High school coach gives scouting report for Miami commit Justin Hodges
The first thing that stands out about Justin Hodges is just how lanky he is. A three-star safety in the 247Sports.com composite rankings, Hodges primarily lines up at cornerback for Davie Western and uses his 6-foot-1, 155-pound frame to make plays in a loaded Wildcats secondary.
Western’s talented defense mostly held up in a 23-0 preseason loss to Palmetto on Thursday — the Panthers scored two defensive touchdowns and a safety — and Hodges made one of its most important plays. With the game still scoreless in the first quarter in Davie, Palmetto faced a third-and-long situation in the red zone and threw up a jump ball to Kentron Poitier in the back right corner of the end zone. The two stars went up and, this time, Hodges knocked the ball away to keep the Wildcats’ early shutout intact.
“They tried it. I don’t know why,” Hodges said after the loss Thursday. “I broke it up.”
Hodges, who orally committed to the Miami Hurricanes in May, didn’t get to ease in at all to his senior season. The kickoff classic at Western High School pitted Hodges against Poitier, a three-star wide receiver with scholarship offers from the Syracuse Orange, Florida Gators, Auburn Tigers, Oregon Ducks and about 20 others.
Although Poitier caught five passes for 121 yards in Palmetto’s win, only one of those came against Hodges in man-to-man coverage. The Wildcats also played a significant portion of the game in zone defense and Hodges took the blame for one more long catch by Poitier in the middle of the field when he took too long to come over from the sideline.
“I was excited for it,” Hodges said. “We saw what we saw. That means we’ve got to work on what we saw.”
Miami is recruiting Hodges as a cornerback, and Mike Rumph gave the defensive back an offer in the spring after watching him practice for Western. Hodges committed almost immediately.
The cornerbacks coach has a type, and Hodges fits the mold. Although there are question marks about Hodges’ speed after he ran a 40-yard dash in 4.89 seconds at The Opening regional at the Miami Dolphins Training Facility in February, the corner makes up for it with his wingspan and his technique. The Hurricanes have confidence in their ability to add muscle and speed for young players, so Hodges’ raw tools alone make him a player Rumph likes.
Hodges’ tantalizing skill set was best on display with his key pass breakup in the end zone, but he also forced a pair of turnovers in a scrimmage Saturday in Fort Lauderdale when he grabbed an interception and forced a fumble against Monarch.
“I showed him everything I needed to show him last season, so he doesn’t really have no expectations,” Hodges said. “I’ve got expectations for myself. I want to get better, put up better stats, make a better season.”
Hodges has been steadfast in the strength of his commitment since he made it in the spring and, as senior season begins, the pledge is as strong as ever.
Hodges, who plans to early enroll, is already looking forward to life in Coral Gables. He just wants to finish his career with the Wildcats by making some history first.
“Just get ready,” Hodges said the message is from Miami. “One day at a time, one game at a time, one down at a time. Just take it slow. Stay healthy.”