UM loses Nyjalik Kelly to portal. All of Cristobal’s initial top 100 recruits are now gone

The three top-100 players from Mario Cristobal’s first Miami Hurricanes recruiting class have now left the program.

Defensive end Nyjalik Kelly became the latest on Tuesday, when he announced he’s entering the transfer portal.

Kelly, a Fort Lauderdale Dillard alum, missed most of last season with an injury; he had eight tackles and no sacks in four early-season games.

As a freshman in 2022, Kelly had four sacks, 11 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and 15 pressures in 12 games.

He arrived at UM as one of Cristobal’s most highly touted initial recruits. 247 Sports rated Kelly the 87th-best player in the 2022 recruiting class and the No. 11 defensive end.

Defensive line coach Jason Taylor has repeatedly raved about Kelly. “I told him the other day — and I told his mother — how special he can be,” Taylor said in a 2022 interview with WQAM’s Joe Rose.

“He is an elite talent that can do anything... He can bend, he can run, he can twist, he can change direction, he is flexible, he plays with good pad level. He can be the entire package.”

UM said Kelly had been out this spring because of an injury.

The top four players from Cristobal’s 2022 class have all departed, but at least two of the other three were deemed expendable by UM because they didn’t develop into rotation players, at least early in their careers.

Cyrus Moss, the Las Vegas-based edge player, was rated UM’s top recruit by 247 Sports (and the 56th overall nationally) in 2022, but was never able to keep on weight, and the Canes didn’t object to his departure last December. Moss ended up playing only 50 defensive snaps (in five games) in two seasons at Miami.

UM’s third top 100-rated player from that 2022 class, tight end Jaleel Skinner, never developed as expected, and UM didn’t object to his departure, which was announced in December. He subsequently enrolled at Louisville.

Skinner — rated the No. 100 player overall and No. 4 tight end in that 2022 class — played sparingly last season and had 10 catches for 138 yards in two seasons at Miami. At the time he committed to UM, Skinner disappointed then-Alabama coach Nick Saban by informing him he would be attending UM instead.

The player that 247 Sports ranked fourth best in Cristobal’s first UM recruiting class — cornerback Chris Graves — transferred to Mississippi last July.

Even without Kelly, UM is still in decent shape at defensive end, with Rueben Bain (one of the nation’s top freshmen last season), Akheem Mesidor (back from a foot injury and a former second-team All-Big 12 player), Elijah Alston (a Marshall transfer who had 11.5 tackles for loss and six sacks last season) and second-year player Jayden Wayne, a 2023 four-star recruit.

Two freshmen edge rushers, Marquise Lightfoot and Cole McConathy II, could compete for early playing time. McConathy has impressed the UM staff this spring.

UM also hosted Southern Cal transfer defensive end Romello Height on a visit this past weekend.

Height — who began his career at Auburn after originally committing to UM — had 20 tackles, six tackles for loss, four sacks, a fumble recovery and 14 quarterback pressures in 277 defensive snaps for the Trojans last season. If he joins UM, he would be a top candidate for the No. 4 defensive end job.

Besides Kelly and Moss, UM lost two other defensive ends to the transfer portal this offseason: Jahfari Harvey and Chantz Williams. And edge player Collins Acheampong, a four-star recruit in the 2023 class, transferred to UCLA after one season at Miami.