Louisville star junior wide receiver Tutu Atwell was a four-year high school standout in the Miami Hurricanes' backyard at Miami Northwestern.
So how did UM, facing Louisville at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, not see what he would become in college and offer him?
For one, Atwell, despite being well known for his electric ability in the high school game, was always undersized, and thus, underrecruited. Even now, Atwell is listed at 5 foot 9, 165 pounds on the Cardinals roster.
Another factor: Atwell played quarterback at Northwestern, and according to high school coach Max Edwards, there was an assumption he wanted to remain a signal caller in college.
“They thought they had to pursue him as a quarterback,” Edwards told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. "Tutu knew all the time that he was an athlete, and he knew what he was going to be playing in college. Miami probably thought, ‘We have to get him as a quarterback, so we’re not going to take him. He’s not what we want in a quarterback.’ But Tutu knew all along that he was probably going to be playing the position that he’s playing now.
“Louisville knew that, and Tutu knew that, so that’s why they recruited him.”
As a middle-of-the-pack three-star prospect Louisville was really Atwell’s top offer. From Edwards' recollection, he chose the Cardinals over FAU, FIU and Ohio. Starting all four years of high school and revitalizing a Northwestern program that was down — for its standards — when he first arrived, Atwell led his Bulls to a state championship his senior year of high school. They’ve since won the next two titles in their class since his departure.
Edwards knows Miami coaches, which were led by Mark Richt in recruiting the 2018 class, talked to Atwell from time to time when they swung by Northwestern. Did they ever ask if he would play receiver?
“I can’t say they did or didn’t, but I just know that they [approached] him like that,” Edwards said.
The Cardinals changed coaching staffs after Atwell’s freshman season. Last year as a sophomore, he had 70 receptions for 1,276 yards and 12 touchdowns.
“They utilized his skill abilities, his ability to make plays in open space,” Edwards said. “I think they utilize kids in what they do best, getting the best out of him.”
In that 2018 class, Miami brought in two of its three current starting receivers, Mark Pope and Dee Wiggins out of Miami Southridge. Two other wideouts in the class are no longer with the team: IMG Academy’s Brian Hightower and Marquez Ezzard out of Georgia. In the previous class, UM also got its other starting receiver in Michael Harley, who plays mostly in the slot where Atwell would be featured.
Doing much of the recruiting and securing of commitments for the 2018 class during the 10-win 2017 season, Miami mostly got highly rated prospects in a class that was ranked eighth nationally. While not identifying Atwell, the Hurricanes did find an under-the-radar gem in defensive end Gregory Rousseau out of Hialeah Champagnat that year. He is now declaring for the 2021 NFL draft and a projected first-round pick after collecting 15 1/4 u00bd sacks in 2019.
Louisville has recruited South Florida well in recent history. The Cardinals have 12 players on their roster from Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. Starting running back Javian Hawkins attended high school not too far away, Cocoa.
GameDay in Louisville
ESPN’s weekly Saturday morning pregame show, College GameDay, was in Louisville on Saturday, highlighting the matchup between the Hurricanes and Cardinals, which was the only pairing of two ranked teams this week.
The GameDay crew filmed live from the concourse of Cardinal Stadium without fans in attendance but with Louisville cheerleaders and band members in the stadium. Fans got to hold up signs, a trademark for the program, virtually from their homes.
Lee Corso, from his home in Orlando, picked UM to top Louisville for his first headgear pick in favor of Miami since Sept. 4, 2006, a loss to Florida State.
Miami segments included a live interview with coach Manny Diaz from his hotel room and a pre-recorded interview with quarterback D’Eriq King.
King detailed how one result, a loss to Tulane last September, altered his football trajectory so much — first deciding to redshirt to retain eligibility for a fifth college season, and then ultimately transferring to Miami. It “changed my whole career,” he said in an interview with ESPN’s Gene Wojciechowski. King also opened up on losing his father, Eric King, in February and pushing forward.
Defensive end Quincy Roche, safety Amari Carter and wide receiver Michael Harley were also featured with quick quotes ahead of the game.
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