Minutes after new University of Miami outside linebackers coach Ishmael Aristide, who grew up “deep in Liberty City,’’ said Thursday that he was “on fire’’ about being with the Hurricanes and that he probably “came out of the womb” wearing a Miami bib, three younger Canes newcomers met the media — two of them transferring back home to South Florida after initially playing at high-profile, out-of-state historical football powers.
One of the Miami locals, 6-0 and 202-pound former four-star sophomore cornerback Tyrique Stevenson, who played the past two seasons at Georgia and spent his high school years at Homestead South Dade and then Southridge, told coach Manny Diaz he planned to “rock the [turnover] chain a lot” in 2021.
Diaz told him, “If you want me to, I’ll hand it to you every time you get an interception.’’’
The other, 6-3, 246-pound graduate transfer defensive end Deandre Johnson, who played at Tennessee and also went to Southridge High, said once he “hit the portal’’ and Miami contacted him almost immediately, “it all made sense coming back home’’ to “a loyal fan base’’ and a scheme that fit him.
“It was pretty much a no-brainer,’’ said Johnson, who was a three-star prospect out of Southridge and played 41 games at Tennessee, with nine starts and 58 total tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. Johnson will wear jersey No. 13 and is nothing less than thrilled that three extremely talented outgoing Hurricanes defensive ends — Jaelan Phillips, Gregory Rousseau and Quincy Roche — are headed for the NFL Draft.
“Oh man,” Johnson said. “Just seeing the U has three guys that can possibly be first-round picks, that is just so appealing. It stuck out to me big-time.’’
Stevenson conceded that the first couple of months at Miami “have been tough,’’ but that “everything is smoothing itself out.’’ He said his first few months at Georgia he had problems sleeping. “But it was more like I missed my family, not just the city [of Miami]. I missed Miami, but it was more like I missed my four little sisters and my mom. I really did get homesick for a few months up there.’’
At Georgia, Stevenson played in 24 games and made four starts, totaling 47 tackles, two tackles for loss and 10 pass breakups. He was a four-star, top-50 prospect at Southridge and made a game-saving pass breakup in the fourth quarter of Georgia’s 24-21 Peach Bowl victory against the then-No. 6 Cincinnati Bearcats.
Stevenson, who grew up in Florida City, said his “decision to go to Georgia over Miami was a family decision.’’
“Me and mom came to a mutual agreement. She felt like it would be better if I got out... I grew up here, and I know how things go down here and I’m from not really a safe neighborhood.
“With me coming back, it was more like, ‘I know what I have to do as far as my academics and football career,’ and I had to explain to my mom I’m at this point where not too many things can distract me and I’m not going to let too many things distract me.
“I should have just stayed at Miami and built that here instead of trying to build it somewhere else.’’
Stevenson, who will wear jersey No. 2, said he pays little attention to the widely held view that Georgia’s Southeastern Conference is a far more competitive league than Miami’s Atlantic Coast Conference, and that it all comes down to individual players. “I never look upon any conference lightly,’’ he said.
Johnson said he came back to “leave college the right way, man. Leave with winning. This is a great opportunity to come back home and shine in front of all of these fans and bring the U back to where it should be.’’
As for former Oklahoma receiver Charleston Rambo, another graduate transfer who should see significant playing time after amassing 743 receiving yards and five touchdowns on 43 catches in 2019, he said he’s ready to prove he can be “a bigger, faster, stronger Charleston” in ‘21.
“Both programs are special,’’ Rambo said. “History here; History at OU. Both have players in the league; Both have legends.’’
He hopes he can “fill shoes’’ of past UM stars, “but most importantly” wants to get his work down “and do my thing.’’