The #Storm18 U Haul, so to speak, began Dec. 20 — seemingly eons ago — when the Miami Hurricanes, during the NCAA’s inaugural early signing period, brought in a phenomenal signing class that hit the top-5 rankings and put the Canes on an upward trajectory.
On Wednesday, the traditional National Signing Day, what the Hurricanes did more than anything was keep desperately needed Plantation American Heritage defensive tackle Nesta “Jade” Silvera, who had been committed for nearly a year and suddenly was flirting with the Florida Gators.
Then, they nabbed remaining defensive commitments Nigel Bethel, a Miami Northwestern three-star cornerback with elite speed; and sleeper tackle Jordan Miller, of Jacksonville Sandalwood — along with a major bonus of heralded, consensus four-star receiver Marquez Ezzard of Stockbridge (Georgia) High.
“Miami is home — it’s the crib,” Silvera told ESPNU during its live 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?”
Coach Mark Richt’s 2018 class, which still has some openings, by nightfall was rated No. 5 by Rivals.com and No. 8 by ESPN and 247Sports.
“I am thrilled about our 2018 recruiting class,” Richt said. “It’s one of the best ones I’ve ever been involved in. Our staff did an awesome job of evaluating players and targeting the guys we wanted to go after.
“…We covered so many of our needs.”
What they didn’t do Wednesday was sign one of the three defensive linemen who made it clear that Miami was one of their finalists on signing day: four-star end Andrew Chatfield, who signed with the Gators; three-star end Jamarcus Chatman, who went to Florida State; and four-star tackle Keondre Coburn, who signed with Texas.
Between graduation and attrition, the Hurricanes have lost seven defensive linemen.
“I feel fantastic,” said defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski, who called early-enrollee defensive end Greg Rousseau “the best defensive end in the state, in our mind. He’s come in and hasn’t disappointed one bit.”
Kuligowski said Silvera, whom he calls by his middle name “Jade,” is “the best defensive tackle and three-technique in the state. We felt that way a long time ago.”
And though “Coach Kool” noted that Coburn “is a very good player,” he said Miller’s “senior film was better than all of these other kids” that UM compared on film.
“What really gets you beat is when you take the wrong ones and end up with a guy that’s not up to the standard of winning all your games,” said defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, who, along with cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph and Kuligowski, believes #Storm18 is up to the task of helping to compete for titles. “You have to trust your evaluation. Player evaluation and player development is what this job is all about.”
The Hurricanes are still expecting a couple of graduate transfer signees, Richt said. He couldn’t mention the names, but Illinois defensive tackle Tito Odenigbo is believed to be one of them, with former Tennessee offensive lineman Venzell Boulware believed to be the other.
“We’re under the 85 number, even if we maxed out the number of initial [signees] we can have,” Richt said. “We’re still trying to build that roster.”
The UM class, as it stands, has 18 of its 23 signees from Florida — 11 of whom are from Miami-Dade and Broward, with one from West Palm Beach. Five of the signees are U.S. Army All-Americans, with another five Under Armour All-Americans.
Nine are on defense, 13 are on offense and one is a kicker.
“These recruits represent depth,” said South Florida recruiting analyst Larry Blustein. “You can come in and say, ‘Hey, you may not start, but you’re a player or two away from being heavily in the mix.’ You can’t say that if you’re an Alabama.
“Nesta Silvera has a major college in his backyard on the verge of getting back. It’s exciting there now.”
Richt acknowledged the depth and the even breadth of the “body types” in his newest signing class.
“When you bring in the right body types you can put weight on them, you can put strength on them, you can add their explosive nature with their speed and ability to jump,” Richt said. “The body types we’re bringing in are going to make us a really pretty team when we hook it up.”
Richt also made it a point to say that early enrollee quarterback Jarren Williams is “a very mature guy with a very good ability to pass the ball” and is “more of a pocket passer who can run than the other way around. Him being here for spring ball is going to be huge.”
He paused, then stressed that veteran Malik Rosier is the starter.
“I’ll say this again,” Richt said. “Malik is our starting quarterback. But Malik, like everybody else, has got to prove they should stay that way. That’s the way we’re doing it at every position.”
K: Bubba Baxa, 6-0, 195, Pasadena Memorial, Pasadena, Texas
CB: Al Blades Jr., 6-0, 180, St. Thomas Aquinas
RB: Camron Davis, 5-9 1/2, 190, Miami Carol City
CB: Gilbert Frierson, 6-1, 185, Coral Gables
FB: Realus George, 6-2, 245, Pace Academy, Atlanta, Ga.
S: Gurvan Hall, 6-0, 160, Palm Beach Gardens
WR: Brian Hightower, 6-3, 195, IMG Academy
CB: DJ Ivey, 6-1, 175, South Dade
TE: Brevin Jordan, 6-3, 250, Bishop Gorman, Las Vegas, Nev.
LB: Patrick Joyner, 6-2, 220, South Dade
RB: Lorenzo Lingard, 6-0, 195, University, Orange City
TE: Will Mallory, 6-5, 207, Providence, Jacksonville
DT: Jordan Miller, 6-4, 330, Sandalwood, Jacksonville
WR: Mark Pope, 6-1, 175, Miami Southridge
OG: Cleveland Reed, 6-3, 327, Fort Meade
DL: Gregory Rousseau, 6-6, 222, Champagnat
OL: Delone Scaife, 6-3, 320, Miami Southridge
DT: Nesta Silvera, 6-2, 308, American Heritage
WR: Daquris Wiggins, 6-3, 175, Miami Southridge
QB: Jarren Williams, 6-2, 206, Central Gwinnett, Lawrenceville, Ga.