Diaz: Our team isn’t far from competing for championships
The tweets that foreshadowed Thursday’s news for the Miami Hurricanes began the third week of January and generated intense enthusiasm among University of Miami football fans.
Now? Pure jubilation.
Jaelan Phillips, the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect in the Class of 2017 and a former UCLA Bruins defensive end, is transferring to Miami and will finish his football career with the Hurricanes. Phillips announced his decision on Twitter after coach Manny Diaz teased an impending commitment with one of his trademark storm GIFs.
Phillips will join the following recently announced transfers who should lift the Hurricanes a major notch in talent level: defensive tackle Chigozie Nnoruka (his former teammate at UCLA), safety Bubba Bolden (Southern California), defensive end Trevon Hill (Virginia Tech), quarterback Tate Martell (Ohio State), running back Asa Martin (Auburn), wide receiver K.J. Osborn (Buffalo), offensive tackle Tommy Kennedy (FCS Butler) and junior college punter Louis Hedley (College of San Francisco). Phillips, Martell, Osborn, Martin and Kennedy all rank in the top 50 of the 247Sports.com transfer rankings, and Phillips leads the group as the No. 3 player in the rankings.
Phillips announced in December he was withdrawing from UCLA because of “multiple injuries.” He would normally have to sit out next season, per NCAA transfer rules, and be eligible to play for UM as a redshirt junior in 2020 and redshirt senior in 2021. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound defensive lineman played in seven games as a freshman in 2017, but only four last season, which means, per recent NCAA rules, the 2018 season can be counted as a redshirt year.
After his transfer announcement, Phillips told the Miami Herald he planned to sit out the 2019 season and play his final two seasons of eligibility in 2020 and 2021. If he had attempted to get an NCAA medical waiver that would have allowed him to play in 2019 (only if the NCAA approved the waiver request), he would have had three remaining seasons of eligibility.
The five-star Phillips was ranked the No. 1 recruit in the 247Sports composite rankings his senior year at Redlands East Valley in California. He was also the No. 2 prospect in 247Sports’ own rankings, the No. 6 overall prospect in the Rivals.com rankings, and the No. 3 overall prospect and top-ranked defensive player in ESPN’s rankings.
Phillips had 21 tackles, seven tackles for loss, 3 1/2 sacks (second on the team) and two pass breakups his freshman year at UCLA in 2017. Last season in those four games, he had 20 tackles, a tackle for loss, a sack and a quarterback hurry, but he was plagued with injuries, including concussions and a “severe wrist injury,’’ according to the LA Daily News, in January 2018 “from an off-campus scooter accident in which he was hit by a car” and later required intricate surgery.
UCLA declared Phillips and former teammate Soso Jamabo out for the season on October 15, 2018.
“Jaelan’s out for the year. Soso’s out for the year,’’ UCLA coach Chip Kelly told reporters. “We met with the doctors at the end of last week and both those players from a concussion standpoint have been declared out for the year.”
When asked if Phillips’ wrist injury had anything to do with the decision, Kelly indicated it was solely related to concussion symptoms. “He had a head injury and is out for the year,’’ Kelly said.
Phillips posted a public letter on social media in mid-December explaining his decision to transfer.
“First of all, I would like to sincerely thank all of the coaches, staff members, and professors at UCLA,’’ Phillips began, continuing later in the letter, “these last two years at UCLA have been extremely difficult for me, to say the least, but I will always love the amazing people I met along the way.
“With that being said, due to multiple injuries, I have decided to withdraw from UCLA. UCLA is an amazing school, but I am looking to pursue a major in music production/technology, which UCLA does not offer. I’m going to be taking this time to heal and to look over all of my options moving forward. Again, I want to thank everyone who has helped me and believed in me at UCLA, I wish you guys nothing but the best.’’
It has not been revealed what medical exams Phillips would undergo to be able to get on the field for the Hurricanes, but Miami would clearly be expected to due its diligence before enabling him to play again.
Not only does UM’s Frost School of Music have a music production program, but Phillips is already friends with UM tight end Brevin Jordan, whom he met during a high school recruiting trip to UCLA. Additionally, Phillips is close friends with former UCLA teammate Nnoruka, who had previously announced he was transferring to Miami.
Phillips made it evident several times on social media beginning in January that he was eyeing the Hurricanes as a transfer destination.
In response, by the next day, more than 1,000 UM fans had followed Phillips on Twitter.
“Miami fans show crazy love,’’ Phillips tweeted. “They already got me 1,300 followers in one night.’’
On Jan. 22, Phillips also retweeted a photo of himself standing with Jordan and Jordan’s younger brother Jalen during the UCLA recruiting trip. “Told bro we would see each other at the top,’’ Phillips wrote, with an emoji of praying hands.
And then there was the turnover chain tweet by Phillips that said, “I think I need a new chain. what do y’all think?’’ and the one on Jan. 23 that simply said “TNM’’ for Diaz’s slogan “The New Miami.’’