Miami Hurricanes Sophomores Stealing The Show

Miami Hurricanes Sophomores Stealing The Show
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 30: Jeff Thomas #4 of the Miami Hurricanes looks on during the first half of the 2017 Capital One Orange Bowl against the Wisconsin Badgers at Hard Rock Stadium on December 30, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

Mark Richt took over the Miami Hurricanes in December of 2016 and had a few months to put together a recruiting class. That class are now juniors and includes Ahmon Richards, Shaquille Quarterman, and Joe Jackson. His first ‘real’ class was the Squad17 class, the 2017 recruiting class. The juniors are talented and have NFL futures. But the leaders of this team are the sophomores from the 2017 class.

Hurricanes Sophomores Stealing The Show

The class features players that have earned their way on to the field and are making a difference. Not every kid was highly ranked but they were players that Miami evaluated and loved enough to offer a scholarship. 247 Sports had the 2017 class ranked 12th in the nation and third within the ACC. They certainly have outplayed that ranking up to this point.

Alpha Leaders

DeeJay Dallas

When DeeJay Dallas was going through the recruiting process, he was known as “The Ambassador”. He earned that nickname being the leader of the class to reach out to other players and ‘sell’ them on Miami. As a way of showing his commitment to Miami, he also vowed to not visit any other schools. This made an impact not only on the coaches but other recruits. Others also shut down their recruitment and stayed faithful to signing with the Hurricanes.

Dallas arrived at Miami as an athlete, having played quarterback in high school as a senior. Throughout his other years he also doubled as an wide receiver and a defensive back. Initially he was with the wide receivers, but after an injury to Mark Walton he transitioned to running back. His breakout game was against Notre Dame, scoring his first two touchdowns as a freshman. The progress continued against Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl.

During the offseason Dallas took the initiative to physically look like a running back and the work is evident. After gaining 20 more pounds, to withstand more contact, Dallas is Miami’s most explosive running back. He’s currently averaging six yards per carry and just had his first career 100 yard performance against Toledo on Saturday.

Trajan Bandy 

The Hurricanes nicknamed Trajan Bandy as “Muddy Badger”, their version of the nickname Tyrann Mathieu made popular. The same tenacity is something both share, having been criticized for their lack of size. What Bandy lacks in height, he makes up for in confidence. That confidence showed as a freshman when his first interception came right before halftime against Notre Dame as he returned it for a touchdown.

This season has been more of the same, no other defensive player so far has worn the Turnover Chain more times than Bandy. After being ejected early against LSU in the opening game, he has returned with a vengence. Aside from being the starting cornerback, Bandy also doubles as the nickelback on passing situations.

Freaks of Nature

Jonathan Garvin 

Many recruiting experts had doubts about Garvin going into his senior season and had him only rated as a three star prospect. Miami, however, was sold. He would prove Miami right. As a senior in high school his stock grew as he had 59 tackles for loss, to go with 18 sacks.

He would graduate early from high school and enroll at Miami, where he participated in spring football. Miami confirmed that he was a special talent from their practices but had many upperclassmen ahead on the depth chart. After an injury to junior Demetrius Jackson, Garvin received more playing time. He made the most of those opportunities in back to back weeks. On nationally televised games, Garvin had strip sacks against Virginia Tech and Notre Dame.

This season Garvin earned the nickname ‘Spider’ for his ability to bend his six foot-four frame around offensive tackles. He also earned the nod as the starter on defense this season and capitalized on the chance. Just three games into the season he has already doubled his total tackle production from last season. With six tackles for loss, he ranks ninth in the entire NCAA.

Jeff Thomas

Miami got into the recruiting process for Thomas a bit late in his senior season. After winning MVP of the Under Armour all-star game, many colleges were looking to recruit Thomas. As a freshman, the Hurricanes staff saw flashes of Thomas’ potential. However, this season Thomas has made an early case of being the most important player on the team.

To say that Thomas is explosive would be an understatement, his numbers are proof of that. Averaging 27.6 yards per catch, Thomas leads the entire nation in that category. As a punt returner he is averaging 45 yards per return. With the absence of Ahmon Richards early this season to injuries, he has filled the void.

Final Thoughts

Many that follow recruiting fail to monitor the development of the players after they’ve signed. The development of the players once they’ve arrived at the school is just as important, if not more, than the evaluations. Miami has done a fantastic job of not only identifying athletes that can contribute, but also pushing them to work for a role. Consequently, these players that were once backups are now helping lead Miami and creating a solid foundation for other incoming classes.

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