Barry Jackson

The skinny on what could be UM’s best d-line in years

University of Miami defensive line football coach, Craig Kuligowski works with the team during practice.
University of Miami defensive line football coach, Craig Kuligowski works with the team during practice.

Here’s something Canes fans haven’t been able to say enough in recent years but will now:

This defensive line is loaded.

Defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski (pictured above) began Wednesday by telling a story about how the top-rated rated player in this UM class, Sacramento-based defensive end Deonte Johnson, began recruiting UM before UM started recruiting him.

“He actually contacted me and wanted to know if we were interested in him. That’s way back before the spring,” he said. “I said, ‘Who are you?’ After I watched the film, I said, ‘Yeah, we want you.’ I went out there to see him a couple times. He came to camp and loved this place. He loves the idea of being a Cane. We’re happy to have him.”

Johnson reportedly had the most offers of anyone in country (100).

“Pretty good, right?” Kuligowski said. “100 offers. I wish I had that many out of high school. He’s got the frame, size and all

that stuff you look for in a defensive end. But he’s got great closing speed. And he’s a very explosive player. Very gifted.

Kuligowski said of Lake Worth High defensive end Jon Garvin: “They’re similar [he and Johnson]. They’re both tall, fast. Guys that can potentially weigh 260 pounds, 270 pounds someday before the league but still be able to be very fast at that weight. I try to use an NFL model if you will, with what we’re looking for with certain body types, and things like that. Both those guys kind of fit the mold of what we’re looking for.”

And he said the other defensive line signee, Jon Ford, projects as an end, not a tackle:

“Great big, physical guy,” Kuligowski said. “When I first recruited, first time I went to high school, he was 240 pounds. He may

be 300 right now. Plays hard. Is tough. Has got good explosiveness. He’s kind of a defensive tackle we want to improve.”

Here’s what Kuligowski had to say about UM’s returning defensive linemen:

• On Chad Thomas: “He made a big step forward last year. He has a lot of talent. A lot of times, it’s just a matter of channeling it so you’re doing the same thing the right way all the time. A lot of guys I coached make a huge jump between their junior and senior year just in terms of consistency and confidence in the system that end up paying off. The future is real bright for him.”

Is there considerable space between where he is and his ceiling?

“Yeah, he’s got a lot of space left. He’s an extremely talented guy. He’s already 270 something pounds. He can move like a linebacker. He can be physical like a great defensive end. He’s got a lot of gifts.”

• On Joe Jackson: “Joe made huge leaps and bounds from the beginning of the year to the end of the year and I think he will do the same thing. Get bigger, stronger. Consistency of play, he’s got a long way to go in that but he’s got some talent things that help out with that. Joe Jackson, DJ Johnson those are the kind of body types we are going to try to recruit.”

• On Scott Patchan, who was limited to six snaps because of knee injuries: “Pretty productive [in his six snaps last season]. He’s also a kid with great speed. He’s just had to fight the injury bug and some of the injuries, his body hasn’t quite healed as quickly as we all hoped for and he certainly hoped for. To his credit, and to a little of his demise, he pushes himself to try to get back so quickly that we’ve got to make sure he doesn’t set himself back. He’s healthy now. He’s still got some areas he needs to get to.

“I would not say he’s at 100 percent but he’s getting there. He will be available for sure [in the spring]. I think we can say we can count on him. If the doctor says we can’t count him, that’s a different story. But right now, we can count on him.”

• On his starting tackles, Richard McIntosh and Kendrick Norton: “I like them a lot. Between the two of them, I thought they had a great year. Easily, two of the best tackles in the ACC. And just a sophomore. They can certainly make some improvements in the weight room and we’re expecting big things from them.”

• On Courtel Jenkins, who reportedly considered transferring: “He’s a Cane. That was his answer to me. ‘I’m a Cane. Why would I leave my senior year?’ He’s here. He’s 100 percent.”

He said he’s pleased with how Jenkins closed the year. “All these guys started from scratch with me; they’re still going to make a lot of improvements.”

• On Gerald Willis: “He’s still rehabbing [from knee surgery; a what Mark Richt called a clean-up on his MCL]. We’ll see how it goes.”

Will he be available for spring? “That’s what we hope for. It sounds that way. As we get closer to spring ball, we will be able to determine that better.”

How did he play last year? “That kid, when they snap the football, he’s ready to go. He’s a playmaker. I like him a lot. If we’re getting him to play, I want him on my side. I know that.”

• On Anthony Moten: “He’s really good, too. We should have great d-tackles next year. He’s a kid that we’re finally finding a home, a base for him, where he can be comfortable and succeed. And I also think at the end of the year, he was a little more productive. Which is what we’re looking for. Without big errors. And I think toward the end of the year, he was really starting to come around.”

• Tyriec Martin redshirted last season, partly because of a knee injury. “He’s at tackle. He’s got to get physically stronger. That’s where he’s at in his football development. He has to push that a little bit more.”

• Also: “There’s no question Pat [Bethel] got some time for us. I’m real excited to see him this spring. And when DJack [Demetrius Jackson] got some time in the games, he did well. So both of those guys, it’s going to be fun to watch.”

D-tackle Ryan Fines is also on the roster.