Recruiting Review - Linebackers

Landing some quality linebackers had to be one of Miami's biggest recruiting priorities in this past class. They were able to land three good ones but also saw several others get away. There isn't a more talented trio of linebackers that signed with any other school than Willie Williams, James Bryant, and Romeo Davis.

Williams (6-3, 225) was widely considered the nation's top linebacker prospect. He's one of the best prospects I've ever seen at that age, regardless of position, and I've written a lot of positive things about him over the past two seasons. Generally I hate using comparisons but he has the ability to become another Michael Barrow, Ray Lewis type of player here.

"I want to leave Miami as the best linebacker that's ever played there," Williams said just before signing day. "I said I'd lead Carol City to a state title and now I'm going to help lead Miami to a national title -- not just one either."

Bryant (6-2, 240) wasn't actively recruited early in the recruiting process. I remember running into Bryant at a hotel in Pittsburgh while we were both visiting to watch the game between the Canes and Panthers. He told me UM wasn't actively involved. However, that soon changed when he received a qualifying test score. He visited UM in December and announced for the Hurricanes on signing day in front of a large crowd. An emotional Bryant picked UM over Pittsburgh (where his brother plays), Florida, and Ohio State.

"It was a very emotional decision," Bryant said. "I'm not making the most popular decision around here but it's time for me to start making my own choices because I believe Miami gives me the best chance for a long career in football."

Davis (6-2, 190) isn't the biggest kid in the world but he has plenty of upside. His instincts are excellent, his motor never stops running, and he's been a big play kid on Northwestern's defense the last couple seasons. He impressed UM coach Randy Shannon at camp last summer and ended up making a commitment to the Hurricanes towards the end of the regular season, despite not taking any other Div. 1 recruiting trips.

Three key linebacker recruits that got away at the last minute were New Jersey's Brian Toal, Georgia's Josh Johnson, and local standout John Dunlap. All three enjoyed successful visits to UM but it obviously wasn't enough.

Toal (6-1, 225) picked Boston College, where his brother played for five years, over the Hurricanes on signing day. Johnson (6-2, 220) went back and forth between Miami and Florida for most of the recruiting season before changing tunes in late January and opting for the hometown Bulldogs.

In one of last year's biggest recruiting surprises, Dunlap (6-1, 215) picked the Wolfpack over the Hurricanes, despite favoring UM for most of the season.

"I just think it's time for me to get out and experience new things, a different lifestyle," he said. "I'm real happy. Miami's a great school but I wanted to get away."

UM handed out scholarship offers to four other high quality linebacker prospects but never really got much interest in return. Kyle Williams (Iowa), Keith Rivers (USC), Chris Patterson (Oklahoma), and Marcus Freeman (Ohio State) all committed to other programs without even visiting UM.

Next Review -- Defensive Backs

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