February 02, 2015

Two of Broward's smallest stars -- Piper's Liburd, Dillard's Bouie -- taking own route to the next level

By MANNY NAVARRO
mnavarro@MiamiHerald.com

Broward County leading rusher Travis Liburd never had any illusions about himself as a football recruit entering his senior season.

At 5-6, 170 pounds, he knew it was going to take more than a great senior season at Piper to get one of the 128 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country to take a chance on him. Akron and Ohio University showed interest, but in the end neither was willing to dish out a concrete scholarship offer.

So on Wednesday, when dozens of three, four and five-star recruits in South Florida who played alongside Liburd in the Miami Dolphins All-Star Game sign with big name schools in front of throngs of media, the two-star recruit and All-Broward First Team selection will quietly do his own thing in front of a much smaller audience at school.

He’s signing with Stony Brook, a Football Championship Subdivision program in Long Island, N.Y., where it was snowing so hard this past weekend during Liburd’s official visit he said he “barely saw the ground.” Being relegated to college football’s second tier might feel like an underachievement to some, but not Liburd. To him it’s just another avenue to success.

“It’s a great team for me because they run the ball a lot,” said Liburd, who ran for over 4,100 yards and 36 touchdowns in three years for Piper despite being the only weapon on a losing team and seeing many eight and nine man fronts. “I’ve already got my major – electrical engineering – and everything. And there’s opportunity to get on the field as a freshman, especially on kickoffs.”

Special teams is usually where the smallest guys in college and pro football make their money. Liburd, clocked at 4.35 in the 40-yard dash according to his coach, ran back eight kickoffs for touchdowns as a junior. “He didn’t have any as a senior because no one would kick him the ball,” his coach Roger Mitchell said.

Said Charles Fishbein of Elite Scouting Services: “Liburd’s a little pocket rocket. He’s not elite, but he’s in that second or third group locally if you’re talking about production and what he does. You’re telling me there’s 120-something D-1 schools and none can use a kid like that?”

Size is ultimately what scared BCS programs off, Mitchell said. The numbers certainly support the claim.

According to Rivals.com’s recruiting database, a total of 221 players listed as being 5-feet, 7-inches or shorter have signed with Football Bowl Subdivision (126) or Football Championship Subdivision schools (95) since 2002. That averages out to a little less than 16 scholarships a year across Division 1 football being given nationwide to players of that height (nine to FBS programs and a little less than seven to FCS schools). Of that group, 60 scholarships have been awarded to players listed 5-6 or shorter including only eight listed at 5-5 or shorter.

Most are running backs (122) or listed as athletes (42) or receivers (27). Dolphins Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes, listed at 5-6, 180 pounds coming out of high school in Louisiana, is among that group. He was a two-star recruit who signed with Central Arkansas.

His success story – like that of Eagles Pro Bowl running back Darren Sproles (5-6, 190) – give Liburd and other small guys like Dillard linebacker/safety Christian Bouie hope.

Bouie (5-7, 160) led Dillard in tackles two years in a row and was “blowing receivers up in the secondary at the Dolphins All-Star Game,” Mitchell said. But he also couldn’t get any FBS schools to bite and offer him a scholarship.

Dillard coach Lorenzo Davis said he expects Bouie to sign with Division II Stillman College (Ala.) on Wednesday. According to Rivals, only 25 defensive backs and one linebacker listed at 5-7 or shorter have signed with Division 1 schools since 2002.

“Three inches taller and everybody in the country is after him,” Davis said. “Unfortunately, when you’re making $200,000 to $300,000 a year as a college assistant and your job is on the line every year you can’t take that chance because if the guy doesn’t pan out the boss will be looking at you and saying ‘Well, you knew he was too small.’ I was really trying to get FIU and FAU to look at him. I just couldn’t get him a shot.”

Bouie, who has a 3.4 GPA, says he’ll take the shot wherever he gets it. Stillman, by the way, had eight players on its roster last season listed at 5-7 or shorter.

“You can measure my height, but you can’t measure my heart,” Bouie said.

Said Mitchell: “Like I told Travis, put that chip on your shoulder and just turn and look at it every time before you get the ball. Show them what they missed every day.”

LOCAL PLAYERS 5-7 OR SHORTER TO SIGN WITH D-1 (FBS/FCS) SCHOOLS SINCE 2002
RB Dareyon Chance, Cardinal Gibbons, 5-5, 175, 3-star (Western Michigan, 2010)
WR Derrick Hopkins, Monsignor Pace, 5-6, 160, 2-star (USF, 2009)
RB Krondis Larry, Booker T. Washington, 5-6, 160, 2-star (FCS Samford, 2014)
DB Terry Jefferson, Booker T. Washington, 5-7, 170, 2-stars (FCS Monmouth, 2014)
WR Jarius Brown, University School, 5-7, 172, 2-stars (FCS Dartmouth, 2014)
ATH Franklin Labady, Champagnat, 5-7, 180, 3-stars (Cincinnati, 2014)
DB Nico Marley, Cypress Bay, 5-7, 182, 2-stars (Tulane, 2013)
RB Darius Hoggins, Monarch, 5-7, 156, 2-stars (Louisiana-Lafayette, 2013)
RB Jared Sanders, Hallandale, 5-7, 165, 2-stars (Eastern Kentucky, 2012)
RB Orville Reynolds, Douglas, 5-7, 175, 3-stars (Wake Forest, 2011)
ATH Ronnie Kennedy, Plantation, 5-7, 147, 3-stars (Central Michigan, 2009)
WR Brandon Drayton, Northwestern, 5-7, 156, 0-stars (FCS Howard, 2008)
WR Tim Brown, Northwestern, 5-7, 146, 3-stars (Rutgers, 2006)
RB Jovens Degage, North Miami, 5-7, 180, 2-stars (Ball State, 2004)
RB Jerry Seymour, Monsignor Pace, 5-7, 183, 2-stars (Central Michigan, 2003)

January 29, 2015

January 27, 2015

Miramar looking forward to Signing Day event after rough end to season

After a scandalous and frustrating finish to the 2014 season, things are finally looking up for the Miramar Patriots.

Tuesday, the program hired a new coach in longtime Booker T. Washington assistant Pierre Senatus. And now, in a little over a week, a large group of seniors who didn't get a chance to participate in the playoffs in the wake of allegations of academic fraud, impermissible benefits and illegal participation of ineligible players, will get a chance to live out a lifetime dream when they sign with their respective colleges.

“It's definitely going to be a big day for us," Miramar defensive line and strength coach Josh Taylor said Tuesday. "I’m happy for these guys. We have a lot of great kids who are looking forward to opening up the next chapter in their careers and play on the next level. All these guys have been talking about lately is figuring out what they’re going to wear to Signing Day. They're hilarious.”

Taylor said school officials are planning to host the Patriots' Signing Day event at 1 p.m.

Receivers Kahlil Lewis, Jovon Durante and cornerback Tyrek Cole are all a done deal to West Virginia, where they've been committed for some time, Taylor said.

Two players who figure to keep folks guessing up until the last minute: four-star safety Kendrell McFadden and three-star offensive guard Leeward Brown, former West Virginia commitments now looking elsewhere.

"Kendrell's recruiting is wide open right now," Taylor said.

Notre Dame and Kentucky are in the mix for McFadden, Taylor said. "FIU came in recently," Taylor said of Brown. "Tulane came in as well. FAU is also in the mix."

Safety Herbert Miller (FAU) and cornerback Jeff Hill (Northern Illinois) are expected to stick with their respective commitments. Taylor said running back Alex Anderson "will have a couple hats to choose from on the table."

-- MANNY NAVARRO

Auburn, Muschamp giving Norland All-American cornerback Carlton Davis something to consider

Norland All-American cornerback Carlton Davis (6-2, 184) has been an Ohio State commitment since August. But with a week to go before National Signing Day on Feb. 4 his coach Daryle Heidelburg said Tuesday Davis' final decision is now "kind of up in the air" with Auburn making a strong push.

"I don't know if he's going to decommit, but he could be leaning that way," Heidelburg said. "[Auburn defensive coordinator Will] Muschamp came to visit and I guess the safe way to say it is he's considering Auburn."

Davis, an All-Dade First Team selection and Semper Fi All-American, is rated the 32nd best cornerback in the country by 247Sports Composite Rankings.

Heidelburg said Norland will have nine players sign with colleges a week from Wednesday including outside linebacker Rayshad Jackson (6-2, 205), who committed to Florida recently. Norland's Signing Day event is expected to begin after 8:30 a.m. Heidelburg said.

"[Florida co-defensive coordinator] Randy Shannon was always on him when he was at Arkansas," Heidelburg said. "It was Arkansas and FIU really. I think Florida gave him the best of both worlds. His parents are involved and would have loved for him to go to FIU, but when Randy went to Florida they took the visit with him and they saw it’s close enough for him to home and to get big-time football. That was the best of both worlds for him."

Other Norland players who will sign on Wednesday: cornerback D'Andre Smart (Kent State), defensive back Elliott Miller (Bethune-Cookman), offensive lineman William Gordon (Alcorn State), offensive lineman Lowell Richardson (Tuskegee), receiver Steven McIntosh (Mississippi Valley State), offensive lineman Swayne Spencer (Warner) and defensive back Cameron Cooper (Warner).

Heidelburg said he has five juniors receiving a lot of college interest: defensive end/outside linebacker Emmett Rice (Kentucky, N.C. State, USF offers), outside linebacker Vosean Joseph (Oregon State is close to offering), safety Val Mayes (FAU offer), quarterback Rodrick Robinson (USF interest) and receiver Jordan Robinson.

The 2017 class features two big offensive linemen receiving heavy SEC interest -- Kadeem Telfort (6-5, 310) and Cedrick Johnson (6-3, 290).

-- MANNY NAVARRO

January 26, 2015