2017 Orange Bowl: Should Mark Richt have been ejected for contacting official?

Mark Richt (Getty Images)

[Live updates from the Orange Bowl]

MIAMI GARDENS — During a pre-scheduled halftime interview with ESPN’s Molly McGrath, a heated Mark Richt was asked what got him hot. His reply:

“If you watch the tape, you’ll see.”

Then he jogged away.

Richt was evidently miffed over a missed holding call before UM allowed a touchdown to fall behind to Wisconson 24-14 with 3:59 left in the half of the Orange Bowl.

ESPN’s Joey Galloway, on the network’s halftime show, professed there was “no doubt he should be ejected from this game.” The broadcast crew pointed out that Richt “forcibly grabbed” and “bumped” an official. The video backed that up.

Why was Richt so mad? It may have been this:

In the locker room, Richt would try to figure out what was going wrong with his offense, which lost three net yards on nine plays over four drives after the Hurricanes went up 14-3 with 3:18 left in the first quarter. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, meanwhile, had to figure out what happened to a unit that was burned for 21 unanswered points in the second quarter, letting the Badgers take control.

Wisconsin led the Orange Bowl 24-14 at halftime. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook, who started 3-of-9 for 23 yards, closed the half 10-of-11 for 116 yards and three touchdowns. Seven of those throws went for 10 yards or longer. Freshman running back Jonathan Taylor had 16 carries for 85 yards.

For Miami, Malik Rosier was 3-of-7 for 41 yards and an interception, but the combination of DeeJay Dallas (four carries, 57 yard,s, touchdown), Travis Homer (seven carries, 37 yards, touchdown) and Rosier (five carries, 20 yards including a 16-yarder) averaged 7.1 yards per carry.

2017 Orange Bowl: Live updates, No. 10 Miami Hurricanes vs. No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers

MIAMI GARDENS, FL – DECEMBER 30: A detailed view of Capital One Orange Bowl signage on pylon before the game between the Miami Hurricanes and the Wisconsin Badgers at Hard Rock Stadium on December 30, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

MIAMI GARDENS — Keep it locked here for updates from the 2017 Orange Bowl, where the 10th-ranked Hurricanes (10-2) will play the sixth-ranked Badgers (12-1) in one of college football’s marquee bowl games.

FINAL: No. 6 Wisconsin 34, No. 10 Miami 24

Miami interception (1:19 4Q)

Malik Rosier’s third. This one’s over.

Miami missed FG (4:34 4Q)

Woah. Miami’s all-time leading scorer, senior kicker Michael Badgley, doinked the right post from 23 yards out, down 10 with 4:34 left.

Jeff Thomas caught a 48-yard deep ball to get Miami to the 10, but Malik Rosier couldn’t find anyone on third-and-goal from the 8.

Wisconsin 34, Miami 24 (7:44 4Q)

Alex Hornibrook marched down the field, going 6-for-6 for 74 yards and a 6-yard touchdown to Danny Davis. UM seemingly couldn’t cover anyone.

Wisconsin 27, Miami 24 (11:34 4Q) 

From 41 yards out, Michael Badgley got the Canes within three. Lawrence Cager had catches of 13 and 14 yards on that drive, both on third downs.

END 3Q: No. 6 Wisconsin 27, No. 10 Miami 21

Miami punt (1:56 3Q) 

A Badgers touchdown might spell doom for the Canes. UM must have a stop here. A pick-six would be even better for the hometown squad.

Wisconsin 27, Miami 21 (3:39 3Q)

Badgers hit a 47-yarder. Opposing kickers are now 21-for-21 against Miami this year.

Miami interception (8:48 3Q) 

Good times over, for now. Malik Rosier threw an interception in the end zone. Wisconsin cornerback Derrick Tindal, who was hurt early in the game, got in front of Lawrence Cager to haul in a low and short throw from Rosier.

Also, UM fans pointing out a missed holding call may have a point (again):

Braxton Berrios made a pair of outstanding diving catches to get UM downfield. He picked up 16 and 21 yards on successive receptions.

Record book update (9:40 3Q)

The touchdown pass gave Malik Rosier a Miami record. After throwing his 25th touchdown pass this season, he is responsible for 31 touchdowns total, breaking the record set in 1986 by Vinny Testaverde.

Wisconsin punt (9:40 3Q) 

Shaq Quarterman nearly came down with an interception on first down, Michael Pinckney made a second-down stuff and Wisconsin’s Kendric Pryor dropped a crossing pass — the play that’s been hurting UM all game — on third down. Braxton Berrios hauled in the punt at the enemy 45.

Wisconsin 24, Miami 21 (10:52 3Q) 

After Miami and Wisconsin traded punts to start the half, the Hurricanes scored a critical six.

Malik Rosier extended the play long enough for Lawrence Cager to get behind the defense for a 38-yard score. Cager was all alone. Rosier hit him with an gentle floater. Looked easy, and what good timing for the Canes.

HALF: No. 6 Wisconsin 24, No. 10 Miami 14

During a pre-scheduled halftime interview with ESPN’s Molly McGrath, a heated Mark Richt was asked what got him hot. His reply:

“If you watch the tape, you’ll see.”

Then he jogged away.

Richt was evidently miffed over a missed holding call before UM allowed a touchdown to fall behind 24-14 with 3:59 left in the half.

ESPN’s Joey Galloway, on the network’s halftime show, professed there was “no doubt he should be ejected from this game.” The broadcast crew pointed out that Richt “forcibly grabbed” and “bumped” an official. The video backed that up.

In the locker room, Richt would try to figure out what was going wrong with his offense, which lost three net yards on nine plays over four drives after the Hurricanes went up 14-3 with 3:18 left in the first quarter. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, meanwhile, had to figure out what happened to a unit that was burned for 21 unanswered points in the second quarter, letting the Badgers take control.

Wisconsin led the Orange Bowl 24-14 at halftime. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook, who started 3-of-9 for 23 yards, closed the half 10-of-11 for 116 yards and three touchdowns. Seven of those throws went for 10 yards or longer. Freshman running back Jonathan Taylor had 16 carries for 85 yards.

For Miami, Malik Rosier was 3-of-7 for 41 yards and an interception, but the combination of DeeJay Dallas (four carries, 57 yard,s, touchdown), Travis Homer (seven carries, 37 yards, touchdown) and Rosier (five carries, 20 yards including a 16-yarder) averaged 7.1 yards per carry.

Wisconsin 24, Miami 14 (0:19) 

Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook is 10-for-his-last-11 for three touchdowns, as the Badgers have taken total control of the Orange Bowl. UM had the place rocking at one point. No longer.

Hornibrook’s

UM forced a third-and-7 at Wisconsin’s 41, but Alex Hornibrook hit A.J. Taylor over the middle for a first down. Trajan Bandy was late on the coverage.

Mark Richt was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, and if not for strength-and-conditioning coach Gus Felder, may have gotten a little too close to the officials (see below). The penalty moved the ball to the . Moves the ball 5 yards to the 5. Wonder if the word “holding” came out of Richt’s mouth in his chat with officials.

Miami punt (3:59 2Q) 

The Canes need a stop here, bad.

A three-and-out, which ended with Malik Rosier swallowed up by a pair of defensive linemen and a “let’s go Badgers” chant from the traveling fans in red, forced a punt. It was long enough (49 yards) but low, and after a 10-yard return the Badgers will start at their 38.

Wisconsin 17, Miami 14 (5:49 2Q) 

On a drive that included a 255-pound fullback hurdling a Hurricanes cornerback in the open field, the Badgers retook the lead.

A.J. Taylor’s 16-yard touchdown catch, on which he got behind safety Sheldrick Redwine on a fade, was the second touchdown throw of the night for sophomore Alex Hornibrook. He is 9-of-15 for 91 yards, and UM hasn’t forced enough mistakes.

The aforementioned hurdled came when fullback Austin Ramesh, listed at 6-1 and 255 pounds, jumped over Dee Delaney. Miami’s defense didn’t provide enough resistance beyond some decent pressure from the defensive line.

Also, Wisconsin did a chain-snatching celebration:

Record book update (around 8:00 2Q)

Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor, with 10 carries and 79 yards already, has the most rushing yards by a freshman in FBS history. He broke Adrian Peterson’s record (1,925), set in 2004 at Oklahoma.  Taylor entered the game with 1,847 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Miami punt (12:27 2Q)

Miami began the drive with Tyree St. Louis false start. Wisconsin’s Olive Sagapolu sacked him on second down for a loss of 4. On fourth-and-11, Zach Feagles produced a quality, 47-yard punt — a major sigh of relief, since the true freshman has struggled this year — and set up the Badgers at their own 29.

Miami 14, Wisconsin 10 (13:36 2Q)

A Malik Rosier interception burned Miami. Wisconsin scored three plays later. Badgers receiver Danny Davis made a 20-yard touchdown catch over Dee Delaney, who wasn’t able to get a hand on the ball.

Miami interception (14:56 2Q)

Malik Rosier threw it right into the hands of Wisconsin linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel, who had a huge pick-six in the Big Ten Championship loss to Ohio State. He’s a playmaker. But Rosier made an off-target throw, trying to get it to Braxton Berrios on a quick out.

END 1Q: No. 10 Miami 14, No. 6 Wisconsin 3

Wisconsin punt (0:07 1Q

Big-time D-line pressure from Miami there. Trent Harris, Chad Thomas, Joe Jackson, RJ McIntosh, Jonathan Garvin all factored in in a big way.

Two breaks of the zebra variety: Wisconsin avoided a sack via a late timeout, and Miami avoided a long gain on a great catch by Kendric Pryor (who got behind Jhavonte Dean) on a holding call. Yes, a Miami opponent was called for a hold.

This is great

Miami 14, Wisconsin 3 (2:49 1Q) 

DeeJay Dallas took a direct snap and raced 39 yards for a touchdown, after gaining 6 yards on the first play of the drive. Short and sweet. Dallas punctuated the TD by mimicking a brushing-off of any dirt on the front of his uniform. He has a career-high 57 yards and a touchdown on four carries, and a 22-yard catch.

As the touchdown was happening live, ESPN’s TV broadcast — which of course is on a delay — was showing a graphic about Miami injuries. Photos of Mark Walton, Ahmmon Richards and Chris Herndon, three major offensive weapons who were previously lost for the season, were shown.

No matter. Dallas, the freshman, was celebrating in the end zone. Former walk-on receiver Malik Mayweather and formerly little-used receiver Darrell Langham, both of whom provided blocking on the play, were in the end zone with him, celebrating Miami’s lead.

Also should note: Braxton Berrios continues to be an excellent blocker, especially for someone listed at 5-9 and 185 pounds.

Wisconsin punt (3:18 1Q) 

Outstanding defensive series, and Miami just swung the field position battle in a big way.

After a 39-yard punt from the end zone, the Hurricanes will start at the Badgers’ 45.

Wisconsin started at its own 9 after a holding call on the kickoff. Miami forced third-and-9 at the 10. Zach McCloud made a tackle in space for a 4-yard loss.

Injury update:

Will be monitoring this …

Miami 7,  Wisconsin 3 (5:21 1Q)

Travis Homer dragged Wisconsin linebacker Garrett Dooley into the end zone on a 5-yard touchdown run, putting the hometown Hurricanes on top.

After failing to impress with its opening salvo, Miami put together a highly effective drive. The Canes used 2:37 of clock and went 75 yards in seven plays.

To start, Malik Rosier picked up 16 yards on a sneak, then threw in the flat to DeeJay Dallas, who burst up the sideline for 22. Rosier and Dallas picked up 9 and 8 yards, respectively, showing their balance as runners. Homer bounced outside and lowered his shoulder for 11 yards, getting UM to the 5. Homer bulled his way in from there.

Injury note: Wisconsin cornerback Derrick Tindal, a South Florida native, jogged off after laying on the turf for a brief moment.

Wisconsin 3, Miami 0 (7:58 1Q)

We have points. A 45-yard field goal by Rafael Gaglianone put the Badgers on the board, after an eight-play, 47-yard drive and a stand by Miami.

Jonathan Taylor opened things by rushing for 14 yards. Alex Hornibrook hit Kendrick Pryor on a crossing route for another first down. Badgers coach Paul Chryst used a tricky move: having Taylor stand up straight for a moment and pause after taking the handoff, and having him burst ahead. He got 19 yards on that delay tactic, and no Miami defender was able to hit him while he stood in the backfield with the ball. UM forced a third-and-8 at its own 17, and Trajan Bandy wasn’t tall enough to come down with a high Hornibrook fade to the end zone.

Miami missed FG (11:16 1Q)

Miami couldn’t capitalize on a turnover, even though Travis Homer’s 31-yard rush got the Hurricanes to the Wisconsin 38. The Badgers’ D stopped Malik Rosier and Homer for gains of a yard each, and kicker Michael Badgley was short and wide right on a 53-yard attempt. Still scoreless here.

Turnover Chain, Pt. I (13:11 1Q)

Dee Delaney wore the gold, stunting a drive that appeared bound for a Wisconsin touchdown. Delaney, the fifth-year Miami cornerback, jumped on a loose ball at the UM 31 after star Wisconsin freshman Jonathan Taylor lost his grip.

Joe Jackson chased Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook into a throwaway on the first play of the game, but Hornibrook hit A.J. Taylor on third-and-9 to get beyond midfield. Taylor was wide-open on an 18-yard pickup.

Jonathan Taylor got loose for a gain of 14 on the next play and appeared to fumble. The play was originally ruled down, but referees overturned the call.

https://twitter.com/SInow/status/947276626961862657

Coin toss

Miami won and deferred. This is a common occurrence for the Canes, who have won nearly every toss this year (and deferred).

Pregame updates

7:47 p.m. — Videos and photos from the field:

 

6:23 p.m. — The Post (well, this Post writer, anyway) is predicting a Hurricanes win. Click here for the matchup breakdown and my pick.

Walking into the stadium (check my live story at instagram.com/mattyports for more), the tailgates were overwhelmingly Miami-flavored, with wafting cigar smoke and the aroma of grilled meats, adult beverages aplenty and orange-and-green colors everywhere.  There’s a buzz out there. UM people are expecting a strong home crowd.

Injured Hurricanes Ahmmon Richards, Demetrius Jackson and Charles Perry just walked onto the field. Perry and Herndon are using one crutch. Richards, wearing a brace on his left knee, and Jackson were not. Evidence Njoku, sans crutch, stood with them as they chatted and joked around for a bit.

Miami is wearing its all-black uniforms, completed by black helmets. Wisconsin, it appears, will be in all-white.

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2017 Orange Bowl: Previewing, predicting No. 10 Miami Hurricanes vs. No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers

(Getty Images, Post illustration)

FORT LAUDERDALE — At a previous coaching stop, Mark Richt was part of a program that accepted a Sugar Bowl bid three times in four seasons. (That was Florida State, which played in that heralded event four times from 1995-2000.) He recalled people, at some point in that stretch, expressing disappointment.

“It’s like, ‘We’ve got to go to the Sugar Bowl again,'” Richt said.  “And you’re just like, ‘What are we saying here?’ I think sometimes you can not really appreciate things until you lose them.”

Richt and his 10th-ranked Hurricanes (10-2) won’t speak ill of this year’s Orange Bowl, which carries the same New Year’s Six pedigree. They won’t complain, not after the way they lost the last two games of the season, snapping a lengthy winning streak and slipping from national championship contention. Same goes for the Wisconsin Badgers (12-1), whose undefeated season spun off-track with a loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten title game. Both programs see Saturday (8 p.m., ESPN) as a chance for redemption, a righting of recent wrongs.

“No one likes to lose one game, let alone two in a row,” Richt said. “We won 15 in a row and kind of got used to that. Maybe too used to it, I don’t know. We just couldn’t get it done last couple games. It’s not fun. Losing stinks.”

They wouldn’t be blase about playing in next year’s Orange Bowl, either, since it will be one of two College Football Playoff semifinal games. Richt estimated that after graduation and NFL draft declarations, “probably 85 percent” of his team will return. He wants the Hurricanes to use the experience of playing in “an iconic bowl in our country” to build for 2018. He called Wisconsin, looking to win 13 games for the first time in its 126-year history, “a team that’s going to challenge us in every way, shape or form, offense, defense, special teams, as coaches.”

He hopes they’ve learned from Dec. 2 in Charlotte, when Clemson smashed Miami and grabbed the ACC crown. That came a week after the 10-point loss in Pittsburgh. That 1-2 combo left the Canes dazed, but Richt believes they’re off the mat.

“I think the more experiences we have like that, the more you can have a comfort level with it,” he said. “You can describe things all you want, but until you live them out, sometimes you can’t learn a lesson until you go through the trial.”

They could win a marquee bowl for the first time since beating Florida State 16-14 in the Jan. 2, 2004 Orange Bowl. That 2003 season was the last time UM won 11 games, and its most recent top-10 finish.

They’d rather be in the Sugar Bowl, which hosts No. 1 Clemson and No. 4 Alabama in a playoff semifinal of great intrigue, or the Rose Bowl (No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 3 Georgia). But they’re home, at Hard Rock Stadium, in Saturday’s biggest game.

Short of Monday’s semifinals, that is as good as it gets.

“This bowl’s a great bowl, but if we don’t win it, it won’t be my favorite,” Richt said. “If we win, it could be one of my favorites.”

How the teams stack up, and a prediction:

When Wisconsin passes 

Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said this week the Turnover Chain will return for 2018. The Hurricanes hope Alex Hornibrook gives them a few more opportunities to break it out this year.

Hornibrook, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound redshirt sophomore who has started 22 career games for Wisconsin, has a propensity to throw picks. In nine of 10 games against Big Ten opponents this year, he threw at least one interception. In his most recent outing, the Badgers’ 27-21 loss to the Buckeyes in the conference championship, he threw two, and completed 19-of-40 passes. It was his arguably his worst performance of the year, on the biggest stage. If he throws 40 times against Miami’s defense, Wisconsin may be in trouble.

The Hurricanes, who had 17 interceptions among their 30 takeaways (tied for third in the nation), will need to contend with reliable senior tight end Troy Fumagalli, a second-team All-American, but other than that, the Badgers’ receivers won’t scare many teams with Hornibrook at the controls. Edge: Miami

When Wisconsin runs

Jonathan Taylor isn’t Josh Adams, but Miami hopes to saddle him with a similar fate.

Taylor, 5-11 and 214 pounds, is third in the nation in rushing yards per game (142.08). At 1,847 yards, he is 79 shy of breaking Adrian Peterson’s single-season FBS record for a freshman. He went for at least 120 in nine of Wisconsin’s 13 games, but Ohio State limited him to 41 on 15 carries in the Big Ten title game.

Like Adams (6-2, 225), the bulldozing Notre Dame running back who came to Hard Rock Stadium on Nov. 11 with Heisman Trophy hopes, Taylor runs with a bruise-’em-and-break-away style. The Hurricanes were able to shut down Adams in that game, bullying the Irish’s ballyhooed offensive line. The Badgers, who have four starting linemen who earned first-, second- or third-team Big Ten honors, are built in a similar fashion. UM’s front seven is as stout as they come, Taylor is elite, and this should be a four-quarter battle. Edge: Wisconsin

When Miami passes

Wisconsin’s game plan should sound familiar: force Malik Rosier to throw.

No ACC quarterback threw more interceptions than the redshirt junior (11, tied with two others) and only one, Boston College’s Anthony Brown, had a worse completion percentage (54.8). Rosier’s struggles hitting open receivers were a major reason UM lost to Pitt and Clemson; he completed just 29-of-63 passes (46 percent). From Oct. 28 at North Carolina, when he injured his throwing shoulder, to the end of the season, Rosier completed more than 54 percent of his passes in one of six games (Notre Dame), and threw eight of his 11 interceptions.

UM’s passing offense was ugly against Clemson, with Ahmmon Richards and Chris Herndon — two of its three leading receivers — out with injuries. It may not be much prettier against Wisconsin, which ranks No. 1 in passer rating against (96.32) and No. 4 in completion percentage against (49.1). Miami’s best hope: Rosier is healthy after three weeks without contact, and wideouts like Braxton Berrios and Jeff Thomas make good use of their speed. Edge: Wisconsin

When Miami runs 

The Badgers stop the run well: 2.96 yards per carry allowed, third among Power 5 teams. That seems like bad news for Miami, which operated at a 2.81 clip against Pitt and Clemson. Sophomore Travis Homer, who finished fifth in the ACC in that category (5.97), was all but silenced in that stretch (2.52).

Homer, who has 902 yards and seven touchdowns in moving from Mark Walton’s backup to full-time starter, has shown enough against quality teams to make one believe he’s not done making noise. If Miami’s offensive line comes to play, inexperienced starting tight end Michael Irvin II is an effective blocker, and UM finds creative ways to use multipurpose freshman DeeJay Dallas, Homer and Rosier, they’ll be able to move the chains. Putting all that together against one of the best run defenses in the nation is a tough ask. Edge: Wisconsin

Special teams 

Wisconsin’s special teams are decent at best. Kicker Rafael Gaglianone is 14-of-16 on field goal attempts, with long of 52 yards and misses from 37 and 39. The Badgers are 101st in punting average (39.57 yards) and 51st in punt return average (8.45). Hurricanes kicker Michael Badgley has double the misses (16-of-20), but hit all 14 attempts from under 40 yards. Miami is 31st in opponent punt return average, while Wisconsin is 66th. Flip that on kickoffs: Miami is 107th, Wisconsin is 40th. Miami returned just 13 punts, but ranked sixth in average (15.92) with smart senior Braxton Berrios back there. Wisconsin is 72nd in kickoff return average and Miami is 47th, but both average slightly more than 20 yards. Edge: Even

Coaching 

Excellent head coaching matchup, pitting a pair of ex-quarterbacks leading their alma maters. The Badgers are 33-7 under Chryst, with wins in the Holiday Bowl and Cotton Bowl in his first two years. Richt’s resume includes a pair of SEC titles in 15 seasons at Georgia, and has continued to shine at UM — he is 19-6, including a 15-game winning streak that ended Nov. 24. Forget the resumes, though. Deciding the edge here is about how Richt schemes to move the ball without two of his top three receivers, and how defensive coordinator Manny Diaz contends with Taylor. It’s about how Chryst keeps Hornibrook from seeing the Turnover Chain, and how defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard coaxes Rosier into mistakes of his own. It’s also about how each staff gets its players fired up, and the Canes will have a little help in that regard. Edge: Miami

Prediction

The numbers, as outlined above, say Wisconsin should win this game. Las Vegas, which books UM as a 6-point underdog, says Wisconsin should win this game. But the Canes are a different team at home, and the crowd at Hard Rock Stadium will have a say in how the 2017 Orange Bowl plays out. There will be plenty of red-clad Bucky backers in the stands, happy to be in the warm weather, but the Canes contingent will make it an orange-and-green evening to remember. Get used to Richt coaching Miami in New Year’s Six bowls. Miami 21-17

Malik Rosier isn’t ready to give up his job and has fought through shoulder pain to prove it

Malik Rosier, who has won 11 of 13 career starts as Miami’s quarterback, leads the Hurricanes against Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl Saturday night. Good stuff, right?

Malik Rosier of the Miami Hurricanes rushes against the Pittsburgh Panthers on November 24, 2017 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Not good enough for many fans who were over the moon about Miami’s 10-0 start and are now seeking someone to blame for those consecutive losses to Pittsburgh and Clemson to end the regular season.

Let’s begin by blaming Clemson for being the No. 1 team in the nation and the defending national champion. Proven power like that has a tendency to rend the sturdiest game plan.

The Pittsburgh clunker is harder to swallow, a 24-14 road loss during which Rosier was briefly benched in favor of backup Evan Shirreffs. That day would have been N’Kosi Perry’s time to shine if he weren’t in the final stages of a true freshman season that has been all about learning and redshirting. Next summer, coach Mark Richt will have his choice of Perry or new signee Jarren Williams or, what, more of Malik?

My advice is don’t count Rosier out so quickly. He’ll fight like a demon to keep his job in 2018, even though his comments on the matter during a Thursday Orange Bowl media session were borderline angelic.

“If N’Kosi or Jarren come in and beat me, then my cap’s off to them,” Rosier said. “I’ll support them the whole way. I’ll help them in any way I can…You can ask N’Kosi himself. I want him to be as great as he can be because if there’s no competition I won’t get any better. The only way I can grow is if someone pushes me to be better.”

That’s the voice of a leader, protecting against division within the team and projecting a little, too. If you want to be starter for Miami at any position, prove that there’s no better option. If you want to suit up for Miami, period, prove that you belong.

Expect Rosier to do just that on Saturday night, taking on the No. 6 Badgers with an eye toward firming up his relationship with Richt. The coach chose him last summer based on the fullest grasp of Miami’s offense system. Now, with a bruised throwing shoulder refreshed by three weeks free of continued pounding, it’s time for Rosier to demonstrate his full grasp on Miami’s future, too.

Don’t bet against it. This guy has been hurting since the North Carolina game on Oct. 28, when he briefly left a tense 24-19 road victory so that the possibility of a broken collarbone or some other disaster could be ruled out.

“They said ‘If you can throw, throw, and if you can’t, just let us know,’ ” said Rosier, who popped a couple of Aleve and returned to complete a career-best passing day of 356 yards.

He’s been letting the Miami training staff know pretty much every day since with a steady discipline of early-morning treatments on his sore shoulder, sometimes calling him out of bed at 5:20 a.m., followed by class and practice and often two more hours of treatment in the evening.

Richt surely couldn’t spare Rosier with games against Virginia Tech and Notre Dame coming on consecutive weeks in November. Already the Hurricanes had lost leading rusher Mark Walton to season-ending injury and eventually they would lose prime receiving targets Ahmmon Richards and Chris Herndon, too.

“Everyone says that the body follows what your mind says,” Rosier said. “It was one of those things where I was going to have to suck it up and play or I was going to just have to give the job up. I’m not ready to give the job up.

“That Sunday and Tuesday practice before the Virginia Tech game I could barely pick up a ball, my shoulder was so sore and, like, damaged.”

Makes sense, then, that Rosier’s passing night against the Hokies was nothing special, with three balls caught by Virginia Tech defenders and only 10 by his teammates. The answers came in different ways, however, with the quarterback rushing for 84 yards and one touchdown in Miami’s 28-10 victory. Matter of fact, Rosier caught a gadget pass from Braxton Berrios for 17 yards, too.

This guy’s not backing off. Wisconsin’s players certainly expect a strong performance from him. Badgers linebacker T.J. Edwards compares Rosier to Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett, the only quarterback to beat Wisconsin this year, with the distinction that Rosier is “a little more dynamic” as a running threat.

Encouraging, but Rosier is more excited about the zip he says has returned to his passing since the hard contact of the regular season ended.

“You can tell (in Orange Bowl practices) that my arm is feeling better,” Rosier said. “Some of the throws that I was underthrowing, now I’m hitting the guys in stride.”

So says the man with 25 touchdown passes and just 11 interceptions this season. Good stuff, but there’s always the notion that Perry’s arm, described by Berrios as “by far the strongest on the team,” would be greater.

Can’t kill all that with a win over Wisconsin, but it would keep the talk going and, fair or not, that’s probably the best Rosier can ever hope for around here.

Miami Hurricanes know they must bring Wisconsin’s 1,847-yard freshman down to earth

Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor picks up yardage against Minnesota in a 31-0 victory for the Badgers. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

FORT LAUDERDALE — The puns and metaphors don’t require much thought. They virtually write themselves when it comes to Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor.

Here’s a guy who almost didn’t wind up in Madison. Because he seriously considered going to Harvard. He’s a big admirer of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. He sheepishly admits he just received a telescope, the ideal Christmas gift for a guy who wants to go into astronomy and physics.

Now add that to the fact that Taylor finished fourth in the nation — as a freshman — with 1,847 rushing yards.

So if you want to talk about a guy on a meteoric rise, a shooting star, a guy who constantly in need of space or whatever other parallels there are, have at it.

All the University of Miami Hurricanes care about is whether they can bring him back down to earth in Saturday’s Orange Bowl, when all eyes will be on No. 23.

“He’s hard to bring down,” Hurricanes defensive lineman Joe Jackson said. “So if you don’t wrap up, we’re going to look like idiots.”

Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor.

Taylor is a 5-foot-11, 214-pounder from Salem High in New Jersey who has made plenty of opponents look something other than smart for years. In high school, he had 4,642 career rushing yards and 51 touchdowns. He was the state 100-meter champion. Plenty of recruits have those kind of credentials, and even Wisconsin wasn’t sure what it was getting until his senior season of high school football rolled around and the “stuff” he was putting on film, offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said, “was ridiculous.

“So coming in, you felt good.”

After a few plays in the team scrimmage, Rudolph felt more than good.

“He made a play on a screen pass, he made a play on an outside zone,” Rudolph said. Right then, the coaches knew Taylor was not redshirt material.

“You’re like, ‘OK, we’ve got to get this guy ready to go,’ ” Rudolph said.

You’ll never get Taylor to admit he too had visions of an extraordinary year.

“My expectations were just to be ready if or when my number was called,” Taylor said.

Ask about his staggering rushing total or his 6.8 average or 13 touchdowns and he’ll go on and on about his linemen, the defense, his coaches — everything but himself.

“I know what got me here,” he said.

Said Michael Deiter, one of his blockers: “It’ll be interesting to see where he goes from here, if this is where he starts.”

Whether Taylor’s eventual future is in pro football is a long way off. He said he chose Wisconsin over Harvard because of the balance between athletics and academics. He’s an honor roll student hungry to learn more about the unknown.

“It’s definitely going to be tough, dealing with the academics, but that’s one thing that I wanted,” Taylor said.

He’s intrigued by deGrasse Tyson, saying, “I just respect the way that he talks about space and his studies. He talks about it not as ‘I know this’ or ‘I know that,’ but, ‘This is exciting’ and ‘This is what I love to do.’ So I really love his passion about it.”

The Hurricanes have had plenty of studying to do, too, and have been impressed with Taylor’s speed and ability to run through tackles.

“Speed vs. power,” UM linebacker Shaq Quarterman said. “I think we’ve got the upper hand. I mean, speed — I think speed has been known to always win. But even with the way we play against the run, and the way that they run the ball, it’s going to be a battle.”

Whether UM can keep Taylor grounded will go a long way toward determining the Orange Bowl champion.

“I don’t think it’s a secret: They’re going to run it,” UM defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. “Everyone knows it. You’ve got to stop the run, but it’s easier said than done. But you’ve got to love doing it because it’s going to happen over and over again.”

Taylor takes a philosophical look at the matchup, recognizing that both teams are coming off disappointing results in their conference championship games.

“We know that this is going to be a home game for them, so they’re going to be fired up,” Taylor said. “They’re coming off a big loss; we’re coming off a big loss. So they’re definitely going to come out swinging, just like us, to prove themselves and end up right.”

[Hurricanes’ defense out to ‘right a wrong’ after stinging loss]

[Turnover chain isn’t about to disappear from UM sideline]

[Jaquan Johnson returning for senior year]

[Signing day brings great early returns for UM]

[Rosier welcomes QB competition | Update on N’Kosi Perry]

[Could UM lose DTs Norton, McIntosh?]

More happy returns as MVP Jaquan Johnson confirms he’ll be a Miami Hurricane in 2018

Miami Hurricanes defensive back Jaquan Johnson (4) returns an interception for a third quarter touchdown for the University of Miami Hurricanes vs. Virginia. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald/TNS)

FORT LAUDERDALE — When trying to determine his career path, University of Miami safety Jaquan Johnson took a cue from someone once in his shoes.

And not a bad person to take a cue from at that.

“I’m not going to compare my years to Ed Reed, or how Ed Reed came back, but I thought about that,” Johnson said Wednesday in confirming he will return for his senior year. “That was a big part of it.”

Johnson was freshly minted as the Hurricanes’ MVP with a junior season in which he led the Hurricanes in tackles with 85 and had four interceptions, four pass break-ups and two forced fumbles.

Reed played four seasons at UM, returning for a senior season in which he had a career-high nine interceptions. And it paid off as he was selected 24th overall by the Baltimore Ravens in 2002 to begin a Hall of Fame career.

UM’s losses to Pittsburgh and Clemson may have a long-range benefit for UM, because Johnson said he’s “wanting to finish the season on a high note my senior year.”

Johnson said he had gotten an earful of advice along the way, including many who said he should go pro.

“I could sort of sense it in people’s voice, that they wanted me to just leave, but I make my own decisions,” he said. “My dad taught me that. My mom taught me that. They tell me to make my own decisions. I knew I would do four years as soon as I came here and I’m going to get my degree and play for a national championship.”

As you’d expect, UM defensive coordinator Manny Diaz is delighted with the decision.

“That’s great to hear as a coach,” Diaz said. “I think what coach (Mark) Richt is trying to do is you want to build a program where the players want to stay. I think Jaquan loves Miami. I think he loves our program and where it’s going and wants to be a part of it.”

[Signing day brings great early returns for UM]

[Rosier welcomes QB competition | Update on N’Kosi Perry]

[Could UM lose DTs Norton, McIntosh?]

Miami Hurricanes recruiting: OL Cleveland Reed signs early

Cleveland Reed (247Sports)
Cleveland Reed (247Sports)

The day after early signing day, Miami signed a versatile in-state offensive lineman.

More about him:

Reed

CLEVELAND REED

Status: signed; plans to enroll in May

Size: 6-4, 296

School: Fort Meade High

Stats: N/A

Stars: Four (ESPN, Rivals, 247)

Rank: No. 8 offensive guard, No. 140 overall (ESPN); No. 10 offensive guard, No. 258 overall (247); No. 24 offensive tackle (Rivals)

Projection: Starting guard, sometime down the line. He’s not tall, but 247 praised Reed’s ability to play “with a wide base,” and said he has “nimble feet” in the run and pass game. “He pumps his feet and drives through his opponent until the whistle is blown,” the website said, saying he must shed “bad weight” to be more effective.

Fun facts: Under Armour All-American … As of Tuesday, was going to visit Oklahoma and North Carolina and wait until February to sign a letter of intent, according to Rivals … What changed? Mark Richt and offensive line coach Stacy Searels told him they would be recruiting other O-linemen if he elected to wait … Played tackle, guard and center in high school … transferred from Lakeland High before his senior season … Before choosing UM last April, Florida was his No. 2 school. USC, LSU, Ohio State and Louisville were on his list of offers … Wore No. 55 in high school and No. 52 on his UM official visit … Also played defensive tackle … Tore a meniscus in his left knee and played on it during his junior year, but recovered in time for his senior season.

On tape: 

Recruiting: Miami Hurricanes’ defense looking for more after early signing day; coaches talk signees

Miami defensive back Jaquan Johnson (4) celebrates after intercepting Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

[For Rumph, recruiting Blades was personal]

[Signing day brings great early returns for UM]

[Rosier welcomes QB competition | Update on N’Kosi Perry]

CORAL GABLES — With two five-star recruits and seven four-star recruits among 11 early signees, Miami’s offense added significant skill on early signing day.

While they could add another wide receiver, that side of the ball will be mostly done for this recruiting cycle after four-star offensive lineman Cleveland Reed signs Thursday. Miami’s defensive coaches, meanwhile, are looking to land a knockout blow after emerging from their corner.

“Right now it’s about that ninth, 10h round in the boxing match,” cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph said. “We’re actually about to get into the 11th round. We want to finish strong and go after the best of the best.”

The Hurricanes are still taking big swings at five-star cornerbacks Tyson Campbell and Patrick Surtain and four-star defensive end Andrew Chatfield, none of whom have committed to a school. They plan to visit UM in January with Plantation-American Heritage teammate Nesta Silvera, a four-star defensive tackle who has pledged to UM. Silvera will sign in February.

His commitment is critical, given UM could lose starting defensive tackles RJ McIntosh and Kendrick Norton, both juniors, to the NFL Draft, and will lose senior Anthony Moten. “I think you will see us continue to fill some spots at that position,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said.

“We have been very thorough of our evaluations. We say who’s the best guy in Dade, Broward, Palm Beach at that position? We feel like we did at secondary, linebacker, defensive end and we need to do that for sure at defensive tackle. We suspect we will.” Including another defensive end, Diaz said it’s “possible we can add three guys up front.”

And if they add the aforementioned Heritage trio in the back seven, they’ll feel like they won a title fight.

Miami coaches on the defensive recruits they signed Wednesday:

DE Greg Rousseau 

“Greg has a unique skill set in terms of his ability to come off the edge and rush the passer first and foremost. The comparison I’ve always had in my mind in Manny Lawson, who we had at N.C. State. Kind of came in the same way. Greg was so valuable in so many different ways at Champagnat. Did a great job. State champions there. You can never have enough guys who can rush the passer and get after the quarterback. Greg does have the ability to drop in coverage and play in space, which gives us a lot of flexibility.” — Diaz

LB Patrick Joyner 

“Long, can run, high motor guy. Has a unique skill set with his ability to rush the passer. One of the top guys in Dade County, maybe the top guy in sacks on the season. A guy that on first and second down can chase a running back and on third down maybe a guy we can use where we showed this year playing with four defensive ends – a guy like Pat and a guy like Greg (Rousseau) can give us more weapons to go affect the quarterback.” — Diaz

CB D.J. Ivey

“What D.J. brings is length, speed, but really in recruiting at times, guys will sort of take the foot off the gas their senior year. D.J. really came on strong this year. You talk to the coaches at South Dade they couldn’t get him off the field. Played on special teams, did it all. Tackling a lot better – a lot more physical at the point of attack. What you want a guy to be in the secondary, D.J. has all the skills and also very intelligent. Outstanding student and will be in our campus in January.” — Diaz

Cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph on why Ivey, a three-star recruit, stood out:

“He did everything right. Whenever I watched him, he kind of reminds me of myself. He has a chip on his shoulder and wants to be better than everybody else. I don’t think a lot of people see him but his stats show it. Had six interceptions, led his team to be 9-2. He comes from a strong mom, a good family, single-parent home just like myself. He wears No. 8 like me. I kind of saw myself in him. He’ll get the recognition when he steps on campus.”

CB/S Gilbert Frierson 

Frierson, listed as a safety, will start out at corner.

“Gilbert has corner skills,” Diaz said. “All of these [defensive signees] have positional flexibility which we look at as a plus. Pass rushers and cover guys there is no such thing as having too many of them. Gilbert plays at high level of urgency, very competitive. Knows what it takes to succeed. Has locked down some great players.”

“Gilbert’s a freak,” safeties coach Ephraim Banda said. “We’re super happy to have Gilbert. Cane blood. He was born a Cane. We had to battle some teams for him. But his length, his size, his ability to cover people up, his competitive nature is something maybe you don’t see unless you watch him in practices or games. I loved going his practices because he just competed. He had fun. I’m starting to really see it, what makes South Florida different, it’s the competitive spirit the kids play with and he has it. It’s that Mark Walton, that Jaquan Johnson, that Trajan Bandy, something about those kids, Chad Thomas, they just love football and he loves it. … They play the game with a lot of emotion, a lot of passion, a lot of fire.”

“Frierson comes from a great family here right here in Coconut Grove,” Rumph said. “There’s so many great players who come out of that little area. His demeanor, how he can change up, I know he’s been coached well at Coral Gables High School. His mentality and how he approaches the game is amazing. We’re excited about him because of his demeanor on the field. He fits our locker room being that dominant, physical player.”

S Gurvan Hall 

“Gurvan is a safety. We have always thought so highly of Gurvan for maybe two years now. Outstanding young man. We have this great group of guys from Palm Beach County. They are the greatest group of guys off the field. On the field, they’re trying to knock the taste out of your mouth. Gurvan is the next one in line, like Amari Carter, Zach McCloud, travis Homer, and Ahmmond Richards. Palm Beach has been very good to us, and Gurvan is really the next one.” – Diaz

“His ability to play both field and boundary safety for us is really intriguing. His physicality is one of the best in my opinion. He is the best safety in South Florida. I can’t get to wait to get to work with him.” — Banda

CB Al Blades 

Click here for a story we posted Thursday.

***

EARLY SIGNING DAY 2018

Miami signees: Click names for bios, fun facts and more

QB Jarren Williams, RB Lorenzo Lingard, RB Camron Davis, FB Realus George, WR Mark Pope, WR Brian Hightower, WR Dee Wiggins, TE Brevin Jordan, TE Will Mallory, OL John CampbellOL Delone ‘DJ’ Scaife, OL Cleveland ReedDE Greg Rousseau, LB Patrick Joyner, CB Al Blades Jr., CB DJ Ivey, S Gurvan Hall, S Gilbert FriersonK Bubba Baxa

For Mike Rumph, recruiting Al Blades Jr. to Miami Hurricanes was personal

Hurricanes Mike Rumph, Al Blades, Ed Reed and Leonard Myers pose in this picture in , which was later used as a promotional image for 'The U Part 2' documentary. (ESPN)
Hurricanes defensive backs (left to right) Mike Rumph, Al Blades, Ed Reed and Leonard Myers pose in this picture in 2000, which was later used as a promotional image for ‘The U Part 2’ documentary. (ESPN)

[Signing day brings great early returns for UM]

[Rosier welcomes QB competition | Update on N’Kosi Perry]

[Could UM lose DTs Norton, McIntosh?]

CORAL GABLES — Mike Rumph is discussing his top cornerback recruit, happy to run down a checklist of qualities: Vocal leader. Good tackler. Comes from a winning tradition. Good student.

“He’s a great fit,” Rumph said Wednesday.

But the name – Al Blades Jr. – makes him more than a fit. It’s fate. Or just call him family.

“So many memories,” Rumph said. “I saw this kid as a baby in the locker room, a little kid throwing up the U.”

Rumph, Miami’s second-year cornerbacks coach and a Boynton Beach native, played that position at UM from 1998-2001. He was a class behind Al Blades, who would have been 40 this year.

Blades, a safety and one of the team’s vocal leaders, died in a car accident in 2003. His son, who was 3 at the time, wanted to continue the Blades legacy at Miami. Rumph was honored to help him do so.

“It was a little more personal,” said Rumph, 38. “At the same time, his stats and what he did as a player is what really stood out to us. If he wasn’t the person he is on the field, the personal part wouldn’t have a chance.”

The younger Blades (6-0, 173), a consensus four-star recruit, was rated the seventh-best cornerback in the country and 41st prospect overall by ESPN. Rivals had him 45th. He was 10th among corners and 57th overall on 247Sports’ rankings.

Miami’s evaluation matched up with the recruiting rankings — they consider Blades, from Fort Lauderdale-St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the best players in the nation.

“You can’t talk about Al without talking about his mentality and his demeanor,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. “He plays like a Hurricane. Highly competitive in everything he does. Wants to win in everything he does.

“That learning experience of guys understanding the sense of urgency it takes to play, Al has that (already). He gets more than anybody what it takes to be a Hurricane. We’re very proud of have him be a part of our family.”

Blades’ uncles, Bennie and Brian, also starred for the Hurricanes. Al Blades’ older brothers were around the program when he and Rumph played. They’ll no doubt be around more now.

Rumph admitted it wasn’t easy to separate the player evaluation from his own memories of his friend, who was celebrating his 26th birthday when the car in which he was a passenger crashed and careened into a canal that night nearly 15 years ago. What makes it easier: Blades shares many of his father’s traits.

“The best leader when I was here, besides Ed Reed, was Al Blades,” Rumph said. “To see the same kind of person in his son, and now I get to coach him, it’s amazing.

“There are so many stories I can tell him about his dad, he probably doesn’t know. That was always there. He just likes to talk about working hard and being competitive and wants to know what the University of Miami is really like.”

This graphic produced by Miami shows Al Blades Jr. wearing the No. 7 uniform his father wore at UM. (UM Athletics)

***

EARLY SIGNING DAY 2018

Miami signees: Click names for bios, fun facts and more

QB Jarren Williams, RB Lorenzo Lingard, RB Camron Davis, FB Realus George, WR Mark Pope, WR Brian Hightower, WR Dee Wiggins, TE Brevin Jordan, TE Will Mallory, OL John CampbellOL Delone ‘DJ’ ScaifeDE Greg Rousseau, LB Patrick Joyner, CB Al Blades Jr., CB DJ Ivey, S Gurvan Hall, S Gilbert FriersonK Bubba Baxa

Early returns are good: Miami Hurricanes sign most of 2018 class

Mark Richt (right) is the clear-cut 2018 recruiting champ in the state. (Getty Images)

[Rosier welcomes QB competition | Update on N’Kosi Perry]

[Could UM lose DTs Norton, McIntosh?]

MIAMI 2018 EARLY SIGNEES
(click names for bios, fun facts and more)
QB Jarren Williams, RB Lorenzo Lingard, RB Camron Davis, FB Realus George, WR Mark Pope, WR Brian Hightower, WR Dee Wiggins, TE Brevin Jordan, TE Will Mallory, OL John CampbellOL Delone ‘DJ’ ScaifeDE Greg Rousseau, LB Patrick Joyner, CB Al Blades Jr., CB DJ Ivey, S Gurvan HallS Gilbert FriersonK Bubba Baxa

* * *

CORAL GABLES — No surprises.

Well, maybe one — “It surprised me that it went so smoothly,” Mark Richt said.

But certainly no worries.

And no question Miami added a wealth of talent to its program Wednesday, announcing before 1:30 p.m. on the first NCAA-permitted early national signing day that 18 of its 20 commits were locked in. All sent in letters of intent.

One of the holdouts, four-star offensive lineman Cleveland Reed, said he plans to sign Thursday. The other, four-star defensive tackle Nesta Silvera, will sign in February so he can visit UM in January along with three Plantation-American Heritage teammates: five-star cornerbacks Tyson Campbell and Patrick Surtain Jr., and four-star defensive end Andrew Chatfield, all of whom are priority targets for the Canes.

“We’ll see how that goes,” Richt said at a 4 p.m. press conference announcing the class, which finished the day ranked fifth in Rivals and ESPN’s rankings, and sixth according to 247Sports. It is Miami’s highest-rated class since 2008, which was considered a top-five group.

“We don’t think we’re done yet,” Richt said, noting there could be “one or two more” signees this week. The early signing period ends Friday. Recruits can sign again beginning Feb. 7.

“Everyone who expected to sign for us, did,” Richt said of Wednesday’s results.

What a haul it was.

Miami landed a host of elite recruits, particularly on offense. Quarterback Jarren Williams, running back Lorenzo Lingard, wide recievers Mark Pope and Brian Hightower, tight ends Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory and offensive lineman Delone ‘DJ’ Scaife each were selected to play in the All-American games sponsored by the U.S. Army or Under Armour.

Lingard is a consensus five-star prospect and No. 10 nationally according to Rivals’ rankings, UM’s highest-rated signee since offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson in 2010 and UM’s sixth-highest-rated signee since Rivals began ranking players online in 2002 (more below). Pope is also a five-star, per Rivals.

Two other offensive prospects were four-star players — running back Camron Davis and offensive lineman John Campbell — and fullback Realus George and receiver Dee Wiggins were three-stars.

Richt said UM is “really excited” about Lingard and Davis, and all three receivers “have their gifts.” He called Pope “dynamic,” and noted Wiggins and Hightower, both 6-foot-3, have “big frames.” Jordan and Mallory, the tight ends, were sold on the idea of playing together and give UM inarguably the best pair of tight end recruits in the country.

“We had a plan and a vision for both those cats,” tight ends coach Todd Hartley said.

UM had major depth concerns at running back, where Mark Walton declared for the draft, and tight end, where Chris Herndon graduates. Four high-end players at those positions makes Richt feel “a lot better,” he said. “By the summer,” when all will be enrolled, “we’ll be in good shape.” UM has 71 scholarship players, not including graduating seniors and anyone who might declare for the NFL Draft.

Quarterback Williams, Richt said, “moves well, throws it well, is a very strong student of the game. We think he’s a mature kid. He will come in and compete well.” Richt said he’s “on-target to be mid-year enrollee.” That will let him compete with returning starter Malik Rosier, redshirted freshman N’Kosi Perry and others.

Scaife, Richt said, “can play any position” along the offensive line. Campbell profiles as a tackle, a spot at which UM loses senior Kc McDermott.

On defense, UM picked up six recruits, headlined by cornerback Al Blades Jr., the son of the late former UM safety and nephew of Brian and Bennie Blades, who was rated as high as No. 7 among cornerbacks and No. 41 overall in 2018 by ESPN.

“It was a no-brainer for him,” said cornerbacks coach Mike Rumph, who played with the elder Blades at UM and called the prospect a “vocal leader,” just like his father.

Other defensive stalwarts were four-star safety Gurvan Hall (Palm Beach Gardens High), considered the top prospect in Palm Beach County, and cornerback/safety Gilbert Frierson. UM also added defensive end Greg Rousseau — nearly 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds — linebacker Patrick Joyner and cornerback DJ Ivey. UM also signed kicker Bubba Baxa, from Texas, who is likely to land the starting job with senior Michael Badgley graduating.

“It is a little bit different than the signing days we’re used to,” Richt said. “It seems like it wasn’t such a bad thing (nationally). For us it was outstanding.”

Richt said “10 or 11” of Wednesday’s new players will enroll in January. Other than Williams, players who have expressed interest in joining the program next month include Lingard, Davis, Wiggins, Hall, Hightower, Rousseau, Scaife, Frierson and Campbell. That would allow them to participate in spring drills.

Whether they enroll in January or in May (for the first of UM’s two summer sessions), players who sign can get workout information from strength coaches, playbook materials — “We usually feed it little by little,” Richt said — and can be on campus to work with strength staffers.

Five-star Canes
per Rivals, since 2002, in order of overall national ranking:
2 – OT Seantrel Henderson (2010)
5 – QB Kyle Wright (2003)
6 – LB Willie Williams (2004)
8 – DT Marcus Forston (2008)
9 – OT Reggie Youngblood (2005)
10 – RB Lorenzo Lingard (2018)
10 – TE Greg Olsen (2003)
12 – S Kenny Phillips (2005)
13 – S Ray Ray Armstrong (2009)
13 – CB Tracy Howard (2012)
15 – ATH Latwan Anderson (2010)
20 – ATH Devin Hester (2003)
21 – WR Lance Leggett (2004)
22 – DE Chad Thomas (2014)
23 – LB Arthur Brown (2008)
25 – WR Mark Pope (2018)
30 – RB Duke Johnson (2012)
* 1 – RB Graig Cooper (2007)
* 8 – OL Tyler McMeans (2004)
* junior college ranking