University of Miami

This coach wasn’t surprised his LB committed to UM. ‘He looks like a Miami Hurricane.’

Shaquille Quarterman explains the parable Miami used for inspiration

Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz gave used a parable to inspire the Miami Hurricanes defense before a win against the Virginia Tech Hokies. Linebacker Shaquille Quarterman explains.
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Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz gave used a parable to inspire the Miami Hurricanes defense before a win against the Virginia Tech Hokies. Linebacker Shaquille Quarterman explains.

Kenneth Crawford had spent 23 years waiting for a day like Monday to come. The Largo Pinellas Park coach had spent more than two decades coaching and waiting for a chance to start rooting hard once again for the Miami Hurricanes.

Crawford grew up rooting for Miami, pretty much until he started. These days, he mostly just follows his former players — the Oregon Ducks and Florida Gators are some of Crawford’s recent favorites — even if it’s hard for him to totally shake his childhood love of the Hurricanes. Once Alvin Mathis turned into the sort of player he is and Miami started inquiring about the three-star outside linebacker, Crawford realized his two rooting interests might be about to overlap.

“He looks like a Miami Hurricane,” Crawford said Tuesday.

On Monday, Mathis made it reality for Crawford when he orally committed to Miami. With the Hurricanes in desperate need of linebackers in the Class of 2020, Mathis always seemed to Crawford to be an obvious fit for what Miami likes at the position. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound prospect has played everywhere on defense from strong safety to middle linebacker.

He is, as Crawford puts it, “the new-age college linebacker. He’s capable of playing downhill and sideline to sideline. He’s competent dropping back into coverage. Most every school wants smaller, quicker linebackers like Mathis now, the Hurricanes were just among the first to realize this was the future of the sport.

“They’ve always done it,” Crawford said. “They started it 25 years ago. Jimmy Johnson started it.

“You look at him and you go, Is he a strong safety? Is he a linebacker? Is a safety? The day of the true ‘Mike’ ‘backer is over. It’s all big, rangy freaks in big-time college football. That’s what it is: long arms, twitch, get after it.”

It’s what put Mathis on Miami’s radar shortly after the Hurricanes hired Manny Diaz as coach at the end of last year. The coach reached out to Crawford early on to tell him the Hurricanes were interested in Mathis, but wanted to wait to offer him a scholarship until they were sure the offer would be committable.

Miami finally formally offered Mathis in April and quickly brought him down to Coral Gables for an unofficial visit. The rising senior placed the Hurricanes in a top three with the Florida Gators and Auburn Tigers less than a week after the visit, and pledged to Miami just two weeks after that after talking the decision over with this father.

“What really sealed the deal was when I talked to my parents and stuff about it,” Mathis said Wednesday. “He was like, what am I waiting for? I might as well do it now if that’s what I really feel, so once I got the green light from him, that’s when I texted coach [Jonathan] Patke.”

Mathis had been high on the Hurricanes for a few weeks. A few days after putting out his top three, the rising senior called Miami the frontrunner in his recruitment and Crawford indicated the same. Although he’s only the No. 59 outside linebacker in the rankings for the 2020 recruiting cycle, Mathis proved capable of doing a lot of what the Hurricanes wanted in a prospect and Mathis understood he’d be a good fit at Miami.

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With starting linebackers Shaquille Quarterman and Michael Pinckney coming up on their senior seasons, the Hurricanes need to find long-term replacements and Mathis could potentially play either Quarterman’s middle linebacker spot or Pinckney’s weak-side position — they have grown increasingly similar since Miami added a striker to its defense in 2018.

“I move around the field very well, so that’s one thing,” Mathis said. “I run around, and I’m physical and I can find the ball. I’m good at attacking, so that’s mostly what we were talking about.”

For now, Mathis is focusing on rehabilitating from a shoulder injury, which will keep him out for the spring in Largo. He said he’ll be cleared to play by the end of June, which could potentially set him up to participate in Paradise Camp. Even if he can’t compete, Mathis said he plans to make it back down to South Florida for the summer camp.

Mathis’ other focus is graduating by the end of the year, so he’ll be able to enroll for the spring semester. The linebacker is locked in with the Hurricanes and doesn’t see it changing.

“I told myself when I commit I’m not planning on decommitting,” Mathis said, “so it’s set.”