In My Opinion

Larry Blustein: A fruitful June for Canes football


For those who have long poked holes in the University of Miami’s recruiting strategy under coach Al Golden, it might be wise to take a few steps back and see what was accomplished in June in Coral Gables.

Less than a year after coming off NCAA probation, the Hurricanes geared up to make this June one of the most special ones since Golden and his staff arrived.

Five one-day camps on campus attracted not only stellar athletes from throughout the state and country but also helped this program make a statement that South Florida would once again be a priority.

The five camps brought in more than 2,500 athletes, who spent six hours learning from coaches, present and former players, and local high school coaches — as well as college coaches from schools such as Appalachian State, Temple and dozens of programs throughout the country.

In addition to the on-campus events, the Huricanes’ successful “Deserve Victory Tour” helped to stake a claim in Miami-Dade and Broward counties — with visits to local parks such as Lauderdale Lakes, Betty Ferguson in Miami Gardens, Gibson Park in Overtown and Richmond Park in Perrine, bringing in another 2,000 athletes.

With former players and current high school coaches such as Roland Smith (Miami Central), Earl Little (Miami Jackson) and several local coaches who brought players in record numbers, this was a season that not only got the prospects on campus but also netted several commitments along the way.

“When you can get top prospects on your campus and showcase your coaching staff, it’s huge for the program,” said Smith, who starred at the school and now runs one of the most successful programs in the country.

“The chance for some of these top athletes to see current players is a big thing.”

At a time when the school is moving forward after the probation and bowl sanctions, this month was vital to bring top-flight prospects onto campus, and for players such as Miami Booker T. Washington receiver Antonio Callaway it was a chance to showcase his skills against some of the best defensive backs around.

“This was a great camp for me to attend,” Callaway said. “I had the chance to learn a lot and run patterns against defensive backs that have offers from schools across the country.”

This June saw the Hurricanes attract major names to Coral Gables. In attendance were rising seniors such as Palm Beach Gardens linebacker Tevon Coney; Palm Beach Lakes defensive back Maxwell Howell; Deerfield Beach defensive end Jason Strowbridge; Coral Gables receiver Shaquery Wilson; Miami Westminster Christian standouts Jordan Cronkite and Tim Irvin; Miami Northwestern cornerback DeAndre Baker; South Plantation safety Rod Archer; Norland defensive back Antonio Howard; Braddock receiver Chris Linares; Miami Jackson defensive back Tovias Parker; Miami Central defensive lineman Fermin Silva; Cardinal Gibbons defensive lineman Richard McIntosh; and Hallandale defensive end Dana Levine — to name a few.

Even when some of the athletes didn’t work out at the camp, they still took the time to come with their parents and coaches to check out the program and campus. That was something that hadn’t happened in the past.

“I have been watching the recruiting here at this school for decades,” Dana Wiley of Prep Films said.

“I would have to say that this June was perhaps the most active in the past five years. This school finally got off probation and now was on that even playing field with the rest of the programs.”

What Golden and his staff wanted out of this June was to put their best foot forward. The growth of the campus is evident at every turn.

New buildings are popping up in every corner, and the football facilities — once viewed as archaic — have been elevated in a major way.

For Class of 2017 quarterback Toddy Centeio of Royal Palm Beach, the opportunity to come to the camp and work with some of the top quarterback coaches made the visit well worth it. He came with his father and some teammates, who took the tour of the campus during the visit.

“This is a great place,” Centeio said. “Plenty of history here and a great future as well.”

Underclassmen really made this June special. Class of 2016 prospects such as Miami High’s Keyshawn “Pie” Young, Champagnat Catholic receiver Darnell Salomon, Hallandale quarterback Tyler Huntley, Dillard defensive lineman Aaron Thompson — as well as Cardinal Gibbons standouts Elisha Daniels, Elijah Daniels and nationally recruited Deon McIntosh all took part as well.

In addition to Centeio, Cardinal Gibbons defensive back Daniel Wright, the brother of former St. Thomas Aquinas and current NFL safety Major Wright, and receiver Leroy Henley came out. So did Miramar receiver Lavarus Tigner.

The camps also attracted area prospects such as quarterback Jack Allison (Palmetto), lineman Geron Christian (Ocala Trinity), Christian Pellage (Brooksville Nature Coast), Tallahassee Godby lineman Brendan Loftus and Scott Patchan of Tampa Freedom.

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