Miami Football Recruiting: 15 Players to Watch in High School All-Star Games

Chris Bello@itsauthingblogContributor IDecember 31, 2013

Miami Football Recruiting: 15 Players to Watch in High School All-Star Games

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    4-star wide receiver Braxton Berrios boldly committed to Miami and hasn't looked back.
    4-star wide receiver Braxton Berrios boldly committed to Miami and hasn't looked back.Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

    For the Miami Hurricanes, the 2013 season is officially in the rear view. Al Golden and his squad wrapped up the year with a 9-4 record, winning the final two ACC games but falling in the Russell Athletic Bowl to the Louisville Cardinals, 36-9.

    Of course in the world of college football, the "season" is now year-round with recruiting taking on a whole new meaning. Miami currently has 29 verbal commitments and what ranks as the No. 4 class. There are also a few on-the-fence recruits remaining who could help the Hurricanes close strong.

    Later this week some of the nation's best high school athletes will compete in both the Under Armour All-America Game on Thursday and U.S. Army All-American Bowl come Saturday. 

    Miami has a handful of committed players who will be suiting up, as well as some recruits the Hurricanes are chasing down the stretch.

    Read on to find out who is solid, who could be Coral Gables-bound and who might shock the world, pulling out a "U" ball cap on national television in the coming days. 

    All rankings courtesy of Stats provided by, and 

Braxton Berrios, 4-Star Wide Receiver (Leesville Road, Raleigh, NC)

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    Berrios committed to Miami on 10/12/2013.

    Under Armour All-America Game, January 2, 4 p.m. ET

    Berrios will be playing wide receiver in Thursday's game.

    Some Thoughts on Berrios:

    Berrios is a 5'9", 180-pound receiver out of Raleigh, N.C. who runs a 4.59 40-yard dash and has drawn comparisons to NFL wideout Wes Welker. The speedster is also a long-time Miami fan, as told to (subscription required) upon his verbal commitment in October.

    I've been a U fan all my life, since I can remember football. I have a U license plate on the front of my car. Everyone will tell you I'm all about the U. There's something about the U, that swagger they had and are trying to get back.

    Berrios played some quarterback and running back in high school, but has primarily been used at wideout. While his receiving stats for the 2013 season are unavailable, Berrios had 26 receptions for 546 yards in 2012. He carried 32 times for 471 yards and nine touchdowns this season and had a whopping 132 carries for 1,234 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2012.

    Berrios is an early enrollee at Miami and will be on campus in January, where he will immediately start competing for a starting position.

    The Hurricanes lose senior wide receiver Allen Hurns, while Phillip Dorsett, Malcolm Lewis and Rashawn Scott are still working their way back into playing shape after sustaining injuries over the past two seasons.

    Berrios has already taken to Twitter, clamoring for Hurns' No. 1 jersey, and after perusing his tweets, it's clear he couldn't be more excited about being Miami-bound. 

Dalvin Cook, 5-Star Running Back (Miami Central, Miami, Fla.)

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    Cook committed to Florida on 4/6/2013. (Update: Cook switched his commitment to Florida State on 12/31/13.)

    Under Armour All-America Game, January 2, 4 p.m. ET

    Cook will be playing running back in Thursday's game.

    Some Thoughts on Cook:

    The 5-star running back has been one of the more interesting recruiting stories this season. Cook committed to Florida back in April but became a primary target for the Hurricanes after American Heritage running back Sony Michel chose Georgia over Miami.

    Cook told Matt Shodell at (subscription required), weeks after committing to the Gators, that "The U" was still in the mix. 

    "I'm still looking at them," Cook said. "They'll always be a school I'm looking at. I've always been a Cane fan."

    A year before Cook committed to Florida, Miami Central teammate Trevor Darling—a 4-star offensive tackle—pledged his allegiance to the Canes. A few months prior, teammate Joseph Yearby—a 4-star running back and Cook's backfield counterpart—did the same. 

    Cook is also very close with Homestead wide receiver Ermon Lane, who is a Florida commit. Early in the recruiting process, both seemed intent on playing together but are both keeping their options open.

    Cook helped lead Miami Central to claim the Florida 6A title, 52-7, where the senior running back ran for 223 yards on 19 carries and had three touchdowns—getting extra carries as Yearby has been sidelined since early December with a broken fibula.

    Cook knows where he's headed and will announce his decision on Thursday during the course of the UA game. Florida is still the favorite, but many are thinking Florida State will win out—especially after Seminoles running back Devonta Freeman tweeted that Cook was Tallahassee-bound last week.

    Should Cook wind up at Miami, he'd be an immediate impact player.

    The Hurricanes' offense took a huge step back when running back Duke Johnson suffered a broken ankle at Florida State on November 2. Neither Dallas Crawford nor Gus Edwards—both returning in 2014—were able to step in effectively, leaving the door wide open for a true freshman next season.

    With Yearby working his way back from injury, as well as Johnson, the door is wide open for Cook or 4-star commit Brandon Powell.

    Cook is headed somewhere come January and told Steve Berrey of (subscription required) it's game on once he makes his announcement.

    "I am an early enrollee, so whenever I make my decision I'm going to go to school," Cook said earlier Tuesday after Under Armour practices.

    Miami is certainly still in the mix, but where Cook winds up is truly a mystery as there's been a lot of purposeful misdirection over the past few weeks. 

Trevor Darling, 4-Star Offensive Lineman (Miami Central, Miami, Fla.)

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    Darling committed to Miami on 4/5/2012.

    Under Armour All-America Game, January 2, 4 p.m. ET

    Darling will be playing offensive line in Thursday's game.

    Some Thoughts on Darling:

    Darling is one of three players from Miami Central who the Hurricanes are targeting and one of two commits, along with running back Joseph Yearby. The other is the highly coveted Dalvin Cook—a 5-star running back UM hopes to sway.

    The homegrown prospect committed to Miami the spring of his junior season and never wavered. A lifelong Miami fan growing up in South Florida, the 6'5", 330-pound tackle was quick to sign on with the hometown team. 

    Another early enrollee for Al Golden and the Hurricanes, Darling will be on campus in January and competing for a starting job. Miami is losing both Seantrel Henderson and Brandon Linder, both of whom spent a lot of time at tackle over the past four seasons.

    Darling has a chance to have an Ereck Flowers-like impact—an early enrollee in January 2012, who played 12 games and earned four starts as a true freshman.

Bryce Dixon, 4-Star Tight End (St. Bonaventure, Ventura, CA)

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    Dixon remains uncommitted as of 12/30/2013.

    Army All-American Bowl, January 4, 1 p.m. ET

    Dixon will be playing tight end in Saturday's game.

    Some Thoughts on Dixon:

    Dixon has been a bit under the radar as a Miami recruit, but the Hurricanes remain very much in contention with the 4-star flex tight end.

    UCLA and USC and the obvious favorites for the 6'4", 230-pound Dixon, as are west coast programs like Utah and Washington—but ESPN's Damon Sayles recently pointed out that Dixon has serious interest in both Texas and "The U"

    "Miami puts lot of good tight ends out," Dixon said recetly. "They keep in contact with me, and I like the way they send their guys to [the NFL].

    Dixon had 23 receptions for 249 yards with five touchdowns as a junior and while the Bruins appear to be the favorite, enough has been said about the Canes to keep an eye on Dixon when the hats are in front of him on Saturday. 

Johnnie Dixon, 4-Star Wide Receiver (Dwyer, West Palm Beach, Fla.)

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    Dixon committed to Ohio State on 12/17/2013.

    Army All-American Bowl, January 4, 1 p.m. ET

    Dixon will be playing wide receiver in Saturday's game.

    Some Thoughts on Dixon:

    Dixon had Miami, Alabama and Ohio State in his final three before choosing the Buckeyes in mid-December. While the 5'11", 197-pound wide receiver appears firm in his commitment, the almost-hometown Hurricanes cannot be counted out for the West Palm Beach speedster until pen is put to paper.

    Back in July, Dixon tweeted a photo of himself with a "U" logo and Hurricanes commits Brad Kaaya, a 4-star quarterback out of Southern California, and Braxton Berrios, a 4-star wide receiver from North Carolina who chose "The U." Next to the image, Dixon simply posted, "Yikes!!!! Lol"—a potential reference to what he felt the three of them could do for UM's offense next season. 

    Kaaya and Berrios remain committed to Miami, while Dixon since had the change of heart.

    While Dixon's stats for the 2013 season are unavailable, ranks him the 17th-best wide receiver in the nation.

    Dixon is an early enrollee who could've greatly helped out Miami's receiving corps. Allen Hurns is graduating, while other veterans are working their way back from injuries. There's certainly room for Dixon in the Hurricanes' offense in 2014. 

    Dixon would be a great pickup for Miami but appears Columbus-bound, especially considering he's an early enrollee and there's little time left to flip him. 

J.C. Jackson, 4-Star Cornerback (Immokalee High, Immokalee, Fla.)

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    Jackson committed to Florida on 6/8/2013.

    Under Armour All-America Game, January 2, 4 p.m. ET

    Jackson will be playing cornerback in Thursday's game.

    Some Thoughts on Jackson:

    Jackson is another Florida commit Miami is working to keep in South Florida. The 5'10", 175-pound cornerback out of Immokalee—home to former Canes running backs Edgerrin and Javarris James—is a 4-star prospect and the ninth-ranked cornerback in the nation, according to

    Jackson visited "The U" in mid-December and told Matt Shodell at (subscription required) that he was definitely thinking orange and green.

    "The visit helped Miami a lot," Jackson said. "Miami's still in it. It was nice there. The players and coaches were really cool, and I liked the atmosphere."

    Jackson played a bevy of positions in 2013. At cornerback he hauled in two interceptions and had 25 solo tackles. As a receiver, Jackson had 31 receptions for 862 yards and 14 touchdowns, while rushing for 165 yards and a score on 17 carries. The versatile senior also saw some action on special teams with seven kickoff returns for 163 yards and 10 punt returns, netting 173 yards.

    Jackson could help Miami's secondary immediately as depth is needed. True freshman Artie Burns was called on often this season, both at corner and on special teams, while Tracy Howard and Antonio Crawford earned much playing time as true freshmen in 2012.

    Jackson could see a similar fate in 2014 if he chooses "The U" over Florida down the stretch.

Ermon Lane, 4-Star Wide Receiver (Homestead High, Homestead, Fla.)

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    Lane committed to Florida on 8/12/2013.

    Under Armour All-America Game, January 2, 4 p.m. ET

    Lane will be playing wide receiver in Thursday's game.

    Some Thoughts on Lane:

    Lane is yet one more Florida commit Miami is working to keep home. Back in July, Lane listed Miami, Alabama, Florida State, Southern Cal and Ohio State as his fab five. The Homestead High product is cousins with former Miami linebacker and current linebackers coach Micheal Barrow, though he's being recruited by receiver coach Brennan Carroll.

    Lane is a 6'2, 172-pound prospect—comparable in size to Miami receiver Allen Hurns, who is NFL bound—and would be a great boost to the Hurricanes' receiving corps. As a senior, Lane reeled in 31 receptions for 605 yards and eight touchdowns.

    Close friends with 4-star Miami Central running back Dalvin Cook, the notion is of the two being a package deal, though Lane isn't set to reveal his decision until "signing day," while Cook will drop his bomb on Thursday. Cook is also an early enrollee, while Lane has a late January trip to Florida State on the books.

    Lane and/or Cook to Miami isn't far-fetched, though both are committed to Florida, and title-game-bound Florida State is currently a popular choice amongst recruits.

    The Gators and Seminoles are the teams to beat for both, but can hometown pride sway both the way of the Canes? That long-awaited answer is finally around the corner.

Nick Linder, 3-Star Offensive Lineman (St. Thomas Aquinas, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.)

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    Linder committed to Miami on 3/6/2013.

    Under Armour All-America Game, January 2, 4 p.m. ET

    Linder will be playing offensive line in Thursday's game.

    Some Thoughts on Linder:

    Younger brother to current Miami offensive lineman Brandon Linder, the 6'3", 278-pound center was a quality get for the Hurricanes. Miami was the 3-star lineman's first offer, and the junior Linder jumped at the chance to follow in big brother's footsteps.

    Linder carries a 4.3 grade point average but isn't an early enrollee. Still, the incoming freshman could work his way into the rotation, especially with center Jared Wheeler graduating and leaving Shane McDermott as the lone option at the position.

    While some national recruits are swayed by weekly wins and losses, Linder told Matt Shodell at (subscription required) that losing sometimes helps the recruiting process.

    "Some recruits look at it like they can play right away (because there's not quality depth)," Linder said in late November. "Some kids want to play their freshman year and make an impact quickly. That attracts a lot of kids."

KC McDermott, 4-Star Offensive Lineman (Palm Beach Central, Wellington, Fla.)

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    McDermott committed to Miami on 4/2/2013.

    Under Armour All-America Game, January 2, 4 p.m. ET

    McDermott will be playing offensive line in Thursday's game.

    Some Thoughts on McDermott:

    Another younger brother to a current Hurricanes offensive lineman, KC McDermott is following in the footsteps of older brother Shane—a junior and Miami's current center.

    The younger McDermott was a big-time haul-in for "The U." At 6'6" and 301 pounds, the 4-star offensive tackle chose Miami over Notre Dame in April. Along with the 6'6", 278-pound Reilly Gibbons—another 4-star offensive tackle committed to the Hurricanes—this duo should see some immediate playing time.

    McDermott, an All-State selection as a junior, is also putting in work as a recruiter, remaining all over Dwyer wide receiver Johnnie Dixon. Dixon chose Ohio State over Miami and Alabama weeks back, and McDermott told Matt Shodell at (subscription required) that he's working on the talented 4-star prospect.

    I told him `I still have three weeks to change your mind.' I know he wants to go to Miami, and I'm still working on it.
    I keep preaching to Johnnie that your mom has to pay for a plane ticket to go see you.
    And I told him three players went from Dwyer [Dixon's high school] to Florida when Urban Meyer was there, and within the first two years two of them transferred out.

    Spoken like a true Gator hater, as well as someone still not over the 2003 Fiesta Bowl. McDermott will fit in nicely with the "U Family."

Sony Michel, 5-Star Running Back (American Heritage, Plantation, Fla.)

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    Michel committed to Georgia on 4/26/2013.

    Army All-American Game, January 4, 1 p.m. ET

    Michel will be playing running back in Saturday's game.

    Some Thoughts on Michel:

    Sony Michel dazzled at Al Golden's summer camp in June 2011 and is a long-time Hurricanes fan. In the stands for games over the past few years, Michel made headlines when sitting in the recruiting section at Florida State, yet rooted for his hometown team, as reported by CaneSport (subscription required) in November 2011.

    Sometime in 2012, Georgia got on Michel's radar, and after a top five that also included Miami, Florida, Florida State and Notre Dame, the 5-star running back out of American Heritage chose the Bulldogs and never looked back.

    While other suitors gave up on Michel, the Hurricanes continued to recruit him, which he shared with recruiting analyst Kynon Codrington in October.

    "Right now it's only Miami, I talked to them a little bit. They call me and we have conversations. I might check out a couple of the home games for Miami."

    The 5'11", 205-pound Michel rushed for 1,840 yards and 24 touchdowns on 214 carries for the Patriots in 2013. He also hauled in nine receptions for 237 yards and three scores.

    Michel earned a coveted slot in this year's Army All-American Bowl, while also taking home Gatorade Player of the Year honors as a senior. Michel was also named first-team All-USA by USA Today and High School Mr. Football for the state of Florida by MaxPreps.

    The odds of Michel winding up at "The U" would be a mini-miracle at this point, but fans are expecting something supernatural this recruiting season based on a Golden soundbite weeks back.

    The third-year head coach was on WQAM's "Hurricane Hotline" in mid-December and stated that for the first time in three years, Miami looked to surprise with a day-of hat-trick victory.

    "First time I've gotten silent commits who said, 'Coach, I want to pick The U at the All-Star Game,'" Golden told local hosts Joe Zagacki and Don Bailey Jr. on air.

    Whether that's Michel remains to be seen, but the Hurricanes believe someone will shock the college football world either Thursday or Saturday.

    Should it be Michel, the immediate impact it'd have on Miami's ground game doesn't even warrant mentioning.

Damian Prince, 5-Star Offensive Lineman (Bishop McNamara, Forestville, Md.)

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    Prince remains uncommitted as of 12/30/13.

    Under Armour All-America Game, January 2, 4 p.m. ET

    Prince will be playing offensive line in Thursday's game.

    Some Thoughts on Prince:

    5-star offensive tackle Damian Prince is the No. 2 ranked offensive tackle in the 2014 class. Prince is a 6'5", 292-pound prospect out of Maryland who has three dozen offers and is high on Miami, Florida, Florida State, South Carolina and the home state Terrapins.

    Prince has visited everyone in his final five but "The U," but the Hurricanes will get his final visit the weekend before "signing day," despite Miami coming late to the Prince party.

    Including this year's Under Armour All-America Game selection, the Bishop McNamara prospect comes highly-decorated. Prince had 35 pancake blocks as a sophomore and this season was named Mr. Football for the state of Maryland by MaxPreps, as well as first-team All-USA by USA Today.

    Due to three key departures, Prince would be a no-brainer to crack the Miami offensive line in 2014.

    Maryland has a hometown edge, while Florida, Florida State and Miami all appear to have a legit shot, per Prince breaking it down to's Adam Friedman in early December (subscription required), equally complimentary to all three Sunshine State powers.

    With the visit to Miami the weekend of January 31 and Florida the week before, it's safe to say Prince will make a February decision barring any change in plans.

Travis Rudolph, 4-Star Wide Receiver (Cardinal Newman, West Palm Beach, Fla.)

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    Rudolph remains uncommitted as of 12/30/13.

    Army All-American Bowl, January 4, 1 p.m. ET

    Rudolph will be playing wide receiver in Saturday's game.

    Some Thoughts on Rudolph:

    Travis Rudolph is now a 4-star wide receiver leaning towards Alabama. Nine months ago he was committed to Miami and only deemed a 3-star—the power of popularity and the "right" programs taking interest.

    The Hurricanes are still in the mix, as are Florida and the two programs battling it out for the national championship next week—Florida State and Auburn.

    Rudolph caught 63 passes for 1,237 yards and scored 15 touchdowns as a senior. He also rushed for 202 yards on 38 attempts.

    The talented wideout pulled away from "The U" in March over what he told ESPN's Derek Tyson were "trust issues." The 6'0", 189-pound Cardinal Newman prospect is set on playing receiver but stated that Golden and the Canes wanted him to switch to cornerback. 

    If the Hurricanes are still actively recruiting Rudolph, it's safe to assume fences have been mended regarding the earlier offense vs. defense fiasco.

    Golden mentioned on a local radio show in mid-December that there are some silent commits this season. If all is now good between both parties, Rudolph would make sense as a recruit who could surprise by picking Miami on live television this Saturday.

    The wideout has family who played for the Canes, as well as his Cardinal Newman head coach being former Miami quarterback Steve Walsh—who could've played the role of peacemaker the past few months. Add it all up and it just might make perfect sense. 

Chad Thomas, 5-Star Defensive Lineman (Booker T. Washington, Miami, Fla.)

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    Thomas committed to Miami on 7/20/2013.

    Under Armour All-America Game, January 2, 4 p.m. ET

    Thomas will be playing defensive line in Thursday's game.

    Some Thoughts on Thomas:

    Chad Thomas has the potential to do to the Miami defense what Duke Johnson did for the offense in 2012. Especially in regards to a big-time recruit staying local, showing that hometown pride for future prospects. 

    Thomas is the real deal. The top-ranked weak-side defensive end in the nation from powerhouse Booker T. Washington, this 6'5", 240-pounder has been all Miami since July. The coveted lineman also made headlines earlier Monday tossing up "U" hands and photoboming Florida commits Ermon Lane, Dalvin Cook and Quincy Wilson after practice.

    Florida State, Louisville, Alabama and LSU are all trying to reel Thomas in, and the 5-star prospect has visits scheduled with all four. That said, he told Gary Ferman at (subscription required) that he's "solid" to Miami and that coaches are "cool" with him experiencing the recruiting process. 

    Thomas finished the 2013 season with 72 tackles—15 for loss—and eight sacks, fueling the Tornadoes to the Class 4A state title. They're expected to be named national champions in January.

    Thomas is a winner and a swag-tastic throwback player that Miami desperately needs—attitude-wise as well as physically. The Hurricanes lack depth on the defensive line, and Thomas is an immediate starter as early as next August as he's simply too talented to keep off the field. 

Travonte Valentine, 4-Star Defensive Lineman (Champagnat Catholic, Hialeah, Fla.)

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    Valentine committed to Miami on 7/3/2013.

    Army All-American Bowl, January 4, 1 p.m. ET

    Valentine will be playing defensive line in Saturday's game.

    Some Thoughts on Valentine:

    Defensive tackle is Miami's biggest need going into February, which was why the July commitment of 4-star Travonte Valentine was enormous.

    Valentine is a 6'3", 286-pound prospect out of nearby Hialeah who appears solid to Miami, though he is being courted by LSU and Alabama. Still, Valentine told in November that things are "solid" and he is "100 percent" committed to the Hurricanes (subscription required).

    Valentine closed his senior season at Champagnat Catholic with 85 total tackles, 31.5 tackles for loss and had 16 sacks.

    While grades are not said to be the issue with Valentine—he carries a 3.0 overall—there are some hurdles to overcome, as pointed out in October by James Smith of The Times-Picayune.

    A qualifying score on the ACT, as well as core credits all being in line by summer 2014 are a necessity for fall ball. Smith also pointed out that Valentine will graduate high school with one foreign language credit, instead of two, which many schools require, but LSU does not.

    Valentine went on record with Chris Hays at the Orlando Sentinel, vowing to qualify academically.

    "I'm trying to stop the rumors right now. I'm going to be qualified," Valentine said in early December. "Everybody look out for me when I wear a Miami jersey next year."

    Doing the simple math, Valentine appears Miami-bound barring any hiccups. The million dollar question is whether he goes to prep school if he doesn't qualify, or does he take the easier route to instant success at LSU.

    Miami absolutely cannot afford to lose a player like Valentine. The Hurricanes are parting ways with five defensive linemen this offseason and haven't had a truly dominant tackle since Vince Wilfork made his way to the NFL after the 2003 season.

    The Canes landed two JUCO transfers in Michael Wyche and Calvin Heurtelou, set to arrive in January, but Valentine would be right in the mix with both in the fall should he sign with Miami.

Joseph Yearby, 4-Star Running Back (Miami Central, Miami, Fla.)

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    Yearby committed to Miami on 2/26/2013.

    Under Armour All-America Game, January 2, 4 p.m. ET

    Yearby will be sidelined for Thursday's game, recovering from a fractured fibula.

    Some Thoughts on Yearby:

    Yearby got on board with Miami in February and never looked back. The 5'9, 190-pound back was originally a Florida State commit but was swayed to stay home by Hurricanes first-year offensive coordinator James Coley, who was recruiting him to Tallahassee.

    Yearby's teammates at Miami Central include offensive line commit Trevor Darling, as well as running back Dalvin Cook, who the Hurricanes are working to sway from the Gators (and the Seminoles, who are thought to be the silent favorite).

    Yearby rushed for 1,700 yards on 177 carries in 2013 and had 19 touchdowns. The versatile back could have an immediate impact for Miami next fall as an early enrollee with time to learn the playbook. The key will be how quickly Yearby can recover from the leg injury.

    Size-wise, Yearby is similar to Duke Johnson, which still doesn't solve Miami's need for a bigger-bodied, bruising running back, though the 4-star would be a great compliment to No. 8. Especially if Johnson finds himself injury-prone in 2014 or slow to recover from this season's broken ankle.