INDIANAPOLIS - A six-pack of Hurricanes notes on a Sunday:
New UM defensive line coach Jess Simpson’s first challenge is extracting the most from this interesting group of young linemen – from early arrival Gregory Rousseau to Jon Ford to Jon Garvin to summer arrival Jordan Miller, among others.
But do you know where Simpson can make the biggest difference?
Helping UM lure the type of elite line talent that top SEC schools, Clemson and Ohio State consistently seem to get.
The Canes hope that Simpson’s deep ties in Georgia – where he was a legendary high school coach – can help UM win recruiting battles for the type of elite d-line talent that comes out of southern states such as Georgia, South Carolina, Louisiana and Mississippi, and expanding west, into Texas.
UM – which lost former defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski to Alabama this offseason - has had good success snagging defensive line talent from Florida – Chad Thomas, Kendrick Norton, Richard McIntosh, Ford, Garvin, Joe Jackson, Demetrius Jackson, and now Miller and Rousseau in this freshman class.
Of that group, Norton and Miller came from the Jacksonville area; all the others were from the tri-county area in South Florida.
But finding dominant d-linemen from other Southern states has been more problematic.
Can Simpson make a difference? That’s what UM is hoping for, as one Canes source said over the weekend.
Here’s why this is important: There were nine defensive tackles selected in the top 40 of the past three NFL drafts. Five of those nine went to high school in Georgia, Mississippi or Texas.
There were 11 defensive ends selected in the top 20 of the past three NFL drafts. Eight went to high school in Georgia, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee or Florida (all north of the tri-county except for former Ohio State star Joey Bosa).
But ties to a state, region or even a school don’t guarantee anything, as we’ve seen with UM’s ability to lure only one of the top four 2018 recruits from Plantation American Heritage, where UM cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph was head coach just a couple of years ago.
If Simpson can help UM somehow land the type of impact defensive linemen in central and North Florida and several states above it, his hiring will be more than validated.
Simpson already has made an impression on three-star Apopka defensive tackle Tyler Davis.
"They showed me a lot of things different, I really liked it," Davis told Canesport after visiting UM’s campus Saturday. "I liked all the coaches - coach Simpson, I really like him. I liked coach [Manny] Diaz, all of them."
He said Miami is "very high on my list" – even with Ohio State, Clemson, Michigan and Texas A&M.
Simpson also has forged a good relationship with Norland three-star defensive tackle Denzel Daxon, a UM oral commitment.
And Simpson is making a push for four-star Largo defensive tackle Jaquaze Sorrells, who isn’t close to announcing his plans, and four-star Auburndale defensive end Lloyd Summerall.
Shortly after Simpson’s hiring, Simpson and UM offered a scholarship to four-star defensive end Kevin Harris from Loganville, Ga., and his top three are LSU, UM and Alabama.
• Though there were no immediate commitments, UM emerged with positive feelings after hosting a bunch of players Saturday.
Several key targets reiterated to Canesport and other recruiting web sites that they’re strongly considering Miami – a group including St. Thomas Aquinas teammates Braylan Ingraham (a four-star defensive end), Anthony Solomon (a four-star linebacker), Jaden Davis (a four-star cornerback), Avery Huff (a four-star linebacker) and Jahmar Brown (a three-star linebacker) . It would be disappointing if UM doesn’t land at least two or three of those Aquinas prospects.
UM also emerged strongly in the mix for Chaminade Madonna four-star cornerback Keondra Smith (a Kentucky oral commitment who’s looking around) and his teammate, safety Te’Cory Couch (told Canesport that UM and Michigan are his top two, even though he’s a Tennessee oral commitment), as well as four-star University School running back Kenny McIntosh (Richard’s brother), Tampa four-star cornerback Johnny Dixon (likes UM a lot) and South Dade four-star receiver Frank Ladson and his four-star teammate, cornerback Tyriq Stevenson.
• Three-star outside linebacker Diamante Howard decommitted when it became clear UM had cooled on him, as 247sports.com reported. UM has two other 2019 linebackers with oral commitments: Jesiah Pierre (Mount Dora) and Samuel Brooks (Miami Northwestern).
• Richt loves what he has seen from Rousseau.
"He’s got probably the longest wingspan of anybody,” Richt said Saturday. “Now when you’re doing the zone-read, you’re blocking everybody but the end. Well, he’s so long that he can step here and maybe grab a [running] back, but if the quarterback pulls and runs, he can change direction. He’s so long he can reach out and snatch the quarterback. He’s a problem. Guys that are that tall and long, that’s what we’re looking for at that defensive end position.”
• Though it will be difficult to crack a potential top three running back rotation (Lorenzo Lingard, Travis Homer and Deejay Dallas), Trayone Gray and Robert Burns are pushing. So will Cam Davis when he arrives this summer.
Richt said Gray is getting reps at fullback and learning the position. He will have competition from summer arrival Realus George.
“He’s still a very capable tailback for us, but we wanted to see what he could do,” Richt said. “He’s big, strong, physical, and we do want to run more ’21’ than we did a year ago, ’21’ meaning two receivers, two backs — a true fullback being one of the backs — and a tight end."
Richt said Burns will be used "mostly as a tailback."
• UM athletic director Blake James told me last week that FIU hasn’t informed him where the 2019 Hurricanes-FIU football game will be played, but FIU’s stadium is off the table because it’s too small.
James said Hard Rock Stadium and Marlins Park are probably the only two realistic options for that second game of a UM-FIU home-and-home series.
FIU isn’t thrilled with the idea of playing an FIU "home" game at Hard Rock, which has made Marlins Park something of a front-runner.
James said Marlins Park wouldn’t work as a longterm home for UM because of obstructed sight lines but James wouldn’t have a problem with UM playing one game there. And he said it’s FIU’s choice, anyway.