Miami recruiting: How Mark Walton’s NFL draft decision could affect the Hurricanes

Mark Walton-Miami recruiting-Miami football-running back-nfl

Miami is on its way to one of the best recruiting classes in the nation, and David Wilson and the team are in the eye of the storm to help you track the Hurricanes. Read daily notebooks here at 10 a.m. ET Monday through Friday and follow us on Twitter for the latest Miami recruiting news.

How Mark Walton’s NFL move affects Miami recruiting

It isn’t a surprise to hear running back Mark Walton is reportedly heading to the NFL — and given Travis Homer’s subsequent emergence the news doesn’t feel as crushing as it may have in September — but the decision will still affect the short-term outlook at running back for Miami. With two top-10 running backs recruits committed for next season, the Hurricanes have plenty of options behind Homer. And now, the odds they could find a spot in the rotation from Day 1 are way up.

The biggest winner of the move is Lorenzo Lingard, a 5-star running back from University High School in Orange City, Fla. The No. 2 running back in the 247Sports composite rankings, Lingard is the sort of talent who was probably going to be difficult to ever leave off the field, anyway; but with Walton gone Lingard seems to be a lock for early playing time.

If Walton had stuck around for his senior year, Lingard would probably have struggled to open the season higher than No. 3 on the depth chart. Now it’s not crazy to see him making a move to be the Hurricanes’ top back by the end of the season and he’ll certainly have a role in alleviating Homer’s special teams burden as he becomes the entrenched starter.

Walton’s move could also open an opportunity up for 4-star running back Cam’Ron Davis. The senior from Miami Carol City Senior High School in Miami Gardens would have been a logical redshirt candidate with Walton still in the mix simply because there would be at least three running backs — plus athlete DeeJay Dallas — ahead of him on the depth chart. That number could be down to two unless freshman Robert Burns or juniors Trayone Gray or Crispian Atkins can step up.

Davis’ case for playing time would be his ability to fill a role neither Homer nor Lingard thrive in. The tailback, who also has played outside linebacker during his high school career, is a tremendous blocker and a legitimate pass-catching threat. While Dallas has fully shifted to running back this fall, the Hurricanes still could choose to use him as a more versatile piece, which would open the door for Davis, the nation’s No. 8 running back, to contribute as a third-down running back.

Walton’s decision was expected, so Miami won’t have to scramble for another running back in the Class of 2018. The Hurricanes also secured a verbal commitment from 3-star fullback Realus George earlier this month. Miami has played without a fullback this season despite coach Mark Richt’s preference to use the position.

Zac Smith-Miami recruiting-Miami football
Zac Smith committed to Miami as a walk-on fullback despite rarely playing the position. (David Wilson/DieHards)

Despite limited offensive role, Zac Smith has FB tools

One of the Hurricanes’ future fullbacks spent virtually no time playing fullback during his junior year in high school. Zac Smith, unranked at inside linebacker and committed to Miami since October as a preferred walk-on fullback, only played a handful of snaps a game on offense this season for Braden River High School in Bradenton, Fla. Braden River uses a spread system to make playoff runs virtually every season, so Smith’s only chances to play his future position came during those rare red-zone opportunities.

Instead, the future walk-on showed why he’s a Hurricane-worthy fullback with his play on defense. The 6-foot-2, 235-pound junior primarily played defensive end and helped the Pirates reach the second round of the postseason with his 40 tackles, 4 tackles for a loss, 1 sack and 3 blocked kicks.

“This was really his first full varsity season,” Braden River coach Curt Bradley told DieHards. “From the first game to the last, he was making significant improvements and he was a big part of our defense as the year went on.”

Smith has been a journeyman to this point in his career. The athlete played his freshman year at Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando and transferred to Bradenton’s IMG Academy for his sophomore campaign. After one season training and riding the bench at IMG, Smith went across town to join the Pirates for the spring. It took some time, but by the end of the season he was finally starting to turn his physical gifts into productive varsity play.

He’ll probably never get a crack at major minutes as a fullback in high school, so the Pirates will ask him to make the most out of his abilities on defense. The way Smith plays, with a knack for absorbing blockers and winning the leverage battle, should translate to fullback at the next level.

“A lot of the same concepts at fullback are prevalent at defensive end,” Bradley said. “You get an inside release by an offensive tackle, somebody’s trying to kick you out and you have to be physical. Taking on a blocks is very similar to delivering a block.

“His high IQ lets him be very multiple and do different things.”

Mississippi State offers under-the-radar Miami OT commit

Miami got involved early with Brandon Cunningham and reaped the rewards, securing a commitment from the 3-star offensive tackle during Paradise Camp in July, less than two weeks after the Hurricanes extended an offer.

Yet it always seemed like an inevitability some other big-time schools would get involved with the 6-5, 305-pound junior, and Tuesday it finally happened. Mississippi State became the second Power 5 program to offer the tackle, Cunningham revealed on Twitter.

Cunningham’s only other two FBS offers are from Memphis and Southern Mississippi, although Mississippi and LSU have also scouted the lineman from St. Martin High School in Ocean Springs, Miss. The Bulldogs’ offer comes at an interesting time. Mississippi State is between coaches after Florida hired Dan Mullen on Sunday.

Cunningham is one of two offensive linemen committed to the Hurricanes in the Class of 2019, if 3-star lineman Renato Brown is counted as an offensive player. Cunningham, who primarily plays right tackle, is a versatile athlete. He’s also played some defensive end and tight end for St. Martin. He told Rivals’ Chad Simmons in October he considers himself a “hard commit.”

Commit stats tracker

The season is already done for some Miami recruiting commits and targets. For others, it’s just getting started. The regular season is finished in Florida and the playoffs have arrived. Those still in action are ready to let loose with some of their last high-school outings.

Here’s how all the Hurricanes’ Class of 2018 commits are faring this season:

(**indicates stats may be incomplete)

RB Lorenzo Lingard

High school: University (Orange City)

Team record: 5-4

Last week: The Titans did not qualify for the postseason.

Season stats: 207 carries, 1,700 yards, 26 touchdowns; 10 catches, 142 yards

Next: Lingard will next take the field in January for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas. The 5-star running back will enroll early at Miami.

TE Brevin Jordan

High school: Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas)

Team record: 12-2

Last week: Brevin Jordan scored a touchdown for the 13th straight game Friday to help Las Vegas Bishop Gorman High School advance to the Nevada state championship game with a 35-15 win against Liberty High School of Henderson. The 4-star tight end, who has occasionally also played outside linebacker, caught 8 passes for 51 yards and 1 touchdown at home. The senior also logged 1 carry for negative-1 yard.

Season stats: 47 catches, 1,025 yards, 12 touchdowns, 1 2-point conversion; 7 carries, 35 yards, 3 touchdowns; 1 tackle

Next: The Gaels, ranked No. 14 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25, head to the state title game in Reno. Bishop Gorman takes on Edward C. Reed High of Sparks on Saturday.

WR Mark Pope

High school: Miami Southridge

Team record: 6-3

Last week: Miami Southridge High School fell to Miami High School during the second round of the postseason earlier this month.

Season stats: 17 catches, 416 yards, 4 touchdowns; 4 carries, 47 yards, 1 touchdown; 1 fumble lost**

Next: Mark Pope will next suit up in January for the Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio.

CB Al Blades Jr.

High school: St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

Team record: 11-2

Last week: Al Blades Jr. logged 2 tackles and broke up 1 pass during St. Thomas Aquinas High’s 48-6 win against Doral (Fla.) Academy Preparatory School on Friday in Fort Lauderdale.

Season stats: 25 tackles, 3 passes defended

Next: The Raiders are one win away from playing for a state championship. They hit the road Friday to face Venice High in a Class 7A semifinal.

CB Josh Jobe

High school: Cheshire (Conn.) Academy

Team record: 8-1

Last week: Cheshire’s season is complete.

Season stats: 3 interceptions, 2 pass break-ups; 9 tackles; 2 tackles for loss

Next: Josh Jobe will next take the field in January for the Army Bowl in San Antonio.

WR Brian Hightower

High school: IMG Academy (Bradenton)

Team record: 8-0

Last week: The Ascenders’ season is complete.

Season stats: 35 catches, 445 yards, 5 touchdowns

Next: Brian Hightower’s next game will be the Army Bowl in January in San Antonio.

S Gurvan Hall

High school: Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) Community

Team record: 3-6

Last week: Palm Beach Gardens Community High School did not qualify for the postseason.

Season stats: 3 catches, 77 yards, 1 touchdown; 2 carries, 58 yards, 1 touchdown; 2 pass break-ups; 19 tackles, 2 tackles for loss**; 1 kick-return touchdown, 1 punt-return touchdown

Next: Gurvan Hall’s next time suiting up will be in January for the Under Armour All-America Game in Orlando.

CB Gilbert Frierson

High school: Coral Gables (Fla.) Senior

Team record: 4-5

Last week: Coral Gables Senior High School did not qualify for the postseason.

Season stats: 11 catches, 356 yards, 5 touchdowns; 1 kick-return touchdown; 3 punt-return touchdowns

Next: Gilbert Frierson’s high school career is finished.

RB Cam’Ron Davis

High school: Miami Carol City Senior (Miami Gardens)

Team record: 8-4

Last week: Davis finished his career with more than 100 yards from scrimmage during Miami Carol City’s 23-15 road loss to Miami Northwestern Senior High School. The 4-star running back, who has also occasionally played outside linebacker, was relatively bottled up on the ground with 40 yards on 12 carries, but made up for it with 3 catches for 75 yards.

Season stats: 114 carries, 510 yards, 8 touchdowns; 8 catches, 185 yards, 1 touchdown**

Next: Carol City’s season is complete.

TE Will Mallory

High school: Providence (Jacksonville, Fla.)

Team record: 3-6

Last week: Providence School missed out on the postseason.

Season stats: 21 catches, 364 yards, 3 touchdowns

Next: Will Mallory’s high school career is finished.

G Cleveland Reed

High school: Fort Meade (Fla.) Middle-Senior

Team record: 5-5

Last week: Fort Meade Middle-Senior High School missed out on the postseason.

Season stats: 9 tackles, 7 tackles for a loss**

Next: Cleveland Reed will next suit up in January for the Under Armour Game in Orlando.

DT Nesta Silvera

High school: American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.)

Team record: 12-0

Last week: American Heritage School pulled out a thrilling 58-57 triple-overtime win against Fort Lauderdale’s Cardinal Gibbons High School on Friday. As usual, Nesta Silvera was one of the Patriots’ most important defensive players. The 4-star defensive tackle recorded 10 tackles, 3 tackles for loss.

Season stats: 89 tackles, 28 tackles for loss, 12 sacks

Next: The No. 3 Patriots will are in to the state semifinals. They host Immokalee High School on Friday with a spot in the Class 5A championship on the line.

G Delone Scaife

High school: Miami Southridge

Team record: 6-4

Last week: Southridge’s season ended during the second round of the playoffs earlier this month.

Season stats: 1 tackle, 1 tackle for loss**

Next: Delone Scaife’s next appearance will be in January at the Under Armour Game in Orlando.

WR Daquris Wiggins

High school: Miami Southridge

Team record: 6-4

Last week: The Spartans bowed out of the postseason during the second round earlier this month.

Season stats: 9 catches, 133 yards, 3 touchdowns; 1 carry, 1 yard**

Next: The 3-star wide receiver’s high school career is complete.

T John Campbell

High school: Dr. Phillips (Orlando)

Team record: 10-2

This week: Once again anchoring the Panthers’ offensive line at left tackle, John Campbell and Dr. Phillips rallied Friday to beat Riverview High School, 28-19, in Sarasota.

Season stats: N/A

Next: The Panthers remain on the road Friday for the Class 8A semifinals. Dr. Phillips travels to Apopka to take on Wekiva High School.

DE Gregory Rousseau

High school: Champagnat Catholic (Hialeah, Fla.)

Team record: 7-2

Last week: Champagnat Catholic School posted a second straight shutout with a 38-0 win against Cambridge Christian School of Tampa on Friday in Hialeah. Gregory Rousseau recorded 6 tackles in the win.

Season stats: 62 tackles, 11 sacks, 8 tackles for loss, 1 safety; 1 forced fumble; 8 passes defended; 3 catches, 34 yards, 2 touchdown, 4 2-point conversions

Next: The Lions are off this weekend before playing for the Class 2A championship Dec. 8 against Jacksonville’s University Christian School in Orlando.

CB D.J. Ivey

High school: South Dade (Homestead, Fla.)

Team record: 9-2

Last week: South Dade High School stumbled during the second round of the postseason earlier this month.

Season stats: 21 tackles; 9 pass break-ups, 5 interceptions; 1 2-point conversion

Next: D.J. Ivey’s high school career is over.

FB Realus George

High school: Pace Academy (Atlanta)

Team record: 5-5

Last week: Pace’s playoff run ended with a first-round loss earlier this month.

Season stats: 57 carries, 306 yards, 2 touchdowns; 5 catches, 78 yards, 1 touchdown; 43 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 8 sacks; 1 pass defended

Next: George’s high school career is finished.

K Bubba Baxa

High school: Pasadena (Texas) Memorial

Team record: 6-3

Last week: Pasadena Memorial High School fell during the opening round of the postseason earlier this month.

Season stats: 37 for 37 extra points, 4 for 8 field goals, 2 50-plus field goals; 3 40-plus field goals

Next: Bubba Baxa’s high school career is complete.

Miss a previous edition? Find every post of DieHards’ daily Miami recruiting notebook right here.

The post Miami recruiting: How Mark Walton’s NFL draft decision could affect the Hurricanes appeared first on Diehards.

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