While Wednesday brought plenty of good news for the Hurricanes, it brought few surprises.
Mark Richt’s program did most of its work in December, signing 19 players, 10 of which enrolled last month. It added four on signing day, making it a 23-player class. When Richt addressed the media at 3 p.m., the group was rated No. 7 in the country by 247Sports. It is Miami’s highest recruiting ranking since 2008, when 247 rated UM first overall, and the highest-rated group in the ACC.
“If we keep recruiting like this,” Richt said, “there’s going to be a lot of happy Hurricane fans, I can tell you that.”
Wednesday’s big addition was four-star defensive tackle Nesta Silvera, who honored a pledge to Miami he made last February.
“There was some cheering for sure,” Richt said of the Wednesday morning phone call with Silvera, whom he referred to by his middle name, Jade. He feels Silvera is “the best 3-technique in the state of Florida.” He later wondered if he was “the best interior defensive lineman … probably in America.”
Silvera, listed at 6-foot-2 and 308 pounds, was a four-star recruit rated second-best among prep defensive tackles by 247Sports. That website pegged him as the No. 54 prospect regardless of position. ESPN had him No. 3 among defensive tackles and No. 50 overall. Rivals considered him ninth and No. 121.
He racked up 107 tackles, 31 for loss, and 12 sacks as a senior for Class 5A state champion Plantation-American Heritage. He also recovered a fumble and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown. In three high school seasons, he produced 187 tackles, 51 for loss, and 17.5 sacks.
He could see immediate playing time at Miami, which loses starting tackles RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton, both juniors, to the NFL draft, and graduates key reserve Anthony Moten.
“Miami is home,” Silvera said Tuesday on ESPNU, wearing a turnover chain edition ‘U’ hat. “It’s the crib, you know? What I can do here, I could go to Tuscaloosa, I could go to Athens, I could go to Gainesville and make those schools great, but why not stay home and make the crib great?”
The “best nose guard” in the state, Richt feels, is Jordan Miller, a three-star signee from Jacksonville-Sandalwood High. Richt said he wondered what was wrong, since more big-name programs weren’t recruiting him until late. “There’s no way this guy could be this good, have this good of grades, and not be spoken for,” Richt said. Position coach Craig Kuligowski later explained that Miller played at a small school — Palatka High — before transferring to Sandalwood last spring. He had gall bladder surgery and did not participate last spring, a period in which he might have been discovered.
The Hurricanes also landed four-star Georgia-based wide receiver Marquez Ezzard, who picked the Canes over Mississippi. “He’s 6-2, 215 pounds and plays like a heavyweight boxer,” Richt said. Receivers coach Ron Dugans said Ezzard will start as an outside receiver.
The other signee Richt was happy to spotlight: “Super fast, agile” Nigel Bethel, a three-star cornerback from Miami Northwestern. Though not rated as high as UM’s December cornerback signees — Al Blades Jr., D.J. Ivey and Gilbert Frierson were four-stars — defensive coordinator Manny Diaz was impressed.
“When he came to our 7-on-7 camp (last summer) and locked down everyone out there,” Diaz said, “we couldn’t get that out of our minds.”
A few late defensive misses stung some fans, who hoped five-star cornerbacks Tyson Campbell (Georgia) and Patrick Surtain Jr. (Alabama), and four-star defensive linemen Andrew Chatfield (Florida) and Keondre Coburn (Texas) would join Richt’s group in Coral Gables.
Miami has its own internal system for grading recruits. Players are rated from “ones” to “fives,” with ones defined generally as “big-time guys, guys we can win the [ACC] with,” Diaz said.
According to Diaz, Miami got the ones it wanted.
“Some of the [players] we didn’t get, and some of the places they went, they wanted our ones,” Diaz said. “So they missed, too. … That’s just recruiting. That’s why we are excited about hitting the targets we had to hit. I don’t see people in this class we don’t feel like we can win the league with.
“What gets you beat is when you take the wrong ones.”