University of Miami

#Storm18: Here’s why Canes Mark Richt, Manny Diaz and Craig Kuligowski are thrilled today

You never know what prospective gems will come your way when least expected.

The Hurricanes were in dire need of defensive tackles after star starters RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton announced via social media earlier this month that they were heading to the NFL Draft. (And they needed defensive linemen in general after seniors Chad Thomas and Anthony Moten finished their college careers.)

On Monday night, at the end of an in-home visit with some heavy-hitting Canes defensive coaches (head coach Mark Richt, defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski) and tight ends/special teams coach Todd Hartley, three-star Jacksonville Sandalwood defensive tackle Jordan Miller announced his loyalty and commitment to the UM Class of 2018.

#Storm18 nabs another one.

How does 6-4 and 330 pounds sound for an incoming freshman?

Until very recently, Miller was an under-the-radar, non-factor because he played at low-profile Palatka High before transferring to Sandalwood after his junior season, then was detoured during the spring because of gall bladder surgery, according to recruiting site CaneSport.com. Because of that he couldn’t compete in any football camps.

In addition to UM’s offer this past weekend, he got offers from Tennessee, Virginia and South Carolina.

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

“He’s the real deal,’’ Mandarin High coach Bernard Harrell, whose program played against Miller, told CaneSport. “He emerged out of nowhere. We played him and couldn’t block him. I was like, ‘Who is this kid?’’’

Miller told CaneSport after he pledged to UM that the in-home visit went great. “They told me when I come in that I’ll be playing right away, that I can get in the LSU [2018 opener] game, to get ready...I have a passion for the Canes — it’s always been my dream to go there.’’

UM did not sign any defensive tackles among the 19 players who committed during the inaugural NCAA early signing period that began Dec. 20.

Plantation American Heritage tackle Nesta Silvera is committed to sign with the Hurricanes on the traditional National Signing Day, which is Feb. 7, but nothing is a done deal until that signature is received. Miller also will sign that day.

UM also is expected to land Illinois graduate transfer Tito Odenigbo, 6-3 and 290 pounds.

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 Jonathan Ford at defensive tackle next season.

The 6-4, 285-pound Willis has one year of availability left after taking a leave of absence for an unspecified reason and then playing this past season on the scout team. Richt said he was “very excited’’ about Willis returning to the lineup in 2018. “He was 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.

Freshman Jon Ford, 6-5 and 275 pounds, played in seven games and had one tackle. He graduated from Fort Lauderdale Dillard.

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