University of Miami

Miami DB commit was ‘happiest kid in the world’ when Canes offered. Here’s what UM likes.

High school coach gives scouting report for Miami commit Justin Hodges

Justin Hodges is a three-star safety in the composite rankings, but he committed to the Miami Hurricanes as a cornerback. The defensive back's length makes him the sort of prospect cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph covets.
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Justin Hodges is a three-star safety in the composite rankings, but he committed to the Miami Hurricanes as a cornerback. The defensive back's length makes him the sort of prospect cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph covets.

Justin Hodges was virtually unknown when he arrived at Davie Western to play his junior season with the Wildcats. Now a three-star safety Hodges, didn’t hold a single scholarship offer until he wrapped up his 2018 season.

Once his season finished, it didn’t take long for coaches to take notice of Hodges. The FAU Owls offered before the end of the year, then a whirlwind of offers came in to start 2019. Ultimately, the fifth one was the only one that mattered.

“A lot of offers started coming in, and there were several other people he liked and was interested in,” Western coach Adam Ratkevich said Thursday, “but he was just like the happiest kid in the world when that Miami offer came through.”

A few months after the Hurricanes first extended their offer in February, Mike Rumph headed to Davie on Tuesday to watch Hodges practice. Although he had already seen Hodges in person before, Rumph was impressed by what he saw from Hodges as the defensive back went through drills in preparation for his senior season with the Wildcats. The cornerbacks coach asked Ratkevich where things stood in Hodges’ recruitment.

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“Do you think he’s ready to shut it down?” Ratkevich recalled Rumph asking.

“He wasn’t planning to,” Ratkevich responded, “but I know you guys are his favorite.”

Ratkevich conveyed Rumph’s message to Hodges after practice, and the rising senior didn’t hesitate. First he told Rumph he was committing, then he told former Miami wide receiver Brian Blades and Brian Blades II, who is Hodges’ cousin and plays in the secondary with him at Western.

Finally, Hodges announced his commitment to the world with a Twitter post Tuesday.

“Just keep the tradition, keep it in the family,” Hodges said Thursday in Davie. “When I went there and tried on the uniform, it just felt like home, so ever since then I’ve just been ready, I’ve just been waiting for the call, waiting for the moment.”

Although Hodges has held an offer for a while and attended a junior day in Coral Gables in March, the commitment still came together relatively quickly. Hodges had a visit planned with the Kentucky Wildcats before pledging to Miami, and also had major interest in the North Carolina State Wolfpack and Central Florida Knights.

Rumph, however, reasserted his major interest in Hodges after watching him practice. Even though he sits outside the top 100 of composite rankings for safeties in 2020, Hodges has the look Rumph wants in his cornerbacks. At 6-foot-1 and 155 pounds, Hodges possesses a massive wingspan, which helps make up for his currently sub-par speed — he ran a 40-yard dash in 4.89 seconds at The Opening Miami regional in February — and he’s an excellent tackler.

As a junior, Hodges logged 34 tackles, 25 pass breakups, four interceptions and a fumble recovery. He also caught four passes for 57 yards and a touchdown in limited action as a wide receiver.

“A lot of times college coaches ask you if a corner is a willing tackler,” Ratkevich said. “He’s more than a willing tackler. He’s a violent tackler.”

Before last season, Hodges admits he was basically just working off instinct and raw ability. He didn’t pick up his first offer until his junior year ended and schools started to see some of the progress he made in his first season with the Wildcats.

The past year was the first time Hodges committed to working in the weight room, so now he has some of the strength he needs to complement his physical play. He has also committed to improving his speed, and Hodges said Rumph specifically mentioned improved quickness as something the position coach was pleased to see Tuesday.

“A year ago from now, I wouldn’t see myself where I am now. I didn’t see myself getting all these offers, things like that,” Hodges said, “because when I used to look up at other people, I used to be like, I wish I was in that position.”