Mark Richt just signed a top-15 class at Miami. For those who have followed Richt throughout his career, this should not come as much of a surprise.
During his tenure at Georgia, Richt signed top-10 classes on an annual basis. But the results were mixed. His early classes yielded multiple SEC championships. But his final classes yielded disappointment and unmet expectations, and that is a big reason why he lost his job.
So what is going to be different at Miami, considering the way his most recent classes in Athens failed to turn out? That is the one lingering question following a triumphant signing day for the Hurricanes, who closed strong and ended up with the No. 3 class in the ACC.
Miami checked off all the boxes it needed to with Richt’s first class all his own: The Canes signed 10 ESPN 300 prospects and hit needs at quarterback, receiver, offensive line and defensive back. Richt showed with his 2016 class that he isn’t afraid to play true freshmen, so getting guys to contribute early should be expected.
If the early pattern at Miami holds the same way it did early at Georgia, the Hurricanes will be in great shape. Richt’s first two classes -- 2001 and 2002 -- ended up producing the winningest senior class in school history in 2005, with three SEC championship game appearances and two SEC championship game victories. Combine the 2001 and 2002 classes, and Richt hit on talent from Tim Jennings to Max Jean-Gilles to David Pollack and Thomas Davis.
Richt kept signing elite recruiting classes, and Georgia kept winning games. But in his final few seasons, when the Bulldogs failed to win the East despite high expectations, the development of these elite classes started to fail.
The Class of 2013 stands as the biggest disappointment. Rated No. 10 in the nation, five of the top seven players Georgia signed ended up transferring. Between the 2013 and 2014 classes, 18 players decided to transfer. Now, Georgia did win 10 games each in 2013 and 2014, and Richt did average nearly 10 wins per season during his 15 years as head coach there.
But after making three SEC championship game appearances in his first five years, Georgia only made two in his final 10. Ten-win seasons should never be taken for granted, especially since it has been such a struggle to get to 10 at Miami. The last time Miami got to double-digit wins was when it finished 11-2 in 2003.
But the ultimate goal for the Hurricanes is to play for championships. To play for championships, recruiting classes must pan out. Truth be told, Richt inherited a good situation. Miami signed the No. 10 class in 2014, and that group ended up being exceptionally strong. Three players from that class have left for the NFL draft. Up to nine players from that class could be starters in 2017.
The top four players Miami signed in 2015 are also starters or key contributors, including 1,000-yard rusher Mark Walton. Add in Class of 2016 freshmen standouts Ahmmon Richards, Shaq Quarterman, Michael Pinckney, Joe Jackson and Zach McCloud, and Richt has a terrific foundation to build on headed into his second season.
The incoming class ranked No. 12 -- Miami's best showing since the 2014 group. With 10 early enrollees, there will be opportunities to showcase some of the 2017 class early on, too.
At least on paper, Miami should be in a position to compete for the ACC title in the near future. Especially if the recruiting success continues to mirror Richt’s early years at Georgia.