Canes continue portal pursuits; where things stand. And UM personnel notes

A six-pack of Miami Hurricanes notes on a Wednesday:

The Canes continued the pursuit of several players in the transfer portal on Wednesday, in an effort to augment their roster at running back, defensive line, linebacker and the secondary.

On the running back front, top UM target Damien Martinez —- who ran for 1,185 yards at Oregon State last season, on 6.1 per carry —- is set to meet with Canes officials twice in the next 10 days.

Running backs coach Matt Merritt will visit with Martinez and his family at his Dallas home on Wednesday, his NIL rep, First Round Management’s Director of NIL/NFL agent Shawn O’Gorman, told The Miami Herald.

Miami is “recruiting him the hardest,” O’Gorman said.

Mario Cristobal was set to call Martinez’s mother on Wednesday. UM defensive coaches also have reached out to Martinez’s family.

Martinez will take an on-campus visit to UM from April 25 to 28, following visits to Arizona, Mississippi State and Kentucky. On Wednesday, Martinez canceled a visit to Tennessee.

If Martinez joins UM, he would be the clear front-runner to start, with Mark Fletcher Jr., Ajay Allen, Chris Johnson and freshmen Chris Wheatley-Humphrey and Jordan Lyle competing behind him. Fletcher and Allen missed spring ball with injuries; UM has said it expects both to be healthy by this summer.

The Canes also are in the mix for center Jason Zandamela, who joined Southern Cal as part of its 2024 class but wants to transfer before playing a game for the Trojans. Rivals rated him the No. 1 interior lineman in the 2024 class.

The Gators and UCF are among other suitors, per 247. He attended Clearwater Academy and reportedly has interest in playing college ball in Florida.

On the defensive side, Kent State defensive tackle CJ West announced that UM, among others, has offered him a scholarship. The 330-pound defensive tackle has 40 tackles, including seven for loss, and two sacks last season.

UM is pursuing several other players, including Pittsburgh grad transfer Dayon Hayes, a defensive lineman who had four sacks last season.

UM quarterback Cam Ward will be involved in portal recruiting whenever he is asked to get involved.

He was an active participant in the recruiting visits by Washington transfer Mishael Powell (who subsequently joined UM) and Southern Cal defensive end Romello Height (who visited two weeks ago and remains a possibility to join the Hurricanes).

“I get myself involved a lot” helping recruit players, Ward said. “I want guys that will come play for coach [Mario] Cristobal. Obviously I want some good players around me. We are going to get the right guys in here this summer. I think you’ll see a different Hurricanes team this fall.”

Here’s some feedback from Ward on UM’s personnel:

He said receiver Isaiah Horton is going to have a breakout season.

Ward said of Xavier Restrepo: “A receiver who knows how to win vs. man, who can find soft spots in zone.”

He called right guard Anez Cooper the “focal point of the offensive line.”

He said freshman Elija Lofton — who can play running back, tight end, H-back and receiver — is “very unique, the different skill set that he brings on the perimeter for us, the backfield, pass protection, I’m excited for him. The biggest thing about Elija is he works hard. A lot of freshmen come in with whatever stars they have, thinking they made it already. He’s starting back from the bottom, and he’s for sure made his way up to the top on his team.”

Lofton is talented enough and sharp enough to learn four positions; he’s already well on his way. At some point, UM will decide whether to use him primarily at tight end, H-back, running back, receiver or a combination.

Asked where he could end up, Cristobal said: “There are some things to discuss; he does a lot of things, is an excellent player on defense as well.”

Quick stuff: Linebacker Malik Bryant, who played 12 defensive snaps as a freshman linebacker last season, has moved to defensive end and started the spring game opposite Rueben Bain…

UM’s 2025 recruiting class — now featuring seven commitments — has risen to 15th in the 247 Sports composite rankings following this past weekend’s commitment from Indiana-based Brock Schott, who’s rated the No. 10 tight end by 247 Sports and the 226th best player in the 2025 class…

UM sold more than 30,000 football season tickets last year and is pacing ahead of that so far this offseason, the school said.

Freshman defensive end Marquise Lightfoot, an early enrollee, looks like he might be able to help this season.

He recovered a fumble had a sack in the spring game. He came in at 207 pounds, is now up to 225 and wants to return this summer at 230.

“He’s explosive, a fast guy,” Cristobal said. “He plays hard, is learning the system, has gained a lot of weight since he got here, is always eating.”

Lightfoot said enrolling early has been invaluable: “Me being 17, and my roommate [early enrollee safety] Zaquan Patterson, we’re just now getting into this. I’m fresh out of high school working with 20-year-olds, 21-year-olds, 22-year-olds. It’s just a crazy experience.’’

He has spent time polishing pass rush moves with co-defensive line coach Jason Taylor. Lightfoot said Taylor “will never act like a Hall of Famer” in terms of big-timing anyone.

An story, citing tax records obtained by USA Today, asserted that UM paid out $22.7 million in total compensation to Cristobal in 2022, the largest single-year payment to an athletics employee at any private university on record. That’s not accurate.

UM actually paid Cristobal $8 million, which has been widely reported and is in line with salaries paid to several prominent coaches. The transitional costs associated with luring him from Oregon — including a buyout, taxes, etc. — account for the other $14 million. But that money did not go to Cristobal.

ESPN’s Louis Riddick lists UM’s Kamren Kinchens — a potential third-round pick — among his 2024 draft sleepers outside Day 1.

“Winning the turnover battle is the No. 1 priority for every defensive coordinator in the NFL, and Kinchens will help you do just that,” Riddick said. “No safety in this class has better instincts and anticipation as a deep-field player, whether that be as a single safety in the middle of the field or in a split-safety structure.

“He is consistently a step ahead of the quarterback with his understanding of route concepts and ability to read the passer’s eyes and shoulder leans. But Kinchens also shows the efficient transition mechanics and closing burst to get into position to make game-changing plays; he came down with 11 interceptions over 2022-23.

“And on top of the ball skills, the 5-foot-11, 203-pound safety can make the difficult open-field tackles in one-on-one situations (54 last season) and has shown disruptive blitz ability (26 pressures). His 4.65-second 40 time at the Combine wasn’t ideal, but I’m not too concerned based on what I see on tape. Kinchens has the potential to be a star.”