Francis Mauigoa picks Miami on major college football recruiting weekend

© Sports Illustrated

By John Garcia Jr.

Looking back at major football recruiting decisions during July 4 weekend.

Fourth of July weekend has become quite the metaphoric holiday for college football prospects to go public with their college choice with a bit of fireworks at their back.

Last year, Ohio State landed the 2021 class'stop defensive recruit in J.T. Tuimoloau on July 4 and two years ago it was the decision date for No. 1 overall recruit Caleb Williams to pick Oklahoma over a host of top contenders.

This year it was more of the same, with splashes coming from football commitments at all corners of the sport. Alabama, Notre Dame, Clemson, Virginia Tech, LSU, Auburn, Baylor, Oklahoma, Iowa and other schools added talent on July 4.

Only one program's pickup was shouted out personally by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, though. Arguably the most famous Miami alumnus took time Monday morning to salute thenewest Hurricane football commitment, Francis Mauigoa.

The American Samoa native, playing along the offensive line at Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy, picked UM over finalists Alabama, USC and Tennessee, among others, in what was a high-profile national win for Mario Cristobal and company on a national stage.

Mauigoa's commitment not only had the most star power, as many consider him to be in the running for the top offensive line recruit in the class of 2023, but it also had legitimate intrigue going into the decision. Miami had plenty of momentum in the recruitment in general, especially with a recent official visit, but it was far from a lock. Tennessee, which got the last trip out of the family, had clear momentum over the last week as well. Before that point, Alabama and USC each shared time trending for the versatile 6-foot-5, 300-pound prospect.

"Insane right now," a source close to Miami told SI of the program's win of Mauigoa and overall recruiting run. The Canes have added eight of their current 12 verbal commitments since June 14, including high-profile wins in quarterback Jaden Rashada, Clemson wide receiver flip Nathaniel Joseph, top tight end recruit Riley Williams and others.

Texas continued its post-Arch Manning recruiting run by adding another national recruit in Sydir Mitchell. The New Jersey interior defensive line prospect picked UT over Georgia, Miami and most importantly for optics, Texas A&M. Mitchell is the ninth public pledge since the nation's most famous recruit picked the program. That makes up for half of Steve Sarkisian's class to date, in case there was any doubt about the impact of Manning jumping in.

Florida has quietly been on a run of its own in recruiting the defensive side of the ball. In adding Georgia native T.J. Searcy along the defensive front on Monday, the Gators have picked up nearly half of its class volume since it flipped pass rusher Isaiah Nixon from in-state foe UCF on June 21. Local lineman Gavin Hill committed four days later before a major splash in landing cornerback Sharif Denson added to the Gator momentum on June 27.

Staying in the SEC, the national champions and its runner-up from 2021 were on opposite ends of a big flip. Anniston (Ala.) High School offensive lineman RyQueze McElderry had been committed to Georgia since November and had been recruiting for the Bulldogs soon after. This spring, though, he took trips to programs like Alabama, Auburn and Tennessee with buzz attached to each at different points. The Crimson Tide completed its flip of the physical interior offensive lineman on Monday, just days after Bulldogs' 2024 pledge Antoine Jackson flipped to local Miami.

Daemon Fagan came off the board during the holiday, somewhat surprisingly, to N.C. State. Previously, the south Florida defensive back recruit had been linked to Georgia, Ohio State, Miami and LSU in the spring. But Dave Doeren and company got him on campus for an official visit to kick off June and made up plenty ground since. The long and rangy safety now profiles as the headliner of a 10-man Wolfpack recruiting class going forward.

Baylor has the nation's second-largest recruiting class to date, and it added another on Monday in Isaiah Robinson. The in-state offensive line pledge is No. 22 to jump in with Dave Aranda's coaching staff, and the 17th to do so from within the state of Texas. Robinson profiles as the left tackle of the future for the Bears, standing a whopping 6-foot-7, 290 pounds or so.

Aranda's previous employer, LSU, was one of several programs adding multiple recruits over the holiday weekend, as pass rushers Jaxon Howard and Darron Reed jumped in along with defensive back Ashton Stamps also picking Brian Kelly's program. Monday may have represented the biggest Tiger recruiting win in Baltimore's Dashawn Womack, yet another pass rusher with a national profile who picked the Tigers over Georgia and a host of SEC contenders.

Kelly's old post, Notre Dame, continued its torrent run in the 2023 cycle as well. Not only did the Irish land California wide receiver Rico Flores in a national battle, but it also corralled high-profile St. Louis secondary prospect Christian Gray, who ironically was also very high on LSU given the connection to his former high school coach and current Tiger assistant coach Robert Steeples.

A program securing much-needed recruiting momentum was Auburn, which landed a pair of in-state offensive prospects to kick off the month. Each is semi-local to campus, critical in perception for Bryan Harsin's program, too, in Montgomery (Ala.) Catholic running back Jeremiah Cobb and Phenix City (Ala.) Central wide receiver Karmello English. Cobb was a head-to-head win over Dabo Swinney and Clemson on July 1 while English had several SEC suitors before electing to stay close to home Monday.

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