All eyes were on Michael Irvin as he grabbed the mic.
Irvin, carrying a Louis Vuitton backpack, had flare written all over him as he delivered one of his usual rousing and motivating speeches to set the tone for hundreds of campers before they took the field for drills at Paradise Camp on Saturday night.
“At the University of Miami, right here, right out there in Greentree, this is the battleground,” the UM and NFL Hall of Famer said. “You have to put the work in right here. And if you battle right on the battleground, you can play great on the playground. That’s game day.”
The fifth-annual camp was filled with over two dozen Miami Hurricane alums that have all excelled at the next level, all of which offered guidance and coaching, including Warren Sapp, Calais Campbell, Edgerrin James, David Njoku, Lamar Miler, Sheldrick Redwine, Deon Bush, and newest members of the NFL, Jaelan Phillips, Greg Rousseau, and Jose Borregales.
Miami, which holds just four commitments from the class of 2022, didn’t have any current pledges show up, and had a much larger turnout of underclassman when it came to attendance and participation. However, the Hurricanes already had the entire month of June to host prospects on the top of their recruiting board.
“It’s a scenario where the kids are going to go look around, they haven’t been able to go anywhere,” head coach Manny Diaz said. “We’re not a high-pressure outfit. There’s a lot of schools that kind of press a kid to try to commit. I think they’re trying to get some fake momentum because of that, and that’s fine. They can win the recruiting bake-off in the month of June because that’s not Signing Day. We want to be authentic in our relationships, and if a kid picks Miami, we want it to be for the right reasons.
Miami is tied with Syracuse and Louisville for the least amount of commitments in the ACC, with Boston College leading with 18 and Florida State in second with 14. Regardless, Diaz is in it for the long run, and knows there’s a lot of time until the Early Signing Period begins on December 15.
“It doesn’t bother me, not because of a fear of de-commitment phase. It just doesn’t bother me because as we are recruiting, we’re evaluating and that’s unique,” Diaz said. “When have you ever had a month where many of the visitors you’re bringing on official visits you’re meeting for the first time? That’s not the way that it normally works. You’re evaluating while you’re recruiting. Normally, there’s a process to that and they’re evaluating us. You can only learn so much about people on FaceTime and Zoom, and I think just getting back into a real face-to-face experience has been enlightening, not just for them evaluating us, but us evaluating them, as well.”
UM’s top target in the 2022 class, five-star defensive lineman Shemar Stewart, walked around the Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility with a ‘Canes t-shirt on, alongside one of his Monsignor Pace High School coaches. Stewart, who made his fourth appearance on Miami’s campus since the dead period was lifted, spent the evening conversing with Campbell, the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2017, and Rousseau, a first-round pick in this year’s draft.
Miami Central four-star linebacker Wesley Bissainthe, who’s officially and unofficially visited Miami’s campus this month, was also present alongside his family. Bissainthe, a day removed from his unofficial visit at Florida State, sported a UM jacket and shorts.
American Heritage four-star edge Marvin Jones Jr. and four-star cornerback Earl Little Jr. surprised many by showing up in cleats and taking part in the workouts. Three-star linebacker Kobe McCloud from Tampa, FL, also participated.
Jones, the son of the former Florida State linebacker, unofficially visited in-state schools Florida and FSU this month, and was at UM’s cookout event on June 1. The 6-foot-4, 245-pounder did an individual workout with coaches at FSU. He’s closest with Miami defensive line coach Jess Simpson, as well as defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson and recruiting coordinator Edwin Pata.
Another recruiting dead period is set to commence on June 28 until July 24, but Jones plans on taking official visits to Alabama, Ohio State, Florida State and Oklahoma in the later months.
“I’ll probably end up making my decision during the Early Signing Period,” Jones said.
Little has had a hectic month, visiting Miami, USC, Alabama, Florida State and Oregon in a 27-day span. The son of the former Hurricanes safety has been at UM three times this month, and mostly keeps in contact with coach Van Dyke and Robinson.
“[We talk about] school, life, football,” Little said. “We’ll break down some film, stuff like that.”
Amongst other notable 2022 prospects was three-star offensive lineman Tapuvae Amaama out of Lehi, Utah, who received an offer from Miami after his performance at the camp. He also earned offers from Syracuse, BYU, New Mexico, Hawaii and Texas State this month.
St. Thomas Aquinas three-star offensive lineman Tellek Lockette was a notable performer who’s yet to pick up an offer from the ‘Canes. Lockett is the son of former UM senior quality control analyst Telly Lockette, who’s now a run game coordinator at Marshall. He has offers from Kentucky, Marshall, FAU, Coastal Carolina, Southern Miss, and Charlotte.
The Hurricanes were hosting six official visitors during the time of the camp: four-star linebackers Devon Jackson and DeMario Tolan, four-star defensive lineman Zane Durant, four-star safety Jaleel Skinner, and three-star offensive tackles Jacob Hood and Daughtry Richardson.
Jackson, who’s from Omaha, Nebraska, was expected to commit to Arizona State this weekend, but has since pushed back his commitment and will choose between the Hurricanes and the Sun Devils. Tolan was decked out in Miami gear as he chatted with multiple UM great’s, including Irvin. He included the Hurricanes in his top five schools list Monday, which included Clemson, LSU Tennessee and FSU. Durant, who has UM in his top six, is set to commit on July 4, making the ‘Canes the last school he visited prior to his upcoming pledge.
Hood, who’s 6-foot-8, 342-pound frame as listed on 247Sports is nothing short of the truth, also spoke to many current and former UM players during the camp. Richardson is set to commit on July 24, and Miami will have to battle it out with Florida State.
Top 2023 wide receivers Brandon Inniss and Jalen Brown both spent the entire evening in the indoor facility, but did not participate. Inniss included Miami in his top 10 on Saturday after visiting earlier this month. Brown, fresh off unofficial visits at Notre Dame, Michigan, Stanford and Florida, has a great relationship with Miami coaches.
Sean Wilson, a 2022 three-star receiver who holds an offer from UM, had a brief conversation with Irvin and enjoyed his experience at Paradise Camp.
“It’s been surreal. Seeing the beautiful campus, seeing the great competition, it’s been a dream come true,” the 6-foot-5 receiver said. “I’ve been to a lot of great facilities, but this one definitely stands out. Seeing all the great alumni names hanging from the ceiling, it really gives me something to look forward to.”
Wilky Denaud, a 2023 four-star defensive lineman at John Caroll in Fort Pierce, FL, has been on campus multiple times and saw Saturday as an opportunity to improve.
“It definitely got me out there to show myself out and show what I’m capable of doing,” said Denaud, who has an offer from Miami. “There was great competition, and a lot of pro’s helped me better my game today.”