2012 Class Analysis: Cornerbacks

Cornerback was a major recruiting need for the Hurricanes in the 2012 class and they did a great job of meeting that need by signing seven of them. Lets take a closer look at them.

Coming Back: The Hurricanes return four cornerbacks from its 2011 roster, led by senior and returning starter Brandon McGee (55 career tackles). Sophomore Thomas Finnie (14) is the next most experienced returner. Senior Davon Johnson (two) and junior Keion Payne (0) also return but lack experience at the position. With just two proven players returning, the Canes made cornerback a major recruiting priority in the 2012 class.

Ones who got away: A.J. Leggett committed to the Hurricanes during his junior season, when Randy Shannon's staff was still in place. He later opened things back up and ended up signing with Marshall. Leggett would've likely had to spend time at a prep school or Junior College first but decided to do the same thing Kevin Grooms did last year. Four-star P.J. Williams (Ocala) committed to Florida State in October of his junior year but Al Golden and his staff made him a priority. Williams visited a few times unofficially, took an official visit here, and hosted UM coaches in his home a few times before finally choosing to stick with his original pledge to FSU. Travell Dixon was one of the nation's premier Juco prospects and is originally from Miami. He took an unofficial visit to Miami but ended up signing with Alabama.

Best part about this class: Two of the seven (Ladarius Gunter, and Larry Hope) are already enrolled for the spring semester and will go through spring drills. Instead of going through spring with just four scholarship cornerbacks, the Canes will now have six instead because of that. By getting Bush and Howard, the Canes landed the two best cornerback prospects in South Florida, doing a great job of keeping the top local talent at home. Antonio Crawford comes from Tampa Plant, one of the state's premier prep programs. When Robert Marve transferred out of UM a few years ago, the relationship between UM and the school got a bit rocky. Crawford's signing with UM confirms that it's been restored by Golden and his staff. Crawford, Davis, and Hope were two-way players in high school.

Most concerning thing about this class: It's hard to find things not to like about this group. Davis is only 5-foot-8 and Gunter was very lightly recruited out of Junior College. Hope missed some time as a senior due to an injury.

Deon Bush
On the field: Bush finished his senior season with 57 tackles and 11 pass breakups but didn't have any interceptions. Playing both cornerback and safety, Bush ended up playing in the US Army All-American Game after the season.

The recruiting process: Bush was recruited nationally and had offers from all the top programs by the spring of his junior year. He took official visits to Alabama and Auburn before seeing UM in December. He announced his commitment to Miami at the US Army Game on January 7 and never wavered after that.

As a prospect: At 6-feet and 185 pounds, Bush is the most athletic of all the cornerbacks who signed with the Canes. He has tremendous testing numbers and can turn and run with just about anyone. His size and speed numbers are outstanding. He knows the game very well, too, and could end up being a premier safety if he doesn't work out at cornerback. He does lack ball skills, though, so don't expect him to come in and pick off a lot of balls.

Antonio Crawford
On the field: Crawford played a key role in Plant High winning the Class 8A state title. He finished the season with 599 yards rushing, 139 yards receiving, and six offensive to0uchdowns. He also added 61 tackles, four interceptions, and 26 pass deflections on defense.

The recruiting process: Crawford landed a few Division 1 offers in the spring of his junior year. He committed to Georgia Tech following one of their camps over the summer. Miami offered him in December, he visited in late January, and switched his pledge to the Cane s few days before signing day.

As a prospect: At 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, Crawford has very good ball skills for a cornerback prospect. That comes from having played a lot of offense over the last few years. He also has tremendous straight-ahead speed, and is one of the fastest players in this entire class. He comes from one of the state's top prep programs too and knows the game and understands how to compete at the highest level.

Vernon Davis
On the field: Davis finished his senior season with 491 yards receiving and three touchdowns. He also had two interceptions on defense, after getting four as a junior.

The recruiting process: Davis landed spring offers from schools like UCF and Vanderbilt. He was offered by Miami following one of their camps in June and accepted the offer right away. He never wavered on that commitment or visited any other schools during the season.

As a prospect: At 5-foot-8 and 175 pounds, Davis is the smallest player in this year's recruiting class. He's very good with the ball in his hands and in the open field. While he's a talented cornerback prospect, he's probably at his best as a return specialist. He's probably the top return specialist in this year's group and should be able to see time there right away.

Nate Dortch
On the field: Dortch finished his senior season with 32 tackles, one interception, and six pass breakups. He added 82 yards and one touchdown receiving. He played in the state all-star game after the season.

The recruiting process: Dortch landed a few Division 1 offers in the spring of his junior year. He was offered by North Carolina following their summer camp in June and committed shortly after that. Miami offered him during the season and he switched his pledge to the Canes when that happened. He never wavered or took any other visits after that.

As a prospect: At 5-foot-11 and 160 pounds, Dortch has solid height and ideal athleticism. He works hard and seems to have good football IQ. He needs to get a lot more physical, though, and become a better pure cover guy.

Ladarius Gunter
On the field: Gunter played in seven games this past season and had 24 tackles, two caused fumbles, and a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown.

The recruiting process: Gunter, originally from Alabama, wasn't recruited by any Division 1 programs out of high school. He went to Fort Scott (Kansas) JC and was lightly recruited from there. Indiana and USF also offered but when Miami offered late in the season, he took it following a visit to the school.

As a prospect: The Canes dipped into the Juco ranks and offered a few cornerbacks to help break up this class. At 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, he's the biggest and most physical cornerback in this group and he has enough experience at the college level that he should be able to see time early on.

Larry Hope
On the field: Hope finished his senior season with 21 tackles and two interceptions. He also saw time on offense and played in the south Florida all-star game after the season.

The recruiting process: Hope landed spring offers from schools like Vanderbilt, USF, and West Virginia. Miami offered him following one of their camps in June and he committed right away. He never wavered or took any other visits after that.

As a prospect: At 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, Hope has above average athleticism, cover skills, and ball skills. He plays hard and fast and brings a very good work ethic to the table.

Tracy Howard
On the field: Howard finished his senior season with 48 tackles and seven interceptions. He also scored three touchdowns on a team that went to the state title game.

The recruiting process: Howard was recruited nationally throughout the entire process. He took recruiting visits to West Virginia (where his coach played), Florida State, USC, and Florida before seeing the Canes in late January. Miami was behind the 8-ball for much of the process but made up a lot of ground late. He announced for the Canes on ESPNU on National Signing Day.

As a prospect: At 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, Howard is clearly the best pure cover guy in this entire group. While he doesn't have the athleticism of Bush or maybe some other top corner prospects, his knowledge of the game and football IQ really help him play faster. He's like a seasoned vet for an NFL team and should be able to come in and compete for a starting spot from day one.

Looking Ahead: After signing seven in the 2012 class, cornerback likely won't be much of a need in Miami's 2013 class. One key target to keep an eye on will be Miami Northwestern's Artie Burns. At 6-feet and 175 pounds, Burns has already committed to Alabama but has been to UM a few times lately and has an offer from the Canes. Look for Miami to sign just one, if they can get an elite player like Burns, in the 2013 cycle.


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