On Monday afternoon I caught up with 247Sports National Recruiting Insider Ryan Bartow to talk about the Canes, Seminoles, Gators and a lot more including Dade and Broward Counties.
Bartow is one of the best in the business at covering recruiting. He said he’s gone to 350 high schools from last signing day to December, visiting six and seven schools a day not only in Dade, Broward, Tampa and Orlando, but the Carolinas, Virginia Beach, all the way up to New York. He’s also in charge of recruiting information for Dallas and Los Angeles.
So, I felt it was best to cover a lot of bases. Here’s our conversation. Note: You’ll want to stick around to get his take on UM.
Q: It feels like the national story line this year are the high number of decommitments and kids being dropped. Am I wrong?
“In terms of verbal commits, sometimes these kids don’t have a strong home life or strong high school coach that really values the word commitment. Sometimes it's lacking unfortunately. It’s not all on the prospects. Some of it is on the colleges as well. They’ve cooled on kids. So it’s kind of a two-way street. Jordan Scarlett is on his third commitment. Jamile Johnson, a three-star safety out of Dallas, on Wednesday he’ll sign and that will be the fourth school he’s committed to. It’s more of a trend now in the last couple years than when I started this nine, 10 years ago. That was really rare. Now it’s more common.”
Q: There are more and more offers going out it seems but in the end it’s about who the schools continue to call.
Bartow: “The thing that changed that about three years ago was that they took away the written offer. They were able to give a binding, written offer on Sept. 1 of their junior year. But once they took that away college coaches in some places like Temple and Syracuse would fly into South Florida and offer more than 50 kids each in a week. It’s really hard for the recruit and high school coach because it’s all basically verbal offers. The colleges get to get away with that because they’re isn’t anything binding.
Imagine me trying to cover it. That’s why you have to use the terminology claimed verbal offer. Some of these coaches give them out left and right and some of them aren’t allowed to. It really varies.”
Q: Are there any schools having really strong classes that were unexpected?
Bartow: “I’ll give you two. North Carolina State. This year they’re going to get four of the top seven kids in North Carolina for the first time ever. That’s something that program has never done. They’ve already got four-star DE Darian Roseboro and the No. 2 all-purpose back in Nyheim Hines already enrolled. They got four-star running back Johnny Frasier to flip from Florida State, which is unheard of in their program. And they got Emmanuel McGirt one of the best left tackle prospects in the country away from Georgia and UNC. All those kids normally leave the state and go to Tennessee, Florida State or Clemson. So that’s definitely one of the bigger surprises nationally. Also, Arizona State. I love their class. Knowing all the kids in Los Angeles, all the guys USC isn’t getting in Los Angeles most of the second-tier ones are going to Arizona State. They’re doing a great job. A lot of those kids used to go to UCLA and Oregon. Now Arizona State is getting them. I think Arizona State and N.C. State are two programs trending upward.”
Q: Which program has really disappointed this year?
Bartow: “Florida. No doubt. They should never sign a class that isn’t Top 10 in the country. They don’t have to go outside their state to get a Top 10 class. They have this year. So, I think we have them 42nd. They’ll probably get a few more here to move them up. They’re definitely struggling. It will be a challenge for the new coach.”
Q: Are the coaching changes to blame for the struggles at UF?
Bartow: “Coaching change plays in. At the same time, this new staff hasn’t developed any real momentum yet. The guys they are taking probably aren’t on the previous staffs board. As one of the top five jobs in the country you never see them ranked that low in terms of recruiting.”
Q: Who closes the strongest nationally on Wednesday?
Bartow: “I think Auburn could close really strong late. They are in great shape with guys like Byron Cowart, potentially CeCe Jefferson. [Miami Norland cornerback] Carlton Davis they will get. Potentially [five-star offensive tackle] Martez Ivey. So I think Auburn is going to have a really good Signing Day. And overall I don’t think anybody is going to close better than the USC Trojans. They’ll get the top corner in the country in Biggie Marshall. They’ll get a five-star defensive tackle in Rasheem Green, four-star linebacker John Houston. The got four-star linebacker Porter Gustin out of Utah [Tuesday]. We’ve known for a long time it was going to be a great class for them and close strong because a lot of kids were going to announce on Signing Day. I think they’re going to close as good as anybody.”
Q: Your thoughts on FSU’s Class?
Bartow: “Their class is awesome. Last year’s class was just as tremendous. This year is just as good. They have probably the top big back in the country in Jacques Patrick out of Orlando. They got a couple really good receivers in Da’Vante Phillips and George Campbell, big, tall, explosive guys. They also got the quarterback of the future in Deondre Francois, an Orlando native. Then, defensively they could potentially land five-star defensive tackle Terry Beckner. They have five-star cornerback Tarvarus McFadden. Obviously they got the No. 1 recruit in the country in Josh Sweat, a freaky defensive end out of Chesapeake, Virginia. This class is pretty loaded for the Seminoles. They have a very bright future.”
Q: How much is FSU cashing in on UM and UF struggles or is this a credit to Jimbo Fisher and his staff being good recruiters?
Bartow: “It’s a combination of both. I think Tim Brewster does a good job in Dade County. Plus, their program is winning. Kids want to go where winning is at. They can get kids in. At the same time, they’re going and picking whoever they want in South Florida. They want a guy – they’re getting him. Whether it’s McFadden or Dalvin Cook or Ermon Lane, the list goes on. They’re even turning kids down that are four-star guys. So they go it rolling.”
Q: What about Miami’s class and losing Jordan Scarlett. Does Al Golden still get a pass because of the NCAA cloud and scholarship reductions? Next year’s class is rated No. 1.
Bartow: “I think sometimes they just make the job harder than it needs to be. It’s easy to hit up six, seven schools here a day – not two or three. Because they’re all close to one another. You shouldn’t be flying to the Mid-Atlantic or Louisiana or wherever, Washington, D.C. to get your skill talent or back seven on defense. That’s all here. You don’t even have to go north of West Palm Beach to get that. So, that’s one of the biggest reasons you take the job at Miami. You don’t take that job for the facilities. You take it for geography. It happens to be located where there are the most Division I kids in the country. So, you can go elsewhere maybe to get some linemen, but everything else is within an hour or two of campus. Until you make that a priority and get your share – if not more – you’re just going to be average. So, I think that’s something they need to really amp up. I would use the guys who have the connections in terms of James Coley, Ice Harris that need to be down here and signing guys more. Recruiting is similar to football you need to use good personnel use. And you need to put the guys – if you’re a recruiter – in the hot places where they have connections. You don’t need to put other guys in those places just so then maybe your guys get credit for getting these kids. It’s a long topic. But at the same time, the personnel you get down here is not big linebackers. It’s not 6-4, plus defensive linemen. It’s not tall wide receivers. It’s fast and small with a lot of speed. So when you see 3-4, read-and-react defense and you see power run offense those personnel schemes really don’t fit what you can get personnel wise in your own backyard.”
Q: So is it more of a philosophy problem, too much Big Ten style for South Florida?
Bartow: “I don’t think he plays Big Ten football. I think that’s what he knows. He came up under Al Groh, 3-4 read-and-react defense. So that’s all he knows. That’s what he’s going to implement. That’s fine in some places in the country. But in Florida, that’s not the consistent kind of personnel you can get.”
Q: Obviously there are still guys UM wants – Tavares McFadden, Dalvin Cook, Da’Vante Phillips – and they can’t get them. Do these kids look at the program and just say they’re 6-7, I don’t want to go there. Or is it scheme?
Bartow: “I think it’s a combination of both. They’re in a place where there’s a lot going on here. It’s not some Southern town, college town where nothing is going on. Some of it is personnel use. Some of it is home game atmosphere. Some of it is a disconnect in terms of the defensive staff and local high school coaches. You’re in a place with a lot to do. You have to appease to these kids senses. Some of that is playing in wide open offenses and wide open defenses like Miami traditionally used to do. Kids want to play in that. They want to have fun. I think they don’t see that fun level right now.”
Q: Locally, who are kids they should have been on that would have signed with UM if they recruited them the right way?
Bartow: “Where do I start? Sheldrick Redwine, the 6-1 corner they just offered a couple days ago. He’s got a ton of upside. He’s may end up going to Louisville, maybe Miami. DeAndre Baker, a four-star corner, U.S. Army All-American at Northwestern who ran a 4.4 at their camp and Miami never offered. He’s at a traditional Miami school and he’s on Georgia’s commit list and could flip to Texas. Shaquery Wilson who is going to West Virginia out of Coral Gables that was a Georgia commit. He’s 6-3 and could play either side of the ball. Juwan Taylor, a linebacker out of Hallandale, Miami didn’t offer and is going to Georgia. There’s a lot of other guys throughout Broward and Dade that they missed on. I mean everybody knew Da’Vante Phillips was going to Florida State for a year. You have guys like Chris Hart, the defensive end at St. Thomas that is going to Utah, that [assistant head coach] Dennis Erickson got and that I think will be a steal. To not really recruit Tarvarus McFadden, one of the top corners in the country, and the high school coach is Mike Rumph who played at Miami, that’s a head scratcher. I’m just trying to go school by school because there are two or three examples at every high school.”
Q: How many of these schools told you ‘Well, if Miami recruited me early it might have been different?’
Bartow: “Most of them when you talk to them and a lot of kids I’ve dealt with since they were sophomores – a lot of them grew up Miami fans. Until you put in the effort and stay on them everyday [it’s hard]. Now, South Florida is an interesting dynamic. A lot of them you don’t want to get their first verbal commit. You want to get their third. So, a lot of these kids can’t take unofficial visits. So they’re going to take official visits. A lot of them are good enough where they’re going to have spots open at these colleges. So, you have to kind of set some time back at the end of the class for some of these guys because they’re going to be late decisions. But then it’s worth it because they’re confident, they have speed and a lot of upside because all of their best football is down the road. That’s why everybody recruits South Florida.”
Q: How about the guys they did get? Your thoughts on Miami’s class overall (currently ranked 28th by 247Sports).
Bartow: “I think traditionally you want a Miami class that is 75 to 85 percent from West Palm Beach down if you’re doing it right. I only see a couple guys in there. I’m not saying it’s a bad class. But if you’re doing it right, you don't need to be going north of West Palm to get most of what you need. They have some good players. I think Charles Perry can be a good linebacker for them out of West Palm. Jaquan Johnson, even though at 5-10 and maybe not great speed, he does have good instincts. I think Mark Walton is the best player in the class. He has the most upside and will help them right away. Wide receiver, they went for size at receiver. So they went out of region for that. [Terrell] Chatman has a lot of upside. [Lawrence] Cager has a lot of upside. He’s long, has speed. I think [Hayden] Mahoney would be a good offensive line take. A lot of those offensive linemen they didn’t really beat anybody else out for. Then, defensive line is the biggest need in the program. [Richard] McIntosh has some upside scheme wise. But I didn’t really see them filling that need in terms of defensive tackle. That’s two years in a row they’re going on. That’s definitely a question mark for the future.”
Q: Which recruits does UM add here late?
Bartow: “I said this to a different publication too. For Miami’s class, it’s really about holding onto the guys they have. I don’t see them adding too much. I mean [cornerback] Marcus Lewis is going to choose between Miami and Kentucky. But he has some academic concerns. He could be a Prep School guy. But again, you’re going to Washington, D.C. to get a guy that is mass produced in South Florida. At the same time, they’re going to try to hold onto Chatman. At QB they hosted Torrence Gibson over the weekend. He’s not a fit for what they do at Miami or LSU. He’s more of a fit for what they do at Ohio State and Auburn as a dual-threat guy who wants to stay at that position. That’s going to be a hard one as well. And then some of these defensive linemen and linebackers they’re in on we’ll see if they can get any of them. I don’t see much of a splash. Antonio Callaway, even with all those connections at Booker T., I wouldn’t be surprised if he went elsewhere. Jordan Scarlett kind of added to [the downtrend]. I think they lead the country in decommitments. I don’t see much of a big close. If anything it might be the opposite.”
Q: Do you have a list of decommitments by school somewhere? You sure Miami leads?
Bartow: “I don’t think it’s even close.”
Q: So is Miami’s class still decent in your eyes?
Bartow: “In terms of what they want to do in terms of building it into a Virginia, Al Groh type of program you have guys that can fit into their read and react scheme and power game, a lot of developmental guys. But it is disappointing in terms of geography. I mean, why are you going to take the Miami job if you’re not going to over recruit these awesome counties of Broward and Dade? It’s kind of defeating the purpose of the job and the location.”
Q: Is there a coach out there you feel is a good fit for Miami?
Bartow: “No doubt. If they went for a Miami guy like a Mario Cristobal that understands, respects the talent here, that wouldn’t go chasing his tail out of region for guys, knows the second and third tier recruits in Broward and Dade are better than the first almost anywhere else in the country, and has a great rapport with the high school coaches, 7-on-7 coaches, the people on the street and would bring in a tempo, spread offense like Booker T., like Auburn and Oregon, that would put butts in the seats and points on the board that would make local studs want to again play there. And everyone in America knows what happens when the local studs stay home and play for the Canes. They are then the best of the best.”