The UCF football program will recruit the entirety of the state of Florida borders. From Pensacola to Miami, the Knights will scour the Sunshine state for the best prospects. To earn the signatures of many of those top Florida prospects, defeating the University of Miami for recruits will be a battle, but not like it may have been in the past.
Here are a few facts regarding how Miami football has gone into a long-term state of mediocrity, and why its recruiting base has been raided by many programs and UCF can and will join the party. It may surprise some, but the numbers do not lie.
At one time, Miami was a consistent national title contender. That was two decades ago. The Hurricanes used to gobble up the local Miami Public League talent to bolster its roster, as well as prospects from private schools like famed Fort Lauderdale (Saint Thomas Aquinas), the same high school that sent NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin to the University of Miami.
That’s changed, and it’s likely because of poor talent development (see below). Miami is close to reaching a 20 year stretch of simply being outside the top group of college football programs.
A Program on the Decline
Since the beginning of the 2004 season, no Miami team finished with less than three losses. That’s correct, not a single one. The best season the Hurricanes went through came in 2017, when Miami finished 10-3, which also represents the only 10 win season for the Hurricanes during those 17 seasons.
While hard to believe, it places things into perspective about how far down the ladder the Miami football program fell from its previously lofty standards. This can be best explained by looking at how the ‘Canes still lack consistency during big games, last season included.
Hitting Rock Bottom Despite Big-Time Talent
According to CFB Stats, the following can be found about the 2020 Miami football team’s last home game, one very embarrassing loss. The Hurricanes were blasted by North Carolina, at home, on Senior Day, to the tune of 26 to 62. The rushing totals are worse than the score.
The Tar Heels ran up and down the field the entire afternoon, rushing 55 times for 554 yards (10.07 yards per carry) and six rushing touchdowns. Whether a casual fan or ardent Miami supporter, it does not take much to figure out that the Miami defense just quit during that game.
That should never happen at any program, let alone Miami. It’s especially shocking because according to ncaa.com the Hurricanes sent four players into the National Football League (NFL) via the 2021 NFL Draft. From that group of four, defensive end Jaelan Phillips was selected by the Miami Dolphins during the first round at No. 18 overall.
That’s what happened to a team with a first round draft choice at defensive end. Another way to describe it, despite one of the best defensive ends available for the NFL Draft, Miami was bludgeoned.
At the of the day, it’s still a program attempting to regain its footing. The last several coaching staffs, including the current coaching staff last season, struggled to recreate the magic from 20 years ago. That has likely hurt the Hurricanes along the recruiting trail.
Recruits Jumping Ship
During the 2020 recruiting campaign, Miami went through 20 prospects committing and then reneging on their decision. An astronomical number by itself, it’s also concerning that from those 20 prospects, 12 of them played high school football within talent-rich South Florida.
Whether the Hurricanes decided to part ways with the recruit in question, or vice versa, this is a very bad look. The 2021 recruiting class went through a great deal of attrition prior to signing day as well.
11 players decided to commit with Miami and then back out of that commitment. From those 11 recruits, 10 of them come from the greater Miami-Fort Lauderdale area. Now, some of them changed their decision yet again and signed with Miami.
It’s just a wild ride watching the saga that is Miami recruiting. That much is as close to certain as one can probably be. As for recruiting rankings, it’s interesting because the Hurricanes finished No. 17 for 2020, and No. 11 for 2021, according to the recruiting rankings from 247 Sports.
Those are certainly good recruiting classes. No question about that, but not what Miami used to reel in during the 1980s all the way through the early 2000s. The current roster still has talent, as did the 2020 roster. With that talent comes expectations, however, and after the end of the 2021 season, there’s certainly reason for concern.
Miami Football’s 2021 Outlook
Even a gambler would struggle to definitively project what Miami might do this year. The last three seasons have been disappointing despite a roster with potential NFL talent. The 2018 (6-7), 2019 (7-6), and 2020 (8-3) seasons were disappointments.
Perhaps Miami will surprise some people, perhaps not. The opening game for the Hurricanes comes against the Alabama Crimson Tide, so it shall not take long to find out what this Miami team is all about.
UCF’s Recruiting Opportunity is Now
The greater Miami and Fort Lauderdale area is loaded with talent. Programs like Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, LSU, Oklahoma, Notre Dame and Georgia come to South Florida for the big-time prospects. With Miami struggling, of course they do.
UCF now has a chance under the direction of Head Coach Gus Malzahn to do exactly the same. Even if the Knights just land three to five players per year from South Florida, like the recent commitment of talented defensive end Jamaal Johnson, UCF will score big.
The Miami program is taking on water because of its on-field performance, as well as its recruiting being good, but not great by former Miami standards. UCF has a golden opportunity to march into South Florida and nab a few of the best players in the area, and a big reason why is because the University of Miami football program is struggling.