Sep 30, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; A general view of a Miami Hurricanes helmet in the end zone prior to the game between the Miami Hurricanes and the Virginia Cavaliers at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Blue-chip edge rusher Jayden Wayne commits to Miami

Edge rusher Jayden Wayne, a top-50 prospect in the Class of 2023, committed to Miami.

From Washington state, Wayne now plays for IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Miami coach Mario Cristobal, previously the head coach at Oregon, managed to lure him away from the Ducks, as well as his other suitors — Alabama, Georgia, Michigan State and LSU.

Wayne is ranked No. 6 at his position and No. 41 overall by the 247Sports composite.

His commitment represents another recruiting coup from the Northwest for Cristobal. Last week, four-star Riley Williams, an Oregon native, committed to the Hurricanes.

Williams also plays at IMG Academy.

With Wayne’s commitment, Miami now has the ninth-ranked class for 2023, according to the 247Sports composite.

–Field Level Media

Sep 30, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; A general view of a Miami Hurricanes helmet in the end zone prior to the game between the Miami Hurricanes and the Virginia Cavaliers at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Francis Mauigoa, top OT in Class of 2023, commits to Miami

Francis Mauigoa, considered the best offensive tackle prospect in the Class of 2023, committed to Miami on Monday.

The 6-foot-5, 330-pounder from American Samoa is ranked the No. 1 tackle and No. 9 overall prospect by the 247Sports composite.

Mauigoa chose the Hurricanes over a list of finalists that included Alabama, Florida, Southern California and Tennessee.

It was the latest recruiting victory for new Miami coach Mario Cristobal, who took over the post last offseason. Four-star quarterback Jaden Rashada committed to the Hurricanes in late June and No. 2-ranked tight end Riley Williams committed Friday.

Miami’s 2023 recruiting class moved into the top 10 overall, per 247Sports’ rankings, at No. 8 in the nation.

–Field Level Media

Feb 2, 2022; Coral Gables, Florida, USA; Miami Hurricanes head football coach Mario Cristobal talks on a phone while sitting court-side during the second half between the Miami Hurricanes and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Watsco Center. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Miami lands commitment from No. 2 TE prospect Riley Williams

Riley Williams, the No. 2 tight end prospect in the Class of 2023, announced Friday he would play for Miami.

The four-star player picked the Hurricanes over Alabama and Ohio State. He is ranked No. 66 overall in his class, per the 247Sports composite.

Williams, listed at 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds, hails from Portland, Ore., but plays for IMG Academy in Florida. That Oregon-to-Florida connection mirrors that of Mario Cristobal, the former Ducks coach who took over at Miami this offseason.

“Miami is the school for me,” Williams told On3 Sports. “My relationship with Coach Cristobal played a huge role in my decision. Over time, you see how real people are, and I have known Coach Cristobal for a while, and he is genuine. He has been the same person from the beginning.”

The Hurricanes recently made a recruiting splash when four-star quarterback prospect Jaden Rashada committed.

–Field Level Media

Feb 2, 2022; Coral Gables, Florida, USA; Miami Hurricanes head football coach Mario Cristobal talks on a phone while sitting court-side during the second half between the Miami Hurricanes and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Watsco Center. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Alonzo Highsmith leaves Seahawks for Miami role

Seattle Seahawks scouting exec Alonzo Highsmith will be moving to the opposite corner of the country, back to his home and alma mater, having accepted a role as general manager of football operations for the Miami.

The longtime NFL executive is a member of the Miami Sports Hall of Fame. He finished his college career with 2,935 all-purpose yards and 25 touchdowns, and helped lead the Hurricanes to the 1983 national championship.

“Alonzo is a true Miami Hurricane,” said Miami head coach Mario Cristobal. “Alonzo brings experience as a student-athlete, a first-round NFL draft pick and an NFL executive. He shares our vision for the trajectory and the culture of this football program, and his knowledge and experience will allow him to make a positive and powerful impact on our program and community.”

Highsmith will work directly with Cristobal to support all administrative functions of the football program, from budget related items to culture building. He will also be a liaison between the administration and the football program and between former Miami players and staff.

Additionally, he will assist with scouting and roster assessment and supervise NFL relations.

–Field Level Media

Sep 30, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; A general view of a Miami Hurricanes helmet in the end zone prior to the game between the Miami Hurricanes and the Virginia Cavaliers at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Miami (FL) withdraws from Sun Bowl due to COVID-19

Miami (FL) will not play in Friday’s Sun Bowl against Washington State due to an ongoing COVID-19 situation within its program, the university announced Sunday night.

The Hurricanes first entered COVID protocols last Tuesday, with the Miami Herald reporting at the time that several players had tested positive for the coronavirus. The program pushed back its arrival in El Paso, Texas, until one day prior to the Sun Bowl as it hoped to fend off the spread of COVID affecting multiple position groups.

It was unclear whether the Sun Bowl would find a new opponent for Washington State so the game can go on as scheduled. Three bowl games — the Military Bowl, Fenway Bowl, and Hawaii Bowl — had previously been canceled due to COVID spread.

Although SMU, East Carolina, and Memphis became bowl-eligible teams without bowl games, officials at those schools indicated that players had been dispersed from the teams and they would not anticipate rescheduling in a different bowl. Following the first coronavirus casualty of the bowl season, Rutgers received a late invitation to replace Texas A&M in the Gator Bowl and will face Wake Forest on New Year’s Eve.

“We are extremely disappointed that our football team will be unable to participate in the 2021 Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl,” Jennifer Strawley, Miami’s deputy director of athletics and chief operating officer, said in a statement. “But due to the number of COVID-19 cases impacting our roster we do not have enough student-athletes to safely compete, and the health and safety of our student-athletes will always be our top priority. This team worked hard all season to earn a bowl invitation and my heart goes out to our student-athletes, especially our seniors.”

The Hurricanes fired coach Manny Diaz after a 7-5 regular season and hired alum and former Oregon coach Mario Cristobal. Interim coach Jess Simpson was slated to lead the team in the game against the Cougars.

“We regret the impact this has on the Washington State program and their postseason experience,” Strawley’s statement said. “I want to commend the Sun Bowl Association for their tireless work in helping us navigate this situation over the past several days.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 20, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Hurricanes quarterback Tyler Van Dyke (9) attempts a pass against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Miami football in COVID protocols; Sun Bowl unclear

The Miami (Fla.) program entered COVID-19 protocols, it announced Tuesday, 10 days out from its scheduled appearance in the Sun Bowl.

Several Miami players tested positive for the virus, the Miami Herald reported.

“The University remains committed to its goal of participating in the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, on Friday, December 31, against Washington State while ensuring the continued health and safety of its student-athletes, coaches and staff,” a news release from the program read.

The Sun Bowl Association’s executive director, Bernie Olivas, also released a statement saying the group “remains committed” to putting on a game between Miami and Washington State, but that the chief concern was the safety of all those involved.

“We are doing all we can to make sure that we follow state and federal guidelines to provide a comfortable and enjoyable experience for all who attend, including student-athletes, coaches, support staff, fans and employees,” Olivas said. “We will wait for updates from Miami and the ACC over the next 48-plus hours to ensure all protocols are followed.”

The Hurricanes finished the regular season 7-5, fired coach Manny Diaz and replaced him with Oregon coach Mario Cristobal. However, the team is to be led by interim coach Jess Simpson at the Sun Bowl. Washington State also is 7-5.

–Field Level Media

Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal oversees warmups before the game against Oregon State.

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Report: Oregon offers contract extension to Mario Cristobal

Oregon has offered to extend the contract of football coach Mario Cristobal in an effort to keep him with the Ducks, ESPN and the Oregonian reported Friday.

Miami is pursuing Cristobal and the Hurricanes are optimistic they can lure him away from Oregon to replace coach Manny Diaz, the Miami Herald reported Friday. Cristobal, 51, is a Miami native who has played and coached for the Hurricanes.

ESPN quoted sources as saying the new contract offer to Cristobal is “aggressive” and is similar to other head-coaching deals reached recently. Michigan State’s Mel Tucker last week landed a 10-year, $95 million contract extension to remain with Michigan State.

Cristobal is in his fourth full season at Oregon. He is 35-12 overall, including 10-2 this season, for the 10th-ranked Ducks. His Oregon teams are 2-2 in bowl games; the Ducks will meet Utah on Friday night in the Pac-12 title game in Las Vegas.

Last December, Cristobal signed a new six-year, $27.3 million deal through the 2025 season. With incentives, including a Pac-12 title, he could earn over $5.5 million this season, ESPN reported.

The outlet said Cristobal would have to pay Oregon a $9 million buyout if he exits for another school before Jan. 14.

–Field Level Media

Oct 30, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Miami Hurricanes head coach Manny Diaz puts his headset on against the Pittsburgh Panthers during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Virginia Tech, Miami playing for bowls amid upheaval

The Miami Hurricanes and Virginia Tech Hokies — both with identical 5-5 overall records and 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference marks — will attempt to become bowl-eligible when they meet on Saturday night in Miami Gardens, Fla.

The Hokies will be doing it without coach Justin Fuente, who departed via mutual agreement Tuesday after six seasons. Co-defensive line coach J.C. Price will run the team for the rest of the season.

“It’s bittersweet,” Price said Thursday. “I just want to do my best for these kids. These kids deserve to go out a winner.

“Our story is not written. The book’s not finished. What’s it going to say? We’re going to finish writing it the next two weeks.”

As the Hurricanes play their final home game of the season, coach Manny Diaz is hoping to avoid the fate of athletic director Blake James, who was fired this week. Diaz is focused on improving his 19-15 record at Miami.

“The mission this week is to beat Virginia Tech,” he said. “That’s all we can control. I think because of that mentality, our team has been pretty resilient over the course of the year.”

Miami quarterback Tyler Van Dyke, a redshirt freshman with just seven starts to his credit, will try to continue his hot streak on Saturday.

Van Dyke has passed for more than 300 yards in four straight games, throwing 14 touchdown passes and three interceptions in that span. His four TD passes last week were not enough as Miami lost 31-28 to its biggest rival, Florida State.

Leading by five points with less than one minute left, the Hurricanes allowed the Seminoles to convert a fourth-and-14 into a first down with a big pass play.

“That fourth-and-14 will haunt me forever,” Diaz said.

On Saturday, the most intriguing matchup could be Miami’s 16th-ranked passing offense and Virginia Tech’s 15th-ranked pass defense.

The Hokies are coming off a 48-17 win over Duke.

Running back Malachi Thomas got injured during the game, so it remains to be seen whether or how much he plays against Miami. Thomas is Virginia Tech’s second-leading rusher with 382 yards and a 5.0-yard average.

The Hokies’ leading rusher is Raheem Blackshear, who has 542 yards and a 5.4 average. He also leads the team with five rushing touchdowns and 765 scrimmage yards.

Blackshear is the reigning ACC Running Back of the Week. He scored two TDs against Duke, rushing for 117 yards and catching two passes for 40 yards.

Virginia Tech’s biggest advantage on Saturday may be with quarterback Braxton Burmeister. He will face a Miami pass defense that ranks 120th in the nation, allowing 270 yards per game.

Burmeister has completed 54.5 percent of his passes for 1,710 yards, 12 TDs and four interceptions.

His top two targets are Tre Turner and Tayvion Robinson. Turner has 35 catches for 631 yards and two TDs. Robinson has 39 catches for 445 yards and four TDs.

For Miami, Van Dyke is completing 61.6 percent of his passes, and he has 19 TD throws and six interceptions.

Miami’s other big playmakers are running back Jaylan Knighton (724 scrimmage yards and eight TDs in just six games) and wide receiver Charleston Rambo (64 catches, 955 yards and five TDs).

–Field Level Media

Sep 30, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; A general view of a Miami Hurricanes helmet in the end zone prior to the game between the Miami Hurricanes and the Virginia Cavaliers at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Blake James out as Miami (Fla.) athletic director

Blake James was fired Monday as athletic director at Miami (Fla.) on Monday after eight years in the position.

In a release, Miami said the school and James “mutually agreed to part ways,” but the Miami Herald reported the decision was made by university president Julio Frenk.

The university said a national search for a new athletic director will begin immediately. Jennifer Strawley, Miami’s deputy athletic director, will serve as interim AD.

James served in multiple leadership roles in the Atlantic Coast Conference and the NCAA, earning “national recognition from his peers,” the release said.

“It has been an honor to lead Miami athletics and to be a part of such a world-class institution,” James said. “I am proud of the work that we have done together, though I know there is still more yet to be achieved.”

Under James, who took over as AD in 2013, Miami won five NCAA individual championships, six ACC team titles and 71 individual ACC titles.

“I want to thank Blake for his years of service to the University of Miami,” Frenk said. “Paired with The U’s storied history in intercollegiate sports, the enhancements Blake championed — in areas ranging from student-athlete support and academic achievement to community outreach and facility upgrades — give us a solid foundation on which to build.”

James was fired two days after Miami dropped a heartbreaker to Florida State in football, 31-28, as Seminoles quarterback Jordan Travis scored on a 1-yard run with 26 seconds remaining.

Fans have voiced their displeasure with the school’s football program and have been highly critical of James.

University administrators — or perhaps the new AD, if hired quickly enough — must decide whether to retain Manny Diaz, who was named head football coach following the 2018 season upon the unexpected retirement of Mark Richt.

Diaz had been the defensive coordinator under Richt and accepted the head-coaching job at Temple – prompting James to move quickly to name him head coach.

Miami paid a $4 million buyout to bring him back less than three weeks after he departed.

The Hurricanes are 19-15 under Diaz, who was hired to make Miami a national championship contender again.

Under Diaz, the Hurricanes finished 6-7 in 2019 and 8-3 in 2020, and they have a 5-5 (3-3 Athletic Coast Conference) record this season.

–Field Level Media

Oct 23, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack quarterback Devin Leary (13) prepares to throws a pass against the Miami Hurricanes during the first quarter of the game at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Van Dyke leads Miami to upset of No. 18 NC State

Tyler Van Dyke threw four touchdown passes, including two to Charleston Rambo, as host Miami knocked off No. 18 North Carolina State 31-30 on Saturday night.

Van Dyke was 25-for-34 for 325 yards as Miami (3-4, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) snapped a two-game losing skid.

Rambo’s go-ahead catch came on a 7-yard slant play with 9:34 remaining as the Hurricanes, who entered the game with their worst record midway through a season in 24 years, moved to a 31-27 lead.

Van Dyke had another big completion on third-and-18 to help the Hurricanes run out the clock after the Wolfpack might have regained possession with about two minutes left.

Thayer Thomas caught Devin Leary’s two touchdown passes for NC State (5-2, 2-1). Leary finished 24-for-42 for 310 yards without an interception.

NC State closed within 31-30 on Christopher Dunn’s 40-yard field goal that bounced in off the left upright. This came after he missed moments earlier but was given another chance because of a running-into-the-kicker penalty on Miami.

A strong second quarter turned the momentum in NC State’s favor.

Trailing 14-3 in the second quarter, Leary connected with Thomas on a third-and-goal play covering 7 yards.

The bigger boost might have come after the Wolfpack gained possession following a Miami punt. There were just 47 seconds to play, but NC State needed just three plays to go 77 yards, capped by Leary’s 27-yard pass to Thomas.

The big play on the drive was a 46-yard throw to Emeka Emezie.

Miami scored on its first possession, finishing a 75-yard drive with Van Dyke’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Rambo.

After Dunn’s 33-yard field goal for the Wolfpack, Van Dyke connected with Jaylan Knighton for a 53-yard touchdown play on a fourth-and-1 gamble.

Dunn’s field goal in the first quarter made him NC State’s all-time leading scorer. He entered the game tied with former kicker Niklas Sade (2011-14).

This was NC State’s first visit to Miami in nine years.

–Field Level Media