CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Even if a commitment to Miami wasn’t going to come Saturday, Elijah Roberts knew it probably was only a matter of time. The 3-star weakside defensive end from Miami’s Christopher Columbus High School had the Hurricanes atop his list from the moment Miami delivered him his fourth offer March 31. He grew up rooting for the Hurricanes and the opportunity to play for his dream school was too much to pass up.
Roberts was just waiting for a moment like Saturday, when he spent the day in Coral Gables for a Mark Richt Football Camp. A week earlier, the defensive end spent a day on campus mingling with coaches. Now he had a chance to work with Jess Simpson — first in a group setting and then, once the day was over for most linemen, individually. The defensive line coach pulled Roberts aside for a one-on-one workout lasting about 5 or 10 minutes. This was the moment Roberts needed.
“I learned like a lot of new things from Coach Simpson,” Roberts told DieHards on Sunday, when he returned for another visit. “He really knows what he’s talking about. He’s a really good coach and I can’t wait to play for him.”
Roberts publicly announced his commitment to the Hurricanes later in the day with a post on Twitter. The message he wrote singled out Simpson’s influence. The chance to work with the assistant coach in such a personal manner let him know he had the right decision in mind.
— Elijah Roberts😈🔥 (@E1ijahRoberts) June 9, 2018
The young defensive lineman remains somewhat of an unknown commodity nationally. Roberts sits at No. 363 overall in the 247Sports.com rankings for the Class of 2020, but only earned the grade a few days before he committed.
Miami discovered Roberts early. The local prospect spent his sophomore year at Miami Coral Park High School. Safeties coach Ephraim Banda stopped by the school in January and the Hurricanes kept him on their radar. He added a handful of offers from Power 5 Conference schools before Miami finally made its bid. Once the Hurricanes were in the mix, Roberts basically had his mind made up.
“It meant a lot for them to have like a lot of confidence in me,” Roberts said. “Me only being a sophomore, too, that means a lot.”
Roberts’ physical gifts are undeniable. The junior checks in at about 6-foot-3 and 238 pounds. For now, he looks like a potentially overpowering defensive end, although he could develop into a defensive tackle. Either way, Roberts should be able to fill in at both spots. Miami can’t allow South Florida prospects who can do so slip away.
For now, Roberts said Simpson likes him most as a defensive end. He primarily worked off the edge at the Mark Richt Camp on Saturday and overwhelmed just about everyone opposite him. Roberts is on track to be one of the Miami metropolitan area’s best defensive linemen in the 2020 cycle.
“He said he likes my energy and he likes me as a person,” Roberts said. “I fit the system kind of well.”
While the date of the commitment was mostly a coincidence, Roberts’ decision did make a day of celebration even more special for his family. Shanda Roberts, the lineman’s mother, celebrated her birthday Saturday. Roberts’ commitment gave her and Roberts’ father one more reason to celebration.
“A little birthday present,” Roberts said. “They’re both excited.”