On a defensive line not long ago, for a Miami Hurricanes program not far away, there existed a once-modest concern: depth. Led by returning starters, the rest of the depth chart was made up of rotational players with modest game experience—freshmen, and converted defensive ends. One of the freshmen a season ago was DT Jon Ford, a member of Miami’s Swag 17 recruiting class. A three-star prospect from local Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Ford was the lone signee at the defensive tackle position for the ’Canes in the ‘17 recruiting cycle.
From his high school highlight tape, you’d gather that Ford is a player who meets a ball carrier with bad intentions. With a good jump coming off the snap, Ford was able to use his six-foot-four, 246 pound frame to ragdoll offensive players out of his way even at the high school level. Employing a swim, swipes and rip moves to get past blockers, the DT found himself finishing plays with a Mortal Kombat-esque fatality before the whistle was mercifully blown.
After signing his letter of intent to attend the University of Miami, there was conversation regarding whether Ford would be able to handle the rigors of college football at his then-listed weight. Those concerns were shortly squashed when it was revealed that Ford had yoked up to around 270-290 pounds during the off-season. With that added mass, ’Canes fans anticipated Ford’s arrival to Coral Gables to bolster the depth on the defensive interior, especially with veteran DT Gerald Willis III being ruled out for the season. The first arrivals to campus came and went, with no signs of Ford to be found. The final round of on campus arrivals took place, yet No. 96 was M.I.A. Fall camp was well underway before news broke that Ford had arrived on the campus with the green light to participate in football activities.
Looking twice the size of the his high school self, Ford was finally pictured in a jersey as the ’Canes continued to prep for the 2017 season. Yet, that late arrival to the team didn’t allow the coaching staff to become familiar with their newest weapon. A player who is accustomed to chasing players down now found himself chasing his peers who were 50 yards ahead of him in terms of preparation, reps and experience. Despite his tardiness, Ford played in seven games during the 2017 season, securing a tackle in his first collegiate game. While his season lacked in production, he certainly made up for it in experience and refinement.
There’s little doubt that Ford’s most redeeming qualities on the field are his tenacity, will and power to win at the line of scrimmage. Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz sees a high ceiling for the now 6’5”, 275 pound tackle. “He has unlimited potential and he has the size and ability of what you want to be a big time guy on the inside. Now it is about getting reps.” Those reps should increase this season with the possibility that Ford becomes a starter in year two at UM. During spring practices, many players and coaches alike would praise Ford, adding the caveat however that he needs to be more consistent in his play and have a better understanding of his task on a given down.
The talent, size and will is all there for this player. It all boils down to whether Ford will be able to mix those ingredients together to create a masterpiece or one that needs to be put back in the oven to bake some more. A breakout season for Ford would mean that the Hurricanes will have one of the fiercest and nastiest defensive interiors going back to the 90s—a feast that Miami fans could certainly dig into.
IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!