A six-pack of Hurricanes notes on a Tuesday:
▪ Even after signing 19 players last week during the new early recruiting signing period, UM isn’t done. Mark Richt said the Canes will end up with a class of between 24 and 27 based on the number of players who turn pro or transfer.
In addition to Plantation American Heritage defensive tackle Nesta Silvera — UM’s only oral commitment who didn’t sign last week — that leaves UM with up to seven slots to add more players. Richt left open the possibility of using at least one on a grad transfer.
Though college football teams can have 85 players on scholarship, Richt said UM has only 71. UM lost nine scholarships over three years because of NCAA punishment for the Nevin Shapiro scandal; those penalties ended last year.
▪ UM’s priorities are adding another defensive end and tackle and another corner (Patrick Surtain or Tyson Campbell), one more receiver and one more offensive lineman.
“Right now it’s about that ninth, 10th round in the boxing match,” cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph said. “We’re actually about to get into the 11th round. We want to finish strong. … As a staff we’re going to finish strong and go after the best of the best. If they want to come and compete, we have a spot for them.
“You went 11 rounds on the field, then right into signing day. It’s been a long season but we’re in a great position. We planted a seed early in the offseason and we’re starting to see the benefit of those seeds. It might not be exactly like this, but you can see a better picture of where we’re going. If we didn’t grind like we are, the City of Miami wouldn’t care for us. They wouldn’t be happy with our success. We want to live up to those expectations of the city.”
▪ Richt said on WQAM’s Hurricane Hotline that it was an easy choice to name safety Jaquan Johnson team MVP.
“He made so many plays, so many tackles,” Richt said. “He does what a safety should do. Such a sure tackler. And he’s not a huge man. He’s got good size but not what you would consider a prototypical 6-foot-3 safety. But he plays bigger [than his size].”
Richt said the offensive MVP (receiver Braxton Berrios) “never ceases to amaze me with what he did.” And defensive MVP Richard McIntosh Jr. is “a big time player, played with a lot of heart and spirit. Quick and penetrating and batting balls down and tackles for loss and all the things you want your defensive lineman to do.”
▪ Special teams coordinator Todd Hartley, on what UM is getting with incoming kicker Bubba Baxa, who replaces departing Michael Badgley:
“He’s extremely talented. When you have a guy like Mike Badgley, who’s arguably one of the best kickers in program history and you know he’s going to be leaving, you have to know when you’re going to find his replacement, you need to have somebody that can come in and fill those huge shoes. So what we did in the process, is we went and evaluated a lot of kickers. We went across the country and we saw them kick live in practice and we know some people in the kicking industry that have very, very valuable evaluations on these cats.
“Bubba is one of the kids we saw early, went and saw him live, and he stuck out above the rest. We offered him early and he’s ended up being a kid that we feel very confident he can come in and not only kick field goals, but kickoffs are very valuable in what we do. Having a guy that can kick the ball through the back of the end-zone is something that we look for and that’s probably one of Bubba’s best qualities. He has such a strong leg that our defense isn’t going to be worried about defending from the 35, 40-yard line. That we’re hopefully going to be defending from the 25 every time.”
▪ UM likes the position versatility of the four signed defensive backs — cornerbacks Al Blades and D.J. Ivey and Gibert Frierson and safety Gurvan Hall.
“The four kids we’ve got, none of them are locked into a position,” safeties coach Ephraim Banda said. “Gilbert’s going to start off at corner, if he can play corner, great. Gurvan will play safety. We recruit the best four kids we can at DB. Whoever the best kids are will play. Like Mike Jackson, he went to safety and did really well. Sheldrick Redwine went to safety full-time and did really well.”
Banda said Hall’s “ability to play both field and boundary safety for us is really intriguing. His physicality is one of the best in my opinion. He is the best safety in South Florida.”
And Frierson “is a freak. We had to battle some teams for him. But his length, his size, his ability to cover people up, his competitive nature is something maybe you don’t see unless you watch him in practices or games.”
▪ While UM has left open the possibility of Delone Scaife — its highest rated incoming offensive lineman – being a tackle or guard, UM says Orlando-based John Campbell will be a tackle. And Cleveland Reed, the third offensive lineman added, looks like a natural at guard.
UM would like to add one more lineman and at least three are expected to visit in January: Jalen Gross, Nick Petit-Frere and Christian Meadows.