Finding a Miami Hurricanes connection to Thursday’s big game isn’t easy … but it is in there — somewhere.
When the top-ranked Clemson Tigers (13-0) and No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners (11-1) compete in a College Football Playoff semifinal on Thursday at Sun Life Stadium, there is a player who at one point was part of the Canes family.
He’s Devante Bond, a 6-1, 238-pound senior outside linebacker/defensive end. Bond committed to the Canes as a junior college player in December 2012, but he fell one class short of qualifying academically.
Bond, who is from Sacramento, California, sat out one year and — after reopening his recruitment — committed to Oklahoma on Nov. 18, 2013.
“It definitely hurt me,” Bond said of not being able to attend Miami, “but I knew it wouldn’t stop me from doing what I wanted to do. I just had to get focused and get ready for the next season.”
When he took his recruiting trip to Miami, his host was former Canes tight end Asante Cleveland, who is now in the NFL with the San Diego Chargers. Cleveland, like Bond, is from Sacramento.
The position coach who recruited Bond to Miami was Jethro Franklin, who is also in the NFL, as the Oakland Raiders’ defensive line coach.
“There are a lot of people I met from Miami that I’ve kept in touch with,” Bond said, “but I’m happy I’m here now. It was a good decision.”
Bond has had some big moments for the Sooners, blocking one field goal in each of his two seasons, including one against Clemson last year.
Against Tennessee this season, Bond had the best game of his career, putting together a two-sack performance.
“I’m going to do what I can — special teams, defense — to help my team win,” Bond said. “It’s nice to be here — Miami showed me [Sun Life Stadium] during my recruiting trip.”
Unlike Oklahoma, Clemson doesn’t have any players who at one time were committed to the Canes.
However, cornerback Mackensie Alexander was offered a scholarship by Miami, albeit too late.
Alexander, considered by Clemson coaches to be the nation’s premier cover corner, is from Immokalee, the same high school as former Canes running back Edgerrin James. In fact, James urged Alexander to sign with Miami.
“I grew up watching Miami,” said Alexander, a redshirt sophomore who allowed just 11 completions among 40 passes thrown his way this season. “I loved Miami. But Al Golden and his staff … I’m in their back yard, and I didn’t get an offer. I had every offer in the country, and [Miami] didn’t offer me until I came to camp.
“To me, that was disrespectful.”
Alexander said he went to Miami’s camp to appease James.
“[Miami] had their top receiver there — I won’t say his name — but I locked everybody down. I had fun. I competed.
“It was crazy because the fans were there, and they were [yelling at the since-fired Golden], ‘Oh my gosh, you’ve got to offer him. You’re crazy!’ ”
Alexander said after he performed well at the camp, the offer finally came in from Golden.
“I thanked him for the offer,” Alexander said, “but I told him, ‘I won’t be coming to your school. I just wanted to show you I can play here, Coach.’
“I felt disrespected, and I never talked to him again.”