George Rushing and Trevon Lee have seen the repercussions coaching changes in college football have had on current and prospective players firsthand.
In the end, choosing the colleges that offered the two Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons wide receivers the most stability where major factors in their decisions.
Rushing announced his commitment to Wisconsin, with Lee deciding to take his talents to Duke. Both made their decisions public on WQAM Monday night.
Rushing, rated a three-star receiver by multiple media outlets, has had a hectic start to 2014 to say the least. He was previously committed to Louisville since May 2013, but Charlie Strong’s departure to take the head coaching position at Texas left Rushing trying to put all the pieces in his recruitment back together since withdrawing his pledge on Jan. 8.
“It’s been crazy,” Rushing said to the Miami Herald about 90 minutes before announcing his decision.
Rushing took official visits to Wisconsin on Jan. 17, Louisville on Jan. 24 and TCU this past weekend in hopes of finding some clarity, and did with a school kept its persistence.
“The only school I’ve known for a really long time has been Wisconsin,” Rushing said. “They’ve been recruiting me since April. They never gave up even when I committed [to Louisville].”
Rushing said getting to know the new staff at Louisville and trying to quickly build a relationship with those at TCU “as kind of hard, but worth it.”
In the end, joining Wisconsin’s pass-heavy offense was the deciding factor for Rushing, who has grown close with Badgers head coach Gary Andersen and wide receivers coach Chris Betty. Rushing should have no problems thriving as he secured the third-most touchdowns amongst players in Miami-Dade and Broward County last season with 13.
“Basically what [Andersen] wants to do is bring in some playmakers to throw the ball” said Rushing, who had 47 catches for 598 yards. “And I feel like I can be that playmaker especially in the Big Ten.”
For Lee, seeing Duke coach David Cutcliffe promote passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach Scottie Montgomery to offensive coordinator once Kurt Roper left for Florida was reassuring to say the least.
“That was a very big factor to me since a lot of coaches have been swapping schools lately,” Lee said before an hour his announcement. “But Coach Roper leaving didn't really affect me, and I know for a fact Coach Cut isn't going anywhere.”
Duke defensive backs coach Derek Jones was also a key component for Lee, who visited the school this past weekend after taking an official visit to Vanderbilt on Jan. 24. Ultimately, Duke provided more stability after seeing James Franklin leave Vandy to take the helm at Penn State.
Lee, who was tied in 15th place amongst Miami-Dade and Broward County players last season with 741 receiving yards, will now share receiving duties with another South Florida stud in Chris Taylor from Davie University School.
“I say we're pretty close,” Lee said of his friendship with Taylor. “Still working on our friendship since we pretty much just met in the middle of this football season, but we're really cool. He's been telling me about the program and why I should go there with him.”
In the meantime for Rushing and Lee, announcing their decisions together was a lasting moment for both.
“It means a lot,” Lee said. “[Rushing has] been my bro since he got to [Cardinal Gibbons] so I'm glad we're ending our recruiting process together. “We both worked very hard for this moment.”
-Two more local prospects announced their commitments Monday night. Miami Columbus linebacker Nick MeBeath will sign with Holy Cross. Miramar quarterback Nick Jeanty will head to New Mexico State.
Northwestern wasn't the only Dade County school to fill a coaching vacancy on Saturday.
American hired former Norland offensive coordinator Anthony White to replace Corey Bell, who left to become the defensive backs coach at FAU.
White, 33, spent the last five years coaching quarterbacks for the Vikings and studying under one of the most respected offensive gurus in the state in Daryle Heidelburg. The Vikings won a state title with current Miami Hurricane Duke Johnson in 2012.
"When I first got to Norland, coach Heidelburg said to me 'To be a good leader you have to be a good follower.' He said, 'Coach I’m going to groom you up,'" said White, who played receiver at Miami Central and North Miami High school and two seasons of Junior College football in Oklahoma.
"I'm grateful for all the things I learned under Coach Berg and now I feel I'm ready for the next step."
The Patriots are coming off back-to-back district titles and three straight first round exits in the playoffs.
"Coach Bell got that thing jumping over there," White said. "It’s going to be tough to follow behind a guy like him. I’m not really trying to change everything he set. He does have some good things in place."
White, who left college to come back and be around for his son, said his son, Anthony Jr., now 15, will play at American next season. He too is a talented receiver.
Before coaching at Norland, White coached quarterbacks at Hialeah-Miami Lakes for a season and Hialeah the six seasons prior.
White said he will be introduced to his new team on Monday.
American hasn't won a playoff game since 1997.
-- MANNY NAVARRO
Just when we thought Northwestern and Central's rivalry might be getting a little stale (the Rockets have owned the Bulls lately and won three state titles in four years) things have suddenly gotten a little more interesting.
Saturday, Northwestern hired Eddie "Rabbit" Brown to fill its head coaching vacancy. Brown, the 44-year old father of Pittsburgh Steelers star receiver Antonio Brown, not only graduated from Central, but he grew up playing with and against Central coach Roland Smith (a Northwestern grad) since the age of six.
"We were teammates for a long time at the Northwest Boys Club," recalled Smith. "Then when it came time to go to high school, I went to the West and he went to Central. If he's honest with you he'll tell you I won the head-to-head battles. I shut him down [laughter]."
Brown, tabbed the greatest player in Arena League Football History with more than 12,000 receiving yards and 300 touchdowns as a receiver for the Albany Firebirds, comes to Northwestern from Wyandotte High School in Kansas City, his first stint as a head coach.
Before that, though, Brown and Smith would often help each other when Smith coached at Northwestern. Brown recruited former Northwestern linebacker Lavonte David to Fort Scott Community College where he was an assitant for a few years. David is now in his second year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Brown has hired former Central, Dillard and Deerfield Beach coach Manny Martin to be his defensive coordinator. Brown told me there will be a bunch of locals on his coaching staff.
"In s all about who you know," Brown said. "When I got wind there may be an opportunity at Northwestern I reached out to the athletic director Andre Williams and let him know if there was an opportunity I wanted in. I submitted my resume and today they named me head coach.
"I can't wait to get started."
Brown said he'll be in South Florida until Wednesday before returning home to Kansas City. He'll return to South Florida on March 3rd and then begin preparing for spring football.
What does he plan on doing to help Northwestern, coming off a 5-5 season, catch up with Central?
"Right now I plan on making sure we’re together, one family, one direction, inserting an atmosphere of being competitive," he said. "Our most important goal is to get everyone on the same page."
Brown said his son is hoping to run a football camp at Northwestern sometime in the spring.
"No matter who is on the sideline Northwestern-Central is always going to be a rivalry," Smith said. "I’m sure he won’t be taking it easy on us just because he's playing his alma mater."
-- MANNY NAVARRO
At a ceremony Friday morning at the school's auditorium that was even attended by a couple of college coaches including Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, MaxPreps presented Booker T. Washington with its official national championship trophy.
The Tornadoes won their second consecutive Class 4A state title this season going 14-0 with two road victories over nationally-ranked opponents and a home win against then No. 2-ranked Miami Central.
Booker T. was voted the consensus No. 1 and will have another national championship presentation Feb. 12 when USA Today plans to come by the school.
Here's an interview with coach Tim "Ice" Harris.
Shawn Burgess-Becker and Calvin Ridley have been close friends since the third grade.
On Sunday, they plan on announcing their college decisions to keep their friendship going at the same college.
Burgess-Becker (left) and Ridley – two of South Florida’s most talented Class of 2015 prospects – took to their Twitter accounts Thursday to post a list of top schools with Miami, Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State in common. Burgess-Becker also listed UCF and Florida among his possible suitors with Ridley adding Clemson.
“I’ve visited most of the colleges [on my list],” Burgess-Becker said at Monarch High School on Thursday afternoon. “All of the schools have beautiful campuses. All of those schools have just been recruiting me heavy.
“I just felt good to make my decision on Sunday.”
Added Ridley, a young man of few words: “I’ve been known what school I wanted to go to.”
Former U School coach Roger Harriott thriving at FAU; Luther Campbell new defensive coordinator at Norland
Roger Harriott spent the last eight years building University School into a high school football powerhouse from the ground up.
He hopes he's on his way to doing the same at FAU.
The South Florida native and St. Thomas Aquinas grad, who starred at Boston University and Villanova at running back in the late 1990s, was hired by the Owls late last month as the assistant head football coach and running backs coach by new head coach Charlie Partridge.
And ever since, FAU has been on an unbelievable recruiting run, landing 16 commitments in the 2014 class and another four highly touted kids in the 2015 class.
Harriott, who won a state title at University in 2012 and went 78-15 in his time there, said Thursday he's excited to be a part of FAU's future. He also wants to clear the air and dispell any rumors about a bad parting of the ways with the program he built at U School, especially in light that so many of his former players transferred out after he left.
"There’s a lot of unanswered questions out there, rumors that I have animosity with U School. There’s not. I’m more than thankful for the opportunity they gave me," Harriott said. "I’m proud of what we accomplished at U School. I poured my heart and soul into it.
"The truth is my coworkers were a joy to be around and I appreciate how I was able to develop under [school headmaster] Dr. Chermak. I miss them. This move was inevitable. This was the direction my family and I were going."
Among FAU's newest commitments is 2015 four-star running back Jordan Scarlett, who transferred from University to St. Thomas Aquinas; Cypress Bay 2014 safety Marquis Dudley-Gordon; Coral Gables 2014 running back Greg Howell, among the rushing leaders in Miami-Dade County; Hialeah 2014 running back Henry Bussey; South Dade 2014 tight end Nate Terry and Taravella 2014 offensive tackle Siffo Pierre.
"The focus for us is building integrity," Harriott said. "With how volatile this industry is and how fast everything changes I think we’ve established some momentum. We’re taking more of a family approach to coaching and to recruiting and to establishing relationships. We’re excited about the direction is FAU is heading in.
"The whole University is buzzing right now. Boca is a beautiful area. It’s not difficult to promote the value FAU brings from a South Florida standpoint. We’re looking forward to a great Signing Day."
> FAU also hired former Edison and American High coach Corey Bell to be the program's secondary and player personnel coach.
NORLAND HIRES LUTHER CAMPBELL AS DEFENSIVE COODINATOR
Uncle Luke will be back on the football sidelines this spring.
The Miami native and longtime rapper, who won a state title at Central (2010) as defensive coordinator and spent the last two seasons at Miami Northwestern before he was cut loose in the middle of last season, was hired as Miami Norland's defensive coordinator earlier this week.
He said he was officially introduced to the team Wednesday.
"I’m excited. I’m ready to go," Campbell, 53, said. "We got some young kids who were beat up last year because they were young. But they never laid down. [Head coach Daryle] Heidelburg is one of the best offensive coordinators, head coaches in the state. I’m excited. We've got some talented kids. All the defensive backs, that’s the best defensive backfield in the county. I’m happy."
Heidelburg said he's always respected Campbell as a coach. As district rivals, the two went head-to-head often over the last few seasons.
"I've known him for a minute and we were always talking about working together," Heidelburg said. "I have respect for what he did at Northwestern and Central playing against him. I didn’t really have to sell him too hard. He had offers to go other places, but like I said we’ve always been talking about it. The one thing I can say is he’s always been kid first. Those are the type of coaches I’m looking for."
Campbell, who allegedly paid University of Miami players bounties for big plays back in the 1980s and 1990s, was initially barred from coaching high schools by the state several years ago. But he fought and won full certification.
"I don’t know what he does after 8 o’clock. I don’t know what anyof my coaches do after 8 o’clock. But I do know he’s kid first," Heidelburg said. "I did my homework on him. And from everything I heard he was diligent as far being there every day to coach and be there for the kids."
-- MANNY NAVARRO