The unopened Christmas gift that University of Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz recently spoke about has arrived.
Defensive tackle Jonathan Ford, listed as 6-5 and 275 pounds, has enrolled in school and was at football practice on Thursday, UM spokesman Camron Ghorbi confirmed. He is not allowed to wear pads until he goes through the customary multi-day acclimation period.
UM coach Mark Richt said all along that he expected Ford to arrive in time for this season and that his situation was academic related, similar to that of receiver Dionte Mullins last year.
Ford was a consensus three-star defensive line prospect by 247Sports, Scout and ESPN, and rated as the 27th best D-tackle by 247Sports. He chose Miami over offers from Kentucky, Tennessee, USC, Auburn, Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma and West Virginia, according to UM.
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“Big John, I love Big John,’’ safeties coach Ephraim Banda, the only coach available to reporters Thursday, said. “Shoot. If he could move, I wouldn’t mind playing with a safety that big. John Ford loves Miami... and was dying to get here. The smile on his face... walking down the hallway. He loves this place. We’re super excited.”
His arrival is especially positive for UM, considering that one of its veteran defensive tackles, Gerald Willis, is not participating on the team this season because of what Richt called “a leave of absence.’’
Said Banda: “The big thing right now Jon needs to do is 1. Get in shape 2. Learn to chase the ball and go whistle to whistle. Just learn how to run to the ball right now...and tackle the proper way.’’
Diaz was asked about Ford last week in relation to how tough it would be for a defensive tackle to come in this late to practice. UM’s first fall practice was on Aug. 1.
“Really, we’ll find out,’’ Diaz said. “We haven’t talked about it a lot. When he gets in we’ll get him acclimated to what we’re doing and we’ll see. It’s like opening a gift. You had one left under the tree. You’re putting your tree up a couple weeks after Christmas and all of a sudden there’s one left in there.”
D-line coach Craig Kuligowski, on signing day in February, said this about Ford:
“Jonathan has gained 50 pounds in a year. He has great length and is extremely physical. He was the best defensive tackle we saw live in action during the recruiting process. His upside is through the roof.’’
Last week, Kuligowski was asked if he were looking forward to Ford’s arrival.
“Yes, we are,’’ Kuligowski replied. “We’re looking forward to it, and God willing it will be soon.’’