'The U', for all their shortcomings on the field, have been a recruiting powerhouse since entering the ACC. Miami has been ranked in the top 4 of ACC recruiting classes every year except 2011 since joining the league. Granted, it's a pretty easy place to recruit to. It's a gorgeous campus and top-notch private university, nestled in one of the most football talent rich regions in America. (They also have hammocks everywhere on campus, it's actually really awesome.)
In terms of the 2019 class, new head coach Manny Diaz had quite the task. Maybe not so much in building up a roster, but in getting guys who could contribute to win now. Miami will have a top 2 defense in the ACC, most likely. And with a talented WR corps, the pressure for Miami to trot out some quarterback talent is as high as it's ever been.
ACC Rank: 4
Top Recruit: Jeremiah Payton, WR, Neptune Beach FL (0.9730)
Payton is a really interesting prospect for a 2019 guy. He doesn't fit the mold that most 4-star WR's nowadays conform to. He's 6'0" tall, weighs only about 190lb, and was most recently tested at a 4.74 second 40-yard dash. That being said, he's a beast.
Payton was impressive in Miami's spring game. His route running is beyond his years, and he can come into the 5-6 deep at WR and contribute immediately.
Biggest Need: Culture Guys
It's a vague need but hear me out. 'The U' hasn't exactly been the dominating force of a team that they used to be. They don't exactly strike fear into opponents like those early 2000's teams with Sean Taylor and Ray Lewis did. There's a major between having a team full of guys that play with swagger and relentlessness and having a turnover chain, and Miami hasn't quite been able to find that for an entire season.
In 2017-18 Miami butchered their chance at a Playoff berth by losing to a bad Pitt team, then got crushed by Clemson, then lost by 10 to Wisconsin in the bowl game. In 2018-19, Miami ended the season 2-5 after starting 5-1. In the Mark Richt era (2016-2018), Miami averaged over 6 penalties a game, not finishing in the top 60 in the country in any of the three seasons.
That's what Manny Diaz is trying to fix in Coral Gables. It's not a lack of talent, it's a lack of culture. The last time I, or Diaz checked, they don't give you trophies for what your team did 20 years ago.
Most Exciting Recruit: Jaelen Phillips, DE/LB, UCLA transfer (0.9600)
Manny Diaz hit the Portal hard, and this was his biggest pickup in a transfer class that's taking full advantage of the system. Phillips was the number one recruit in the nation coming out of high school in 2017. Injuries plagued his freshman and sophomore seasons at UCLA. Due to only playing in 4 games last season, Phillips will be a r-Sophomore next season and his appeal with the NCAA is currently pending.
On the field, Phillips had 4.5 sacks in just 10 games played at UCLA. At 6'5", he's big enough to play on the line, but fast enough to play linebacker as well. If Manny Diaz can find a way to use him correctly, he can be a game changing player for Miami.
Early Contributor: Zion Nelson, OT, Sumter SC (0.8395)
Nelson has been getting work with the one's all spring and looks like a major contender for the left tackle spot. A true freshman starting at arguably the second most important position on the offense may be a scary thought for Canes fans, but Nelson's hard work in the offseason has paid off and he's developed quicker than Diaz's staff could've dreamt. (There's a great article on Nelson on Miami's 247 page "StateOfTheU" and on The Athletic.)
Sam's Grade: A
Miami took full advantage of the transfer portal. I haven't even touched on Tate Martell, who very well could be the starting QB in the fall. Guys like Bubba Bolden (S, USC, 0.9500) and K.J. Osborn (WR, Buffalo, 0.9100) will contribute immediately and were some of the most fought after transfers. Miami is not in the mood for rebuilding after Richt's retirement, and their ability to attract talent is second to none. Like it or not, Miami is clearly the second most talented team in the ACC behind Clemson. Whether or not that talent can actually DO something at Miami is yet to be seen. But for now, Miami wins the championship for "Sexiest Transfer Portal Destination"!