Miami is on its way to one of the best recruiting classes in the nation, and David Wilson and the DieHards.com team are in the eye of the storm to help you track the Hurricanes. Read daily notebooks here at 10 a.m. ET Monday through Friday and follow us on Twitter for the latest Miami recruiting news.
Safety John Huggins locks in official visit with Miami
John Huggins has been on Miami’s radar since he was a solid member of Florida State’s Class of 2018. The 3-star safety took a trip to Hard Rock Stadium for an unofficial visit in November, a few weeks before it was clear coach Jimbo Fisher was on his way out in Tallahassee.
As soon as Fisher left for Texas A&M and Huggins de-committed from the Seminoles, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound senior from Mainland High School in Daytona Beach, Fla., pondered an official visit to see the Hurricanes again.
The list of teams interested in Huggins has swirled since he reopened his commitment, with Nebraska, now led by former Central Florida coach Scott Frost, and newly interested Florida headlining his list. The defensive back, however, will still use at least four of his official visits before making a decision. After visiting the Gators this coming weekend, Huggins told 247Sports’ Corey Bender he plans to take three trips during January before locking in with a school on National Signing Day.
“Jan. 12 Nebraska official, N.C. State official Jan. 19, Miami official Jan. 26,” Huggins said.
The weekend of Jan. 26 is understandably turning into a major one in Coral Gables, Fla. Only a few days ahead of National Signing Day, the Hurricanes are locked in to host Huggins, 3-star cornerback Nigel Bethel and 3-star offensive tackle Jalen Goss. It’s also looking like the potential official visit weekend for 5-star cornerback Tyson Campbell, 4-star weakside defensive end and 4-star defensive tackle commit Nesta Silvera.
Marquez Ezzard, a 4-star athlete who plays both wide receiver and free safety, is slated to visit a week earlier. Asante Samuel Jr., who hosted safeties coach Ephraim Banda for an in-home visit Wednesday, could also line up an official visit despite his commitment to Florida State.
— Asante Samuel Ⓜ️ (@godschild3_) December 13, 2017
If Miami can’t pull in Campbell or the Hurricanes lose 4-star cornerback commit Josh Jobe to No. 4 Alabama, the final weekend before National Signing Day will be a perfect opportunity to find a potential replacement. Huggins would give Miami a second true safety in the class to join 4-star prospect Gurvan Hall. If the Hurricanes lose Jobe, who projects as a potential safety, they’ll either have to find an uncommitted safety or move someone such as 4-star cornerback Al Blades Jr. to the middle of the field.
Bethel, meanwhile, is flying a bit more under the radar since de-committing from Florida earlier this week. His speed makes him intriguing as a cornerback. Bethel won a pair of track and field state championships during the spring as a member of Miami Northwestern Senior High School’s 400- and 1,600-meter relay teams.
Nesta Silvera develops pass-rush ability during senior season
The last major highlight of Silvera’s career at American Heritage School in Plantation, Fla., was a long time coming.
“I’m a fullback,” the 4-star defensive tackle said after American Heritage finished off a 44-15 blowout against Baker County High School of Glen St. Mary, Fla., on Friday.
The biggest play of the Class 5A state championship in Orlando came early during the second quarter. Baker County fumbled the ball away at the Patriots’ 40-yard line and Silvera pounced. The 6-2, 295-pound senior was off 60 yards in the other direction, guided by a convoy of teammates for the first touchdown of his varsity career at American Heritage.
“It wasn’t surprising at all because he’s one of the most mobile guys for that size that I’ve seen,” said Patrick Surtain, the former All-Pro cornerback and current Patriots coach. “He has rare quickness at that size. He has great feet.”
Silvera’s remarkable quickness at his size is what makes him such a dangerous weapon as an interior lineman. While Silvera doesn’t like to hear the junior version of himself described as a bull rusher, that’s the word Surtain uses to describe the defensive lineman from before this season. The leverage he could get with his height paired with his strength let him wreak havoc as a run stuffer.
For his senior season, Silvera wanted to become more complete. He wanted to become one of the best pass rushers in the state.
“I definitely worked on my pass-rush moves. It’s just showing on the field,” Silvera said. “I don’t think I was ever a bull rusher. I think that’s just what people said. They never really just watched me, so they just put a label.”
Silvera was every bit the dominant forced he hoped to be. He led American Heritage, ranked No. 3 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25, with 105 total tackles and 31 tackles for a loss. His 13 sacks ranked second on the team and tied for 32nd in the state among players whose stats were submitted to MaxPreps. Only two of the 31 players ahead of Silvera are also listed exclusively as defensive tackles and Silvera sat out the entire second half of most games because of blowouts. His monster season earned him a nod as a finalist for USA Today’s All-USA Defensive Player of the Year award.
Defining Silvera as strictly a defensive tackle this season is a bit misleading, though. The Patriots still primarily used him as a 3-technique, but also played him as their nose tackle and occasionally even let him move to defensive end, where he would attack the quarterback as a stand-up edge rusher.
“His junior year, with his leverage and his brute strength, he was just able to move a lineman right into the backfield,” Surtain said. “As he’s developed his senior year, he’s setting people up. They’re sitting, thinking that he’s going to bull rush, now he uses a swim move.”
It should all make him an ideal fit in the Hurricanes’ 4-3 defense. Miami has had success with pass-rushing interior linemen during recent years and while Silvera isn’t quite as big as some of those other defensive tackles, his quickness and dexterity could make him an even greater pass-rushing force than some of his soon-to-be teammates.
The Hurricanes will have to wait a little while to get an up-close look at Silvera. The senior isn’t able to enroll early and doesn’t plan to sign during the early signing period next week. Instead, he’s going to wait to take his official visit during January with teammates Campbell and Andrew Chatfield. Surtain said the plan is for Silvera and Miami’s top two remaining targets to be in Coral Gables during the weekend before National Signing Day. The Hurricanes will get to make the final pitch before the players sign their National Letters of Intent.
WR Will Huggins commits to Miami as preferred walk-on
Miami’s group of walk-ons in the next freshman class is starting to take clearer shape. The Hurricanes secured their second commitment from a preferred walk-on Monday when Will Huggins, an unranked wide receiver, announced his intentions to enroll at Miami.
— Will Huggins (@Will_HugginsWR) December 13, 2017
The 6-2, 197-pound senior flew under the radar this year playing for IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. The athlete, who has played both wideout and strong safety during his high school career, caught only 2 passes for 19 yards while playing with IMG’s No. 2-ranked national team. One of the wide receivers he was stuck behind with the Ascenders was Brian Hightower, a 4-star wide prospect who is also committed to the Hurricanes.
On Tuesday, Miami dipped into IMG again. The Hurricanes offered unranked guard Mitchell Zoloty a chance to join the team as a preferred walk-on.
— Mitch Zoloty (@MZoloty72) December 14, 2017
Huggins began his high school career at Terra Linda High School in San Rafael, Calif., before he transferred to IMG before his sophomore season. He also had an offer FCS Stetson and camped at Stanford during the summer. Huggins’ size gives him potential to be a useful player down the road, particularly on special teams.
The pass catcher is the second player to commit as a preferred walk-on in this class. Clay James, an unranked long snapper from Cocoa (Fla.) High School, will start as a walk-on before likely receiving a scholarship when long snapper Jordan Butler graduates. Miami has also sent out preferred walk-on offers to unranked athlete Reggie James and unranked offensive guard Moose Griffith.
Buzz builds for Miami’s under-the-radar 2019 commits
At first glance, the list of the Hurricanes’ Class of 2019 commits isn’t the most imposing group. There’s only one 4-star prospect pledged among a group which already includes one preferred walk-on and two other unranked prospects.
Neither of those unranked commits should stay that way for long. On Dec. 6, unranked running back Marcus Crowley followed up a 1,000-yard season by verbally committing to the Hurricanes. He also had offers from Georgia, Penn State and UCLA, but Miami impressed him with its game-day atmosphere.
“The atmosphere of the games. It’s a whole different atmosphere than a different college game,” Crowley told DieHards. “The fans are crazy and Miami’s bringing the swag back.”
Crowley will probably get the bump to 3 stars when the 247Sports composite rankings update with additions from 247Sports and Scout. He’s already a 3-star prospect in Rivals’ and ESPN’s rankings.
The bigger incoming bump should be due for Denzel Daxon, a still-unranked defensive tackle who picked up an offer from the No. 2 Bulldogs on Wednesday.
— Michael Tunsil (@coachtunsil) December 13, 2017
Daxon, who is in his first year of organized football after moving to Florida from the Bahamas during the summer, recently cracked the top 300 in ESPN’s rankings to earn a 3-star grade. He’s still raw, although on upside alone he’ll have a chance to earn a 4-star grade by the time he’s finished at Miami Norland Senior High School in Miami Gardens, Fla.
The SEC’s other playoff team also spent the day scouring South Florida and 3-star lineman Renato Brown wound up with one of his biggest offers yet. No. 4 Alabama offered the Hurricanes commit Wednesday.
— Renato Brown (@Renato__59) December 14, 2017
While Brown is rated as an offensive tackle, he hopes to play defensive line at Miami. Power 5 schools — including Louisville, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee and Rutgers, plus No. 23 South Florida — have targeted him on both sides of the ball.
Brown committed to Miami in September during the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. He cited coach Mark Richt’s communication during the storm as a major reason for his pledge.
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