University of Miami

Newest Miami linebacker commit has eyes on starting job with plans to early enroll

Miami Hurricanes Head Coach Manny Diaz speaks about the future of Paradise Camp

Head Coach Manny Diaz speaks to the media about his vision for the program and Paradise Camp at Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility in Coral Gables, Florida Saturday June 22, 2019.
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Head Coach Manny Diaz speaks to the media about his vision for the program and Paradise Camp at Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility in Coral Gables, Florida Saturday June 22, 2019.

Tirek Austin-Cave had been thinking about the Miami Hurricanes even before Jonathan Patke made the trip all the way up to Camden, New Jersey to start recruiting the three-star inside linebacker. Austin-Cave had been researching which schools do the best job of sending linebackers to the NFL, and Miami was one of the schools he became enamored with.

In the next few weeks and months, the Hurricanes became enamored with him, too. Patke went up to Camden once by himself, then brought Blake Baker for a second visit. By the time Austin-Cave came down to Miami in June for his official visit, it was obvious how much the Hurricanes wanted him to be part of their Class of 2020.

“That really told me how much they really had interest in me throughout the whole process,” Austin-Cave said. “I was talking to the coaching staff, feeling around the coaching staff when I was there. Overall, it was just a great opportunity to play for a school like that. It’s something like no other, so I could just tell what the school has in store, and I feel like the ‘U’ will be back.”

Austin-Cave wasn’t quite locked in with Miami by the time he left Coral Gables, but it only took another couple weeks. The middle linebacker quickly took official visits with the West Virginia Mountaineers and Minnesota Golden Gophers in the next two weeks, and in the days following his Minnesota official visit — about a week before his Fourth of July announcement — Austin-Cave informed the Hurricanes’ coaching staff he wanted to come to Miami.

The 6-1, 203-pound senior took to Twitter on Thursday to let the rest of the world know, announcing his oral commitment with a series of photos and a lock emoji. Although he’s not even a top-500 prospect in the 247Sports.com composite rankings for the 2020 recruiting cycle, Austin-Cave has his eyes on immediate playing time with the Hurricanes. Between the situation of the depth chart and Austin-Cave’s athletic skills, his goal isn’t totally far-fetched.

When he arrives in Miami, Austin-Cave will likely have a mostly unproven depth chart to contend with. Linebackers Shaquille Quarterman and Michael Pinckney, and striker Zach McCloud are all coming up on their senior seasons after starting each of the past three years. The group of linebackers behind them includes players who changed positions like Patrick Joyner, players with injury history like Waynmon Steed and Bradley Jennings Jr., and thus far untested freshmen like Avery Huff and Samuel Brooks.

Austin-Cave, who racked up 162 total tackles as a junior for the Panthers and has clocked a nearly elite time of 6.57 seconds in the 55-yard dash, is on track to enroll early, which will let him make up some ground on some of the current reserves quickly by getting to campus just a few weeks after the 2019 season ends.

“That was one of the biggest factors in me picking Miami. I know they’re losing a lot this upcoming season, and if I can come in early and get along, build a great bond with the coaching staff and get the playbook and everything down [it will help],” said Austin-Cave, who has already lined up an unofficial visit for September when the Hurricanes play the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats. “Just being able to get a head start on others, that’s one of the biggest things that led me to go to Miami.”

The presence of coach Manny Diaz ties this all together. Austin-Cave understands his potential, understands Miami’s history and understands the opportunity the depth chart presents, and the new coach, Austin-Cave feels, is the perfect shepherd for a linebacker like him.

Austin-Cave isn’t worried about venturing far from home — his father actually played baseball at Bethune-Cookman, so he encouraged his son to give a school as far-flung as Florida a shot — because he knows what Diaz can do for linebackers. Quarterman, Pinckney and McCloud have all been starters since their freshman seasons, all three could easily have their names called at the 2020 NFL Draft.

Most importantly, all three have a similar athletic profile to Austin-Cave — slightly undersized, but quick moving from side to side with excellent instincts. Diaz has proven there’s a template in place. Austin-Cave thinks he can be next.

“I talked to him a lot when I was there on my visit, and he just basically told me that if I want to go somewhere and be elite, Miami is the school for me because I know coach Manny Diaz, he’s a defensive-minded kind of guy. That’s the kind of guy I want to play for in the future, a guy that just loves the game, just loves defense,” Austin-Cave said. “That’s the type of player I am. I just feel playing for him, he’d get the most out of me as a man and as a football player, so that was one of the biggest things I was just talking to him about, [and] he was talking to me about when I was down there on my official visit.”

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