Miami Football Recruiting: Looking Ahead to 2015 Class

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistFebruary 9, 2014

Miami Football Recruiting: Looking Ahead to 2015 Class

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    Tim Irvin
    Tim IrvinCredit: 247Sports

    Barring a late addition, the Miami Hurricanes' 2014 class has been wrapped up, so take a breath, ladies and gentlemen.

    Just one. That's all you get.

    Recruiting never stops, and Al Golden and his coaching staff are already looking ahead to the 2015 cycle, because in today's era of college football, they must start working on the next haul immediately.

    The 'Canes currently hold three commitments, and the next group of prospects, especially in South Florida, comprise an absolutely loaded class.

    National signing day may be 300-something days away, but recruiting never stops, and neither do we.

    Note: All information courtesy of 247Sports and rankings based on 247Sports' composite rankings.

Key Players Graduating, Potential Underclass Declarations

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    Duke Johnson could bolt for the NFL after the 2014 season. Is Miami prepared to replace him?
    Duke Johnson could bolt for the NFL after the 2014 season. Is Miami prepared to replace him?Associated Press

    Offense

    Following the 2014 season, the Hurricanes will lose somewhere between four and seven starters.

    On the offensive line, Shane McDermott and Jon Feliciano graduate, and a trio of pass-catchers in Phillip Dorsett, Rashawn Scott and Clive Walford will run out of eligibility.

    Quarterback Ryan Williams, who will likely be the starter in 2014, is entering his final collegiate season as well.

    Behind those six seniors, running back Duke Johnson will be three years removed form his high school graduating class and could declare for the 2015 NFL draft.

     

    Defense

    Unless juniors such as Tracy Howard, Rayshawn Jenkins or Deon Bush skip their senior season—which is certainly not anticipated at this timeMiami will retain much of its defensive depth.

    Anthony Chickillo and Olsen Pierre have combined for 57 starts and 27 tackles for loss on the defensive line, and bigger things are expected from the seniors in 2014.

    Linebacker Denzel Perryman and cornerback Ladarius Gunter are the only notable seniors at their respective position.

    However, it would be unfair to overlook two-time Most Valuable Walk-On winner Nantambu Akil-Fentress, who has played an important role on special teams during his 32 appearances through three seasons.

Biggest Needs

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    Defensive backs Ladarius Gunter and Tracy Howard
    Defensive backs Ladarius Gunter and Tracy HowardGerry Broome/Associated Press

    Running Back

    Is Miami ready for the post-Duke Johnson era?

    Sure, Dallas Crawford and Gus Edwards will be around for at least two more seasons, and freshman Joseph Yearby is expected to be Johnson's successor.

    But the 'Canes missed on Sony Michel and Dalvin Cook in 2014, so Golden will be after top running back talent once again. If Miami can snag either Jordan ScarlettJordan Cronkrite and Jacques Patrick, each of whom are 4-stars, it would nearly eliminate the depth issue behind Yearby.

    Of course, that is much easier said than done when Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State and a host of others are interested in those backs, too.

     

    Tight End

    The Hurricanes absolutely need a tight end.

    Behind seniors Clive Walford and Beau Sandland, sophomore Standish Dobard and incoming freshman Chris Herndon are the only two options.

    Listed as the second-best tight end in the 247Sports' composite rankingsDevonaire Clarington is a player who meets Miami's needs.

    Ultimately, the 'Canes need to find a player who fits James Coley's offense and is at least capable of replacing Walford's expected production.

     

    Cornerback

    Believe it or not, cornerback is probably Miami's biggest need in the upcoming class.

    Early enrollee Ryan Mayes was the only addition in 2014, and that was perfectly fine. But Ladarius Gunter is entering his final season, and even if Tracy Howard returns for his senior year, the Hurricanes must replace Golden's first 5-star recruit along with Antonio Crawford after the 2015 campaign.

    As it stands, Artie Burns, Nate Dortch, Larry Hope and Corn Elder are four possible starters in 2016, which is not a fantastic situation.

    Plus, the transition from being a high school cornerback to the collegiate level is one of the more difficult periods for a player. Fortunately for Miami, as will be discussed soon, the current cycle is loaded with defensive back prospects.

Offensive Targets

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    Torrance Gibson
    Torrance GibsonCredit: 247Sports

    Quarterback Torrance Gibson, who has been dubbed a "left-handed Terrelle Pryor" by Cam Underwood of SB Nation and Dieter Kurtenbach of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, is a high priority in the upcoming class. Gibson is a 5-star recruit from nearby American Heritage, where he led the Patriots to a 66-8 win in the 5A state championship last season.

    Highlighted on the previous slide, the trio of Florida running backs and tight end Devonaire Clarington are being pursued by the best teams in the nation, so Golden and co. are definitely fighting a year-long battle for these prospects.

    Local receivers Da'Vante Phillips, Calvin Ridley and Devante Peete headline a deep receiver class, joining current commit Emonee Spence as key Miami targets.

    The 'Canes brought in three above-average offensive linemen in 2014 and hold a pledge from 6'9" lineman Kevin Feder for 2015, so the big bruisers will not be a huge focus. With that being said, Luke Hiers and Mike Arnold are two players 247Sports lists with "warmer" and "warm" interest in Miami, respectively.

    Note: Running back and 2016 commit Mark Walton has been trying to reclassify into 2015, so that is a situation to watch.

Defensive Targets

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    Jaquan Johnson
    Jaquan JohnsonCredit: 247Sports

    The defensive line will remain a priority for Miami, replacing previously discussed "warm bodies" with younger players.

    Scott Patchan is a 4-star defensive end, and his father played for UM, which certainly helps the 'Canes in some fashion. Kahlil McKenzieJason Strowbridge and Richard McIntosh each list "warm" interest, and the Miami staff definitely has other targets in mind.

    The Hurricanes need some help on the second level, especially once Denzel Perryman, Thurston Armbrister and Raphael Kirby have departed.

    A local 3-star linebacker, Charles Perry committed to Miami in June 2013 and will help a unit in need of a breakout player. Dominic Sheppard appears to be leaning toward the 'Canes, while 247Sports lists Tevon Coney and Sh'mar Kilby-Lane as interested prospects.

    Now we arrive at the fun part: the secondary.

    South Florida boasts a near-endless supply of talent in the defensive backfield, including 4-star safeties Jaquan JohnsonShawn Burgess-Becker and Tim Irvin. Plus, 4-star Tarvarus McFadden and 3-star Rashard Causey, who are teammates of Torrance Gibson at American Heritage, are on the market as well.

    Four-star cornerback Tyrek Cole and 4-star safety Kendrell McFadden are committed to Florida State and West Virginia, respectively, but Miami will not give up easily on either player.

    As if those seven players aren't enough, 5-star corner Minkah Fitzpatrick will be visiting Miami on February 20 or 21, per Nate Adelson of 247Sports (subscription required). 

    Long story short: Miami has a few options to eventually replace Gunter, Howard, Bush and Jenkins.

Summary

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    Calvin Ridley
    Calvin RidleyCredit: 247Sports

    The Hurricanes will lose about half of their starters, but Golden and his staff have proven to be excellent recruiters and are prepared to replace the seniors.

    Granted, they must work around sanctions the NCAA levied, reducing the number of available scholarships, but it's far from a dire situation in Miami.

    Offensively, the 'Canes need to add depth, so grabbing recruits like Gibson along with a top running back and wide receiver will serve them well. Clarington has nearly solidified himself as a must-get prospect, but there are no offensive linemen who jump off the page in that manner.

    Defensively, Miami is working with one of the most talented classes in the talent-rich recruiting hotbed of South Florida high school football. It's hard to imagine the Hurricanes striking out on this side of the ball, but the coaching staff won't just sit back and wait for commitments to come pouring in.

    Besides, national signing day 2015 is only 300-something days away, and the Miami coaches cannot waste any time in their quest to improve the team for years to come.