College Miami Hurricanes

The Apex: Miami Hurricanes Signing Day

The first Wednesday in February lost a bit of its luster thanks to the newly created “early signing period” that came and went this past December.

Because high school football recruits could now sign their official letters of intent nearly two months earlier than usual – and because so many of the top recruits in South Florida actually did – National Signing Day wasn’t quite the spectacle that it’s been in the past.

The University of Miami signed four recruits Wednesday – bringing its “Storm 18” class to 23 – with two of those signees coming from the fertile South Florida football grounds.

Plantation American Heritage four-star defensive lineman Nesta Silvera stayed true to his longstanding commitment and signed with the Hurricanes and Miami Northwestern speedster Nigel Bethel – who played receiver in high school but will be a defensive back with the Hurricanes – was the first to fax in his letter Wednesday.

UM also netted physical 6-foot-2, 210-pound receiver Marquez Ezzard from Georgia Stockbridge High along with 6-foot-4, 330-pound nose guard Jordan Miller from Jacksonville Sandalwood High.

A couple of quick notes first:

+ Nuggets from Miami head coach Mark Richt’s press conference Wednesday.

CMR said: “We are taking a couple graduate transfers.” He didn’t name names because by rule he cannot talk about them until they have signed. But he intimated that one is an offensive lineman and the other is a defensive lineman.

“We’re not a capacity for this signing class, we have room for a couple more guys because we don’t know what may happen through spring ball,” Richt said.

Malik Rosier is our starting quarterback right now,” Richt said when asked about his first impressions of early period signee and early enrollee quarterback Jarren Williams. “But Malik, just like everyone else” has to compete and earn his spot by showing it every day in practice.”

That’s a big statement – about Rosier and the quarterback situation. I’d err on the side of saying – and have gone on record to say – that this is redshirt freshman N’Kosi Perry’s team. Perry spent the year getting some seasoning, both physically and mentally, and I believe he will be the guy that leads the offense onto the field in week one.

+ Canes defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski – better known as “Coach Kool” is very high on Silvera. He spoke glowingly about the 6-foot-2, 305-pound interior lineman.

“He’s just a really big and disruptive player. He’s got a great burst,” Kuligowski said. “The good thing about him is he’s already got the size, speed and strength that you’d typically need from a guy like that. He’s really built well. You picture a guy like Warren Sapp or a guy in that build…that’s Jade. He’s mean – players at the U.S. Army All-American game all said that he was the meanest guy there – which is great. We’re glad he’s coming to Miami.”

+ Coach “Kool” struck a chord with another statement he made Wednesday talking about the defensive players that Miami brought in on Storm 18.

“I don’t think we recruited any ‘developers’ – guys that maybe will be good players by their third year,” he said. “I think they all have the talent to be stars…now there’s a long time between now and then, but I feel good about this group and they have the talent to contribute immediately.”

The big thing about this class overall – not just on defense – is that it should create quality depth for Miami. And quality depth and competition at every position was the big thing holding this team back from truly contending with the Clemson’s and Wisconsin’s of the college world.

Until Miami is able to make every man earn his spot and playing time on a daily basis and breed a culture of intense competition from within – it won’t be able to legitimately vie for a spot in college football’s final four on a consistent basis.

This recruiting class is another step in that right direction.

+ Plenty of Miami Hurricanes fans were quite upset and maybe downright ticked off at the fact that their team was only able to net one player from Plantation American Heritage’s senior class – which had just led the Patriots to its second straight undefeated season and state championship.

Getting Silvera was a given. Fans wanted Miami to land either, all, or a combination of defensive end Andrew Chatfield, cornerback Tyson Campbell or cornerback Pat Surtain II.

UM got late visits from all three of the standouts, which is what you want coming up on Signing Day. But it ended up being to no avail. Chatfield signed with the University of Florida, Campbell picked Georgia and Surtain signed with the evil empire that is the University of Alabama.

As soon as the news broke of the other taking their talents to the SEC, fans started to spew vitriol towards Miami defensive back coach Mike Rumph.

Rumph, who played at Miami – during its most recent heyday mind you, coached at American Heritage for three seasons and won a pair of state titles there.

Fans felt because he coached at the school and coached alongside the school’s current head coach – former Miami Dolphins All-Pro Patrick Surtain Sr. – that his presence on Miami’s staff would equal a stone-cold lock for the Canes to have their pick of the Patriots’ players.

An understandable, but not excusable misconception.

Should Miami have an open-door policy at American Heritage? Yes. And I would easily venture to say that it does.

Does Rumph have the ear of the coaching staff in place there and still has connections to some of the kids in the program? Yes and yes.

While those things are true, the following is also true:

Rumph can and will sell the University of Miami to the best of his ability. But the University of Miami also has to do its part in selling itself.

The Canes were ranked No. 2 in the country at one point this past season. However, the bottom fell out on the season at the end – losing the regular season finale to Pittsburgh, getting run over by Clemson, and putting on a lackluster performance against Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl.

Didn’t itself any favors there.

Georgia and Alabama just played for a national championship.

Better, or should I say, worse yet – Miami is late to the party on getting an indoor practice facility; it’s a relatively small school in a very big city and even though it plays in a newly renovated pro stadium – the Hurricanes struggle to create awe-inspiring atmospheres on a weekly basis.

And finally, these players and their families are ultimately going to do what they feel is best for them. Even if they may have played for Rumph at Heritage or he can only do but so much as to appeal to the kids and their parents.

Fans need to recognize that Rumph is an excellent coach of the cornerback position and is someone who played the game at the highest level. He knows his stuff.

The corners that Miami gets, he’ll coach them up and he’ll get the best out of them.

+ Speaking of the corner that Miami gets, UM did get a nice haul of defensive backs in this signing class.

They got one Wednesday in Bethel, the younger brother of former Miami Booker T. Washington and Texas Tech cornerback Nigel Patten-Bethel, but they also netted four other DB’s from the early signing period.

Gurvan Hall, a safety, South Dade cornerback D.J. Ivey (6-foot-1, 175 pounds), St. Thomas Aquinas cornerback and UM legacy Al Blades Jr. (6-feet, 165 pounds), and Coral Gables’ Gilbert Frierson (6-foot-1, 186 pounds) – who played safety in high school but will be a cornerback for the Canes.

Richt and Rumph both praised Frierson – an early enrollee – for his work through the early conditioning drills.

“Frierson is a long and athletic kid, he has the kind of body type you want your players to have if you’re going to be playing championship football,” Richt said Wednesday during his signing day press conference. “He’s done well through the early mat drills…really a lot of the guys are doing well and working through all the things that we’re asking of them to do.”

“I’ve seen Gilbert play safety – and be physical and tough back there – but I’ve also seen him play at corner and just do some really special things…things that you typically don’t see a player that young do at the cornerback position,” Rumph said.

While not getting Campbell and Surtain II stings and would’ve been reason to jump for joy, equate it to going to a car lot hoping you qualify to buy a BMW truck but instead walk away with a Buick Enclave.

The Apex is a new multiplatform blog created by Miami Sports Tribune Senior Writer J.T. Wilcox. The Apex will include weekly written content and will soon add a tri-weekly audio podcast featuring Wilcox and a co-host to be named later. The Apex will look at sports, not only in South Florida, but as a whole with a unique perspective; with exclusive inside information and with entertaining commentary.
J.T. Wilcox
J.T. Wilcox is an award-winning sports journalist who has worked in South Florida for more than a decade. He authors "The Bald Predictions" blog and "The Baldcast" podcast.

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