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5-star DT Leonard Taylor picks Miami over Florida

Manny Diaz and his Miami staff have another five-star committed.

Miami Palmetto defensive lineman Leonard Taylor announced Thursday live over CBS Sports HQ that he has given a verbal commitment to the Hurricanes.

Taylor, who 247Sports ranks as the nation’s No. 1 defensive tackle this cycle, picked Miami over Florida. The Under Armour All-American also held offers from Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Penn State, Ohio State and Tennessee amongst others.

“Who wouldn’t want to play for Miami? You can put on for your own city instead of somebody else’s,” Taylor told InsideTheU. “I’m close to mom and she will be able to come to all of my games. Just to see the excitement in her face when I’m on the big screen getting to the quarterback, that’s something I dream of.”

Taylor is in line to become the highest ranked defensive lineman to sign to with the Hurricanes since Booker T. Washington five-star end Chad Thomas decided to stay home back in 2014. The battle to get him however wasn’t easy. 

When Taylor first burst onto the recruiting scene two years ago after his sophomore season at Miami Southridge, he made it clear that he liked Miami. The Hurricanes actually held an lead on the 247Sports’ Crystal Ball for Taylor, but a series of trips to Gainesville combined with back-to-back double-digit win seasons for the Gators had many thinking that Dan Mullen’s program was out in front.

So what eventually swung things in favor of Miami?

Relationships.

“I talk to Miami almost everyday,” Taylor said a few weeks ago. “[UM defensive line coach Todd Stroud], he hits me up all the time. He’s real funny. All of the coaches do. They make sure I’m alright.”

Todd Stroud will get credit for the commitment, but the veteran assistant wasn’t the only one involved in the recruitment as multiple off-field staffers like David Cooney helped the Hurricanes seal the deal down the stretch.

Taylor is viewed by many inside the recruiting industry was a new-age defensive tackle that will be able to generate pressure from the inside after a junior season in which he totaled 26 tackles for loss and 11 sacks.

“If you look at what he brings on the field, this is a guy who is just kind of like a playmaker,” 247Sports national analyst Charles Power said last week on InsideTheU’s Through The Smoke podcast while discussing Taylor. “He has the ability to rush the passer from the interior which is I think increasingly valued, and rare.”

Power has compared Taylor to current New York Jets defensive lineman and former Alabama star Quinnen Williams. Taylor also reminds some of a young Corey Liuget, who was a first round pick coming out of Illinois back in 2011.

Taylor’s decision to pick Miami over Florida comes a few weeks after Plantation American Heritage five-star athlete James Williams shocked the recruiting world when he committed to Miami as many thought that the versatile defender was headed to Georgia. With both Taylor and Williams now committed, the Hurricanes join Alabama and Ohio State as the only schools with multiple five-star recruits committed this cycle.

Miami, which now holds a Top 10 ranked recruiting class per the 247Sports’ Composite Team Rankings, could very well keep the momentum it has built up on the recruiting trail over the past two months going as the Hurricanes are also in the mix to land Miami Palmetto five-star cornerback Jason Marshall.

Some other remaining targets for Diaz & Co. this cycle include: Valdosta (Ga.) Top247 quarterback Jake Garcia, Palm Bay Bayside Top247 athlete Chase Smith, Miami Palmetto Top247 safety Corey Collier, Tallahassee John Paul II Catholic Top247 safety Terrion Arnold, Fort Lauderdale Univeristy School Top247 offensive lineman Marcus Tate, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas four-star linebacker Jaydon Hood and Miami Central three-star running back Amari Daniels and Pompano Beach Monarch three-star wide receiver Jaden Alexis.

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