Early signing period could provide fireworks before Miami Hurricanes turn to Wisconsin prep

Mark Richt (Miami Herald)

[MVP Jaquan Johnson among UM banquet honorees]

[Canes hope to avoid early signing ‘chaos’]

Mark Richt has been “trying to sneak in some film” while recruiting, but he admits his focus has been on Wednesday, not Wisconsin.

That all changes this week, when UM turns its focus to the Orange Bowl, held next Saturday, Dec. 30, at Hard Rock Stadium (8 p.m., ESPN). From Dec. 3, a day after the ACC Championship loss to Clemson, until Sunday, the Hurricanes were mostly concerned with securing its 2018 recruiting class. Some 20 players are committed, with potentially a few more on the way. Nearly all of them visited campus last weekend, and according to Richt, “probably half” will enroll in January.

Coaches used Monday as a planning day, and 10th-ranked UM (10-2) will begin full practices Tuesday in preparation for sixth-ranked Wisconsin (12-1). Wednesday, recruits will be able to sign binding letters of intent with Division I football programs as part of the NCAA’s new 72-hour early signing period. With a dead period (heavily limited contact with recruits) beginning Monday and lasting through Jan. 15, recruiting will be at an impasse. Richt, in his 17th year as a head coach, knows Wednesday will provide some final fireworks.

“We know it’s never over until the paper’s signed,” he said Monday on WQAM, adding he “can’t even describe” all the high-drama situations he’s seen with players changing their minds at the last minute. “It runs the gamut of knowing 100 percent he’s going to do it and he doesn’t, and knowing 100 percent you’re not going to get him, and all of a sudden the fax came through and you’re wondering what in the world happened. I’ve seen it all. I’ve always learned to focus on the young men who choose Miami and the other guys, God bless ’em.”

The Hurricanes, who lost a commitment from four-star defensive back Josh Jobe (heading to Alabama) over the weekend, now hold the No. 4 recruiting class according to 247Sports. Of UM’s 20 commits, about three-quarters have publicly stated intentions to sign early. After talking with colleagues in coaching and contacts out on the road, Richt said he thinks nationwide “the great majority” of 2018 recruits will sign Wednesday. He feels that will help programs “know what they have at this point, and what they need to focus on the last few weeks of recruiting.” Also, he said, it’ll end “the madness” of recruiting for those players.

A player’s decision to not sign early should be taken as a sign of waffling. For example, four-star defensive tackle Nesta Silvera, from Plantation-American Heritage, told several recruiting websites he plans to sign in February. The reasoning: he can take his official visit in January along with three Heritage teammates — five-star cornerbacks Tyson Campbell and Patrick Surtain and four-star defensive end Andrew Chatfield — who are three of Miami’s top remaining targets.

Regardless, Richt expects to see the bulk of letters of intent reach UM’s football offices Wednesday — however they come.

“You can fax it, you can scan it an email it, you can even take a picture of it with your phone and shoot it by text,” he said on WQAM. “We’ll accept that too, as far as the announcement. Eventually the hard copy gets sent in.”

Junior days: Richt said he plans to have conversations with juniors who could enter the NFL draft “in the near future. This is the time of year where you get a chance to talk with them. We’ve been so busy on the road recruiting that it’s hard to find the time.” Candidates to leave early include both starting defensive tackles, team defensive MVP RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton; starting safety Jaquan Johnson and starting cornerback Michael Jackson.

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