SANFORD, Fla. -- They say they want to go to a place where they have an opportunity to see the field right away. They say they want their college choice to have a family atmosphere -- similar to the high school where they play now. They say that deep down, they all really want to play together at the next level.
The question is will they? Meet the Sanford Seminole High All-American trio -- hard-hitting safety Ray Ray Armstrong, the speedy Andre DeBose and the big and intimidating defensive end Dyron Dye. I did Wednesday and came away just as impressed as apparently all of the major college football powers have across the country. And, I came away just as confused as to what they might do when they make their college announcement on Jan. 4 at the Under Armour All-American Game in Orlando.
While no one really has any clear insight into where each will end up, there are two things I learned for certain Wednesday -- the Hurricanes are not only in their thoughts, but UM probably is among the few schools that can fit all of their needs. The question is whether or not the Canes will have enough time to really convince the trio of that before their announcement in two weeks.
Seminole is set to take on Miami Northwestern in what I expect to be a great matchup in the Class 6A state championship game Saturday night at the Citrus Bowl. While making it to the state championship is obviously what DeBose, Dye and Armstrong wanted more than anything else this season, the unexpected, extended playoff run has created a time crunch for their visit and announcement plans. After the state championship game this weekend, the trio will only have one free weekend left before their supposed announcement date of Jan. 4 (that's Christmas weekend of Dec. 26-27). While they could make trips during the middle of the week the following week while school is out, they do have practice for the Under-Armour game in the days leading up to game day. Which means as DeBose hinted Wednesday, that despite an announcement on Jan. 4, these guys could still take official visits and leave the door open for change (not exactly shocking).
Since the start of the season, all three have kept tight lips throughout the recruiting process for the most part, hoping to keep their teammates and their season away from distractions. The result: each player has only been able to take two official visits thus far -- Armstrong and DeBose to LSU and Georgia and Dye to LSU and Iowa State. DeBose was the only player Wednesday who was willing to discuss potential visits and mentioned Florida, USC and the Canes as places he still wanted to take official visits to.
The good news is, each has already made enough unofficial visits (3 in all) to Miami -- including the Canes game against Florida State -- to get a great feel for the Canes. All three had nothing but wonderful things to say about the Canes coaching staff including Randy Shannon, who made the drive up to Sanford to watch the trio play with two assistants back in early November. Just know for sure Miami, though, UM is trying real hard to get one last crack at hosting the Sanford trio. As one UM person told me late tonight, "we really, really, really want to get all three down here one last time."
Here is what each of them discussed with me about The U and their college situation on Wednesday.
> Andre DeBose, who most insiders believe is headed to the SEC (LSU or Florida), said Miami will get one last visit from him no matter what. He said throughout the year, he's developed "a great relationship" with quarterback Jacory Harris, who calls him once a week to check-in on him. He said he talks to receivers coach Aubrey Hill every other day and the two have "a special bond."
As for the Canes and his recruiting needs: "The school I'm looking for has to feel like family," said DeBose, a Rivals.com 5-star recruit. " I want an opportunity to play. I know they can't guarantee me a spot on the field. I just want an opportunity to play. Miami plays guys early. They don't mind putting young guys on the field early. UM will probably get an official visit from us, or at least from me for sure."
> Ray Ray Armstrong, who reminds me of a cross of Sean Taylor and Kenny Phillips, said he's learned to be cautious
during the recruiting process. He said he values honesty above all else: "The thing I've learned is a lot of people are going to tell you everything you want to hear and some of it is just not true," Armstrong said. "You got to look through that and find the best fit. For me, I want to get to a college and play and I want to win. It was a great experience at Miami when we went there. The coaches are real with you. They make you feel like you're at home. The players really like to make you feel good too. They make you feel at home. For me, right now, everybody has a chance."
>Dyron Dye uses the same words -- home and family -- to describe Miami. He said he speaks to UM defensive line coach Clint Hurtt and receivers coach Aubrey Hill at least once a week. While some people may be concerned with his academics, one insider at UM told me Wednesday night they believe Dye is not far from meeting the standards at UM to get in. "I'm looking to go somewhere I can play and be in an atmosphere where I can make a big impact," Dye said. "Miami lets young guys do that."
> I didn't get a chance to talk to defensive end commitment Olivier Vernon, who has basically disappeared off the face of the earth since taking his official to the University of Miami last weekend. But I did get a chance to speak with his mother, who told me her son told her he plans on waiting until after Christmas to make his announcement. "He wants some time to think it over a little more," she said. Vernon committed to UM early in the process, but took official visits out to Alabama and Florida State. The 6-3, 240-pound end would be a pretty big loss for UM if he chooses to back away from the Canes now.
> One guy Miami no longer has a shot at is JUCO offensive lineman Roy Watts, who signed with Houston Wednesday. Watts (6-5, 335) had Shannon for an in-home visit recently, but decided to back away from the Canes to stay close to home for his baby daughter and fiancee. It leaves UM with only one real JUCO opportunity -- Andrew Tiller of Nassau Community College.
Tiller (6-6, 320) recently visited nearby Rutgers, but told UM coaches he plans on visiting Miami in late January. Ultimately, this could end up the same way Watts did, with Tiller opting to stay closer to home. If not Rutgers, then possibly Syracuse, which is close to hiring Tiller's JUCO coach as an assistant.
> Miami's best shots at landing offensive linemen now looks like it will be through prep school or through high school. Plantation American Heritage's Jared Wheeler could be the first to jump on. As our Barry Jackson reported last week, Wheeler (6-5, 310) is now down to Vanderbilt and UM and folks at UM believe he could make his decision very soon. Last week, UM hosted the No. 1 prep school player in the country in 6-8, 335-pound Bobby Massie and Hargrave Military Academy teammate Daniel Campbell. This week, the Canes will get visits from offensive lineman Jermaine Johnson, defensive tackle William Campbell and offensive lineman Brandon Washington (who will sign in January).
> With former quarterback Steve Walsh getting into coaching Wednesday at West Palm Beach's Cardinal Newman High, I'm beginning to get the feeling several former players have caught the coaching bug with hopes of perhaps of getting on the UM staff eventually. Receiver Lamar Thomas joined the staff at Boynton Beach last year and has expressed interest of perhaps being on the UM sideline one day. The question is will any former guys actually find their way onto the coaching staff at The U any time soon? That's doubtful.