Fresh off back-to-back state championships his junior and senior seasons with Miami Central, defensive end Keir Thomas committed to South Carolina on Christmas Day.
The first thing the 6-2, 249-pound three-star prospect pointed to was the scheme new Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp will run and where he will fit into that scheme. Thomas will play the "Buck," an ultra-important position in the defense where he'll play either defensive end or outside linebacker depending on if the team is in a 4-3 or a 3-4.
Thomas, ranked as the No. 5 senior prospect in Miami-Dade County entering the season, says the combination of Muschamp and South Carolina defensive coordinator Travaris "T-Rob" Robinson has been recruiting him the longest and the hardest and the two were a major key in getting him on board with the Gamecocks on Friday.
"Coach Muschamp coaches hard. I want somebody who's going to stay on me and make sure they get the best out of me," Thoams said. "[Robinson] as well. I can also relate to Coach T-Rob a little bit more because he's from Miami."
Thomas decommitted from FSU in November and at that point was listing Auburn as his leader when Muschamp and Robinson were together on the Tigers' staff.
Arkansas and Tennessee were his other finalists. He visited each of those schools since decommitting from FSU and also was offered by UM.
Although Thomas hasn't visited South Carolina, he felt comfortable making the decision and was somewhat familiar with the school even before Muschamp and Robinson arrived.
"I had a feel for South Carolina before that," Thomas said. "They always have a great defensive line."
In Columbia, S.C., Thomas will be reunited with former Carol City cornerback Rashad Fenton, whom he attended middle school with. The Gamecocks also currently have Skai Moore from University School, Al Harris Jr. from St. Thomas Aquinas and Chris Lammons from Plantation on the roster.
South Carolina has been hot in recruiting with five new commits since Muschamp took over.
The biggest news Wednesday came in Devin Bush Jr. announcing his commitment to Michigan (read Andre Fernandez's full story on that), but a subplot developing is Bush's recruitment of Miami High wide receiver Keyshawn "Pie" Young.
Bush, the four-star Flanagan linebacker, spoke with Young moments after announcing he was choosing the Wolverines over Florida State. Young, reported by the Miami Herald in October as a Michigan lean, was on FaceTime with Falcons lineman Natrone Ray during the ceremony to watch it live -- "a moment I will never forget," he called it. Shortly afterward, Bush got a hold of Ray's phone and told Young he's next.
Young is still keeping things open at the moment, saying Alabama, Tennessee and USC are schools he has up there for his services. He has a visit with Tennessee scheduled for Jan. 29 and already visited Michigan during the season.
Oh, then he sent this tweet out and revealed another school he hasn't counted out yet. It's not too far from where he lives.
**UM had Miami Jackson athlete Desmond Phillips, a quarterback for the Generals being recruited as a slot receiver, decommit on Wednesday. He originally committed just three weeks prior after getting the UM offer slightly before the Al Golden firing.
**Another Hurricane recruit whose commitment was accepted in between the Golden firing and Mark Richt hiring, South Dade running back Jawon Hamilton, is wavering on his pledge to the Canes at the moment.
"I haven't received a call from Richt yet, so I'm going to keep my recruiting open," Hamilton said.
That doesn't mean he is decommitting at the moment, he adds.
**Another prospect that did decommit on Wednesday was Hallandale wide receiver Neru N'Shaka, who went back on his commitment to Virginia, saying "it just felt right."
After Talking With My Parents I have Officially Decommitted From The University Of Virginia An Opened Up My Recruitment
"I chose Oregon State because when I took the official visit it felt like home, they made me feel like family and the chemistry with the team and the coaches is unbelievable," Smith says. "It was an amazing place."
Oregon State assistant and former Miami Central coach Telly Lockette is getting a good one in Smith, who was the Miami Herald's Defensive Player of the Year in 2014.
**At the same ceremony Wednesday, Jackson offensive lineman Carl Thompson also signed early with Alabama State.
Samuels wore FSU gloves to the title game, but the four-star prospect wouldn't show his hand in recruiting after the game.
With the Seminole gloves on, though, is he leaning toward heading to Tallahassee as the son of a former Seminole?
"I don't want to say that," he said.
Samuels did say FSU is among his top schools recruiting him, a list that also includes Georgia, Alabama, Maryland and Michigan.
Samuels isn't ready to proclaim that Mark Richt heading to UM boosts the Hurricanes with him. He says he would need to speak with him and his new assistants.
**Dredrick Snelson and Devin Gil reaffirmed that their commitment to Minnesota and Michigan respectively are strong.
**Clevan Thomas, a 2017 wide receiver, holds offers from Michigan, Louisville and Temple, but he says the schools showing him the most love right now are UCF, USF, FAU and Texas.
**Four-star linebacker Devin Bush Jr. will announce his college commitment on Wednesday. While he didn't discuss his recruiting Saturday night, here's his postgame reaction to going out on top with a state title.
Tons of recruiting notes and content from St. Thomas Aquinas' state championship victory on Friday night... starting... NOW.
Sam Bruce once again reaffirmed how strong his commitment is to UM. Bruce stuck with the Canes through the Al Golden firing and things remain the same now that Mark Richt was hired.
"We had a couple guys decommit, but just how I tell Michael Irvin, 'We're going to build off who we have and what we have,'" Bruce said.
He continued: "Miami's home. Who doesn't want to play at home in front of their home crowd? Who cares that it ain't that many people in the stands? It ain't that many people here [at the Citrus Bowl], but we got the job done, right? As long as we're getting the job done, who cares?"
Bruce also called Mark Richt a "phenomenal hire."
It was special for Bruce to get to share the moment with UM wide receivers coach Kevin Beard, who was in the front row of the stands. Beard coached Bruce when the two were together at University School under current St. Thomas coach Roger Harriott.
**Michael Irvin II said he's been waiting to play at UM since the second grade and is excited to finally make it happen.
Watch this video interview with Manny Navarro.
**Trevon Grimes, a 2017 five-star wide receiver, still didn't show his hand in a potential commitment, but he did indicate that Ohio State, Florida and Florida State comprise his top three.
Grimes had several highlight-reel catches in the championship victory.
Grimes said Ohio State is his leader and that UM is still somewhere in the picture and potential for a spark later in his recruitment is there with Bruce talking to him.
**Jake Allen remains strong in his commitment to UF.
"I'm just happy to be a Gator," Allen said. "Coach Mac (Jim McElwain) is very happy. I talked to him before the game he just told me to go out there and do what I do every day. Overall, he's very happy with my season. I'm going to talk to him tonight."
Allen addressed how the Gators are recruiting other quarterbacks, including committed 2016 four-star Feleipe Franks from Wakulla (who played earlier Friday in the 5A title game) and Jacob Eason, a five-star recruit from Washington who has been committed to Mark Richt and Georgia since July 2014.
"I don't mind a bit," Allen said. "I love competition. When I came to St. Thomas there was competition, and I would expect it anywhere else I go. I embrace it. It brings out the best in me.
"I'm just gonna do what I do and let everything play out."
**2017 UM commit Tyler Dunning noted that he feels Rich was a great hire for the Canes and that he will meet him soon at a bowl practice.
*Herald sportswriters David Furones, Manny Navarro and Bill Daley contributed to this report.
Young, previously not considering Miami, is now thought be a possibility to hop on board with the UM depending on the defensive assistant coaches hired by former Bulldogs coach -- now at the helm with the Canes -- Mark Richt.
Young currently has a UM visit scheduled for Jan. 15 and an Auburn visit set for the ensuing weekend.
It wasn't just Nike that swung by St. Thomas Aquinas on Wednesday.
N.C. State, Northern Illinois and UCF all visited the storied Fort Lauderdale campus before the Raiders get set to take on Viera in the Class 7A state championship game on Friday night.
A total of 16 juniors, sophomores and freshmen received offers from at least one of the schools -- many of them who aren't even starters at Aquinas because of how deep the Raiders are, but college coaches can already see the potential in them.
It really seems as if new Miami Hurricanes coach Mark Richt has taken a liking to the linebackers former coach Al Golden had committed.
He's made them a priority, already having some form of contact with commit Shaquille Quarterman and former commit Zach McCloud, who decommitted after the Al Golden firing but is close to jumping back into the class. Richt also watched Jacksonville Raines linebacker and UM commit Michael Pinckney play in his final high school game, a 43-23 defeat at the hands of now four-time Class 4A state champion Booker T. Washington.
Pinckney was a monster and all over the field. He finished the night with seven tackles (four solo), three for loss, an interception, a forced fumble, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry. Again, he was extremely impressive on the biggest stage at state in Orlando.
Richt, who was at the Citrus Bowl with running backs coach and former Booker T. coach Tim "Ice" Harris, as well as linebackers coach Hurlie Brown, had to have come away impressed.
"It's a great honor," said Pinckney of having Richt come out to watch him so early in his tenure. "That means they really care about me. That's why I committed -- because I know they care about me -- and I have a chance to do some great things in that program."
Richt is scheduled for an in-home visit with Pinckney on Monday.
What are Pinckney's thoughts on the Richt hiring?
"It's a great hire. He's a great coach," says Pinckney, who is set to be an early enrollee. "I feel like he can come in and do some great things for the University of Miami. I'm ready to play for him. I'm ready to get down there in January."
Pinckney played with a UM headband under his helmet -- one he says he wears for every game.
"It's pride. It's U pride," said Pinckney. "I've been a Cane since who knows when."
[[Check out this awesome picture of him coming out of the tunnel before the game.]]
As I've previously reported, McCloud has been planning a recommitment to the Canes for a while. It is likely to occur on his upcoming Dec. 13 visit -- a weekend that is also scheduled to host Pinckney, Quarterman, committed four-star quarterback Jack Allison and a slew of other top targets, according to 247 Sports.
Speaking of Allison, there's been a lot of talk about him lately because Richt had one of the top-rated quarterbacks in the nation committed to him while at Georgia in Washington-based five-star Jacob Eason. There's the thought floating around that Eason may follow Richt to the Canes.
Allison made an interesting public statement Sunday night.
One of the other recruits expected to be on UM's campus this upcoming weekend is Patrick Bethel, a four-star defensive end out of Vero Beach, who many believe is a Cane lean. Peter Ariz of CanesInSight.com reported that Bethel also had Richt and Brown visit him Sunday.
A couple of current three-star commits in Fort Lauderdale defensive end Jaquwan Nelson and Deltona tight end Evan Hinson remain firmly committed to UM and await to see how things play out regarding whether Richt will continue to recruit them as he begins combining recruiting boards at Georgia and Miami.
Hinson, who had 32 receptions, 541 yards and six touchdowns this season, was quoted in the Daytona Beach News-Journal as saying, "If they don't want me [anymore], that's probably not the school for me, but if they do want to still recruit me, I'll be right with them and stay committed."
Kentucky is a potential Plan-B destination for Nelson, who finished an incredible senior season with 75 tackles, 24 for loss, 18 sacks, three forced fumbles a fumble recovery and an interception.