University of Miami

Is another large player of Nigerian descent joining the Miami Hurricanes?

Illinois defensive lineman Tito Odenigbo played the past three seasons at Illinois and announced in late November that he was seeking to play somewhere else as a graduate transfer.
Illinois defensive lineman Tito Odenigbo played the past three seasons at Illinois and announced in late November that he was seeking to play somewhere else as a graduate transfer. Bradley Leeb/AP

In 2016, the Miami Hurricanes had tight end David Njoku, who went in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft to Cleveland.

Loveable former UM offensive lineman Sunny Odogwu, from Nigeria, transferred before this past season to UCLA.

Now, the recruiting site 247Sports is reporting through “a program source” that Illinois defensive tackle Tito Odenigbo “is joining the Hurricanes as a graduate transfer after deciding to leave the Big Ten school.’’

A Miami spokesman, when contacted by the Miami Herald, said he could not confirm the report.

Odenigbo, whose parents emigrated from Nigeria, has one year of eligibility remaining and, per NCAA graduate transfer rules, could play immediately.

The news of the 6-3, 290-pound Odenigbo deciding to leave Illinois was announced in late November after the team finished 2-10.

Odenigbo, a redshirt junior, started four games in 2017 and was second on the team in tackles for loss with 4 1/2. According to the Illinois website, he played in 10 games this past season and had 29 tackles, a sack and two pass breakups. He also blocked a field-goal attempt at South Florida.

Odenigbo, 21, has an older brother, Ifeadi, who played defensive end for Northwestern and was drafted in the seventh round by Minnesota, where he reportedly was on the practice squad. His mother, according to the Vikings’ Website, is a pediatrician.

He was a three-star prospect in 2014.

In his final game in Champaign, Odenigbo threw a penalty flag back at an official and was ejected. He also was suspended for an early-season game for violating team rules.

Bottom line: If he does actually join the Hurricanes, Odenigbo would be a much-welcomed addition after both starting Miami defensive tackles — RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton — recently declard declared as underclassmen for the NFL Draft.

The Canes, who led the nation in sacks and were third in tackles for loss in 2017, will rely on Gerald Willis, Pat Bethel and Jon Ford at defensive tackle next season.

The 6-4, 285-pound Willis has one year of eligibility left after taking a leave of absence for an unspecified reason and then playing this past season on the scout team. Coach Mark Richt has described him as “a terror on the scout team all year long. No one could hardly block the guy.’’

Bethel, a 6-3, 272-pound sophomore out of Vero Beach High, was converted from defensive end his freshman season. He played in 13 games and had 18 tackles, one tackle for loss, one sack, a forced fumble and fumble recovery in 2017.

Ford, 6-5 and 275, played in seven games and had one tackle.

UM also hopes to get 6-2, 300-pound four-star prospect Nesta Silvera, out of Plantation American Heritage, to sign with the Canes on Feb. 7.

University of Miami football coach Mark Richt talks about the 18 players who signed on Dec. 20, 2017 to play at UM.

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