‘Big-bodied’ signees mark Miami’s recruiting class

Miami football coach Chuck Martin is pleased with his “big-bodied” recruits. GREG LYNCH / STAFF
Miami football coach Chuck Martin is pleased with his “big-bodied” recruits. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

Based on the judgment of websites that focus on such things, Miami’s unprecedented stretch drive during the 2016 football season that led to a startling bowl berth didn’t yield the recruiting payoff hoped for by many RedHawk fans.

Three different recruiting analyses ranked the 20-player class unveiled on Wednesday, the first day high school seniors in several sports could sign letters of intent with NCAA programs, lower than previous seasons.

That didn’t dim the luster of Miami’s haul in the eyes of coach Chuck Martin.

“We’re pleased,” Martin said in the football locker room of the brand-new Athletic Performance Center, which was officially opened for business with a ribbon-cutting late Wednesday afternoon. “We got a lot of big-bodied athletes, a lot of kids who love football and who love to be at Miami and want to win football games.”

PHOTOS: A look inside Miami University's Athletic Performance Center

As pleased as Martin was with his class, he was just as happy to know he won’t have to count on them right away.

“We’ve got a good nucleus coming back,” he said. “They’d have to be special to beat out what we have lifting weights right now. The first couple years, we had to play them. We didn’t have a choice. That was an uncomfortable feeling. At least now we don’t have to throw the young kids to the wolves. Those days are done and gone.

“This is the most relaxed I’ve ever been on signing day. I slept a lot better last night.”

Five things you need to know about the class:

1. Scout.com ranked it sixth in the Mid-American Conference, down from second last season, while Rivals.com placed Miami fourth, also down from No. 2 last season. A third site, 247sports.com, also ranked the RedHawks sixth, down from third last year, but much of that could be traced to the smaller class. Miami had a 25-member class last season, and a smaller class generates fewer ranking points.

2. Indiana leads the way with five Miami recruits, followed by Ohio with four and Michigan and Illinois with three each. Playing Mississippi State in the St. Petersburg Bowl the day after Christmas didn’t immediately open a wide pipeline of recruits from football-rich Florida and Georgia. This is the first of Martin’s four classes that didn’t include one recruit from either one of those hotbeds, but Martin expects next year’s class to yield different results.

“Some people reached out to us this year, but I think it gave us a boost with juniors,” he said. “There’s more noise about Miami football from playing (a Southeastern Conference) team on national TV. We had 170-some kids in here on a junior day.”

3. Two recruits, Illinois’ Jaylon Bester and Canton McKinley’s Dominique Robinson, were listed as “athletes” on the roster, but that also could apply to Sterling Weatherford, a 6-foot-5, 205-pound defensive back from Indiana, and 6-foot-3, 200-pound South Carolina quarterback Jackson Williamson. The 5-8, 160-pound Bester averaged 13 yards per carry and scored 33 touchdowns on 133 carries as a senior.

“He’s small, but he can do a lot of things with his feet,” Martin said. “The quarterback is huge. Length makes the field smaller. Speed makes the field smaller. We like versatile kids. They’re pretty special athletes.”

4. Martin’s ongoing search for size, especially on the offensive line, yielded 6-5, 290-pound offensive lineman David Redding from Indiana and 6-5, 300-pound Iowa product Peter Nank, whose high school team went 52-2 and won four state championships. Both earned three out of a possible five stars in the 247Sports.com ratings, along with Robinson, Williamson, Indiana running back Mitchell Burton, Michigan running back Davion Johnson, Hudson, Ohio, tight end Adam Mehelic, and Indiana wide receiver Jalen Walker.

Robinson, Williamson and 6-3, 285-pound defensive tackle Elijah Watson from New Jersey already are enrolled at Miami.

5. There were no specialists among the recruits, but look for La Salle’s Paul Young and Jacob Swartz of Highland Park, Ill., to walk on.