As the NFL’s conference finals were unfolding Sunday, Manny Diaz – the UM coach who doubles as a social media savant – tweeted: “Watching great playoff football while having even better conversations in the portal.”
UM is closing in on adding at least one – and potentially two – grad transfer defensive linemen who would become immediate rotation pieces next season.
Miami has emerged as the front runner for UCLA transfer Chigozie Nnoruka, who visited the Canes over the weekend. He could compete to start if he joins the Hurricanes and at the very least would likely be in a four-man defensive tackle rotation. UF also has offered him, but it’s undetermined if he will visit.
Meanwhile, there’s mutual interest between UM and former Virginia Tech starting defensive end Trevon Hill.
Hill has 37 tackles and 2.5 sacks as a redshirt freshman in 2016, then had 46 tackles, 5.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble and an interception for the Hokies in 2017.
He began last season brilliantly, with 3.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss in three games before being dismissed from the Hokies program after a September loss to Old Dominion.
Coach Justin Fuente said Hill was dropped for “not upholding the high standards we have for our student-athletes.”
Hill, in a January post on social media, attributed his dismissal to a “heated” exchange with an unidentified Virginia Tech staffer at halftime of that loss to Old Dominion. Hill said there was no physical altercation.
“I’m a very passionate player that plays with a lot of heart and tenacity,” Hill said. “Where I’m from we don’t take losing lightly, and I just wanted to instill that in my teammates and bring the best out of them. During the Virginia Tech game at ODU, specifically during halftime, I was having a conversation with my teammates, and one of the staff overhead a part of the conversations.
“Words were said and a heated exchange took place.... To this day, I’m still confused, and hurt, about why my dismissal was the solution to a problem I sincerely believe could have been talked out.”
Last week, Hill retweeted Diaz’s tweet of video of UM’s turnover chain and added a smiling face emoji. Hill has followed five UM football staffers/coaches on Twitter and Diaz has followed Hill.
If Hill joins UM, he would have one year of eligibility remaining and likely would compete with Gregory Rousseau and Scott Patchan to start at defensive end opposite Jon Garvin. Though UM believes Rousseau is going to be an excellent player, Hill likely would be a slight front-runner for that starting job because of his experience and advanced physical development.
Here was Hill’s full statement issued on Jan. 8:
“First I want to thank God, my family and everyone who has ever supported me during my journey and time at Virginia Tech. Secondly, I want to thank the Virginia Tech community, coach Beamer, Stinespring, coach Foster and coach Wiles for giving me the opportunity to be able to play for such a great school. My time as a Hokie has been amazing and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience, even though it hasn’t been perfect, and didn’t end the way I wanted it to. I cherished every single moment I have had there.
“Many of you have probably heard or read things about why I was dismissed from the Virginia Tech football team, and now, I wish to address it all and everyone concerned. All I ever wanted was the best for my team. I never had any intentions to hurt my team or to bring them down in any way. I’m a very passionate player that plays with a lot of heart and tenacity. Where I’m from we don’t take losing lightly, and I just wanted to instill that in my teammates and bring the best out of them. During the Virginia Tech game at ODU, specifically during halftime, I was having a conversation with my teammates, and one of the staff overhead a part of the conversations. Words were said and a heated exchange took place. To my knowledge no formal investigation or meetings happened with the athletic department before my dismissal was finalized the next day.
“To this day, I’m still confused, and hurt, about why my dismissal was the solution to a problem I sincerely believe could have been talked out. However, decisions that were out of my control were made. Now, looking back, I regret my part in all of this and have learned I need to work on harnessing my passion about winning the right way, but it would be a disservice to myself, my family and my support system if I didn’t speak the truth about what transpired. I have a future to think about, and must responsibly deal with this situation head on. I’d like to answer a couple of questions that many of you may be wondering. I did not fight anyone after the ODU game and I will not be declaring for the NFL Draft this season. I ask for your prayers and support as I decide on what’s next and best for me.
“I love my Hokie brothers for life, and the relationships I have built will forever be with me not matter where I end up. Life comes at you faster then what you expect, but when you get knocked down, you have to get back up and collect the pieces. I have decided to learn, and apply what I’ve learned toward positive progression and moving forward, I can admit I have things I need to work on, and I will make a daily effort to improve myself as a man, a son, a brother, a friend and an athlete. Lastly I want to thank all of Hokie nation for the support over these past 3 years! You have been amazing you are the best fans in the country and will be missed!
“P.S. God Willing you’ll see me on Saturdays again next year #thereturn”
Hill had 17 offers as a three-star prospect out of Virginia Tech in 2015.
As for Nnoruka, he had had 49 tackles, including 8.5 for loss, and two sacks in 13 games and 10 starts in 2017 but played much less last season (seven tackles in 11 games, all as a backup) because the new UCLA coaching staff wanted to incorporate younger players.
UM already has added five impact transfers this offseason: Ohio State quarterback Tate Martell, Southern California safety Bubba Bolden, Butler left tackle Tommy Kennedy, Auburn running back Asa Martin and Buffalo receiver KJ Osborn. Of those, Kennedy and Osborn are grad transfers.