What kind of weekend did the Hurricanes football program have? A productive one.
Miami hosted its third annual Paradise Camp, and it was a big success. About 200 high school football players took part in the two-day event held at the Coral Gables campus, which featured a pool party/cookout Friday and actual football drills on Saturday night.
Recruits — some who have already committed to the Hurricanes, some who are still uncommitted, and others who are still working for a Miami offer — from the 2019, 2020 and 2021 classes made the trip to work with current Hurricanes coaches and players, and even a few legendary former players. This year’s list of past Hurricanes who served as guest coaches included Warren Sapp, Jonathan Vilma, Bryant McKinnie, Clinton Portis, Jon Beason, Bennie Blades and Lamar Thomas.
(Note: I was not at the camp this weekend, but read a recap of the event and why it’s so important to the program.)
Here’s a look at how Paradise Camp weekend went for the Hurricanes …
* Well, let’s start with the commitments Miami received. There were six — yes, SIX — high school players who committed to the Hurricanes over the weekend. The list:
1. 2020 DB Jaiden Francois from Homestead-South Dade: Francois verbally committed to the Hurricanes on Friday night. The rising junior is listed at 6 feet, 185 pounds and is not rated by 247Sports or Rivals yet. Francois picked Miami over early offers form Georgia, Georgia Tech, Syracuse, UCF, Florida Atlantic, UAB and Florida A&M. He told CaneSport that he committed to the Hurricanes because “I wanted to stay home and play in my backyard.” Francois played safety at South Dade last season as a sophomore, but he will start his junior year at cornerback. Most project him as a safety at the college level. Here’s what South Dade coach Nate Hudson told the Palm Beach Post about Francois …
“Athletically, he’s right up there at the top,” Hudson said. “He’s a little bit of all of them. What I mean by that is like he has some Antrel [Rolle] attributes. He kind of reminds me of when I coached Antrel Rolle at South Dade. He’s a sponge. He’s an athlete. When he came in, he was more of a projected offensive guy, so he does have those instincts. But we lined him up last year at safety and he excelled at it. He finished with three or four interceptions, very good tackler. With him being athletic and versatile, we were able to change him up a little bit this year and challenge him in a different way. So he’s coming in this season playing corner, but we’re not going to ignore the fact that he impacts the field all over. He also has some of those Jaquan Johnson type attributes, as well. Very instinctive, smart and shows great quality leadership skills. Overall, Jaiden makes an impact really wherever you put him.”
2. 2020 DB/OLB Keshawn Washington from South Dade: Washington verbally committed to the Hurricanes shortly after Francois, his high school teammate and close friend, on Friday night. The rising junior is listed at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds by Rivals and is unranked by the major recruiting sites at this early juncture. Washington picked the Hurricanes over early offers from schools like Georgia, Nebraska, Rutgers, Syracuse and UCF. At 6-foot-3, Washington is probably too big to play cornerback in college. Safety and linebacker seem like the two most realistic positions for him moving forward. Here’s what Hudson had to say about Washington …
“Obviously, long and very competitive with any assignment you give him,” Hudson said. “You got his length, he’s a stride type runner. I think naturally he’s probably going to be a linebacker. But in our system because we’ve been stockpiled with linebackers and safeties, we originally had him as a corner. But primarily he’s probably going to be used more as a safety this year. But I think naturally he’ll probably develop into a linebacker. He’s long and very, very aggressive. He’s a great tackler and he too when he first came in as a freshman was more of a receiver, and he has some of those receiver skills. He has great ball instincts, he’s always in the right place. He and Jaiden are just kind of like a combo, them coming out in Pop Warner as well as being able to contribute together here at South Dade. Keshawn can play multiple positions. He can be the interior guy at linebacker, he can play safety and he has great depth and range. Like I said, he had a great spring in being able to come up on the run — great run supporter — and just showing that ability to run down the opposition.”
3. 2020 OL Jonathan Denis from South Dade: Denis verbally committed to the Hurricanes right after Francois and Washington, his high school teammates, on Friday night. The rising junior is rated as a three-star prospect and the 12th-best 2020 offensive guard in the country by 247Sports, and a four-star prospect and eighth-best offensive guard by Rivals. Denis chose the Hurricanes over early offers from schools like Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU and Oregon. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 270 pounds by 247Sports, he’s projected by most to play as a guard in college. But he’s currently lining up as a tackle at South Dade. Here’s what Hudson had to say about his lineman …
“He’s big time. This kid has flourished from the beginning,” Hudson said. “I knew it once he came to us. … He was going to be a natural from the beginning. What I love about him is that he’s very coachable, not that other guys are not, but he’s very coachable. For him to be his size with the way he moves, he’s probably one of the bigger kids that I’ve had in a while on the offensive line and we’ve had some great ones come through. But he’s strong as an ox. … He’s a nightmare matchup. With his versatility, we can line him up anywhere. He can play tackle, he can play guard, we can move him to the left or the right, he can play center. So he’s very versatile in terms of what we can do.”
4. 2021 DE Donell Harris from Miami-Booker T. Washington: Harris verbally committed to the Hurricanes after attending Paradise Camp on Saturday night. The rising sophomore is not rated by 247Sports or Rivals yet, with three high school seasons still to play before getting to college. Harris, who is listed at 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds by 247Sports, picked Miami over early offers from Baylor, North Carolina State and Syracuse. Harris told 247Sports that Hurricanes defensive line coach Jess Simpson is a big reason why he committed to Miami, saying Simpson is “very vocal and very hands on” and “I love the way that he coaches his players.”
5. 2020 WR Bryan Robinson from Palm Beach Central: Robinson verbally committed to the Hurricanes over the weekend, becoming the first Palm Beach County prospect to join Miami’s 2020 class. Robinson is rated as a four-star player and the 17th-best 2020 wide receiver in the country by 247Sports, and Rivals also has him as a four-star recruit. At 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds, he finished last season with 29 catches for 493 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Robinson is the No. 13-ranked player on the Palm Beach Post’s Too Early Top 20.
6. 2019 DT Jalar Holley from Buford High in Georgia: Holley made his commitment to the Hurricanes official Sunday afternoon after participating in Paradise Camp. He was down to a final two of Miami and Minnesota, and ended up picking the Hurricanes over a list of other offers like Florida, Louisville, Michigan State, N.C. State, Tennessee and Virginia Tech. The 6-foot-3, 280-pound Holley is listed as a three-star recruit by 247Sports and Rivals. One of the biggest reasons behind his decision? Simpson, Miami’s first-year defensive line coach. Holley attends the same high school that Simpson won seven state titles at as head coach. In total, Simpson spent a total of 22 years on the Buford coaching staff and even coached Holley’s older brother for a few seasons during that time. Holley said to 247Sports: “Me and my family have always been close with [Coach Simpson]. I have known him for like 11 years.”
* South Dade High is turning into a pipeline for the Hurricanes. Miami picked up commitments from three South Dade players over the weekend — Francois, Washington and Denis — and this comes after the Hurricanes signed cornerback D.J. Ivey and linebacker Patrick Joyner out of the Homestead school as part of their 2018 class. 2019 South Dade wide receiver Frank Ladson, who is rated as a five-star recruit by 247Sports’ composite ranking system, is committed to Clemson, however.
“I was kind of messing with coach [Mark] Richt and coach [Ephraim] Banda about it,” said Hudson, South Dade’s coach. “‘Hey, we’re looking more like South Dade U.’ But that’s always been the goal. I don’t just sit here and say we’re going to prep everybody to be a Hurricane. But these guys want to be part of something special. They got something going on. Look, they get a lot of offers from other schools. But ultimately in the end, they want to be Hurricanes.”
* Oh, and another South Dade player was offered during Paradise Camp. 2021 DE Tyler Johnson, current Hurricanes safety Jaquan Johnson’s brother, was offered by Miami over the weekend. Jaquan shared the news on Twitter, posting a tweet that read: “Lil brother put work in at paradise camp and got that offer!!” Tyler, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds by 247Sports, also holds an offer from UCF.
“Because he’s young, he’s going to be kind of versatile like we had Patrick Joyner,” Hudson said when asked about Tyler’s position on the field. “He’s one of those slash kind of kids, he can play defensive end/linebacker. So a lot will be expected. But his instincts, man, his coverage skills already [are impressive]. We’re going to have the luxury of moving him around. I wasn’t surprised [by the Hurricanes offer]. I think it’s something that he’s talked about with his brother about maybe becoming a Hurricane. We’ll see.”
* 2019 Wellington ATH Mark-Antony Richards, who is the younger brother of current Hurricanes wide receiver Ahmmon Richards, participated in Paradise Camp. Richards is still uncommitted and said over the weekend that he plans to pick a college between November and February, and is considering signing early or waiting until the traditional National Signing Day. So, all possibilities are still pretty much on the table for him. Richards is being recruited as either a running back or defensive back, but he worked with the defensive backs at Paradise Camp. He’s rated as a four-star recruit by 247Sports, and Auburn, Florida and Miami are considered the front-runners.
“I really enjoyed my time here working with Coach [Ephraim] Banda, [former UM cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke] and also Coach [Mike] Rumph. Getting tips from those guys, I feel like I got better [Saturday],” said Richards, adding that he’s not sure how much defensive back he’ll play his final high school season. “I don’t know – I might be at linebacker, d-end, corner, safety. It can be anywhere. I did it sophomore year.”
* Did last year’s 10-win season help recruiting? Hurricanes coach Mark Richt answered that question during a session with the media Saturday at Paradise Camp.
“Yeah,” he said. “You have to have enough success to give everybody faith and confidence that we know what we’re doing and we’re on the right track. And when you see things like the brand new dorms coming out of the ground, $155 million project, it’s huge for us. Because we were struggling in that area. The indoor facility is almost done. They’re laying the field turf as we speak. We’ll be practicing in it within a few weeks. Even our stadium, fortunately for us, half a billion dollar renovation over a three-year period on Hard Rock Stadium. Things that were hurting us in the past have become positives for us. Just our staff in general. Our strength and conditioning. Our nutritionists. We’re getting ready to hire a sports psychologist. We’re doing everything within the rules to be able to develop our players as good or better than anybody in America, and they don’t have to go anywhere to get what they need. If they go somewhere else, they like the school better. But it’s not because they couldn’t get everything they need to be great in football, in school, socially and spiritually as well.”
* After Holley’s commitment, the Hurricanes’ 2019 recruiting class is ranked 19th nationally by 247Sports and 17th nationally by Rivals. The group now includes 17 committed players.
* After receiving four commitments from rising juniors over the weekend, the Hurricanes’ 2020 recruiting class is ranked first nationally at this early stage by both 247Sports and Rivals. The group now includes 12 committed players.