Mark Richt’s first season in Miami was success. Whether it was the nine-win season capped off by an impressive bowl win over West Virginia or the strong close to the 2017 recruiting class that followed, or the terrific start to the 2018 class, a multitude of signs point to a program that is seemingly on the right track in Coral Gables.
In 2008, the Hurricanes finished No. 1 in the RecruitingNation class rankings. While projecting a second top-ranked class in 2018 is a long way off, Richt’s second full class is definitely a top five candidate.
After signing 10 ESPN 300 prospects to finish with the No. 12-ranked 2017 class, Miami already has 10 ESPN Junior 300s committed for 2018, which is the most in the country. And it's only March.
The Hurricanes's recent success due in large part to wealth of talent in the Sunshine State, specifically South Florida, strongly considering Richt’s program. With at least seven uncommitted ESPN Jr. 300 prospects from Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties seriously considering staying home, it’s not difficult for Miami fans to put together all the scenarios for a best class in a decade.
Those best class scenarios begin with an ultra-talented group of defensive backs in the area, which includes Asante Samuel Jr., Tyson Campbell and one-time commit and legacy Al Blades Jr. with each having a different reason that Miami is resonating.
For Samuel, No. 50-overall, it’s the change in culture that has Miami running closely behind Florida State with decision expected this Summer.
“How Coach Richt has changed the program in a year is impressive," Samuel said.
For Samuel's teammate, and No. 59-overall Blades, it’s being able to truly challenge Florida State and creating a winning culture that is keeping the Hurricanes atop his list.
“Most definitely Miami is on the rise," Blades said. "FSU beat Miami on a blocked field goal last season. Miami is just barely behind. They are thinking like winners now. Miami isn’t too far behind.”
When it comes to Campbell, No. 56-overall, who played for Hurricanes cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph at American Heritage prior to Rumph being hired at his Alma mater, it’s the makeup and experience of the Richt’s staff provides that chance keep ascending in the future.
“The experience Coach Richt, [defensive coordinator] Manny Diaz and members of the staff have in the SEC over the years, I feel like they can bring Miami up to where the top teams in the SEC are at,” Campbell said.
The possibilities extend to other hotbed areas within the state line. Under Armour All-America game and ESPN Jr. 300 guard Cleveland Reed, from Lakeland High, which has been very good to the Florida Gators over the years. For Reed, a Feb. 25th visit to Coral Gables has pushed Miami to the front of the line.
“Down there, it just feels like home," Reed said. "Everyone is all in. The coaching staff and the people are real good down to earth people. Coach Richt, he spends time with you, a lot of head coaches don’t do that or personally make you a top priority.”
With a class of 25 or more expected come national signing day, and more than a dozen uncommitted ESPN Jr. 300 prospects remaining on the board, a best class since 2008 seems like a reality should the Hurricanes again show on the field that the program is on the path to competing again on the national scene as a top-10 team.