University of Miami

UM defender Jon Garvin is a stretchy, long-limbed menace. The Canes call him ‘Spider’

Miami Hurricanes defensive end Jonathan Garvin (97) knocks the ball out of the hands of Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Brandon Wimbush (7) for a fumble in the fourth quarter against Notre Dame at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017.
Miami Hurricanes defensive end Jonathan Garvin (97) knocks the ball out of the hands of Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Brandon Wimbush (7) for a fumble in the fourth quarter against Notre Dame at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017.

Sack. Strip. Fumble recovery: three plays that defensive linemen covet.

Last season at the University of Miami, a true freshman put all three together in one play — two weeks in a row.

U fans might not be familiar with Jonathan “Spider’’ Garvin, the Hurricanes’ first-team defensive end opposite junior standout Joseph Jackson, but be assured his opponents will get to know him a bit too closely this season.

And they likely won’t be thrilled about it.

“Spider is the best!’’ said Ephraim Banda, who coaches the UM safeties but knows that players like Garvin make life a lot more fun for his defensive backs. “Jonathan Garvin has been unbelievable.

“You wanna talk about tackle for losses? We hand out our turnover shirts for any takeaways during scrimmages. He must have a closet full of them at this point. It may not be him who maybe picks the ball off or picks the fumble up. He caused it. He’s the one that put the pressure in the quarterback’s face. He’s the one that got the quarterback off the spot. His technique may have caused the interception that Jaquan Johnson got...

“It’s not so much about the guy who gets all the glory that everyone writes a story about. It’s about the guy who causes it. Neo probably has more causes than anybody.’’

Neo is Garvin’s middle name, the sophomore said Thursday.

Spider is his nickname.

“It’s something they came up with when I first came here because of the way I bend around the corner and can crawl on my hands and pick myself up,’’ said Garvin, a Lake Worth High School graduate who chose Miami over Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, Oklahoma and Tennessee. “[I’m] just able to maintain great balance.’’

Garvin’s sack-strip-fumble recoveries came at Hard Rock Stadium against Virginia Tech on Nov. 4 and Notre Dame on Nov. 11. Maybe his nickname should be “havoc,” as he also caused plenty of it at North Carolina, the week before Virginia Tech.

UM Manny Diaz defensive coordinator shares what is expected for the team, especially the freshman.

On fourth-and-15 from the UNC 26-yard line, Garvin blocked a punt — UM’s first punt block since 2016 at Notre Dame — with about 11 minutes left in the third quarter. The Hurricanes took over at the North Carolina 13-yard line. Four plays later, kicker Michael Badgley hit a 21-yard field goal to extend Miami’s lead to 17-6 with 9:52 left in the third quarter. The Canes won that game 24-19.

Garvin added 20 pounds to his now 6-4, 250-pound frame since last season, when he played in all 13 games on special teams and as a backup to some extremely talented linemen. He amassed nine tackles, three tackles for loss and had those jaw-dropping sack-strip-fumble recoveries that earned him turnover chains.

“It was a funny experience because I wasn’t sure I would get it,’’ he said of the chain, laughing. “But at the time of the play I was more focused on getting the ball. Then when it happened and I got to the sideline, that’s when it hit me.’’

The turnover chain is nifty, but those T-shirts for his scrimmage takeaways are great souvenirs.

They’re “actually very nice because you can keep that one,’’ he said. “You get to wear around a nice little shirt with a nice gold chain on it.”

When asked which is more fun: A. Sacks; B. Forced fumbles; or C. Fumble recoveries, Garvin more or less answered D. None of the above.

University of Miami defensive coordinator, Manny Diaz speaks after the team's practice at Greentree Fields in Coral Gables, Fla. on Monday, August 6, 2018.

“Celebrating after each play,’’ he said, “just going with my teammates and messing around and having a good time. That’s the best part about it, because when you’re coming up on it you never know if you’re actually going to get it so you’re running and you’re like, ‘Hold the ball, just hold the ball.’

“And then you go and get it. After that is when the celebration begins. That’s why you see we run to the sideline and go have a good time.”

Garvin credited his teammates and new defensive ends coach Jess Simpson for his continued progress, as well as more sleep that has aided in his physical growth.

“I’ve aged, so I’ve gotten bigger, stronger and smarter,’’ he said. “And studying and working hard has helping me improve my game. ...Especially with [freshman defensive end] Greg [Rousseau] being here. It’s making us run harder.

“We’re doing well. Basically, the guys who left and left before that, the mark they left has made a lasting impression. It’s our job to uphold it. We’ll do whatever we need to do. ...There’s no lack of confidence...”

Garvin said his teammates are taking it “day by day” until the Sept. 2 season opener against LSU at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

“So, when Sunday gets here, it gets here,’’ he said. “Until then, we’re going to keep working hard like it’s forever.’’

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