RedHawk football adds new class to solid nucleus
By MIKE SMITH
Fresh off a recent bowl trip, Miami football Head Coach Chuck Martin "flipped the page" Wednesday as he met the media to discuss MU's National Signing Day class.
Martin identified 16 incoming freshman and two transfers. He also noted the RedHawks could well be adding several more players, including a quarterback.
Past classes have . . .
. . . typically landed at least one quarterback, but Wednesday's list did not include one. Martin said several QBs with Miami offers/interest ultimately went with Power Five schools. "We're still looking. ... We'll definitely add a quarterback for sure."
Due to injuries, junior Brett Gabbert, who was expected to lead MU in 2022, played in just four games. He entered the transfer portal after the regular season finale but has since withdrawn and is expected back. Freshman Aveon Smith, who replaced Gabbert, is also in the Miami mix.
Injuries hit MU hard on both sides of the ball in 2022, but the defense nonetheless managed to finish among the top spots in several MAC defensive categories. Martin is keenly interested in getting the offense back on track. Getting healthy is part of the prescription, as he sees "a really good nucleus coming back."
Adding to that would help, of course, and MU now has four receivers entering the picture. One is Joe Wilkins, a 6-2, 202-pound grad student from Notre Dame. He played in the first five Irish games of 2022 (4 catches, 61 yards, 1 TD) before suffering a season-ending injury against Cincinnati. Another three receivers are among MU's new freshman class.
Martin reiterated the value of a strong offensive line, and the RedHawks should have at least five new players in the O-line room. One is John Young, a former four-star recruit who is transferring in from Kentucky. He has at least two years of eligibility remaining. Four offensive linemen are among Wednesday's signees.
"We're always trying to build strength up the middle with the O-line. ... We feel very good about them," Martin said of the newcomers. They are "long, athletic. There's a huge upside with that group."
Two running backs rounded out the offensive side for Miami. Janerious Jackson is a 6-0, 220-pound RB out of St. Louis. Que Williams, listed as an athlete on MU's release, is also from the St. Louis area. He rushed for 1,197 yards and 21 touchdowns as a senior and registered 1,062 yards with 25 TDs in 2021.
Defensively, DB John Saunders (transfer portal) and Ryan McWood are among the losses, but at least through Wednesday, it doesn't look like the kind of turnover MU had before the 2022 season.
"We have 17 guys returning. We played a lot of guys," Martin said. With "a lot of them , it was their first year ever (seeing Division I game action). They're going to continue to grow.
Joining the returning players is Wenesday's signing haul of seven defensive players: three DBs, two LBs and 2 DL. Among them is linebacker Malcolm McCain, who is one of three signees from the Peach State. "Georgia has been good to us," Martin said.
McCain registered 129 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, eight sacks and four forced fumbles as a senior. He had 135 tackles, seven TFL and four sacks in his junior campaign.
According to Martin, Miami's trip to the Bahamas Bowl cut into some valuable recruiting time, but that was one negative among numerous positive experiences for a team that had to scrap its way through an injury-plagued season just to reach bowl eligibility. He also noted that recruiting in the new transfer portal age goes beyond a signing day haul. "It's a day-to-day thing. It's an ever-flowing, non-stop (system). ... You can't forecast everything."
At least with what he knows at this point, Martin is optimistic. "This class is going to help us," he said. "This is an exciting day."
Editor-Publisher Mike Smith
Mike grew up in Mid-American Conference football and basketball territory and returned there after military service. He has been covering MAC football and men's basketball for much of the last several decades.