September 05, 2015

Booker T's Raymond Flanders' recruitment heating up

Booker T. Washington senior wide receiver Raymond Flanders is yet to receive an offer, but he won't be held back much longer with the way he's playing.

After catching seven balls for 200 yards and three touchdowns in Friday's 41-0 win against Pace, Flanders is proving he's on the rise among Miami-Dade County's crop of talented skill position players.

The 5-11, 170-pound unrated prospect has received interest from multiple schools. His top three going by mutual interest are UM, UF and Cincinnati.

The Hurricanes have ties with the Booker T. Washington football program and Flanders through former coach and now University of Miami running backs coach Tim "ice" Harris. 
For the Gators, this is a chance for coach Jim McElwain to create pipelines in South Florida with his first true recruiting class after being hired in December. 


September 04, 2015

Recruiting news, notes, quotes and analysis from Edison-Homestead

Junior Edison running back Eldridge “E.J.” Thomas stole the show in Edison’s 34-0 win against Homestead at Curtis Park on Thursday.

He ran with conviction, displayed great vision in finding running lanes and hit those holes with alacrity. The 2017 prospect who played sparingly at the end of last season proved to possess some workhorse qualities with 23 carries for 150 yards and three touchdowns.


The scores went for 25, 7 and 20 yards.

“The first touchdown run -- I just saw daylight. Someone tried to catch me, and I just ran with all my strength,” Thomas said.

He is currently not being recruited by any schools. He doesn’t have ideal size at 5-8, 165 pounds but possesses the running ability to make up for it.

“He ran hard last week (finished with 16 yards on eight carries in the 19-0 loss to Southridge). It carried over,” coach Herb Herring said. “His teammates were able to step it up and also play harder for him because they saw what he did on film. That got everyone motivated.

“As the season progresses, I’m sure the offers will come rolling in.”

Big 6-4, 295-pound offensive lineman Keldrick Cesar anchored an offensive line that paved the way for 274 rushing yards. He lined up all over the line but mostly at left tackle.

Cesar told me postgame that some SEC schools are starting to show interest – notably Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. Cesar already lists offers from USF, Syracuse, FIU and Middle Tennessee State among a few others.


Alec Damier is another lineman that looked solid blocking in the Red Raiders’ rushing attack. Often times, he would line up as the guard on the same left side as Cesar. When Edison ran that way, Homestead could offer minimal resistance. Damier is getting interest from the HBCU programs in Florida.

Edison forced six turnovers – picking up four fumbles and picking off two passes. Junior defensive backs Kevontae Lee and Kareem Gaiter looked nearly identical skying for interceptions in single coverage on floating passes.

-Gerald Payoute is a solid looking senior linebacker at 205 pounds. His recruitment will certainly pick up throughout the season.

“He’s strong in the weight room,” Herring said. “He loves the weight room. He lives there.”

-Senior Jhoan Tejada was beastly at linebacker, fighting off blockers and exhibiting a tremendous motor. He registered a sack and a fumble recovery.

-Senior wide receiver Alberto Peña caught just one pass but put his capabilities with the ball in his hands on the pedestal, leaving one Homestead defender in the turf with a spin move on a second-half carry in the open field when it appeared he was sure to get wrapped up.

-Junior quarterback Malcolm Vigile ran for 81 yards and had one of the game's biggest highlights with a 53-yard touchdown on the opening drive that set the tone for the rest of the night.

-Athlete Ontebius “OC” Cherry looks the part playing both sides of the ball with decent size and speed. He had a sack in the contest.

Homestead didn’t have a great outing but had some players show their talents.

FAU safety/outside linebacker commit Rashad Smith had to be moved around with Homestead fielding a depleted linebacker corps devastated by injuries. He was rarely in the secondary with the way Edison was running the ball and played some Mike in addition to outside.

Like the Broncos’ first game against Ferguson where he had more than 20 tackles, he was depended on a lot defensively.

One prospect to keep your eye on in coming years: sophomore athlete Isaac Lipscomb. Lining up at wide receiver at 6-2 and 180 pounds, he went up on a smaller corner, broke a tackle and bolted for a 90-yard catch and run to get the Broncos down to the 3-yard line before getting caught from behind.

Homestead has a solid 2018 crop of prospects with Lipscomb, linebacker Dervon “Dread” Marius and nose guard Yatil Kitchen – plus a few of their offensive linemen.

Marius showed some flashes, appearing aggressive in pursuit and also recovering a fumble.

Kitchen (5-10, 255 pounds) busted through between the center and guard on one play to tackle the running back for a 5-yard loss on the exchange from the quarterback. He also proved he can move well with his weight, bouncing outside for a stop on the next play.

If Kitchen can wrap up more consistently and get into the 270-280 range by the time he’s a senior, he can put together a solid offer sheet.


September 02, 2015

Heritage's Brandon Johnson commits to Tennessee

Plantation American Heritage senior wide receiver Brandon Johnson committed to the Tennessee Volunteers on Wednesday.

The four-star prospect chose Tennessee over other notable offers from UM, LSU, Georgia, Clemson, South Carolina and Wisconsin among several others.

Johnson announced his commitment on Twitter shortly after it was first reported by Ryan Bartow of 247 Sports.

"[Tennessee fans] can look forward to a player that is going to do nothing but work hard," Johnson said in an interview with 247 Sports. "I am a good athlete. I am a good football player and a good basketball player and I can compete at the highest level."

The 6-3, 172-pound wide receiver is the son of former Miami Hurricanes and Florida Marlins catcher Charles Johnson. Charles had mentioned to me before that he wanted his son to be a Hurricane, but while Brandon did have a UM offer, the Hurricanes weren't recruiting him as actively as other schools.

Brandon Johnson caught 13 touchdowns in his junior and sophomore seasons combined.

His Patriots host Maryland powerhouse DeMatha Catholic on Saturday night in a game with major national title implications.


Johnson's highlights: 

September 01, 2015

AP Florida high school football rankings - week 2

The Associated Press Top 10 Florida high school football poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records, rating points and previous rankings:

Class 8A

1. Apopka (17)                        1-0     179     1

 2. Flanagan (1)               1-0     163     2

 3. Christopher Columbus Catholic      1-0     131     3

 4. Kissimmee Osceola                  1-0     130     4

 5. Dr. Phillips                       1-0     108     5

 6. Vero Beach                         1-0     92      7

 7. West Orange                        1-0     63      8

 8. Atlantic Community                 1-0     37      NR

 9. Manatee                            0-1     34      6

10. Miramar                            0-1     17      9


¶   Others receiving votes: South Dade 8, Fort Pierce Central 8, Palm Beach Gardens 5, Southridge 3, Coral Gables 3, West Port 3, Deerfield Beach 2, Mandarin 2, Timber Creek 1, Wellington 1.


Class 7A

                                       Record  Pts     Prv

 1. St. Thomas Aquinas (18)            1-0     180     1

 2. Lakeland                           1-0     158     2

 3. Oakleaf                            1-0     143     3

 4. Dwyer                              1-0     128     5

 5. Venice                             1-0     111     6

 6. BradenRiver                       1-0     73      8

 6.  First Coast                     1-0     73      7

 8. Plant                              0-1     49      4

 9. South Fort Myers                   1-0     29      NR

10. Winter Haven                       1-0     12      NR


¶   Others receiving votes: Viera 9, Columbia 9, Bartram Trail 5, Sickles 3, Tampa Bay Tech 2, Countryside 2, Edgewater 2, Mater Academy 1, South Fork 1.


Class 6A

                                       Record  Pts     Prv

 1. Mainland (14)                      1-0     176     2

 2. Armwood                            1-0     152     3

 3. Miami Central (4)                  0-1     137     1

 4. Niceville                          1-0     122     5

 5. St. Augustine                      1-0     111     8

 6. Heritage                           1-0     86      9

 7. Choctawhatchee                     1-0     46      10

 8. Naples                             0-1     34      6

 9. LakeGibson                        0-1     30      4

10. Tate                               1-0     25      NR


¶   Others receiving votes: Navarre 15, Escambia 15, Dillard 14, Charlotte 11, Carol City 10, Norland 3, Pine Forest 1, Lake Wales 1, Brandon 1. <


Class 5A

                                       Record  Pts     Prv

 1. Plantation American Heritage (17) 1-0     178     1

 2. Hallandale (1)                     1-0     160     2

 3. Bishop Moore                       1-0     148     3

 4. North Marion                       1-0     123     6

 5. Rickards                           1-0     81      10

 6. Godby                              0-1     76      4

 7. Clay                               1-0     66      NR

 8. Coconut Creek                      1-0     58      NR

 9. Wakulla                            0-1     55      5

10. Suwannee                           0-1     18      7


¶   Others receiving votes: West Florida 11, Miami Jackson 8, Jefferson 4, Immokalee 2, Bishop Kenny 1, Palm Bay 1.


Class 4A

                                       Record  Pts     Prv

 1. Cocoa (16)                         1-0     187     2

 2. BollesSchool (1)                  1-0     156     3

 3. Miami Washington (2)               1-0     152     1

 4. Raines                             1-0     132     4

 5. South Sumter                       1-0     94      5


¶   Others receiving votes: Clewiston 19, Glades Central 12, P.K. Yonge 8.


Class 3A

                                       Record  Pts     Prv

 1. Trinity Christian-Jacksonville (17)1-0    179     1

 2. Delray American Heritage (1)       1-0     162     2

 3. Lakeland Christian                 1-0     131     3

 4. Westminster Christian              1-0     100     5

 5. Clearwater Central Catholic        1-0     82      4


¶   Others receiving votes: Oxbridge Academy 48, Tampa Catholic 12, Chaminade-Madonna College Prep 6.


Class 2A

                                       Record  Pts     Prv

 1. University Christian (13)          1-0     162     5

 2. Victory Christian                  0-1     132     T1

 3. North Florida Christian (3)        1-0     121     4

 4. Indian Rocks (1)                   0-1     109     T1

 5. Dade Christian (1)                 1-0     92      NR


¶   Others receiving votes: Northside Christian 29, First Baptist 25, Glades Day 20, Moore Haven 17, Champagnat Catholic 13.


Class 1A

                                       Record  Pts     Prv

 1. FortMeade (14)                    1-0     192     T11

 2. Port St. Joe (4)                   0-0     165     T1

 3. Dixie County                       1-0     126     4

 4. Pahokee                            1-0     113     NR

 5. MadisonCounty (1)                 0-1     73      3


¶   Others receiving votes:Trenton 64, Union County 13, Vernon 8, Northview 6. 

Colleges contact 2017 recruits for first time

At midnight Tuesday, college coaches were able to contact 2017 recruits (juniors in high school) for the first time via direct messages on Twitter, and several talented prospects in Dade and Broward had coaches contact them right away.

Coaches are still unable to contact juniors over the phone, but many rushed to "slide into their DMs," as they say.

Up to this point for 2017 kids, a recruit would've had to reach out to the coach recruiting him -- no contact initiated by the coach -- after that college coach has expressed interest in the prospect to the recruit's high school coach. (Confusing, I know, and I probably could've worded that better. But anyway, here are some of these recruits and the schools that have contacted them):

I will update this as I continue to receive updates.

Stanford Samuels, Flanagan CB: South Carolina, LSU, West Virginia, Clemson, Rutgers, UCF, Georgia, FSU, Oklahoma, Michigan, Tennessee.

De'Andre Wilder, Carol City LB: Michigan, Notre Dame, Alabama, LSU, UM, UF.

Jake Allen, St. Thomas Aquinas QB (UF commit): UF, Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Colorado, UCF, Rutgers, South Carolina, Duke.

Jake Lichtenstein, Cypress Bay DE: FAU, Purdue, Northwestern, UCF, FSU, Virginia, California.

Kadeem Telfort, Norland OL (UF commit): Alabama, LSU, Arkansas, UM, UCF, UF.

Marco Wilson, American Heritage CB: UM, Tennessee, Alabama, Notre Dame, UF, UCF, FAU.

Waynmon Steed, Miami Central LB (UM commit): UM, UF. 

Naytron Culpepper, American DB: Syracuse, Alabama, UCF, FSU, Middle Tennessee State (according to 247 Sports).

Kevaughn Dingle, Carol City WR: UM, Tennessee (according to 247 Sports).

Daewood Davis, Stranahan WR  (Syracuse commit): Purdue, Temple, UCF, Syracuse, Pittsburgh.

Jonathan Ford, Dillard DE: UM, Alabama, UCF, Purdue, South Carolina.

Mike Epstein, St. Thomas Aquins RB (Illinois commit): Syracuse, Purdue, Tennessee, Kentucky, Cincinnati, FAU, Arizona State, Illinois, Temple, UCF, Duke, Colorado, Western Michigan, Stanford, Miami (OH), Vanderbilt, Central Michigan.

Tyler Dunning, St. Thomas Aquinas LB (UM commit): UM, Pittsburgh, Alabama, UCF, Arkansas, Syracuse, Temple, Purdue.

Clevan Thomas, Flanagan WR: UCF, FAU.

Kyshaun Bryan, American Heritage RB: UF, FSU, Virginia Tech, Clemson, UM, Colorado, Alabama, West Virginia, Arkansas, Ohio State.

*You can notice some consistencies with what schools are recruiting South Florida the hardest.

Homer as solid as it gets with Canes

One UM commit looking to go nowhere else anytime soon: Oxbridge Academy running back Travis Homer.

Since deciding to commit at the UM 7-on-7 this summer, he's one of the more solid commits out of the 22 in the Canes' class of 2016.

"I just wanted to be a man of my word, and I wanted to stay committed wherever I committed," said Homer after a win against Gulliver on Friday. "That's why I took a little while to commit."


Coach Al Golden, while not the only reason for his commitment, played a major role in it. 

Golden made a much stronger impression on him and his mother, Karri Valot, than other coaches that have tried to recruit Homer. Valot feels Golden is an overall great person and not just a coach trying to recruit a four-star prospect. Homer has expressed similar positive sentiments about Golden to me in a previous interview.

"Golden appears to have a great character," Valot said in a message. "It seems like his moral compass points in the right direction, and those qualities are important to me when it comes to my kids."

Barring any unforeseen changes, Homer has shut down his recruitment and won't take any official visits other than UM at this time.

In Friday's 46-0 win that Homer and his Oxbridge ThunderWolves had over Gulliver, Homer got the best of fellow UM commits Joseph Jackson, Cedrick Wright and Robert Burns.

"I think it was just great to play against them -- teammate against teammate, just get some chemistry between us," said Homer, who finished with 90 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries plus 31 receiving yards on two catches, including one where he caught it in the flat and leaped over a defender diving for his legs.


Jackson, a four-star defensive end, joked postgame that most of Homer's yards were gained running away from his side of the defense. Jackson, who also had a couple of catches at tight end, moved inside and outside on the defensive line and was in the backfield plenty but the quick, short passing game for the ThunderWolves would get the ball out of the quarterback's hands before Jackson could get there.

Wright was kept busy at safety. With the defense on the field most of the game and ThunderWolves skill players getting into the secondary often, he finished with 17 tackles.

Burns, the junior four-star running back, only carried the ball one time. The Raiders would offer no explanation as to why postgame. Dionte Mullins, a four-star senior receiver for Gulliver who is also committed to the Canes, did not travel to West Palm Beach for the game due to academic ineligibility.

August 28, 2015

Pierre firm with Canes, Ridley has top three

Senior safety James Pierre reaffirmed how strong his UM commitment is, stating it is "very firm" after Deerfield Beach defeated Cypress Bay 35-14 on Friday night.

Pierre added he doesn't see his mind changing before National Signing Day.

The three-star commit made five tackles in the win over the Lightning, including a touchdown-saving tackle late in the first half as the last man to beat.

Cavin Ridley, the Miami Herald's sixth-best senior in Broward County, is down to a top three and it's all SEC: Tennessee, Alabama and Auburn.

Ridley, a four-star recruit, took a screen pass 70 yards for a touchdown on the opening play of the game and finished with five catches for 123 yards. His older brother Calvin currently attends Alabama.


UM commit Dionte Mullins ineligible to start season, Robert Burns barely plays in Gulliver opener

Wide receiver and four-star UM commit Dionte Mullins did not travel with Gulliver up to West Palm Beach for its game with Oxbridge Academy on Friday night.

Mullins, the Miami Herald's sixth-best senior in Miami-Dade County, has been academically ineligible for the Raiders since the summer and remains ineligible for the start of the regular season.

He needs to finish one more summer online course to return to the field, I was told by someone on the Gulliver sideline.

Both athletic director Mark Schusterman and coach Earl Sims are hopeful Mullins can return in "a couple of weeks."

The effect his high school ineligibility has on his status with UM next season -- if the commit ends up signing with the Hurricanes -- is unknown as Gulliver sets high academic for its athletes to be able to take the field on game day.

The Raiders struggled without his presence in a 46-0 trampling at the hands of the ThunderWolves.

"It'll be a big boost when he comes back," says Sims.

Mullins did participate in 7-on-7 action over the summer with his teammates.

Another UM commit, 2017 four-star running back Robert Burns, barely played for the Raiders. The wrecking ball of a back carried just one time for six yards. Neither Schusterman, Sims or Burns would comment on the reason behind his seldom play Friday.

He was seen standing on the sideline during the second half walking fine.


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.