No matter where FIU’s 2015 recruiting class winds up in the rankings, you can find signs that head coach Ron Turner and his staff know the lay of the land better in their third year.
Of the four Central High captains who went out for the coin toss before the Rockets’ Class 6A state title game win, defensive tackle Fermin Silva and all-purpose back Anthony Jones have enrolled at FIU. Cornerback Olin Cushion is a verbal commitment.
Two players from Class 4A state champion Booker T. Washington — quarterback Maurice Alexander and defensive back Ocie Rose — also have committed to FIU.
So, if the verbal promises turn into signatures during Wednesday’s National Signing Day, that’s five starters from Miami-Dade’s two current premier programs.
The Panthers also snared another standout, Lakeland Christian quarterback Christian Alexander, who enrolled early at FIU.
“Stuff like that, I think it’s big,” Turner said. “We’ve got a lot of guys in this class that won big time in high school. Christian Alexander took that program farther than they’d ever gone in school’s history.”
A year after grumblings from some inner city high school coaches in Miami about FIU’s thin recruiting presence at their schools, running backs coach Kerry Dixon has led a Panthers resurgence at those schools. FIU got a commitment from Edison defensive back Robert Knowles before the University of Miami flipped him.
That brings up another sign — the bully’s compliment of taste. This weekend, Florida seduced Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas lineman Richerd Desir-Jones away from his longtime FIU commitment.
UM reportedly made an offer to Alexander. The dynamic Jones, whose explosive speed has FIU fans hoping he’s a reincarnation of current Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, heard from UM late in the process. Yet both chose FIU.
“We had some guys who were committed and said ‘I think I need to look at this school’ and I said, ‘Well, I’m looking elsewhere, too,’” Turner said. “Because I want guys who want to be here and believe in what we’re doing.”
Although big plays returned to FIU’s offense in 2014 after happening at a lunar-eclipse rate in 2013, the appearances remained too occasional. That’s the main reason for six wide receivers possibly in this year’s class, topped by Jones.
“I watched his tape and I’m like, ‘How are we going to get that kid?’” Turner said of Jones. “I watched one play at practice and I turned to Kerry Dixon and said, ‘Wow. Every school in the country is going to be on this kid. How are we going to get that kid?’
“One play, you could see the athleticism. All he did was ran a route and caught a ball. But the way he caught it, the way he accelerated… then watched the whole practice, he did it all, played receiver, played running back, played quarterback. He has a chance to be a special player.”
Alexander fits the visual quarterback suit almost to the point of cliché at 6-3, 205. He was a four-year starter in high school, throwing for 8,299 yards at Lakeland Christian and earning second-team Class 3A All-State honors his senior year.
“Christian Alexander, if this thing went to February, we’d have been battling a lot of people,” Turner said. “Some big-name SEC schools came back on him. He would’ve had a lot of choices. Even signing early, in December, they were coming in on him.
“To me, that says a lot about his character and the strength that he has. He doesn’t need to go to a school because it’s an SEC school or more glamorous on the outside.”
Lakeland Christian School
Booker T Washington
Jacksonville Atl. Coast
Neptune Beach Fletcher
Homestead Keys Gate
Admiral Farragut Acad.
North Florida Christian
Palm Beach Gardens
Monsignor Edward Pace
North Miami Beach
Orange Park Fleming Isl.
Port Orange Spruce Creek
Miami Booker T. Washington
Military College Prep