When National Signing Day arrives every year on the first Wednesday of February, there is one region of the country where all eyes are peeled, checking out where some of the premier athletes in the nation will head.
With nearly 200 Football Bowl Subdivision scholarship offers every year, South Florida has become the epicenter of what is now becoming a year-round showcase, as athletes are making their college choices a year or more in advance.
With January college enrollment on the rise, area high school football players are making their choices sooner, which has colleges scrambling to get that commitment earlier than ever.
“Times have really changed when it comes to recruiting,” Mike Bakas of Scout.com said. “Ten years ago, making the announcement on National Signing Day was what every athlete looked forward to. Now, we are seeing decisions being made nearly two years in advance.”
Indeed, the rush to get that coveted scholarship in hand — before the senior year — is something several athletes have opted to do.
Miami-Dade standouts such as Florida State-bound Christopher Columbus receiver Jesus Wilson and Booker T. Washington defensive back Michael Johnson were among the first to get the process out of the way before the summer began.
Other athletes to make summer commitments include Monsignor Pace linebacker Robert Jones (Northern Illinois) and Northwestern lineman Gerald Wright (Marshall), as well as Central, which continues its pipeline to the next level with linebacker Marqez Hodge (Syracuse), cornerback Du’Wan Hunte (N.C. State) and safety Ahmad Thomas (Oklahoma).
In Broward, just in the past two weeks, Weston Cypress Bay teammates Alex Montgomery (Wake Forest) and running back Matt Dayes (North Carolina St.) made their decisions to compete in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The choice was made after a long spring and offseason.
“Everything about Wake Forest felt like a perfect fit for me,” Montgomery said. “It was all about getting a great education and playing top-flight football.”
Cypress Bay teammate Nico Marley, a safety, committed to attend Tulane University.
Heavily recruited Plantation American Heritage linebacker Michael Deeb followed teammate Tyler Cogswell into the world of big-time football. After Cogswell, a 6-5, 225-pound quarterback, committed to the University of Arkansas, the 6-3, 240-pound Deeb announced that he is headed to Notre Dame.
“Tremendous opportunity for me,” Deeb said. “I am very fortunate to have the chance to attend such a prestigious and tradition-rich school.”
Davie University School safety Jalen Battle (Kentucky) and outside linebacker Nick Internicola (Rutgers) followed a number of Suns to make the move to the next level. There are others who are also being heavily recruited.
The University of Miami continues its push in South Florida with South Plantation running back Alex Collins. The 5-11, 200-pounder is considered one of the top five prospects in Florida.
Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna defensive back Adrian Baker and Plantation cornerback Sojourn Shelton joined FSU’s stellar class — and Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas quarterback John Okorn joined Joey Bosa (Ohio State) when he announced that he will be playing for the wide open offense in Houston with the Cougars.
Cooper City quarterback/safety Lemond Johnson committed to attend Auburn.
“Everything about Auburn is what I wanted out of a school,” he said.
As we head toward the summer, with many camps and events still left to go, expect more athletes from Miami-Dade and Broward Counties to keep a talent pipeline alive that has been flowing for decades. We are always looking to help promote our area recruits for the current classes of 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. All you have to do is send a DVD and information about the athlete to: Larry Blustein, P.O. Box 3181, Hallandale Beach, Fl. 33009. Have a comment? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Larry on Twitter at twitter.com/larryblustein.