think this kind of recruiting would start turning into consistent runs toward the national title.
But it takes more than talent. Coaching has to be there as well. Speaking of which…[divider]
Will Mark Richt Right The Ship?
Richt certainly feels like the right guy for the job. This is a coach who compiled a 145-51 record at Georgia before he was ousted. He led the Bulldogs to a bowl game in every season except his last. Miami had a somewhat middling outing in Richt's first campaign in Coral Gables, but once again, the Hurricanes have an impressive recruiting class and the hype train is picking up some justifiable steam.
Miami's 2017 group has 24 total commits that includes 10 4-star talents. Let's take a look at the key position upgrades Richt made a focus.[divider]
We might not have an answer about the future quarterback in Coral Gables, but there's no doubt that whoever he is, he will have a bevy of weapons on the outside. Miami secured a pair of dynamic 4-star pass-catchers in Jeff Thomas and Mike Harley. Both talents are smaller, speedy receivers who can take the top off opposing defenses.
This was a major area of concern during the 2016 season. In the Thursday night game against Virginia Tech, Kaaya was sacked eight times. That was sort of the trend all year and Richt made the line a focal-point on the recruiting trail.
Offensive tackle Navaughn Donaldson, a hometown kid from Miami Central, is the highest-rated commitment for the Hurricanes. The 6-foot-5, 335-pound, 4-star held offers from Michigan, USC, Florida, Florida State, and Georgia (among others). He's joined by another 4-star tackle in Kai-Leon Herbert, who might need to add a bit of weight to his frame but should also be able to contribute pretty much immediately. Beyond those two highly-touted prospects, Richt added a group of 3-star offensive linemen that can be groomed. [divider]
But what about defense?
Miami has plenty of young talent on the defensive side of the ball and Richt clearly didn't think there were glaring needs. Just eight of the 24 commits are defensive players, highlighted by 4-star defensive end D.J. Johnson.
The pieces are clearly in place, but that's nothing new. Will Richt be the one to utilize those pieces and lead Miami back into consistent competition? In his 15 years at Georgia, Richt only had one recruiting class rank outside the top ten in the country (No. 11 in 2010). Recruiting class rankings should always be taken with a grain of salt, since any team in the top 15-25 range can do great things with the right coaching — Richt led Georgia to double-digit wins in nine of his 15 seasons.
The Hurricanes picked up the right pieces to fill their gaps and contend. Obviously it will depend on their quarterback play, but with this coach, and this class, 2018 could be the year Miami becomes "The U" once more.