As the sun was rising just past 7 a.m. Wednesday and fax machines and emails across the nation were humming, the University of Miami awaited its first coveted signature on National Signing Day. The Canes already had 19 previous signatures sealed and delivered during the NCAA’s inaugural early signing period in late December – a class that was rated No. 5 by Rivals and 247Sports, and No. 7 by ESPN.
They expect only a handful of young football players to sign today. On your mark, get set...
Update at 11:40 a.m.: Jamarcus Chatman, the 6-3, 266-pound, three-star (247Sports and Rivals)/four-star (ESPN) defensive end (and situational tackle) out of Rome (Georgia) High, just signed with Florida State. He visited UM this past weekend and reportedly loved the U, but is now a Seminole. Miami could have used him, but now the Canes will just have to take care of business without him. They’ll see him soon enough. At defensive end, the Canes will be without graduated stars Chad Thomas and Trent Harris and young transfer DJ Johnson. They still have standouts Joseph Jackson and Demetrius Jackson and Jon Garvin and early signee Gregory Rousseau. This is a position they will eventually need to fortify, as Andrew Chatfield of Plantation American Heritage also chose another school (Florida) over Miami.
D-TACKLE ALERT. THE U JUST GOT A GIANT SLEEPER:
Update at 10:40 a.m.: The Hurricanes got their second #Storm18 signee who plays defensive tackle. Welcome Jordan Miller to the U, who has definitely been excited about the prospect of going to school in Coral Gables and representing the Hurricanes since he verbally committed on Jan. 30.
Miller, 6-4 and 330 pounds, definitely has the size, and, hopefully for the program, has the talent. He is rated a consensus three-star prospect.
Until recently, Miller was the under-the-radar, non-factor because he played at low-profile Palatka High before transferring to Jacksonville Sandalwood after his junior season, then was set back during the spring because of gall bladder surgery. Because of that he couldn’t compete in any football camps.
But he is considered a strong enough prospect to get offers from Tennessee, Virginia and South Carolina.
“I have a passion for the Canes – it’s always been my dream to go there,’’ he previously told CaneSport.com after committing.
You can bet that Canes defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski, considered perhaps the finest D-line coach in the nation, will begin his work with Miller as soon as possible.
In the D-tackle department, the Canes now have 6-3, 272-pound junior-to-be Pat Bethel; 6-4, 285-pound redshirt senior-to-be Gerald Willis III, who is returning after being sidelined for an undisclosed reason and spending the season on the scout team terrorizing fellow Canes; and 6-5, 275-pound sophomore-to-be Jon Ford. They are also counting on 6-3, 290-pound former Illinois defensive tackle Tito Odenigbo joining the team as a graduate transfer.
THE U JUST GOT A MONSTER SIGNING FROM A SOUTH FLORIDA STAR
Update at 10:10 a.m.: Believe it. The Miami Hurricanes are in defensive tackle heaven right now. Their top target on Wednesday (in terms of what is absolutely needed for this class), four-star, coveted Plantation American Heritage defensive tackle Nesta Silvera, just signed with the Canes.
And this young man has some great, old-school Canes attitude, as witnessed live on ESPNU.
With Silvera, the Hurricanes got their first #Storm18 signee who plays defensive tackle, the position at which they are clearly most in need after the early departures of starters Kendrick Norton and RJ McIntosh to the NFL Draft.
Silvera had been committed to the Hurricanes just short of a year, and late in the game, told recruiting sites that the Florida Gators were also in the picture – no doubt making Canes coaches quietly panic (unless they knew something we didn’t).
UM did not sign any defensive tackles among the 19 players who committed during the early signing period, and Silvera is a 6-2, 307-pound bull who can stop the run, tackle and even sprint down the field for return touchdowns. He is considered by ESPN to be the No. 3 defensive tackle in the nation, by 247Sports to be the No. 2 D-tackle and by Rivals to be No. 9.
“Miami is home — it’s the crib,’’ Silvera told ESPNU during its live recruiting broadcast. “I could go to Tuscaloosa, I could go to Gainesville, I could go to Tallahassee and make those schools great. But why not make the crib great?”
Why did he wait till now to sign?
“At one point I was really feeling Florida, I was really feeling certain schools. So I just wanted to make sure I took my time and make the right decision because this is a big decision. This isn’t just a three or four-year decision. This is a 30 or 40-year decision, and I just wanted to make the right one for my family.’’
When you see what Mark Richt has brewing there in Miami, what do you see?
“I see greatness. Coach Richt, in just his first two seasons there, you’ve seen a turnaround the program has had; You’ve seen what coach Kool [defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski] has done with players like Major Nine [graduated defensive end Chad Thomas], RJ McIntosh, Kendrick Norton — you’ve seen what he’s done for them. So, just imagine what he could do for me in four years.’’
In American Heritage’s 44-15 win over Baker County for the Class 5A state title this past December, Silvera recovered a fumble after a bad handoff exchange and ran 57 yards for a touchdown.
“That ball was mine,’’ he said. “I’m really a fullback at heart. I’m an athlete.’’
“I think Silvera is more important than landing [the nation’s No. 1 cornerback] Patrick Surtain or [No. 2 corner Tyson] Campbell because Miami has a major need at D-tackle,’’ Charles Fishbein of Elite Scouting Services told the Miami Herald.
As for the other big-named American Heritage players with Miami as one of their choices, they all signed elsewhere, pretty much as expected. Surtain chose Alabama, somewhat surprisingly, over what most believed would be LSU. He also had Clemson and UM on his list.
Campbell, chose Georgia over Miami and Alabama.
And, as previously mentioned, American Heritage defensive end Chatfield went with the Gators over Florida State and UM.
▪ COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS BECAUSE U JUST RECEIVED ONE:
Update at 9:20 a.m.:
The Miami Hurricanes are counting their blessings. They just got another exceptionally talented receiver to join an already gifted bounty of incoming wide receivers. Consensus four-star prospect Marquez Ezzard of Stockbridge (Georgia) High School became the second Hurricane to sign his Letter of Intent early Wednesday morning. He chose Miami over Ole Miss and Oregon.
Now, the Canes have four new great talents at receiver. Joining Ezzard from the early signing period are five-star Miami Southridge’s Mark Pope, and Daquris Wiggins and IMG Academy’s Brian Hightower.
Ezzard, an impressive 6-2 and 213 pounds, is a “go-to playmaker,’’ according to the scouting report by ESPN. “Plays big, good length. Looks to be much more physically imposing than listed weight. Can take the ball from defenders when contested. Sneaky open field change-of-direction. Strong stride and quickness. Good, big hands to engulf the ball.’’
How’s that for some promising thoughts?
“Bottom line:’’ the report says, “This kid makes a lot of plays.’’
That’s for sure, at least going by his numbers.
According to MaxPreps.com, Ezzard had back-to-back seasons of more than 1,000 yards and a career 3,302 receiving yards and 38 touchdowns on 175 catches.
For those Hurricanes who also keep up with the Seminoles, Ezzard decommitted from Florida State in November.
“Ezzard is a head-turning athlete,’’ wrote tomahawknation.com when he decommitted. “He’s the top player in the Peach State for the class of 2018, who definitely showed why on Friday evening, when he caught six passes and turned five of them into touchdowns.’’
This has to be one of the top wide receiver classes in the nation.
UPDATE at 8:35 a.m.: THE U WAS HOPING that four-star defensive tackle Keondre Coburn, rated the No. 2 tackle by ESPN, No. 11 by 247Sports and No. 12 by Rivals, would flip from Texas to the Hurricanes. But alas, he was welcomed as a Texas signee. On to the next one!
▪ AND THEY’RE OFF! INTRODUCING SIGNEE NO. 1, A PROUD, SPEEDY MIAMI NORTHWESTERN BULL WHO IS NOW A HURRICANE: Nigel Bethel Jr., an all-around athlete who played on both sides of the ball, will be a cornerback for the U. Count Bethel as one of the devoted U fans. He is a three-star prospect who was offered scholarships from several major programs that included Florida and Georgia. Bethel committed to the Hurricanes on Jan. 22, a day after it was learned that starting cornerback Malek Young would undergo career-ending surgery because of a neck/vertebrae injury.
And for anyone who undervalues three-star prospects, keep in mind that the gifted Young, a starter as only a sophomore (and also part of his freshman season), was a three-star signee.
“As far back as I can remember blessings is all I’ve received,’’ Bethel wrote on Twitter that night. “But by far the biggest blessing I’ve received is being able to spend the next 4 years at home and further my Academic/Football Career at The University of Miami and officially shut down my recruitment. #Storm18.”
Bethel is listed as 6-0 and 165 pounds. His addition is valuable, as the loss of Young hurt badly. The Canes already had lost graduated senor Dee Delaney, which left them with soon-to-be senior Michael Jackson, upcoming sophomore Trajan Bandy and senior-to-be Jhavonte Dean.
He will be the fifth new defensive back to join #Storm18.