Mark Richt said on his first day as the new head coach of the Hurricanes that he was going to make recruiting local players from Florida a priority. In his first class in charge of the Canes, Richt signed nine players from South Florida and 18 overall.
“Palm Beach County is great. So is Dade [County], so is Broward [County], so are the rest of the counties all the way up … obviously the state of Florida is so crucial,” Richt said in a press conference Wednesday afternoon. “Somebody named a stat in those counties – [there are]maybe 90 or so Division I guys, out of just those three counties alone? So we have to do a great job there.”
The Canes added players who can not only step in right away, but also contribute in a few years. Miami’s prize on National Signing Day was wide receiver Ahmmon Richards, a four-star U.S. Army All-American who also had offers from Alabama, Auburn and Georgia among others.
“[Getting Ahmmon] was a big one,” Wide Receivers Coach Ron Dugans said. “You weren’t 100 percent sure who you were going to get. When he threw up the U and put the hat on, man, I was excited. We knew we were getting a great player and also a great kid.”
However, Miami suffered a painful loss the night leading up to National Signing Day. Tyler Byrd, a four-star cornerback and U.S. Army All-American, dropped his verbal commitment to the Canes and signed with Tennessee. Wide receiver Latrell Williams also left the Canes for the Volunteers on Wednesday. The Hurricanes ended National Signing Day with the 19th-ranked 2016 class on ESPN.
The Canes entered National Signing Day with five members of the 2016 class already enrolled at Miami. Defensive end Patrick Bethel came ready to work when enrolled last month.
“The playing time to expect is you get what you earn. There’s nothing guaranteed here,” Bethel said. “If you come here and work your butt off, it’ll result in some good playing time. The only thing that is guaranteed is what you work for.”
Bethel’s position coach, Craig Kuligowski, was pleased with how the class turned out and the advantage of recruiting from Miami.
“I think we got a great class. I’m able to go into any school in the country and talk to a defensive lineman, and that kid’s going to be interested in looking at us,” Kuligowski said. “In the whole recruiting class there’s a lot of good size, speed and athleticism. Guys that can compete at the highest level. I’m excited to see what these puppy dogs grow into.”
Richt is just looking forward to working with his 18 new players.
“We’re thankful for the young men that put their faith in this university, in this program and in this coaching staff. We’re looking forward to working with them. They’re a very talented bunch,” Richt said. “We’re going to hold up our end of the bargain, and I know they will as well.”