Miami hosted a stacked recruiting weekend. Here’s what to know from ‘Elite Prospect Day’

MATIAS J. OCNER/mocner@miamiherald.com
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Hykeem Williams said it felt like a fresh start. Jalen Brown described it like it was a family reunion or neighborhood block party. Cormani McClain said it “for sure” felt different as five-star prospects flocked from all over the state and country to Coral Gables over the weekend for the Miami Hurricanes’ “Elite Prospect Day,” which really turned into multiple days.

In all, 10 five-star recruits, including McClain, visited Miami from the Class 2023, easily more than 100 players spent time on campus Friday and Saturday, and Mario Cristobal, with a little more than a week until National Signing Day, made a savvy play to get a head start on building the Hurricanes’ 2023 recruiting class.

“They’re still putting in work, man,” said Strahanan’s Williams, who’s the No. 11 wide receiver in the 247Sports.com composite rankings for the 2023 class. “You can just tell they’re going to get better. They’re going to make the crib better again.”

It’s a futile and, quite frankly, unnecessary effort to run through every single target who spent some time at Miami over the weekend, but there are highlights worth running through:

Takeaways from ‘Elite Prospect Day’

Brown and five-star wide receiver Brandon Inniss, the top two players in South Florida for the 2023 recruiting cycle, both visited, as did two other in-state five-star recruits with McClain and Lehigh Acres Lehigh running back Richard Young.

Five-star quarterbacks Dante Moore and Nicholaus Iamaleava both made stops on campus while in town for a 7-on-7 tournament.

Tackle Francis Mauigoa, defensive lineman Jaden Wayne, edge rusher Malik Bryant and athlete Makai Lemon made it an even 10 five-star players to visit the Hurricanes over the weekend.

Miami got basically every one of its major local targets on campus, including Inniss, Brown, Williams, Edison four-star wide receiver Nathaniel Joseph, Plantation American Heritage four-star running back Mark Fletcher, Miami Central four-star defensive lineman Rueben Bain, American Heritage four-star safety Daemon Fagan and Central three-star wide receiver Lamar Seymore, plus major in-state targets like McClain, Young, Kissimmee Osceola four-star defensive lineman Derrick LeBlanc and Orlando Dr. Phillips four-star tackle Payton Kirkland.

The Class of 2024 was well represented, too, with 13 of 247Sports’ top-100 players visiting, including Killian edge rusher Dylan Stephenson, Palmetto edge rusher Willis McGahee IV, Dillard cornerback Antione Jackson, quarterback Adrian Posse and linebacker TJ Capers from Columbus, wide receiver Jeremiah Smith and athlete Zaquan Patterson from Chaminade-Madonna, and St. Thomas Aquinas wide receivers James Madison II, Earl Kulp and Chance Robinson.

Above all else, coach Mario Cristobal proved he carries weight with players from across the country and he’s reveling in the honeymoon period.

“He’s a cool dude,” said Brown, who stars at Gulliver Prep. “He knows what it takes to win.”

It starts with recruiting and Cristobal smartly took advantage of a nearby 7-on-7 event to put together one of the splashiest recruiting events in the Hurricanes’ recent history.

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Mario Cristobal makes national moves

On Saturday and Sunday, Miramar Regional Park hosted Battle Miami, a two-day 7-on-7 tournament featuring teams from across the country. Cristobal wisely scheduled his junior day event for the same weekend, dubbing it “Elite Prospect Day” and telling basically every one of the 40-plus teams in the Battle field to come by campus while they were in town. Players started to trickle in Friday, then waves came in Saturday after the first day of the tournament wrapped up.

It made it so the Hurricanes could host dozens and dozens of players who might not of otherwise ever seriously considered Miami, and dozens and dozens of the weekend visitors probably still won’t, but Cristobal has a national recruiting cachet unlike any other recent Hurricanes coach and Miami will inevitably have convinced a few out-of-state recruits to seriously give them a shot because of this weekend.

“It was a phenomenal experience,” Moore told 247 as he visited from Detroit for the tournament and visit, and Iamaleava, who came all the way from California for the same reasons, said he, “definitely love Miami.”

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Locals see change at Miami

The national piece is the X-factor for Cristobal, who has landed elite recruits from Las Vegas and South Carolina in his short time with the Hurricanes after he reeled in elite talents from Alabama, California, New Jersey, Utah, Arizona, Baltimore, Missouri and Washington, D.C., in his previous stops with the Alabama Crimson Tide and Oregon Ducks.

Cristobal’s success, however, will still be defined by what he does in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. He had already made a good impression even before the weekend, with his extremely visible effort to visit as many schools as possible in the last two months, and the “Elite Prospect Day” only helped.

“It was a little different,” Brown said. “They were mainly focusing on the individual, the little things that make Miami great.”

Added Williams: “Everybody’s happy. Everybody’s just getting along with each other. It seems like everything’s going smooth. They’re ready to get that running.”

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