One who got away: Three major college running back prospects took official visits to Miami but ended up signing elsewhere. 4-star Wes Brown signed with the hometown Maryland Terrapins. 4-star Greg Garmon (PA) signed with Iowa. 3-star Davanta' Bourque (LA) signed with Tennessee. Miami finished in second for Garmon and Bourque.In addition to those three the Hurricanes also offered Drew Harris (PA) and Mike Davis (GA) who signed with Virginia Tech and South Carolina, respectively.
Best part about this class: Duke Johnson is a very special football player. He helped lead Norland to a state championship as a senior. He finished as one of the leading rushers in Dade County history. He is widely considered to be the top overall player in the entire state for the 2012 class. He is the type of player who can come in right away and become a major factor in the offense in 2012. After not signing a running back last year and since Johnson is on the small side, the Canes needed a big back in this class and Dillard provides that. At 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, he's a big kid who has a chance to get a lot bigger in college.
Most concerning thing about this class: Not being able to get either play enrolled for the spring semester is somewhat disappointing and is probably a big reason why Crawford is being switched to running back for the spring. The other is that the Canes were unable to sign a third back in this class when it seems like that's something they really wanted. Bourque, Brown, and Garmon were all actively recruited down the stretch and after the Canes had Johnson and Dillard solidly committed. Unfortunately, they weren't able to land that third back.
On the field: Johnson ran for almost 2,000 yards as a junior while leasing his team to the state title game. As a senior, he finished with 2,087 yards and 27 touchdowns. He also caught 13 passes for 242 yards and three scores, and finished with over 400 return yards. Norland won the state title. He was a finalist for Mr. Football in the state of Florida. Johnson played in the Under Armour All-American Game in January and was the leading rusher.
The recruiting process: Johnson made a very early commitment to Miami, pledging to former coach Randy Shannon back in October of his junior season. He never wavered at all, even after Shannon was fired and Al Golden was hired. Johnson never considered any other schools, made any other visits, or anything like that. In fact, he was so strong with his commitment to the Canes that he helped recruit several others to UM down the stretch.
As a prospect: At 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, Johnson is a special talent. He has outstanding speed and quickness and the ability to make people miss in the open field. He glides down the field with tremendous vision and patience and it's rare that defenders get a good shot on him. He's also very durable, having carries the ball 20+ times in several important games for Norland. He's a skilled pass-catcher out of the backfield too. He's an elite level talent who should have an excellent college career.
On the field: Dillard put his name on the recruiting map as a junior when he finished the year with 1,300 yards and 25 touchdowns. Despite battling some injuries as a senior, he still ran for 1,100 and 13 more scores in his final season.
The recruiting process: Dillard started collecting BCS offers back in the spring of his junior year. He took an official visit to Western Kentucky in early September before making a commitment to Miami in early November. After his commitment to the Canes, Dillard took recruiting trips to N.C. State and Illinois in addition to UM. Other BCS schools who offered include Boston College, Georgia Tech, and Purdue.
As a prospect: At 6-foot-1 and 205 pounda, Dillard already has ideal size and he has the frame to add even more weight. He is more of a straight-ahead runner. He has excellent straight-ahead speed, sort of a long strider for a running back, but doesn't really show the ability to make a lot of people miss. He can get the tough yards in between the tackles, though. He was recruited like a solid three-star.
Looking Ahead: The Hurricanes will need to sign at least one running back in the 2013 class, with the possibility of taking two. South Plantation's Alex Collins (5-11/190) was made a priority early on and he made a commitment to the Canes following their first Junior Day event in mid January. Collins is expected to be one of the state's premier running back prospects next season. Kelvin Taylor (Glades Day) and Ryan Green (St Pete Catholic) are a couple others who claim early offers from the Canes.