Report: Arkansas State may sue Miami for $650K over canceled football game

A satellite image of then-Category 5 Hurricane Irma, taken three days before the storm hit South Florida as a weaker system. (NOAA)

[Post feature: Malek Young building a post-football life]

Miami’s decision to cancel a game at Arkansas State in the face of Hurricane Irma may lead to a major lawsuit.

KAIT Region 8 News, an ABC affiliate in Jonesboro, Arkansas, reported that Arkansas State may seek $650,000 for “significant disruption and damages” under the terms of their 2013 home-and-home contract.

In a letter to a UM lawyer, an Arkansas State attorney claimed Miami was “unwilling” to fulfill its contractual duties, citing the original cancellation and a lack of agreement on Arkansas State’s preferred make-up date.

Citing a force majeure (circumstances beyond control) clause in the deal, Miami canceled all activities, including the Sept. 9 football game in Jonesboro, and evacuated its campus as Irma, then a Category 5 storm, plowed through the Caribbean with sustained winds of 185 mph. It made landfall in South Florida on Sept. 10 as a weaker system, but UM officials had no regrets over the decision.

“We simply cannot put our student-athletes, coaches and staff in danger traveling to and from contests,” Athletics Director Blake James said at the time.

That was poorly received in Jonesboro, where some fans criticized UM for backing out. Scout.com affiliate AStateNation said Miami was pulling a “lowbrow scam.” ASU Athletics Director Terry Mohajir said

In a letter sent Monday to UM attorney James D. Rowlee, Arkansas State attorney Brad Phelps detailed how seven other FBS schools in Florida and Georgia were able to either play or reschedule games that weekend. He said ASU made “numerous good faith efforts,” including an offer to spend more than $86,000 on a charter flight to Memphis, and UM “refused to appear,” causing “significant harm” to the ASU community and the city of Jonesboro. He said the force majeure clause did not apply.

Miami’s offer to reschedule the game in either 2024, 2025, 2026, 2027 or 2028, according to Phelps, was “not workable for and would be detrimental” to ASU, which hoped to reschedule the game in either 2020 or 2021.

In 2020, UM’s non-conference schedule includes Temple (home), Michigan State (road) and FIU (road, technically, but could be played at Hard Rock Stadium). In 2021, UM opens with Alabama in Atlanta and hosts Appalachian State and Michigan State. In both those seasons, UM plans use its final non-conference slot to play a home game against an FCS team, rather than a road game at Arkansas State.

“Because Miami has demonstrated that it is unwilling to reschedule the game within a reasonable time frame, despite having the ability to do so, Arkansas State is left with no choice other than to seek damages for Miami’s breach,” Phelps wrote.

“When this contract was executed, all parties agreed that if one party did not appear, the other party would receive a liquidated damages payment of $650,000. Under the terms of the contract, that payment is due on February 15, 2018.”

Rowlee, UM’s attorney, said in a previous letter to Phelps the school had no intention of paying that sum.

In a statement Monday, UM’s James said he was “aware of Arkansas State’s position on this matter. We believe strongly in our standing and will not comment further as both parties’ attorneys bring this to resolution.”

It also pulled out of a volleyball game at Temple and canceled two home soccer matches and a home cross country meet. The Sept. 16 football game at rival Florida State was moved to Oct. 7, and its Oct. 12 home game against Georgia Tech was pushed to Oct. 14.

UM, which had never evacuated campus before, sent approximately 4,300 residential students home. Thirty-five football players and 20 athletes in other sports evacuated with coaches and staff to Orlando. Others fled out of state. Some local players stayed with their families in South Florida.

With UM’s campus closed, the Hurricanes practiced in Orlando for five days. They played their first football game Sept. 23 against Toledo, three weeks after their Sept. 2 season-opener against Bethune-Cookman.

For more Canes coverage, follow Post on Miami Hurricanes on Facebook. Matt Porter is on Twitter @mattyports.

Football career over, Miami Hurricanes’ Malek Young chasing other dreams

Former Miami Hurricanes cornerback Malek Young sits in UM’s Schwartz Center on Friday, Feb. 9, 2017 in Coral Gables. (Matt Porter/The Palm Beach Post)

CORAL GABLES — Malek Young prays often, and did so before every game. Typically, he didn’t ask for much. As he knelt in the end zone with his teammates on Dec. 30 at Hard Rock Stadium before the Orange Bowl, he gave thanks to his family, coaches and teammates. He asked God keep everyone safe.

He’s trying to figure out why it didn’t happen that night, when he suffered a devastating neck injury that resulted in surgery to fuse his C1 and C2 vertebrae and ended his football career.

“In my head, I’m like, what’s going on?” he said, speaking to a Post reporter last at UM’s Schwartz Center, in his first interview since the injury. “What’s your plan? All my life I thought my plan was to play football. But it looks like God has a better plan. I don’t know what my plan is yet, but that’s something I’m working on and looking forward to getting to know.”

‘Man is hurt’

Malek Young runs with the ball after making an interception against Notre Dame on Nov. 11, 2017 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

A kickoff return is one of the most violent plays in a violent sport, and this appeared to be like any other. After Travis Homer’s touchdown gave Miami a 7-3 lead over Wisconsin, Young raced down the left sideline. His job was to seal the edge: he would lock up with a blocker, trying to steer the returner toward the middle of the field, and make the tackle if possible. Just as he did on dozens of kickoffs before, he met his man, Badgers fullback Austin Ramesh, at the 18-yard line, and locked on.

This time, Young, 5-9 and 180 pounds, and Ramesh, 6-1 and 255, knocked helmets.

“That’s when it happened,” Young said. A stabbing pain.

His head twisted to the left, ligaments in his upper neck stretched beyond natural repair. As kick returner Natrell Jamerson approached, Young was standing but unable to move. Behind him, Wisconsin fullback Alec Ingold hauled down Miami safety Amari Carter, an act the SEC-based officiating crew would penalize as holding. The falling pair took out Ramesh, who was still tangled with Young. Ramesh pulled down Young, whose limp body fell flat. He rolled off Ramesh and crumbled at the 20.

“My body went into shock,” he said. “It just vibrated.”

The entire play lasted eight seconds. At 5:16 of the first quarter in the Orange Bowl, his career was over.

As he watched from home, John Young had a sick feeling. “Man is hurt,” he said to Terry, his wife of 29 years, calling the youngest of their four children by his family nickname. “She said, ‘How?’ I said, ‘I’m telling you. When he laid there for a moment, I knew.’”

After two seconds on the ground, Young rose and trotted to the sideline. He recalled telling teammates and coaches, “I’m good. I’m good. It’s just a sharp pain in my neck.”

Head trainer Vinny Scavo recognized a potential problem and acted. Cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph remains grateful. Unaware in that moment, both he and Young were preparing for Young to play the ensuing defensive series.

“Big game. Top corner. Probably would have made a difference,” Rumph said. “Thank God for Vinny, man.”

Strength on display

Malek Young celebrates an interception against Notre Dame on Nov. 11, 2017 at Hard Rock Stadium. (Miami Herald)

John Young admits his son is dealing with the injury better than he is.

He didn’t shed a tear when a doctor told him, Malek, Rumph and UM chaplain Mike Blanc, that his son “100 percent” would never play again. But there was a night, shortly after Malek’s injury, after his wife left their bedroom, that Young broke down and sobbed.

“He worked so hard,” he said. “Why? Why at this point, when scouts and everything were coming out … the possibility of going to the NFL, his dream, gets snatched just like that?

John began calling Malek “Man” as a toddler, as he watched him with a mix of amusement and astonishment. Soon after learning to walk, his son wouldn’t waddle down a set of stairs. He would try to slide on his belly. When he pedaled on his first bike, he tried to pop wheelies. He wouldn’t dip into a pool. He would jump.

“Man,” John Young said. “He was a daredevil.”

It helped him compete with his two older brothers, then become a standout player in the Coral Springs Chargers, his first youth team, and at Coconut Creek High. He committed to Georgia in 2015 after bonding with then-Bulldogs coach Mark Richt, then signed with Miami in 2016, picking UM over Ohio State, Auburn, Clemson and about 20 other major schools.

He started four games as a freshman and recorded his first interception in the end zone, on Nov. 19, 2016 at North Carolina State. By his sophomore season at Miami, he was UM’s best cover corner, leading the team with 10 passes defended (eight break-ups and two interceptions). His work was regularly praised by advanced stats website Pro Football Focus, which hailed him as one of the top corners in the ACC.

In his two-year career, Young had 66 tackles, three interceptions and 11 pass deflections. He was also the first player to wear Miami’s turnover chain, after a pick in the Sept. 2 season-opener against Bethune-Cookman.

Before games, he had a peculiar habit of throwing up, owing to his nervous energy. After that, he would play ferocious and free.

In his own way, his father is trying to do the same.

“He’s helped to make me stronger,” John Young said, “because he’s taking it so well.”

Hopeful, uncertain future

Everyone’s football career stops at some point. It’s harder to process when it ends at age 20.

He is no longer Malek Young, rising star cornerback for the Miami Hurricanes. He is Malek Young, college student who can no longer play football, who gets his stitches out Tuesday.

Young, who is majoring in psychology and minoring in sociology, remains on scholarship. He is a budding entrepreneur, selling t-shirts under the label “Humble Child.” He and his girlfriend, who have been together since high school, hope to start a family one day. He said he wants to “encourage the youth in the community,” whether through coaching or speaking or another avenue.

“You never know what they’re going through.”

He will miss the early training sessions, the thrill of playing, the jokes and dancing after practices. He is welcome to be around the team as much as he wants to be. If cleared by doctors, he could even run track this spring.

John Young recently wondered if his son might pen an inspiring comeback story in football. On Sunday, he posted a video on Instagram of himself, wearing a neck brace and moving cautiously, teaching his nephew how to backpedal. Maybe if the X-rays look good on Tuesday …

“He was like, ‘Dad, I’m not even worrying about it,’” John Young said. “It happened for a reason. He said, ‘I’m not going to force it. I’m going to finish, get my masters, and move on from there.’”

Young said he’s focused on school and figuring out what’s next. Rumph will be there “every step of the way,” knowing that there are hard moments to come.

“He didn’t shed a tear,” Rumph said, recalling the moment in the doctor’s room. “His dad didn’t shed a tear. He said he’s going to be alright. … He took it like a man. He took it way better than I probably would have taken it.

“But you don’t know until you see your boys out there in those uniforms again.”

Come what may, he’ll have support.

“We want to help Malek chase his dreams,” Richt said, “whatever they may be.”

* * *

For more Canes coverage, follow Post on Miami Hurricanes on Facebook. Matt Porter is on Twitter @mattyports.

Miami Hurricanes football: How did UM prospects fare at the Senior Bowl?

CHARLOTTE, NC – DECEMBER 02: Braxton Berrios #8 of the Miami Hurricanes walks the field during warm ups against the Clemson Tigers at the ACC Football Championship at Bank of America Stadium on December 2, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

It was a quiet day for former Miami Hurricanes at the Senior Bowl.

Michael Badgley’s 50-yard field goal and Braxton Berrios’ 26-yard punt return were the highlights, in a game their North team lost 45-16 to the South in a wet afternoon at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala.

Chad Thomas, who impressed onlookers with his practice performances leading up to the game, did not play because of a minor unspecified injury, according to a Senior Bowl spokesperson.  Tight end Chris Herndon, who had knee surgery in November, was selected but did not play.

Berrios returned the game’s first punt, for nine yards, into traffic. He entered the game as a receiver on the third North series, with Oklahoma’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield at quarterback. Working from the slot, Berrios was on for five plays and did his job as a blocker. He was off the field as the North offense stalled, leading to Badgley’s field goal.

On the next series, with Wyoming’s Josh Allen throwing to him, Berrios did more blocking. He was on the field for ten more plays, including a hole-opener that sprung North Carolina State’s Jaylen Samuels for a first-down rush, but was not targeted.

He later caught one pass for four yards, from Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee, on third-and-4 for a first down. Lee targeted him three times in total.

Berrios impressed as a punt returner, finishing with 70 yards on five returns.

Badgley, who performed kickoffs and extra points for the North team, nailed his 50-yard field goal in the first quarter, straight down the middle, with plenty of leg, in wet conditions. That was undoubtedly a relief for Badgley, who missed a 24-yard field goal with about five minutes left in an Orange Bowl loss to Wisconsin. He finished his UM career with the program’s all-time scoring record (403 points).

However, he missed a 55-yarder later, knocking a stiff kick into the left post.

A Q&A with N’Kosi Perry, reviewing his Miami Hurricanes freshman year

N’Kosi Perry (left) said he gained 10 pounds and a lot of knowledge as a freshman. (Matt Porter/The Palm Beach Post)

[Previewing Miami’s early enrollees: Offense | Defense]

A few questions for freshman quarterback N’Kosi Perry, who spoke to several local reporters after UM’s 34-24 loss to Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl:

What did you think of the game? 

“It was exciting. The good plays we had were very exciting. The bad plays we had, learning lessons for me and the team, as a unit.”

How did things go for you on the practice field? What did you get out of your freshman year?

“Progress. Definitely progress from when I first got here.”

What’s your height and weight now? Have you changed at all?

“I haven’t changed my height since I got here. I came here at 177. Now I weigh 187.”

What was that process like? A lot of weight training, making sure you’re eating the right foods …

“It’s not too much of the weight training. I do the same workouts as everybody else. It’s about the nutrition. We’ve got a great nutritionist. He’s on me.”

How has that impacted you? Has it made your arm stronger, are you more athletic? 

“I don’t know. I feel good though, I know that.”

So looking forward to spring practice, trying to get into the quarterback competition for next year? 

“I’m looking forward to it. I’ve got to stay preparing, even before spring starts.”

In what way?

“Film, film room for sure. Keeping my arm loose. I’ve always got to throw. I can’t stop.”

Do you know much about the new quarterback coming in [four-star recruit Jarren Williams]? 

“No, I don’t know too much about him. I met him. He seems like a good kid. I like him.”

Do you like the idea of a competition? There will be a lot of guys competing.

“Of course. I love competition. That’s what brings the best out of me.”

Are you close with Malik [Rosier]? 

“Yeah. Me and Malik are close.”

What do you think happened today, from what you were observing? 

“It’s a lot of different thing that happened today, good and bad. We’ve just got to get better from it. And we will.”

What was your day-to-day regimen this year? 

“I knew I had to get better every day. I feel like that’s what I did. Now that I’m comfortable with everything, it’s going to be interesting.”

How much have you grown, if you had to put a number on it? 

“If I had to put a number on it — I can’t really say a number. I’m really surprised with how much I learned so fast. I just know if I stay as focused as I am now, I’m going to get better and better.”

[Referring to veterans getting emotional in the locker room after the season-ending loss] What did you learn from a leadership standpoint, seeing the passion of these guys? 

“That’s all it’s about. As long as everybody’s got a passion, we’ll be fine. We still need one main leader. Everybody has leadership sometimes. We just need it all the time.”

Were you surprised by complex the quarterback position is in college? 

“Was I surprised? No.”

You were prepared for it? 

“Yeah.”

Was there a transition for you, learning how to prepare for games? 

“It’s definitely a new transition. I watched film in high school, but I didn’t know what I was watching. The coaches here, they taught me how to watch film. They taught me what to look at. That’s why I got so comfortable.”

Miami Hurricanes football ranks 13th in final 2017 poll

MIAMI GARDENS, FL – DECEMBER 30: Chad Thomas #9 of the Miami Hurricanes reacts during the first quarter of the 2017 Capital One Orange Bowl against the Wisconsin Badgers at Hard Rock Stadium on December 30, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

[Odds: Canes hardly a longshot to win it all]

[Norton, McIntosh say they’re going pro]

[Richt on DTs, ‘alpha dog’ signee, QB]

[How will injury affect Walton’s NFL Draft stock?]

[Ed Reed a 2018 college HOFer; Sapp, Lewis wait]

[Looking back at Georgia’s close calls, final days with Richt]

After a 10-3 season that ended in the Orange Bowl, the Hurricanes were ranked 13th in the final Associated Press top 25 of the 2017 season.

It is the Canes’ highest year-end rank since 2004, when they were 11th. Miami, which ranked 20th last year, was in the year-end top five from 2000-03 and from 1986-92. This is the 18th time the Canes have been 13th or higher.

ESPN ranked the Canes seventh in its too-early 2018 poll, which may have been completed before news of RJ McIntosh’s departure reached its desk (Kendrick Norton was listed as a “key loss,” while McIntosh was not). ESPN’s take:

ESPN’s outlook:

 In Mark Richt’s second season back at his alma mater, the Hurricanes returned to national relevance with their first 10-win season since 2003, introduced us to the Turnover Chain and played in the ACC championship game for the first time. However, their three-game losing streak to close the season showed that the “U” isn’t yet all the way back.

If Miami is going to be better in 2018, quarterback Malik Rosier will have to avoid the mistakes and turnovers that plagued him in his first season as a starter. Wide receiver Berrios and two starting offensive linemen will be missed. Sophomore Ahmmon Richards might be Miami’s next star if he recovers from a knee injury.

Richt and his staff will have to continue to build depth through recruiting to catch Clemson in the ACC. They’re off to a great start in doing so.

The Athletic ranked UM eighth. Its assessment:

Miami broke through with a young team this season. The 2018 ’Canes could return 16 starters, including several key defenders — S Jaquan Johnson, LBs Shaquille Quarterman and Michael Pinckney — who accounted for 27 of their 31 Turnover Chain moments. RB Travis Homer, WR Ahmmon Richards and three O-line starters return. So does QB Malik Rosier, but he may have to fend off touted freshman N’Kosi Perry.

USA Today, which placed the Canes ninth, said this:

Miami is still not quite ready to be included among the best of the best, though the program is making obvious progress. It probably will take another recruiting class or two to get this roster’s talent level on par with a Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State or Georgia, but that time is coming. For 2018, look for the Hurricanes to compete for an ACC crown and take another step toward knocking Clemson off the top of the heap.

Where do you think the Canes should be ranked at this point?

 

Ed Reed selected for 2018 College Football Hall of Fame class

Former Miami Hurricane Ed Reed on the sidelines during UM’s win over Notre Dame. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

[Richt makes final pitch to DTs Norton, McIntosh]

[How will injury affect Walton’s NFL Draft stock?]

[Looking back at Georgia’s close calls, final days with Richt]

The College Football Hall of Fame now includes Ed Reed.

The former UM safety, considered one of the best defensive players of all time at any level of the game, was called to the college hall Monday. He will be recognized in Atlanta before the Georgia-Alabama national title game along with a class that includes former Georgia Tech receiver Calvin Johnson, Michigan defensive back Charles Woodson and coaches Frank Beamer and Mack Brown.

Reed, a two-time first-team All-American (consensus in 2000, unanimous in 2001) led UM to four bowl wins, including the national title at the 2002 Rose Bowl. He was the 2001 Big East defensive player of the year, a two-time Big East champ and is UM’s career leader in interceptions (21) and interception return yards (389).

He was, of course, known for his leadership ability:

Reed is eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame next year.

Meanwhile, the wait continues for former Canes greats Ray Lewis and Warren Sapp, both of whom were on the 2018 CFHOF ballot.

UM’s college hall inductees include (if you can name them all, pat yourself on the back):

– coach Jack Harding (enshrined 1980; several stints as coach and athletics director between 1937 and 1963)

– coach Andy Gustafson (class of 1985; led UM 1948-63; was AD until 1968)

– defensive end Ted Hendricks (inducted 1987, played at UM 1966-68)

– fullback Don Bosseler (class of 1990, played 1953-56)

– safety Bennie Blades (went in 2006; played 1984-87)

– quarterback Gino Torretta (class of 2009; played 1989-92)

– defensive tackle Russell Maryland (class of 2011; played 1987-90)

– coach Jimmy Johnson (inducted 2012; coached the Canes from 1984-88)

– quarterback Vinny Testaverde (class of 2013; player 1982, ’84-86)

– and quarterback Arnold Tucker (2008; a Miami High grad who starred at Army but played at UM in 1943 and later commanded UM’s ROTC program).

Mark Richt, close calls, Faton Bauta and Georgia’s run to a national title game

Mark Richt watches Faton Bauta (10) throw before a 2015 game in Jacksonville. (AJC)

[Richt makes final pitch to DTs Norton, McIntosh]

[How will injury affect Walton’s NFL Draft stock?]

Mark Richt publicly congratulated his former program, Georgia, and its coach, Kirby Smart, whom he considers a friend. He doesn’t want to make Monday’s national title game about him, even though his fingerprints are certainly all over the Bulldogs’ roster.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution story delved into the topic of Richt’s separation from the Dawgs, who are set to face Alabama in Atlanta hoping for their first national title in 37 years.

“This game is definitely not about me,” Richt told the AJC via text message. “It’s about the players and the current coaching staff. I am proud of the players, and I’m happy for all the Georgia people who are able to enjoy a moment like this. I’d like to leave it at that.”

The story paints one Richt decision as the final straw: his call to start former Dwyer High quarterback Faton Bauta against Florida in Jacksonville in 2015. Bauta, looking unprepared and unfit for the role, threw four interceptions in a 27-3 loss. The story quotes Dwyer coach Jack Daniels, who said Bauta, now done playing football, is at home in New York and hopes to be a coach.

“If you ask me, I think [Bauta] should have been starting earlier,” Daniels told the AJC. “I think he should’ve been given a chance before that. That was too tough of a team and a situation for a quarterback to make his first start.”

As Dawgs fans hope for glory Monday night, they’ll no doubt be thinking about the times Richt brought them close, but no cigar.

In Richt’s second season at Georgia, 2002, he had an outstanding team. They went 13-1, won the SEC title and beat Florida State in the Sugar Bowl. In a year undefeated Miami and Ohio State played for the national title, the Dawgs were left out of the conversation because of a Florida loss. They led 13-12 and halftime, gave up a touchdown early in the fourth, and had a chance to tie with 2:23 left. Quarterback David Greene threw a deep ball to Terrence Edwards, who was wide open at the Florida 30. He dropped it.

Then there was 2005. The Bulldogs were a two-loss SEC champion, and one of the losses came when Auburn’s Devin Aromashodu went 62 yards on a fourth-down pass, setting up a chip-shot field goal for a 31-30 win. The other: 14-10 to Florida, a game quarterback D.J. Shockley missed with a knee injury.

In 2007 — when current UM offensive coordinator Thomas Brown was a senior — Georgia finished 11-2, but an early 16-12 loss to South Carolina and a midseason loss to Tennessee kept the Dawgs out of the title hunt. The Vols lost to LSU in the SEC championship, though UGA was playing well enough by the end of the season to finish No. 2 in the Associated Press poll.

Oh, and 2012.

Georgia was ranked third entering the SEC title game, against second-ranked Alabama. Both teams were 11-1. The winner was bound for the national title game in South Florida.

In a game with four second-half lead changes, Georgia drove from its own 15 to Alabama’s 8 with nine seconds left. Aaron Murray’s tipped pass floated to receiver Chris Conley, who wasn’t the intended receiver. He caught the pass, and as he turned toward the end zone he slipped and fell, and the clock ran out before the Dawgs could run another play.

He was five yards short.

Alabama crushed Notre Dame for the national title at what was then called Sun Life Stadium.

“You’re never gonna get over it,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said at the time.

For fans of that program, tonight could wipe away that pain. Richt will be cheering them on.

 

2018 NFL Draft: Mark Richt makes his final pitch to Kendrick Norton, RJ McIntosh; analyst weighs in on DTs

RJ McIntosh (left) and Kendrick Norton (Matt Porter)
RJ McIntosh (left) and Kendrick Norton (Matt Porter)

[Hightower shines at Army game | Jordan a UA star]

[Leaders starting to emerge for 2018 Canes]

Mark Richt has made his final pitch to starting defensive tackles RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton.

And?

No final word yet.

“I thought the time we spent went well. I think they’re just trying to figure out what’s best,” Richt said Monday on WQAM.

The goal of his Sunday meetings with the juniors and their families were to “give them the best NFL information possible, talk about how the draft works, how second contracts work and all those type of things,” Richt said. “Just get all the information. Talk about what it’s like to leave with a degree in your hand. Talk about what it’s like to be a leader on your team and have a chance to get into the — I think we all smelled the playoffs. We didn’t quite get there. I think that’s something every young man would like to experience during his time in college.”

So, how did they leave things?

“I think they have some things to think about, pray about, and decide,” Richt said. “It’s truly a family decision. Like we told them, we’re not mad if you decide to go. We just want you to make the decision based on the best available information, and do what’s best for you.”

The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft is next Monday, Jan. 15. Draft analysts are waiting to see what both will do.

McIntosh, listed at 6-4 and 293 pounds, won the team’s defensive MVP award after registering 52 tackles (12.5 for loss), 2.5 sacks and seven pass break-ups, the most by an ACC defensive lineman in 2017 and tied for the fourth-most in the last decade. He also recovered a fumble and had Miami’s longest return — 35 yards — of the year.

“He’s a good player who could be a very good player down the road,” longtime draft analyst Tony Pauline, who pegs McIntosh as a third-rounder, said Sunday in a phone call with the Post.

Miami has had at least one first-rounder in each of the last three drafts: offensive tackle Ereck Flowers and wide receiver Phillip Dorsett in 2015, cornerback Artie Burns in 2016 and tight end David Njoku last year. McIntosh may not be drafted that high, but is considered a strong pro prospect.

“He’s an athletic guy,’ said Pauline, who said McIntosh fits as either a defensive tackle in a 4-3 or a defensive end in a 3-4 scheme. “The lack of size is an issue. He needs to get stronger and keep his quickness and agility. He’s been a decent player for a while, it’s a matter of how much growth potential does he have?”

Norton (6-3, 312), whom Pauline projects as a fifth-round pick, finished with 26 tackles (6.5 for loss) and 2.0 sacks in his junior season. At the NFL level, he won’t be a “playmaker,” Pauline said, but a “big gap-occupier type of guy who will take on blocks and let the linebackers make plays on the ball. He could grow into a zero-technique, a nose tackle. He’s not there yet, but he’s got that playing style. He’s not getting any taller. He could get wider, which could be a benefit for him.”

Richt, who spoke to WQAM about 12 hours before his former school, Georgia, was set to play Alabama in the national championship game, turned a good-luck wish into a backdoor recruiting pitch.

In expressing his love for players he recruited and mentored, he mentioned running backs Sony Michel and Nick Chubb returned to the Bulldogs for their senior year and are playing for a national title.

That idea, he said, “I’m hoping it spreads locally.”

* Richt referred to tight end signee Brevin Jordan, who was a standout in last week’s Under Armour All-America Game, as “a special player” and an “alpha dog. … “I think he’s going to come in and produce right away.” Jordan is one of 19 players to have signed with UM, but he will enroll in May. Richt noted that UM can sign as many as 27 recruits in this class — remember, traditional signing day is less than a month away, on Feb. 7 — but the Hurricanes want to leave “maybe one or two or three” scholarships open entering the spring in case a graduate transfer or other player of interest becomes available.

* Richt said quarterback Malik Rosier “is our starter right now, there’s no doubt about that.” However, he echoed his previous comments that there will open competition “at every position.”

* Graduating senior defensive end Chad Thomas signed with agent Malki Kawa, who also represents former Hurricanes first-round pick David Njoku.

2018 NFL Draft: Miami Hurricanes’ Kendrick Norton, RJ McIntosh turning pro

Kendrick Norton (left) and RJ McIntosh perform drills during Miami’s fall practices in Aug. 2017. (Miami Herald photos)

[Ed Reed a 2018 college HOFer; Sapp, Lewis wait]

[Richt makes final pitch to DTs Norton, McIntosh]

[How will injury affect Walton’s NFL Draft stock?]

[Looking back at Georgia’s close calls, final days with Richt]

The two most anticipated decisions of Miami’s offseason have been made: starting defensive tackles Kendrick Norton and RJ McIntosh, despite consultation from coach Mark Richt, are heading to the NFL.

McIntosh announced his choice late Monday afternoon on Instagram, a few hours later than Norton. He wrote that he made his choice “after all the thinking, talking to my parents, and praying to my Heavenly Father.” His post was accompanied by a photo of him wearing his No. 80 uniform, taking the field in front of giant ‘U’ flag.

“This decision wasn’t an easy one, as I love being a hurricane, but I feel I’m ready for the next step in realizing my dreams of being an nfl football player,” Norton wrote on Instagram, accompanied by a picture of him celebrating a sack of Florida State quarterback James Blackman. Norton, in one of the more memorable sack celebrations of the year, mimicked playing guitar with Blackman’s leg.

Though he wanted an encore, Richt will cheer them as he leaves.

“Like we told them, we’re not mad if you decide to go,” Richt said Monday morning on WQAM, describing his meeting with both last weekend as positive. “We just want you to make the decision based on the best available information, and do what’s best for you.”

McIntosh, listed at 6-4 and 293 pounds, won the team’s defensive MVP award after registering 52 tackles (12.5 for loss), 2.5 sacks and seven pass break-ups, the most by an ACC defensive lineman in 2017 and tied for the fourth-most in the last decade. He also recovered a fumble and had Miami’s longest return — 35 yards — of the year.

“He’s a good player who could be a very good player down the road,” said longtime NFL Draft analyst Tony Pauline, who pegs McIntosh as a third-rounder.

Miami has had at least one first-rounder in each of the last three drafts: offensive tackle Ereck Flowers and wide receiver Phillip Dorsett in 2015, cornerback Artie Burns in 2016 and tight end David Njoku last year. McIntosh told reporters before the Orange Bowl he received feedback from the NFL Draft Advisory Board that it did not project him as a first- or second-rounder. Those are the only two round-based grades the board offers.

“He’s an athletic guy,’ said Pauline, who said McIntosh fits as either a defensive tackle in a 4-3 or a defensive end in a 3-4 scheme. “The lack of size is an issue. He needs to get stronger and keep his quickness and agility. He’s been a decent player for a while, it’s a matter of how much growth potential does he have?”

Norton (6-3, 312), whom Pauline projects as a fifth-round pick, finished with 26 tackles (6.5 for loss) and 2.0 sacks in his junior season. At the NFL level, he won’t be a “playmaker,” Pauline said, but a “big gap-occupier type of guy who will take on blocks and let the linebackers make plays on the ball. He could grow into a zero-technique, a nose tackle. He’s not there yet, but he’s got that playing style. He’s not getting any taller. He could get wider, which could be a benefit for him.”

Miami now has a sizable hole in the middle of its defensive line.

Of a possible 935 snaps between the regular season and ACC Championship Game, McIntosh played 682, the highest number of any defensive player besides safety Jaquan Johnson (816), middle linebacker Shaq Quarterman (737), cornerback Malek Young (724) and safety Sheldrick Redwine (685).

Norton played a healthy amount, too (527). UM also loses graduating senior Anthony Moten, its most-used reserve (260 snaps) and little-used Ryan Fines (seven snaps), who transferred.

The Hurricanes’ defensive tackle rotation in 2018 will include redshirt senior Gerald Willis, a troubled former blue-chip prospect who took a leave of absence last season. Willis, listed at 6-foot-2 and 280 pounds, practiced with the team and was a handful for UM’s reserve offensive linemen.

Richt and his staff have long been encouraged by Willis, despite his personal issues.

“He was a terror on the scout team all year long,” Richt said last week. “We could hardly block the guy. I think he’ll do well. I think he’ll do very well.”

Willis, a New Orleans native, played in nine games in 2016 after transferring from Florida and sitting out a season to satisfy NCAA rules. He had 19 tackles (5.5 for loss) and 1.5 sacks as a redshirt sophomore.

The other potential starter is Pat Bethel (6-3, 285) played 197 snaps after switching from defensive end and adding some 30 pounds. He will be a junior.

Big Jon Ford (40 snaps as a true freshman) will have an offseason to reshape his body, after enrolling last August at 6-5 and nearly 320 pounds. The only other returnee on scholarship is redshirt sophomore Tyreic Martin, who didn’t play last year.

UM hopes to add four-star recruit Nesta Silvera (6-2, 308), a standout at the Army All-American Bowl, and ideally, at least one other tackle.

The defense, which returns starting end Joe Jackson and starting linebackers Quarterman, Michael Pinckney and Zach McCloud, got a boost when cornerback Michael Jackson and safety Jaquan Johnson announced they will return to school.

Running back Mark Walton is the only other UM underclassman who has declared for the draft. We assessed his pro potential (and that of UM’s draft-eligible seniors) in a previous post.

Recruiting: Miami Hurricanes TE Brevin Jordan shines in Under Armour All-America Game

Brevin Jordan (Diehards)

Five Miami Hurricanes signees participated in the Under Armour All-America Game. None made more of a splash than Brevin Jordan.

Jordan, the 6-foot-3, 250-pound tight end from Las Vegas, had a highlight-reel catch for Team Highlight, which won 23-21 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.

He started and was one of four captains for his team, lining up in the slot and attached to the line. He also played on kickoff coverage and extra-point duty.

This catch-and-run in the fourth quarter was one of the day’s biggest plays:

His high school teammate, UCLA-bound quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, had a secondary assist on a 24-yard reception earlier in the game. “DTR” pitched to a running who tossed to Tennessee wide receiver signee Alontae Taylor, who floated it to Jordan for a big gain. The play set up running back Maurice Washington’s third touchdown of the evening.

Jordan made a check-down catch in the first quarter but stumbled and fell down one yard behind the line of scrimmage. The pass was off-target.

On the other side: cornerback Al Blades Jr., who started for Team Spotlight, safety Gurvan Hall and offensive linemen Delone Scaife and Cleveland Reed, who came in off the bench. All except for Reed entered late in the first quarter.

Scaife split his time between right guard and right tackle, playing next to right guard Reed on a few series. Playing right tackle, Scaife had a pancake block on his first series but allowed a second-quarter sack to Georgia defensive end signee Brenton Cox Jr. On the next play, Scaife held off long enough, but quarterback Joey Gatewood (Auburn) held onto the ball and took a coverage sack. He wasn’t able to hold off a rusher as Gatewood ran into a 9-yard loss.

In the third quarter, Scaife moved to right guard looked much more comfortable. He had a pancake block on his first play and later opened up a big hole for a first-down run. He drew a personal foul penalty after defensive tackle Calvin Avery (Illinois) punched him in the face; Scaife blocked Avery to the turf, and was invading Avery’s personal space as he got to his feet. The penalty set up Spotlight’s first touchdown. Scaife was out in space, looking for a defender to clobber, as a teammate scored to make it 20-7.

He was back at right tackle, with Reed at right guard, on the next Spotlight series in third quarter. He apparently drew a holding call after sending his man to the turf. Reed was doing the same next to him. Officials did not name the offender. Scaife was playing right guard when Spotlight scored on a touhdown pass to make it 20-14 early in the fourth.

Blades wasn’t targeted, but made an important play with 1:37 left in the fourth quarter. He recovered an onside kick, keeping it in bounds with his foot, with his team down 23-21.

For that effort, he was rewarded:

Hall nearly made a diving interception off a Thompson-Robinson throw late in the second quarter, but the ball went off his hands and out of bounds. Credit him with a pass break-up.

Five-star running back Lorenzo Lingard will play in the Army All-American Bowl on Saturday (1 p.m., NBC) with fellow UM signees Mark Pope and Brian Hightower, both wide receivers, quarterback Jarren Williams and commit Nesta Silvera, a defensive tackle.