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Miami, Mark Richt earning good early marks from South Florida recruits

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What do Miami recruits think of Richt? (2:41)

Natioanl recruiting analyst Gerry Hamilton spoke with top Hurricanes' targets to gather their opinions on Mark Richt getting the Miami job. He joins ESPN's Phil Murphy to share the prospects' thoughts. (2:41)

The Miami Hurricanes under Mark Richt will ultimately be judged on how many games are won in Coral Gables in the coming years. But, winning the perception and hype game on the recruiting trail is crucial for a newly hired staff.

From signing Sam Bruce and Ahmmon Richards, and keeping the top commitments in the fold after being hired to continuing the early momentum in the 2017 class with an emphasis on Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, the early returns are promising.

The Hurricanes currently have 11 commitments, including seven in the ESPN Junior 300. When looking positions of need in the class, wide receiver and offensive line stand out on the offensive side of the ball. That means top receivers in South Florida such as Jerry Jeudy and Trevon Grimes are priorities for the new staff.

The Hurricanes enter the spring behind Alabama for Jeudy, a 2017 Under Armour Game selection. For Grimes, Ohio State leads, but the Canes’ staff is gaining traction.

“I’ve been to Miami once since the new staff was hired,” Jeudy said. “They are very good coaches, they are cool. They have helped Miami’s chances a lot.”

Richt personally taking Jeudy on a tour of the campus struck a chord.

“He told me I’m a top priority, and told me how they would use me in the offense.”

Richt is not the only staff member receiving praise from top prospects in the most talented three-county area in the country.

Hurricanes offensive line coach Stacy Searels is tasked with adding elite line talent and much-needed depth -- especially at tackle.

ESPN Junior 300 commitment Navaughn Donaldson, who is being courted by the likes of West Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Auburn, seems convinced.

“They are going to make the program better, and bring a new mindset to the team and that is good,” Donaldson said. “… [Searels] knows what he wants to do with the offense and the line and is going to make players better,”

Tackle Kai-Leon Herbert is a top uncommitted tackle prospect, and one the Canes will have to wrench away from Florida. The long-armed and athletic tackle walked away from an unofficial visit in mid-February with many positives.

“I was down there for a junior day two weeks ago,” Herbert said. “… They have my head coach, Coach Mike Rumph, and that is a key factor right there. And Coach Searels and Coach Richt are some really cool coaches. They aren’t the type to just yell at you and everything. They work you through everything. I saw how they interact with their players, and it was nice. [Searels] showed me where I stand with Miami, and told me how much they want and need me. That was cool right there,”

Another top target in the area is versatile safety Daniel Wright, the young brother of NFL safety Major Wright. Since Richt assembled his staff, Wright has been a top priority.

Like with receivers Jeudy and Grimes, Miami is playing catch up with Wright considered a lean to Florida State over Miami, LSU, Auburn and Clemson. The Hurricanes have the ear of Wright, and are building a solid relationship.

“I have been talking to Coach Richt and the new defensive coordinator (Manny Diaz). I know he is new to it, but we have been trying to build a chemistry. He said just give him a chance and we would form a brotherly bond.”

The early impression of Richt and his staff goes beyond the 2017 class. The 2018 class in South Florida features three of the top cornerback prospects in the country, including legacy and former verbal Al Blades Jr.

Building the relationship with the top prospects in the 2018 class is just as important with the recruiting process operating at an increasingly accelerated pace.

“I really like the news guys,” Blades said. “I feel like they are there to better the program, and I feel like they are going to make a new beginning for the program and make it their own. Coach Rumph said we are going to build a connection, and they still want me real bad. I want to get down for an unofficial soon.”

The early returns are positive, the top prospects in South Florida are building relationships with the new staff, and now it’s time for Richt to put forth the vision he has for the program. Should that happen, Miami is positioning itself to have an opportunity for big recruiting returns in 2017 and beyond.