Al Blades Jr. is back with the Hurricanes — for good.
The son of beloved former Miami safety Al Blades committed to the program on Sunday, Father’s Day. He did it to honor his late father, who died in 2003 at age 26.
Blades Jr. was 3 years old at the time.
Now a senior-to-be at Fort Lauderdale-St. Thomas Aquinas, is a four-star prospect and the No. 77 overall player in the 2018 class according to the 247Sports composite ratings. That website considers him the 12th-best cornerback in the country.
However, Rivals (35th overall, No. 6 cornerback) and ESPN (37th overall, No. 6 cornerback) have him higher.
ESPN praised Blades Jr., listed at 6-foot and 173 pounds, as a “tall, explosive playmaker,” and said he is “smart with very good instincts. Knows where to be and what to do. Smooth kid who can bend and explode in transition. Has the burst to close on underneath routes in zone. Possesses the speed and savvy to take it to the house from anywhere on the field.”
That website’s scouting report called him “thin and will need to put on some good weight. Not exactly a ball hawk and will need to improve ball skills on defense,” but said he comes from excellent bloodlines and should follow in his father and uncle’s footsteps to become a very good college football player.”
Al Blades’ bio on Miami’s website, still active today, described him as “Miami’s vocal leader and the team’s most emotional player . . . An excellent safety in both run support and coverage, Blades was one of the nation’s hardest hitting defensive backs . . . Provided his teammates with an inspirational leader, having played through several injuries during his Miami career.” He finished his UM career — which lasted three seasons because of injuries — with 258 tackles (five for loss), one sack, three interceptions, 10 pass break-ups, two forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.
Al Blades’ older brothers — Blades Jr.’s uncles — are former Hurricanes Brian Blades, a former NFL receiver, and Bennie Blades, who won the Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back in 1987.
Blades Jr. committed to Miami in Feb. 2015 and backed off that commitment in October of that year, when UM was undergoing a coaching change. He visited Tennessee over the weekend, but told both Rivals and 247Sports after committing he had long known where he would attend college.
The Hurricanes’ defensive backfield is loaded with future talent, with Blades joining fellow four-stars Josh Jobe, Gurvan Hall and Gilbert Frierson and three-star Demetrius “D.J.” Ivey. Miami is also after four-star Tyson Campbell and five-star Patrick Surtain Jr., among others.
Blades Jr.’s commitment pushes the Hurricanes into a near-tie for the No. 1 spot in the 247Sports recruiting rankings with Ohio State, who passed them Saturday by landing a pledge from four-star Matthew Jones, the third-ranked defensive tackle in the country. Miami is percentage points behind the Buckeyes according to 247Sports, though it still holds the top spot according to Rivals. ESPN has Ohio State ahead of the Canes.
Blades Jr., who can play cornerback or safety, would join a 2018 UM secondary likely led by senior safeties Jaquan Johnson and Sheldrick Redwine, senior cornerback Jhavonte Dean, junior cornerback Malek Young, and several sophomores including cornerback Trajan Bandy and safety Amari Carter.
Noteworthy: The number his father wore, No. 7, is currently taken by defensive tackle Kendrick Norton. If Norton, a junior, leaves for the NFL after this season, it would be open for Blades to wear. … Combined, the Blades brothers scored 18 touchdowns for UM, believed to be the most by any single Canes family. (UPDATE: I swear I’ll be sharper this fall. See below). Brian, a Hurricanes receiver from 1984-87, scored 15 touchdowns. Bennie, a safety from 1985-87, scored two. Al, a safety from 1996-2000, scored one. UPDATE: Boy, do I feel dumb. How about Santana Moss and Sinorice Moss? Hello? Twenty-eight career touchdowns. Nineteen for Santana, more than the Blades family alone. Three for Sinorice. Thanks to John-Paul Scholefield for pointing that out, and well, that’s embarrassing.
Let’s recover by showing you Al Blades Jr.’s highlights and a few relevant tweets: