This weekend, just a few days after losing junior defensive tackles RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton as potential NFL draft picks, the Miami Hurricanes will host a player who could be an eventual replacement at one of those spots.
That player is Kissimmee Gateway’s Dennis Briggs, who is strongly considering Miami.
“At this moment, Miami is in the lead,” Briggs told the Miami Herald on Monday night. “Since Day One, I’ve known the whole coaching staff. They have shown me love.
“I also like the school and the city of Miami itself. Walking the streets of Miami is cool. Just talking to other kids my age, there’s a different culture in Miami.”
Still, Briggs said there’s only a slight possibility he will commit after his Miami visit. He will visit South Carolina on Jan. 19, Florida State on Jan. 26, and possibly UCLA after that.
Gateway coach Marlon Roberts said that Briggs has a chiseled physique at 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds, with room to grow to 300 pounds. Briggs is also athletic as evidenced by his usage this past season as a tight end in goal-line situations, catching one touchdown pass and four two-point conversions.
“He also caught a 45-yard pass on third-and-18,” Roberts said.
As a lineman, Briggs had 19 sacks the past two years, including 11 as a senior, and the Orlando Sentinel ranked him as the No. 2 overall player in Central Florida.
And with no defensive tackles yet signed for this class and only American Heritage star Nesta Silvera committed at the position, Briggs is a high priority for the Canes.
“Judging by his conversations with me, [Briggs] is looking hard at UM,” Roberts said. “UCLA had backed off but is making a late push. But if you ask me, Miami has a slight lead over FSU.”
Safeties coach Ephraim Banda has been the most prominent Briggs recruiter. Banda, defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski have all visited Briggs in the Orlando area this past year.
In fact, Roberts said that Diaz made a visit just before Christmas.
So what makes Briggs such a good prospect?
Roberts said that Briggs has a “great motor,” allowing him to stop the run and chase down quarterbacks.
In addition, he’s a respectful young man and the son of two parents who have served the U.S. military in Iraq.
An example of Briggs’ on-field prowess came in his sophomore year when he helped Gateway, which has been around since 1986, make the playoffs for the first time in school history.
On the final play of the final regular-season game, St. Cloud had the ball at the Gateway 1-yard line, needing a touchdown and a 2-point conversion to force overtime.
But that’s when Briggs stoned St. Cloud’s running back, forced a fumble and recovered the ball, sending the Panthers to the playoffs.
If such a play were to happen for Briggs in 2018 while wearing Hurricanes colors, the team — of course — would break out the “Turnover Chain.”
“I think that’s pretty cool and exciting,” said Briggs, who laughed when asked about the chain. “I love the idea, personally. I’ll do anything to get the momentum going.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ One recruiting takeaway from Monday’s national championship game: Hawaii quarterbacks are on fire right now. Freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who is from Honolulu, came off the bench to lead Alabama to the title.
Other Hawaii QBs in the news lately are McKenzie Milton and Marcus Mariota. Milton arrived at Central Florida after the Knights had gone 0-12. This year, the sophomore led UCF to a 13-0 record and a bowl win over Auburn.
Mariota, 24, just led the Tennessee Titans to a playoff win, three years after becoming the first Hawaii-born athlete to win the Heisman Trophy.