University of Miami coach Craig Kuligowski is considered among the finest defensive line coaches in the nation. During his 15-year tenure with Missouri, Kuligowski, known as “Coach Kool” by his players, coached 24 players to All-conference honors and produced four first-round NFL Draft picks.
Kuligowski sounded equally confident that his 2018 signees will end up being significant factors sooner than later, and that “all have the talent to be stars.”
The three 2018 signees that UM has listed as defensive linemen: 6-2, 304-pound four-star prospect Nesta Silvera of Plantation American Heritage, 6-6, 225-pound three-star prospect Gregory Rousseau of Hialeah Champagnat Catholic and 6-4, 340-pound three-star Jordan Miller of Jacksonville Sandalwood.
Kuligowski told the Miami Herald that he was “mildly surprised” that starting junior defensive tackles Kendrick Norton and RJ McIntosh decided to enter the NFL Draft.
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“I’m sure they’ll do well,” he said. “Almost everybody I’ve coached has done pretty well in the NFL.”
Kuligowski earlier Wednesday told reporters that “when you lose Kendrick, you say, ‘If we had a big guy it would be great.’ One of the guys we had been recruiting was Keondre Coburn. And Keondre is a very good player.”
The 6-1, 329-pound Keondre, it turns out, chose Texas over Miami, leaving Kuligowski really in need for another big guy.
Enter Miller, the low-profile, under-the-radar tackle that UM coaches are raving about.
“We pop in Jordan’s film and we watch it against — I don’t want to go through everybody, but some kids that we ended up not signing, this kid’s senior film is better than all of these other kids,’’ Kuligowski said. “He’s bigger, 6-3, maybe 6-4. He’s 340-something pounds.
“If I had showed you a picture of him at the beach you’d be amazed at how skinny he is for that size. He’s very strong. He’s very explosive.
“He came from a little tiny town, transferred into Sandalwood for his senior year. Kind of just got lost up I think in the recruiting shuffle when all this stuff was going on. Just so happy we got a call. We found out about the film on Friday. We offered him on Friday afternoon. We went in and home visited him on Monday and he committed Monday night. It was just a match made in heaven hopefully.
“He was already going to visit Tennessee the last weekend. Alabama called and offered him later on that day on Friday. So it wasn’t just us that found out about him. When we got word we jumped on it right away.”
What’s that moment like when you find out about someone that late in the process that is that talented?
“Skepticism,’’ Coach Kool said with a laugh. “Skepticism.
“Then you watch the film and really we all looked at the film and we liked it. [Director of player personnel] Matt Dougherty, me, [defensive coordinator] Manny Diaz and Coach [Mark] Richt – and [tight ends coach] Todd Hartley recruits up there. All of us looked at his film and liked it. Then we sat back and put him against all the other kids, their senior film, that we were currently recruiting and we were like, ‘If this guy wants to commit, do we want to take him?’ All of us said, ‘Yes.’ So we were happy on Monday when we went there that he was excited to commit. We didn’t really have to ask him to commit.”
Kuligowski said he believes the three newest D-linemen will have a chance “to help us right away... I don’t really think there’s a guy in there that’s a developer, like maybe in the third year he’ll be a good player.”
▪ Of the highly touted Silvera, Kuligowski said he was “ecstatic to have him. … He’ll make an impact in a lot of ways.”
Kuligowski, by the way, will be calling Silvera by his middle name, Jade, despite everyone else calling him by his first name, Nesta.
“His mom calls him Jade and so that’s just what I kind of got used to calling him. She said, ‘That’s my little Jade,’ and when you think about the kid, it’s hard to think there’s anything little about him.”
▪ Richt said soon-to-be redshirt junior Scott Patchan, who came into UM as a defensive end, switched to tight end during last season and was listed as both in the Capital One Orange Bowl media guide, will go back to defensive end this season.
Patchan, listed as 6-6 and 240 pounds, has had to overcome multiple knee injuries, but is ready to make his mark. Kuligowski said he needs to continue to put on weight.
“The thing Scott has taken from that experience [playing tight end] is he needs to keep his weight on and not be too light,’’ Kuligowski said. “Whether you’re playing tight end or defensive end, if somebody lined across you is bigger than you they can throw you around. It’s not very fun.
“So, he needs to stay big, muscled up. He’s gained some weight already. He’s, I’m saying, 15 pounds probably over where he was in the summertime when he reported with us. We talked about that then and he was, ‘Yeah, I know. I tried. I tried.’ It’s the battle cry of every skinny fast kid that I’ve recruited over the years. Then all of a sudden a light clicks on and they find a way to do it.’’
▪ Kuligowski said rising redshirt senior Demetrius Jackson, who underwent knee surgery in November, “looks really good right now.
“If he can stay healthy he can be an all-conference type of player.’’
Jackson had 7 1/2 tackles for loss, 3 1/2 sacks, two pass breakups and an interception in seven games last season.