August 27, 2015

Recruiting notes and observations from South Dade-Coral Reef

South Dade took down Coral Reef 40-24 in the season opener, and there were plenty of athletes from down south that stood out. 

Before we get into that, let me note that the fight the Barracudas exhibited under new head coach Javi Valdes was exemplary. Trailing 34-7 at halftime and the game looking like it was headed toward a running clock, Coral Reef responded to get it to 34-17 midway through the third and looked like it could mount a comeback. South Dade just ultimately proved to be too much for the young Barracudas.

UM commit James Wiggins played center field at safety in South Dade's defensive scheme in the opener. Wiggins says the team will use him either there or at corner throughout the season. The Canes are recruiting the three-star senior at cornerback.

 

He appeared to cramp up a little bit but proved fine shortly thereafter with some nifty moves on a punt return where he slipped a few tackles. Wiggins was held out most of the spring with a swollen knee.

Wiggins says he will look around and take visits other than the one he already has planned for UM on January 22. Other schools coming after Wiggins are Cincinnati, Purdue and USF.

Coral Reef 2018 running back Jordon Donaldson is going to be something special. In his first regular-season varsity game, he reeled off 125 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. He broke about three tackles bursting through the trenches on his 25-yard scamper for a score.

"Jordon Donaldson is going to be a special player in Dade County. We're looking forward to showing his talents," Valdes said.

Donaldson also led Reef in rushing in the preseason game against Pace.

The South Dade running back tandem of Jawon Hamilton and Ivan Smith is going to be one of the best in Dade County this season. Hamilton ran for 128 yards and two touchdowns. Smith, the Columbus transfer, took his first touch as a Buccaneer all the way back on the opening kickoff and added two more rushing touchdowns.

 

"That's the luxury of having both of them," South Dade coach Nate Hudson says. "I like the fact that they go hand in hand. Neither one is selfish. They feed off each other."

Smith has offers from Florida A&M and Bowling Green. He's also receiving interest from Illinois, Purdue and hearing a little bit from UM.

Hamilton, the FIU commit, could've easily surpassed 200 yards had two long runs not been called back by holding calls. A strong South Dade O-line that consists of Mike Davis and Marshall commit Kyron Taylor was without senior Boman Swanson in this one.

Chei Hill, a 2017 linebacker/defensive end that measures up at 6-1 and 220 pounds, already has the build that you look for in that hybrid pass rusher at the next level. He laid a crushing hit as Coral Reef QB Keith Anderson threw on the run on one play.

"Beast" is the word Hudson uses to describe him to college coaches scouting him (I used it too in one of my tweets). Schools after Hill include Illinois, Arkansas and FIU.

Harvey Clayton, who lists Illinois and Louisville among his seven offers, was solid on both sides of the ball for Coral Reef, being used in multiple ways offensively and making some touchdown-saving tackles as the last line of defense at safety for a Barracudas defense that could not contain South Dade's attack.

Other Barracudas that shined:

-Sophomore corner K'Toney Hills displayed his one-on-one ball skills beating his man in single coverage and intercepting a floating pass right before halftime.

-Senior linebacker Tomo Sloane is strong in pursuit of a ball carrier. He made a couple of nice tackles in the open field.

-Sophomore lineman Jaylaan Williams used his big 6-3, 280-pound frame to make several key blocks, including one where he sprung Donaldson for a 57-yard run that got the Cudas down to the 1.

 

August 06, 2015

Aquinas' Epstein commits to Illinois

St. Thomas Aquinas 2017 running back Mike Epstein committed to Illinois on Thursday.

The 6-0, 185-pound three-star junior, who transferred to Aquinas from Cypress Bay in the offseason, chose the Fighting Illini over offers from Cincinnati, UCF, FAU, Temple and New Mexico.

"Big Ten football, great relationship with coaches, want to play big-time football," Epstein listed as reasons he chose Illinois to the Miami Herald.

He became the Fighting Illini's first commit in the class of 2017. Teammate at St. Thomas and senior wide receiver Dominic Thieman is committed to their 2016 class.

Epstein is part of a deep Aquinas backfield that also has Devonta'e Henry-Cole committed to Utah and FAU-bound James Charles.

Below are his sophomore highlights from Cypress Bay.

August 04, 2015

Johnny Huntley commits to Colorado

South Plantation three-star wide receiver Johnny Huntley announced a commitment to Colorado on Tuesday.

Huntley chose the Buffaloes over offers from Louisville, TCU, Tennessee and West Virginia among his list of 17 total offers.

"It felt like home on the visit and they love me," Huntley said in a message.

Colorado is not a school known to dip into the state of Florida in recruiting. Huntley becomes the first Florida prospect in a Colorado recruiting class since Apopka's Henley Griffon in 2010.

The last South Florida high school football player to end up with Colorado was Northeast outside linebacker Josh Hartigan in 2007.

August 03, 2015

Elite Coconut Creek CB Trayvon Mullen releases top three

Coconut Creek cornerback Trayvon Mullen, a high-end four-star prospect, released his top three list of college football programs on Twitter Monday night.

The three lucky schools to have made the cut as the highly sought-after cover corner heads into his senior season -- FSU, LSU and Clemson.

Mullen added that he has no leader among the three and that he is still not blocking out any other school from creeping into that top three.

Mullen is the third-ranked cornerback in the country, according to 247 Sports, with only five-stars ahead of him at the position.

His recruitment has been thought by many to go all the way to National Signing Day -- like Creek coach Kareem Reid told Safid Deen of the Tallahassee Democrat recently.

August 02, 2015

Utah nabs Hallandale QB-WR tandem

One of the top quarterback-wide receiver tandems in South Florida committed to Utah together on Sunday.

The Hallandale duo of Tyler Huntley and Demari Simpkins both announced their commitments to the Utes. First it was Simpkins and Huntley followed by decommitting from FAU and then announcing he would join top target Simpkins at Utah.

Huntley (6-1, 175) and Simpkins (6-0, 176) are both three-star prospects. The two were fresh off a trip out west to Salt Lake City when they decided to commit. 

With former UM legend Dennis Erickson as running backs coach at Utah, the program is experiencing a resurgence in recruiting South Florida. Huntley and Simpkins join St. Thomas Aquinas running back Devonta'e Henry-Cole. The Utes also grabbed Tyson Cisrow and Chris Hart out of Aquinas last recruiting cycle.

August 01, 2015

Former UM pledge Snelson commits to Minnesota

Dredrick Snelson went from Al Golden to the Golden Gophers.

The four-star senior wide receiver, who transferred from Plantation American Heritage to Flanagan this offseason, announced on Saturday that he would be committing to Minnesota.

 

In an interview with Rivals' Gopher Illustrated, Snelson said, "I'm so excited. I love everything about the program, so I'm feeling pretty good about my decision.

"I wanted to go to a program that needed me, not just wanted me... I can come in and play early and make an impact. I can fill in for the main receiver they have there right now."

Snelson joins Cardinal Gibbons' Elijah and Elisha Daniels as Broward County prospects committed to Minnesota.

He chose the Gophers over offers from practically all over the country, including Miami, Florida, Florida State, Alabama, Auburn, Clemson and Notre Dame.

Snelson was committed to the Hurricanes early in the recruiting process before ultimately decommitting during his junior season at American Heritage.

July 30, 2015

Central LB Donavan Thompson makes it two commits for FIU on Thursday

Donavan Thompson
Donavan Thompson pursues a tackle during Central's 2015 spring scrimmage. DAVID FURONES//FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

FIU got its second commitment of the day on Thursday when Miami Central linebacker Donavan Thompson turned down offers from the likes of Arkansas, Oregon State and USF to commit to the Panthers.

FIU's 2016 recruiting class now lists 11 commitments after the addition of Norland cornerback Bryon Brown earlier Thursday.

Former Booker T. Washington coach Tim Harris Jr., now in his first season as running backs coach at FIU, is making his presence felt in recruiting South Florida and had a major impact on Thompson's decision.

"He mainly told me when he first gave me the offer that he liked me and he loved the way I play football," says Thompson, the 5-11, 210-pound three-star prospect. "Playing against Tim Harris, he knows what I'm capable of. He was able to introduce me to the defensive coordinator [Matt House] and the head coach [Ron Turner]."

Thompson has former Central teammates Anthony Jones and Fermin Silva already at FIU and set to begin their collegiate careers in the fall.

"They are saying that they are looking to rebuild in the next couple of years and they need a player like me over there," Thompson says.

In addition to Arkansas, Oregon State and USF, Thompson also listed offers from Cincinnati, Massachusetts, Toledo and West Florida.

While committed, Thompson notes that his recruitment still is not over.

"I'm considering all my offers. I'm still open to all my offers," Thompson says. "FIU is the best fit right now, so I'm leaning that way.

"Any minute I could decommit and go to another school, so I'm open to anybody."

Thompson is a leader at middle linebacker on Central's defense. Heading into his fourth year as a starter on the Rockets' vaunted defense, he has three state championships to his credit as he enters his senior year.

His highlights:

FIU gets commitment from Norland's Bryon Brown

Norland senior cornerback Bryon Brown committed to FIU on Thursday.

The 6-1, 180-pound unranked 2016 prospect who goes by the nickname of "Lockdown Brown" joins a Panthers recruiting class that now lists 10 total commits, including two other corners in Jacksonville Ed White's Jadarius Byrd and Tampa Bay Tech's Isiah Brown.

"Very athletic, long DB with good speed," Norland coach Daryle Heidelburg says. "He can play both corner and safety. Plus Norland has had good success with its players at FIU, and Bryon will continue that trend."

FIU currently has junior linebacker Treyvon Williams out of Norland who last season appeared in all 12 games, started in nine and was second on the team with 50 total tackles.

Brown's highlights:

July 29, 2015

Rasul discusses flip from UM to FSU

  Amir RasulSo why did four-star 2016 running back Amir Rasul recently flip his commitment from UM to FSU?

“What made me flip was pretty much I was looking at the future,” Rasul told the Miami Herald. “UM really didn’t have a good season [last] year, Golden will probably be gone and they’ll be looking for a new head coach. I didn’t want to be in that situation going into my freshman year.

“Ultimately, I think UM is a good school. It’s an awesome school, but at the moment I think FSU’s a better school for me.”

Rasul also said he was promised by FSU it would only take one running back per class over the next few years, so waiting to see if Miami did indeed have a rough season could have resulted in another back taking his spot.

“Florida State really wants me now, and if I make this decision now, I’ll probably have a much better future than being committed to UM,” Rasul says. “It’s a hard commit. I’m not trying to change right now.”

Rasul adds that he still looks at South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee but is unlikely to change his mind at this point.

Being in such close proximity geographically to UM’s campus, Rasul says he’s had to take some criticism from hometown fans as of late.

“I’ve gotten a couple of choice words from some people in the area, but that’s OK,” he says. “If they don’t hate you, then you’re not doing something right.”

Rasul also looks at the way Dalvin Cook (formerly of Miami Central) scored the game-winning touchdown against the Hurricanes as a freshman last season and could see himself having similar success against the hometown team.

“That’s amazing – to do that and in addition be at home,” he says. “Going out the next day and knowing you did that against your hometown – that’s going to be spectacular.”

What can we expect out of Rasul in his senior season after breaking out running the ball as a junior?

He says improving his versatility. Rasul will be on returns and be more active in the passing game. He essentially wants to do all the things critics are saying he can’t do.

“You’re always going to have some doubters, people saying you can’t do this, you can’t do that,” Rasul says. “That’s OK. If I wasn’t doing great things, people wouldn’t be talking about it at all.”

Rasul is an exceptional student on top of being a top-of-the-line football recruit.

His junior year he bumped his grade point average from a 2.8 to a 3.4 and took a pair of AP courses – statistics and economics. He plans on taking an introductory calculus course and finding a challenging science class his senior year.

He had thoughts of being an early enrollee, but since he runs track, he will make sure to do that the spring semester of his senior year before getting right to college next summer.