For the first time in a while, the Miami Hurricanes and their fans feel optimistic about the future of their program. Per ESPN’s recruiting class rankings for 2017, Miami finished with the 12th-best class in the nation. Rivals had the Hurricanes one spot higher, in 11th place.
Miami’s 2017 class is made up of 24 signees with 10 of those already enrolled and on campus. With several key players having graduated or off to the NFL, here are five newcomers to watch for during the 2017 season. For this exercise “newcomer” isn’t just limited to true freshmen, it also could include redshirt freshmen and junior college transfers.
Jack Allison, QB, Redshirt Freshman
With three-year starter Brad Kaaya electing to forgo his last season of eligibility to enter the NFL Draft, Allison could be the Hurricanes’ starting quarterback in 2017. Last season, Miami elected to redshirt Allison because coaches felt like he needed to put more weight on to play the quarterback position at the collegiate level. Allison worked with the scout team last season and he will compete with Malik Rosier and Vincent Testaverde Jr. for the chance to be the Hurricanes’ starter in their season opener against Bethune-Cookman on Sept. 2.
Navaughn Donaldson, OL, True Freshman
With the Hurricanes’ issues on the offensive line last season, the 6-foot-5, 335-pound Donaldson should see some time in 2017 even if it is on a rotational basis. Donaldson is one of the 10 members of the 2017 recruiting class that enrolled in January. A consensus four-star offensive line prospect by 247Sports, ESPN, Rivals and Scout, Donaldson could play at right tackle or guard.
Jeff Thomas, WR, True Freshman
Thomas may not look like anything special at just 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, but the four-star receiver has a wide collection of skills. He was the 2017 Under Armour All-American Game Offensive MVP as he recorded three receptions for 148 yards and two touchdowns. With his 4.3 speed, expect the Hurricanes to use Thomas a lot on special teams as a freshman.
Trajan Bandy, CB, True Freshman
With the losses in the Hurricanes’ secondary, Bandy will likely be thrust into playing a pivotal role in 2017. While his listed size (5-9, 180) may suggest otherwise, Bandy is a physical cornerback who isn’t afraid of contact.
Jhavonte Dean, CB, Junior College Transfer
With Corn Elder exhausting his eligibility, Dean is the most experienced cornerback in the Hurricanes’ 2017 class, which could lead him to playing right away. Dean played two seasons at Blinn (Texas) College and the 6-foot-2, 185-pounder was considered by multiple publications to be the No. 1 junior college cornerback prospect.
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.