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2013 Signing Day for football, soccer, track; Popovich fired

The first day of the signing period rained down news in the manner of punches in a Sugar Ray Leonard finishing flurry.

FIU signed 18 players, 17 of them from Florida. Only Oceanside (Cal.) quarterback Israel "Tofi" Paopao's parents get to kvetch about state income tax.

Anyway, on to the recruits:

Loxahatchee Seminole Ridge running back Silas Spearman, 5-10, 195: Spearman wasn't rated by anybody until recently when, suddenly, Rivals and 247Sports had him at two stars. Scout and ESPN don't have him rated at all. When a running back's this accomplished -- over 1,200 yards rushing, 212 yards and two touchdowns on just four catches, South Florida Sun-Sentinel Player of the Year Class 8A-6A -- in a talent heavy area, but is lightly recruited and not rated by some services, that usually means a question about academics.

Royal Palm Beach Seminole Ridge Michelle Howell: captain of the track and cross country team (hey, it's not just football Signing Day).

Ocala West Port tight end Jonnu Smith, 6-3, 210: 247 has him at three stars, Scout and Rivals at two stars, ESPN not rated (they don't get around to everybody).

Smith's schoolmate and pal, running back Alfonso Randolph (5-11, 185), was unrated when he committed three weeks ago, now rated at two stars by 247, Rivals and Scout.

Palm Beach Gardens offensive lineman James Cruise (6-5, 275): 247, Scout and Rivals each has him at two stars. ESPN doesn't rate him. 

North Palm Beach Benjamin tight end Jonathan Pavlov (6-4, 225): 247, Scout, Rivals have him at two stars, with 247 putting him on the cusp of three. ESPN doesn't rate him.  FIU salivates over the talent.

Bartow High defensive back Vontarius West (6-0, 185): ESPN and 247 have West as FIU's best recruit, Rivals has him as one of three three star signees and Scout has him at two stars.

Belen defensive back Xavier Hines (6-0, 175): 247 ranks Hines just behind West and Rivals ranks him on the same level as West, both at three stars. Scout puts him at two stars and ESPN didn't get around to him.

Vero Beach offensive lineman Chris Flaig (6-5, 305): ESPN, which has been high on Flaig for over a year, ranks him at three stars, FIU's second best recruit behind West. Everyone else has him at two stars. Turner said Flaig's got a chance to play as a freshman -- as a long-snapper. Undependable long-snapping cost FIU two games last year and greatly effected two others.

Columbus linebacker Jordan Guest (6-4, 195): Two stars across the board, although I would swear that's a pretty recent rating.

Tampa Gaither wide receiver Shug Oyegunle (5-9, 175): two stars from 247, Rivals and Scout, nothing from ESPN.

Bradenton Manatee defensive back Willie Smith (6-0, 175): three stars from 247, two stars from everybody else. He suffered a knee injury last season, but said he's months ahead of schedule. He liked Ron Turner's resume, so he kept his commitment made last year. If not for the injury, Smith might be the highest ranked recruit.

Hallandale linebacker Jeremy Derrick (6-1, 180): two stars from everyone, except ESPN, which didn't rate him.

Tampa Robinson wide receiver Cody Hodgens will be a preferred walk-on. Riviera Beach Suncoast offensive tackle Garrett Scott will walk-on with a full academic scholarship.

Plantation American Heritage Luis Betancur is signing with FIU. No, not American football, although somebody should check into whether he'd be interested in kicking. He's a stud futbol player with a slew of Player of the Year awards and was recruited by Virginia, a serious soccer power.

Californian Vincent Reyes, another player recruited by ACC soccer powers, also signed with FIU.

Fort Lauderdale University High offensive lineman Jordan Budwig (6-4, 330): Everybody's got him at two stars.

Norland linebacker Treyvon Williams (5-11, 230): Two stars across the board. Williams teammate, 6-3, 235-pound defensive end Akeem Barton, wasn't rated.

Orlando Jones safety/running back/athlete Wilkenson Myrtil (6-0, 185): two stars except from ESPN. 

Killian linebacker Jordan Gibbs (6-1, 220): two stars by 247, Scout, Rivals, not rated by ESPN. Again, I don't seem to recall those stars being there when FIU offered him.

Oceanside (Cal.) High quarterback Israel Paopao (6-1, 240): Not rated by Scout or Rivals.

 

Miramar wide receiver Sean Avant: ESPN and Rivals have him at three stars, 247 and Scout at two. And then, Wednesday, he flipped and decided to be a preferred walk-on at FAU instead of taking a scholarship to FIU.

POPOVICH FIRED

In a surprising move, secondary coach Jeff Popovich was fired moments before head coach Ron Turner met with the media to discuss the players signed and what might be done with the seven scholarships that remain (bet on quarterback, offensive linemen, kicker).

Turner told me two weeks ago he divided up recruiting and commit retention responsibilities among coaches by position. As secondary coach, Popovich had a big responsibility. FIU signed four defensive backs. Bradenton Manatee safety Willie Smith said Popovich was one of the reasons he committed early to FIU and stayed with it.

Tough business.

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