It's a great position to be in when you can have a guy as talented as Hightower, coming off injury and having to work his way back from 3rd team to 2nd string. Lot of potential in that room. Up to Enos to unlock it and open the flood gates.After two years of developing his game, junior DT Jon Ford finally broke out for Miami during the spring, putting together consistently dominant performances throughout each practice. Unfortunately for Ford, his breakout was cut short when he went down with a wrist injury halfway through spring ball. However, he now feels better than ever after spending the offseason rehabbing.
“The rehab process went great,” Ford said of his injury. “I feel real good, don’t even think about it when I’m out there, just play. It’s feeling real good.”
This fall, Ford picked up right where he left off in spring, becoming a fixture on the first team defensive line and earning praise from multiple coaches.
“I feel when people just keep telling you what you can do, you know how good you can be,” Ford said. “I guess something in your head tells you to go hard every day and just take it serious. So, I guess that’s what happened to me. I just started taking it serious and everything just started playing out.”
A big question mark for the 2019 Hurricanes will be how well their offensive line can play after struggling the past few years. With new OL coach Butch Barry, Ford feels UM has a better unit.
“I’ve just seen a big improvement in them,” Ford said. “The new coaching staff came in, they had to learn the plays and everything, get everything down pat. But now, I mean, they’re moving way faster, and I go against big [DJ] Scaife every day and he gives me a run for my money sometimes and we go back and forth. But, it is a good time out here.”
A key part of the defensive tackle will miss six to eight weeks, as it was revealed last week that sophomore Nesta Silvera needed foot surgery. Despite being sidelined, Ford says Silvera is still in good spirits.
“You can’t break Nesta’s spirit,” Ford said. “He is going to be the same guy every day. He has a great spirit. You can’t really tell he is hurt. I know he will come back and be good.”
Without Silvera, the Canes will likely turn to UCLA grad transfer Chigozie Nnoruka, who came in during the summer for the exact purpose of providing Miami depth at the DT position.
“He has been a big factor for us,” Ford said of Nnoruka. “His hands are good, he’s quick, he runs to the ball—he moves real good. I am real excited about him.”
With the season opener against a major rival in the Florida Gators slowly inching closer, Ford feels the defense is ready for the challenge that #8 UF will present on August 24th.
“Oh, we’re ready. We’ve been going hard every day, working hard every day. I have no doubt that we’re going to be ready for this game,” Ford said. “It’s pretty exciting, I mean just watching the film every day, telling myself how I’m going to get better, how I’m going to take my steps, and how I’m going to dominate.”
**In his short Miami career, sophomore WR Brian Hightower has already dealt with multiple injuries. After missing three games last season due to an undisclosed ailment, Hightower had to have his knee scoped during the spring, missing part of UM’s allotted practices.
“Honestly, it’s been pretty tough, but you know, every day I fought and I worked hard just to come back and be here for the team,” Hightower said. “I love the game of football. I worked so hard to be back, every single time I got in there. It’s a grind. I play football so, people are going to get hurt, people are going to get banged up, but you just got to keep fighting and working hard.”
After a dominating spring game in 2018 and catching his first career touchdown in the opener against LSU, many expected big things from Hightower last year, but he ended the season with a disappointing 4 catches for 60 yards and the 1 TD. Now that he’s rehabbed through injuries and worked his way back to the football field, he says he has a new appreciation for the game.
“[You appreciate football] much more. At first, it was very humbling,” Hightower said. “Every day I thank God for just being out here because, yeah, it is hot, but I could be injured doing other things not on the field. When you love the game of football, when you’re not playing, it hurts you.”
After initially working with the third team when camp started, Hightower has worked his way back to the second team of WR’s and has seen improvements in his game.
“It’s going great. I'm running just how I was (pre-injury), I would say I feel even more explosive, faster,” Hightower said. “We’re just competing, going against the DB’s. We’ve got great DB’s. Every day we’re getting better and competing.”
Does he expect to crack the receiver rotation when it comes time to play the Gators in a few weeks?
"It's nothing I really think about too much," Hightower said. "We're competing against each other every day, are making each other better… As long as I’m on the field helping the team win.”