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Diaz, Miami land top safety as rebuilding effort continues

In this Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019 file photo, Miami head coach Manny Diaz calls out a play during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Louisville in Miami Gardens, Fla. Miami coach Manny Diaz told The Associated Press on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020 that he believes the Hurricanes are already better than they were when last season's 6-7 debacle ended. Diaz says the Hurricanes have improved their roster and their coaching staff, both by additions and subtractions. He also drew a parallel to the culture that the Miami Heat have stuck with in their bounceback season this year.  (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)
In this Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019 file photo, Miami head coach Manny Diaz calls out a play during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Louisville in Miami Gardens, Fla. Miami coach Manny Diaz told The Associated Press on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020 that he believes the Hurricanes are already better than they were when last season's 6-7 debacle ended. Diaz says the Hurricanes have improved their roster and their coaching staff, both by additions and subtractions. He also drew a parallel to the culture that the Miami Heat have stuck with in their bounceback season this year. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Avantae Williams was committed to Miami three years ago, then decommitted, then seemed like he would ultimately be headed to Florida.

And then he pulled off a signing-day shocker on Wednesday.

Williams, the No. 2-ranked safety in the nation according to most rankings, is headed to Miami after all as a capper to a big offseason of movement by the Hurricanes. Miami had chased Williams — a four-star player from the Orlando suburb of DeLand, Florida — for years and in the end, the relationships forged by Hurricanes assistants like Ephraim Banda won out.

“That’s what I felt was best for me,” Williams said of choosing Miami.

His signing is the latest move in an offseason filled with them for the Hurricanes as coach Manny Diaz tries to turn things around after stumbling to a 6-7 record this past season. The Hurricanes brought Pro Football Hall of Famer Ed Reed in as chief of staff, landed a new offensive coordinator in Rhett Lashlee and lured former Houston quarterback D’Eriq King in through the transfer portal.

Williams was a question mark until the end.

“It’s a massive exclamation point,” Diaz said. “There’s no doubt.”

ORANGE INSURANCE

Syracuse finally has some insurance behind quarterback starter Tommy DeVito with the signings of 6-foot-4 prospects Jacobian Morgan, of Canton, Mississippi, and Dillon Markiewicz, of McKinney, Texas.

The Orange were hurting behind DeVito, especially after the departure of backup Clayton Welch, a junior college transfer who exhausted his eligibility.

Coach Dino Babers said the team conducted a “really long, thorough search across the nation” for prospects at the position, and “we couldn’t be more excited about the two young men that we got. We really feel like we got two quality guys,” Babers said.

Markiewicz had offers from Texas State and Stephen F. Austin, and Boise State also was a suitor. He threw for over 4,000 yards and 45 touchdowns with just six picks last fall.

Luke MacPhail, a 6-4 pro-style quarterback from Brookline, Massachusetts, also announced his commitment to Syracuse as a preferred walk-on.

“We really like the way the class finished and we’ll see how we go from here,” said Babers, who was two coaches short on the recruiting trail because of staff turnover.

LEAVING VIRGINIA

Virginia Tech added two players to its class, which is ranked at or near the bottom of the conference by many recruiting services.

Coach Justin Fuente welcomed running back Raheem Blackshear of Philadelphia and wide receiver Dallan Wright of Saluda, South Carolina, to a now 17-member incoming class.

The Hokies' class, however, includes just one player from Virginia, long a stronghold of the school in Blacksburg, in 6-foot-4 defensive back Lakeem Rudolph from Virginia Beach.

That's still one more in-state player than Virginia signed.

Coach Bronco Mendenhall, like Fuente heading into his fifth season in the state, signed 13 players in the early period and two more Wednesday, but none from Virginia.

NAME TO REMEMBER

Georgia Tech finished No. 26 in the 247Sports Composite ranking after adding three signees on Wednesday — running back Jahmyr Gibbs and offensive linemen Devin Cochran and Cade Kootsouradis.

Coach Geoff Collins said Gibbs (5-11, 200), from Dalton, Georgia, "is going to be a household name in the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia for a long, long time."

Cochran (6-7, 320) is a graduate transfer from Vanderbilt, where he started 32 games. Overall, Collins signed 25 players.

MACK ATTACK

North Carolina stood pat Wednesday with a top-20 national recruiting class.

The Tar Heels already had announced a 25-player class, along with the addition of a graduate transfer, to rank 19th for 247Sports and 16th in Rivals after the early signing period in December. It marked the first full-year recruiting cycle for Hall of Fame coach Mack Brown, who led the Tar Heels to a bowl win in his first season back with the program he built to top-10 national status in the 1990s.

Brown has said often that his first successful run started with winning in-state recruiting battles and that the focus wouldn’t change.

UNC's 25 signees include 14 in-state prospects, among them Lee County defensive lineman Desmond Evans. 247Sports' No. 43 overall recruit nationally.

The graduate transfer, placekicker Grayson Atkins, could also be a key addition. Atkins was a second-team AP FCS All-American and will join the Tar Heels this summer. The Tar Heels made just 19 of 28 field goals (68%) last season.

The new players’ acclimation also is getting a head start for the Tar Heels because, beyond Atkins, 13 of UNC’s 25 recruits have enrolled in school early.