It's a day that every college football player will forever cherish and remember -- their first with their program of choice.
UM welcomed 13 members of its 2015 recruiting class and one walk-on Sunday as they get set to begin the Summer A session at UM on Monday.
The newcomers join five other members of the class that enrolled early and arrived at UM for the spring semester. Those were safety Jaquan Johnson, defensive end Scott Patchan, linebacker Charles Perry, tight end Jerome Washington and lineman Jahair Jones.
Running back Mark Walton, expected to break into the backfield rotation as a freshman and eventually become the feature back of the offense, walking into the Schwartz Center in the morning.
Some of the larger newcomers -- offensive linemen Brendan Loftus (Tallahassee Godby), Hayden Mahoney (Malvern Prep in Pennsylvania), Tyler Gauthier (Venice), Tyree St. Louis (IMG Academy) and defensive tackle Ryan Fines (IMG) -- are seen in this short video:
It’s clear that coach Javier Valdes is the right man for the job at Coral Reef.
With two years of head coaching experience building Mater Academy’s program to the point of its first playoff appearance last season, Valdes takes over at Coral Reef, a program that has seen success in recent years but then fell on tough times with a 2-8 season in 2014.
A new coach, a new district (15-8A) and solid prospects in a talent-rich neighborhood in the south has football at the Reef back on the rise.
“The guys have already taken into the culture and the mentality that we’re trying to build and are working really hard,” Valdes says. “I feel like there’s a lot of talent here that was untapped, and I think if you give them the system, they buy in and they work their tail off, they start building championship habits. Good things are going to follow.”
--Harvey Clayton Jr., a 2016 athlete who already lists offers from Louisville, Temple and Alcorn State, tops the senior class for the Barracudas.
At 6-2, 185 pounds, he already has ideal size and ball skills to translate to a cornerback that could match up with possession receivers at the next level.
Offensively, he lines up at wide receiver and can go up and get a ball over a defender in single coverage – like he did at one point in the end zone in Saturday’s scrimmage.
“We’re expecting a lot of big things from him – not only as a leader on the field – but as a playmaker,” Valdes says. “I think Harvey gives us an X-factor any time we line up on Friday nights.”
N.C. State, Miami and Cincinnati have also shown interest recently.
--2017 linebacker/safety Colvin Alford received his first offer from Temple on Tuesday and has received interest from the likes of Nebraska, Florida, Miami, USF, N.C. State, FIU and FAU.
After watching him, it’s obvious why so many schools like him as he heads into the summer between his sophomore and junior years. At 6-0 and close to 200 pounds, Alford presents Coral Reef with versatility on defense both at linebacker and safety. He had an impressive interception on a poorly thrown ball at the scrimmage.
“Dynamic playmaker, he’s got a physical presence but he’s athletic enough to cover at safety or outside backer,” Valdes says. “He makes plays in the box, he makes plays all over the field. Eventually he’ll be making plays with the ball in his hands.
Alford lists Nebraska as an early front-runner once he gets an offer from the Corn Huskers.
--Brian Castro, a 2016 leader on the offensive line at 6-2, 250 was a beast on Saturday.
“Real smart football player and student,” Valdes says. “He plays physical and is the leader of the offensive line, brings the nastiness and is going to help our power run game.”
--Randy Shannon Jr. was out on the field playing middle linebacker and wearing his father’s old No. 22 that Randy Shannon wore as a Hurricane.
With his father now the defensive coordinator with the Florida Gators, one might assume he may end up at UF – if not through scholarship, as a preferred walk-on – but Valdes says the scholar athlete who brings “a calming presence” to the defense will likely go a separate route.
“They don’t want to play for each other; they’re going to make it their own way,” he says – a notion that Shannon Jr. himself confirmed to me.
Shannon Jr., a 6-0, 215-pound 2016 prospect, has seen interest from FIU, FAU, Buffalo, Georgetown, Cornell, Colgate and Fordham.
--Coral Reef has a slew of talented 2018 prospects that its new coaching staff can surely build upon. There’s quite a few to list, but two that really stood out to me were running back Jordon Donaldson and lineman Jaylaan Williams.
Donaldson possesses the vision, burst and ability to make sharp, quick cuts. Williams is an absolute monster at 6-3 and weighs between 280 and 290 as he wraps up his freshman year; he was seen lining up at left tackle.
--2016 RB Mehki Ervan runs with a low center of gravity at 5-7 and can run a defender over if he doesn’t meet him with proper technique. He also has great footwork.
Coral Reef will hold its spring game on Wednesday against Edison at Harris Field.
Miramar held its spring classic on Friday afternoon, and by watching the kids play and the coaches conduct the scrimmage, you couldn’t tell this is the same team that had to forfeit its playoff game last season due to sanctions by the FHSAA for an academic scandal.
Former Booker T. Washington defensive line coach Pierre Senatus has taken over as head coach, cleaned up the program, brought his winning mentality to a program that has seen plenty of winning and the scandal is behind the Patriots.
I’ll have more on how Miramar has moved on from that in the coming week, but first let’s focus on some of the athletes that stood out, some of which have had to wait their turns to finally blossom because of the players they've been behind on the depth chart in past years.
--I was very impressed with 2017 safety Brian Edwards, who already looks like a college safety on the field. He showed great range in his pursuit, going from sideline to sideline.
Syracuse was impressed too. With a coach at the scrimmage, the Orange offered him Friday. Edwards added to an offer sheet that includes UM, Clemson, Cincinnati and interest from South Carolina and Alabama among others.
--A pair of 2016 Patriots were offered by Coastal Carolina on Thursday in defensive end Terrell Lucas and offensive lineman Obinna Nwankwo.
Lucas is already 6-2, 231 and has a tremendous motor off the edge. Nwankwo is 280 pounds and paves a hole with force when a runner gets behind him.
--Miramar’s projected starter at quarterback, senior University School transfer D’Angelo Fulford, looked smooth with his delivery, flashed a gifted arm, showed some escape ability and stood even taller than his impressive 6-1 frame in the pocket.
All he needs to do is continue to learn the Patriot’s tempo offense and put the right touch on his deep ball to connect with his speedy receivers.
--Fulford connected with 6-4 senior receiver Kyle Anthony for two touchdowns at the scrimmage. Anthony displayed tremendous rapport with Fulford, ability to go up and use his body to get the ball as a possession receiver, and Senatus said he also has developed chemistry with Caleb Thomas when he is at quarterback.
Anthony picked up three offers at the FIU scrimmages last weekend – Colgate, Florida A&M and Alcorn State – and is getting looked at by “all the HBCUs and all the Ivy League schools,” according to Senatus, but one would imagine his recruitment will explode in not time with his size and skill set. Anthony has a 5.0 grade-point average to go with all his tools on the field.
“His skill set, his speed, he has that tremendous ball radius, phenomenal burst, great route-running, great ball recognition,” Senatus says. “We feel we have one of the top receivers in the state of Florida right now.”
--Senatus calls 2016 cornerback Korel Smith “the honeybadger.” At the scrimmage, he presented his ball skills with an acrobatic interception in the end zone in single coverage.
--Senatus added that the cornerback combination of Smith and 2016 recruit Shemar Jean-Charles is one of the top tandems in the Southeast United States.
--Linebacker Deshondre Pitts is a beast at linebacker, shedding off blocks in the box and ripping through the line for tackles for loss. Pitts is also a captain on defense and earns the praise of both Senatus and defensive coordinator A.J. Scott.
“He has some of the highest football IQ that you’ll see in the United States. He is a coach on the field. He’s our field general,” Senatus said. “The intensity and the tenacity that you’ll see him bring on the field is some of the best that you’ll see in the country.”
*Pitts is driving the Miramar equipment crew crazy, breaking his own facemask and the facemask of a teammate running back all in the past week.
The Miami Hurricanes learned Friday that they picked up their fourth commitment in the Class of 2018 and it comes from Citra North Marion athlete Jalen Patterson.
Just a freshman last season, Patterson, who plays both sides of the ball but projects as a defensive back, already looks the part of an elite recruit on film with his blazing speed and pursuit of the ball.
"Two words: Big time," said North Marion coach Stephen Field, former head coach at Miami Northwestern. "Just an all-around athlete with great instincts, and he's physical."
Added Patterson on his game, "I like to hit." He's been told by coaches they like his speed and athleticism.
Patterson got the offer on Thursday and on Friday decided to join a class that consists of two other DB commits in University School's Al Blades Jr. and Thomas Burns from Northwestern, who is the brother of current Cane Artie Burns.
In an interview with Rivals, Patterson said, "I wanted to commit right away when they offered."
With his Signing Day so far in the future (Feb. 2018), he added "it's going to be hard" for another school to catch UM by then.
He told me: "I like their defense, especially their defensive backs."
He has other early offers from Oregon State, West Virginia and Mississippi State and says Alabama is about to offer.
After Shaquery Wilson took his talents to Georgia and several other talented defensive prospects moved on, Coral Gables is looking strong with its senior class once again.
At the top of the list is running back Amir Rasul, who at 6-0, 192 pounds is a four-star recruit on most sites.
Rasul committed to UM in January and had his recruitment blow up since, gathering more than 20 offers from all over the country. Even USC has come all the way to the East Coast to visit Coral Gables and check on Rasul.
“He’s offered from coast to coast,” Coral Gables coach Roger Pollard said. “Every school in the nation has recognized his talent.”
With all the options that have opened up for Rasul, who is also an elite track talent and is spending the spring away from the football team running track, his commitment to the Canes should be considered a soft one. When asked, Pollard could not confirm how firm Rasul’s commitment is currently but said he will sit down with him when he rejoins the team in June.
While college coaches love Rasul’s track speed, they love even more that he runs like a football player with that speed.
Amir Rasul after a 195-yard, 4-TD performance against Coral Park last season. DAVID FURONES
“He doesn’t run like a track guy. He runs like a really fast running back, and I think that’s why so many people are really in love with him and what he can do for their program,” Pollard says. “People want home run hitters, and with the type of speed he possesses, he’s a home run hitter.”
Coral Gables’ trio of senior linebackers in Shakur Cooper, Gee Stanley and Robert Brown is one that will spearhead the Cavaliers’ defense and pick up some steam in the players’ recruitment in the fall.
Cooper, at 6-1, 210 pounds, is a four-year starter in Pollard’s defense. He was second-team all-state last season and recently received an offer from FAMU to add to a list that includes Appalachian State and Alcorn State.
“If he was 6-2, he’d be recruited by every school in the nation because his ability to rush the passer – you can ask anybody that’s played against us – he’s got a special knack, a lot of unteachable skill,” Pollard says. “Once that ball moves an inch, he moves two feet.”
Pollard plans on using Cooper, who goes by the nickname of “Pooh Bear,” all over the field his senior season and not restrict him to just outside linebacker.
Stanley (6-2, 200) has started since he was a sophomore and is a sideline-to-sideline outside linebacker who has also seen time at strong safety and lists offers from Alcorn State and Robert Morris since receiving an offer from Temple in the fall.
“He’s really quick in the box, quick with his feet and really knowledgeable in what offenses are trying to do against us,” Pollard says.
Brown (6-1, 195) is a South Miami transfer that Pollard describes as an “effort linebacker.”
“He’s going to run, he’s going to take you down,” Pollard says. “Wherever the ball is, he’s going to do whatever he can to get there.”
Alcorn State and Bryant University have offered Brown, but he’s also receiving interest from FIU and New Mexico.
“I don’t think there will be another linebacking corps with this talent. Usually you’ll have one stud, but with these three, pick your poison,” Pollard says. “If you block one, where’s the other?”
Quarterback Voshon Waiters currently lists one offer (FAMU), but Pollard expects his recruitment to heat up over the summer and in the fall once the season starts.
“I think with the numbers he’s going to put up this year, people are going to hit the brakes when they come by Coral Gables, and it’s not just for Amir Rasul,” Pollard says.
Pollard wants to take him to camps at FIU and FAU because he feels with how meticulously quarterbacks are recruited and offered college coaches need to see him in person.
He says Waiters has solid size at 6-1 to see over the line and runs the Cavaliers’ spread offense, which is very popular in college, to perfection for his unit.
I had a chance to catch up with Sheldrick Redwine, the 6-1, 193-pound cornerback coming out of Miami Killian that will be enrolling at UM – which he has previously called his “dream school” – for the start of the Summer A session on Monday and moving in to campus on Sunday.
The offseason has not slowed Redwine down. He’s still working as if it’s South Dade week for the Killian Cougars.
“I’ve been doing two-a-days with my teammates,” says Redwine, the physical corner who also possesses the quickness of the feet and hips to keep up with speedy receivers. “We go to a gym, we get worked out by a trainer. Then we go [back home], eat and do field workouts. Then after that we’ll do lighter drills.”
FROM THE K TO THE U: Sheldrick Redwine and Jaquan Johnson on Signing Day. DAVID FURONES
With high school teammate Jaquan Johnson already at UM since the spring, Redwine says he’s also been in contact with another pair of Dade County defensive backs – senior Deon Bush (Columbus) and junior Artie Burns (Northwestern).
“They’re just telling me how it is and what to expect from the DBs. Just to come in confident,” Redwine says. “[Johnson] says he likes it, he’s coming along. He’s learning the playbook and the game speed is starting to slow down for him.”
Redwine is coming in with the mindset that he wants to take his time learning during the summer but then seriously compete for playing time in the fall.
With UM’s deep, talented and experienced secondary, however, a redshirt could be a possibility.
Redwine says if that happens “I’ll just take it in stride, just practice hard every day, try to get better and earn my spot.”
Redwine was a Louisville commit very late in the recruiting process before announcing he was headed to Coral Gables instead with a Signing Day hat trick.
He let Louisville know what his move would be the day before.
“They were cool with it,” Redwine says of Louisville’s response.
Cane coaches’ reaction?
“They reacted great. They said they couldn’t wait. They were happy they could get me to flip.”
The dynamic Redwine finished his senior season with five interceptions — two returned for touchdowns — three forced fumbles, 33 tackles and four blocked kicks.
Dillard senior linebacker Kenneth Ruff’s recruitment is starting to heat up in the spring.
The 240-pound three-star 2016 middle linebacker, who is versatile in the Panthers’ defense also playing outside linebacker and defensive end, has recently added offers from Virginia, South Carolina, Florida State and Oregon State.
He lists South Carolina as his leader right now and looks to take five visits over the summer. The Gamecocks will certainly get one of them, but he is yet to schedule a date for it.
“We run the same defense as South Carolina, so it would be a smooth transition going into the next level,” says Ruff, who has been recruited by linebackers coach Kirk Botkin.
Both Dillard and South Carolina run a 4-3 defense and USC wants to use Ruff, who already has the frame of a college linebacker, in the middle.
Ruff wants to make his commitment in August and then stick to it so that his recruitment doesn’t become a distraction during his senior season.
“I feel like whatever school you commit to, you should be solid to that commitment. There’s no reason to commit and then decommit, so I will be solid to whoever I commit to,” Ruff says. “It’s all hype. That’s like lying pretty much.”
On the inevitable recruiting from other schools after he commits, Ruff says, “I’ll listen, but I’ll still be solid to whatever school I choose.”
After South Carolina, Ruff lists Florida State, Alabama, Florida and Mississippi State -- in that order. Of those schools, FSU is the only one to offer, but he’s received significant interest from the others.
Miami has also shown interest. Ruff says academics are important to him in college, and that has been one of FSU’s primary pitches to him.
Ruff says goals he has going into his senior season are to reach 115 tackles in the season, reach states and one-up his interception total of two last year to record three.
Hello fans of high school football and recruiting in South Florida, one of the nation's elite recruiting hotbeds.
My name is David Furones, and a lot of you may already be familiar with my work with the Miami Herald, helping cover high school sports, as well as filling in with coverage of the University of Miami among other things.
I'm proud to announce I am now the Herald's lead recruiting correspondent and will update this blog regularly with recruiting news and nuggets. What better time to get started than in the middle of spring football for these high school programs?
OK, maybe August, but anyway...
Coaches across the country have been hot on the recruiting trail (I'll try to refrain from constant use of such clichés in the future), offering scholarships left and right. Some of these prospects haven't even entered their high school freshman year, but we'll have more on that later.
The biggest news in the past week came from Southwest Miami High where 2016 DB Christopher "C.J." McWilliams announced on Sunday he has orally committed to the Florida Gators.
McWilliams took the announcement to Twitter on Sunday after receiving the offer from Randy Shannon on May 1.
The rising senior, who transferred from Varela after his sophomore season, is a bit under the radar -- FAU was his only other offer and Rivals currently lists him as a two-star recruit -- but he is sure collect several more offers as the season approaches after bursting on the scene with the UF offer.
He's athletic in the secondary and will hit a receiver coming over the middle hard from the safety position (the first play on his junior highlight reel shows him getting flagged for an illegal hit). He also possesses great straight-line speed as evidenced by his offensive highlights where he easily accelerates into a second gear to distance himself from opposing defenders on several catch-and-runs.
While the Gators are looking for immediate help in the secondary, UM is looking to the future. On Tuesday a pair of 2018 defensive backs from St. Thomas Aquinas, Benny Sapp and Asante Samuel Jr. received offers from UM.
Offers began flowing in for the two after that. Sapp announced on Twitter he has been offered by Purdue, Cincinnati, West Virginia, UCF while Samuel has since been offered by Purdue and WVU.
Class of 2018 Coconut Creek cornerback Miguel Edwards and 2017 athlete out of Somerset Academy, Daewood Davis, also got UM offers on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. It's Edwards' first collegiate offer and Davis' eighth.
As Miami continues to try and build its 2018 class, other schools are going after its first commitment in the class of rising sophomores. Legacy Cane commit and University School cornerback Al Blades Jr. has recently received offers from WVU and Rutgers. He also already lists offers from South Carolina and LSU.