Last month, one day after getting hired as Florida Atlantic’s football coach, Lane Kiffin signed his first recruit. And in typical Kiffin fashion, the recruit comes with controversial baggage.
De’Andre Johnson, a 6-0, 175-pound pro-style quarterback with three years of college eligibility remaining, was good enough out of Jacksonville First Coast to land a scholarship to play for Florida State.
But he was dismissed from school after getting caught on tape punching a woman in a bar. He claimed the woman set him off by using racist insults.
Johnson retreated to East Mississippi Community College, whose football program has been featured on Netflix with a show called “Last Chance U.”
After passing for 2,646 yards and 26 touchdowns and running for 834 yards and five scores in one year in Mississippi, Johnson has resurfaced as perhaps the key to FAU’s 2017 recruiting effort.
If Johnson stays out of trouble and plays up to his vast potential, this recruiting class will be fondly remembered by Owls fans.
As for the controversy surrounding Kiffin, here’s how his past three head coaching jobs went: He was fired by the Oakland Raiders less than two years into his tenure; he quit the Tennessee Volunteers after one season to take the job at Southern California; and he was fired by the Trojans less than one month into his fourth season.
He rebuilt his career after getting hired as Alabama’s offensive coordinator, but he left the Crimson Tide before its recent national title game so he could focus on his new job at FAU.
Recruiting website 247Sports.com currently ranks FAU’s recruiting class 93rd nationally. Among other Florida programs that FAU competes with for players, UCF is ranked 64th, FIU is 80th and South Florida is 81st.
The Knights have already signed four early enrollment players, including former Coconut Creek wide receiver Emmanuel Greene, who played his final two seasons at IMG Academy.
UCF also got Miami Southridge safety Antwan Collier, who intercepted four passes and scored two defensive touchdowns to help the Spartans win the Class 8A state title.
Tampa native Gabriel Luyanda, a 6-5, 230-pound outside linebacker, is a junior-college transfer who could be a steal.
Second-year UCF coach Scott Frost, the former offensive coordinator at Oregon, values quick players even if they aren’t very big, and that’s what he got in all-purpose running back Otis Anderson (5-8, 170).
The Knights also have commitments from two dual-threat quarterbacks — Noah Vedral, a 6-2, 185-pounder from Nebraska, and Darriel Mack, a 6-3, 220-pounder from Virginia.
Frost was a quarterback during his high school days in Nebraska, which no doubt gave him a tremendous connection with Vedral, a multi-sport athlete.
Vedral won a state track title in the 330-meter hurdles and also won a state championship in basketball.
Mack is the 25th-ranked prospect in Virginia. Meanwhile, Marvin Washington, a 6-2, 195-pound dual-threat QB, de-committed from UCF last week and could end up at FAU.
Led by ex-Miami Jackson quarterback Quinton Flowers, who established himself as one of the nation’s most dynamic talents, the Bulls set a school record with 11 wins, beating South Carolina 46-39 in the Birmingham Bowl.
But the 11-2 Bulls suffered some losses. Coach Willie Taggart left for the top job at Oregon and was replaced by Charlie Strong.
In addition, running back Marlon Mack left early to make himself eligible for the NFL Draft.
So far, the only commitment the Bulls have from a running back in this class is Duran Bell, a 5-11, 170-pounder from Hillsborough.
But perhaps 5-9, 205-pound Bruce Judson, who quarterbacked Cocoa to the Class 4A state championship, can help.
Judson, who is listed as an athlete, was committed to Ohio State but changed his mind while on a visit to Columbus. He said Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer thought he was another player. Soon after that, Judson decommitted.
With a 75-yard touchdown run in a 31-17 state-final win over Jacksonville Bolles, Judson showed he could factor into the Bulls’ running back depth chart.
Meanwhile, the Bulls have loaded up at wide receiver, landing commitments from Daewood Davis (Deerfield Beach), Demetri Burch (Apopka), Randall St. Felix (Miami Krop) and Jernard Phillips (Miami Central). The latter is the younger brother of FSU receiver Da’Vante Phillips.
State recruit lists
QB De’Andre Johnson, 6-0, 175, E. Mississippi JC; WR Jordan Merrell, 5-11, 180, St. Thomas Aquinas; WR Jacob White, 5-11, 160, Punta Gorda Charlotte; TE Roger Carter, 6-3, 245, South Carolina; OT Preston Mixon, 6-4, 295, Alabama; OT BJ Etienne, 6-3, 285, St. Thomas Aquinas; OG Robert Holmes, 6-4, 330, West Palm Beach; DT Jalon Sheffield, 6-2, 265, Tallahassee Leon; DT Chase Hooper, 6-3, 265, Georgia; DE Ernest Bagner, 6-5, 235, Riverside (Calif.) JC; DE Tim Bonner, 6-4, 220, E. Mississippi JC; OLB Isaac Readon, 5-11, 195, Booker T. Washington; CB Diashun Moss, 5-10, 170, Cardinal Gibbons; CB Rodney Washington, 6-1, 190, Contra Costa College.
QB Darriel Mack, 6-3, 220, Virginia; QB Noah Vedral, 6-2, 185, Nebraska; RB Otis Anderson, 5-8, 170, Jacksonville; WR Emmanuel Greene, 5-10, 170, IMG Academy; WR Gabriel Davis, 6-3, 205, Seminole; WR Anthony Roberson, 6-5, 215, Virginia; OT Samuel Jackson, 6-6, 330, Bradenton; OT Julio Castillo, 6-6, 315, Mayo Lafayette; OG Cole Schneider, 6-4, 295, Ft. Myers Riverdale; DE Mason Cholewa, 6-6, 255, Pennsylvania; DE Jeremiah Zio, 6-7, 225, St. Petersburg Farragut; DE Stephon Zayas, 6-6, 205, Fort Lauderdale Dillard; DT Jamari Chisolm, 6-5, 280, Oklahoma; LB Gabriel Luyanda, 6-5, 230, Garden City (Kansas) JC; LB Kalia Davis, 6-2, 235, Pensacola; LB T.J. Pitts, 6-1, 235, Williston; DB Rennard Bozeman, 5-10, 175, Boyd Anderson; DB Antwan Collier, 6-3, 180, Miami Southridge; DB Tariq Carpenter, 6-2, 190, Georgia.
QB-RB Bruce Judson, 5-9, 205, Cocoa; RB Duran Bell, 5-11, 170, Hillsborough; WR Jernard Phillips, 5-10, 165, Miami Central; WR Daewood Davis, 6-2, 175, Deerfield Beach; WR Demetri Burch, 5-11, 180, Apopka; WR Randall St. Felix, 6-1, 190, Miami Krop; TE Fred Lloyd, 6-4, 195, Georgia; OG Jean Marcellus, 6-3, 295, Tampa Jefferson; DE Darrien Grant, 6-4, 220, Bradenton Southeast; DT Kelvin Kegler, 6-2, 275, Madison County; DT Kelvin Pinkney, 6-2, 285, Sarasota Booker; CB Nick Roberts, 5-10, 170, Oakleaf; CB Bentlee Sanders, 5-8, 165, Tampa Catholic; S Mekhi LaPointe, 6-2, 180, Seffner Armwood.
No commits listed.
OT Donovan Hovey-Franklin, 6-5, 315, Daytona Beach; S Jalene Douse, 6-2, 180, ASA Miami.