Be assured that the dozens of teenage football players who fill the intramural fields Saturday night at the University of Miami’s Paradise Camp will be pulsating with the energy ignited by former NFL and college greats — and the prospect of following in their paths.
This past recruiting cycle’s No. 3 prep tight end, current University of Miami freshman Will Mallory, relishes the memory of meeting former Canes tight end Jeremy Shockey at the 2017 Paradise Camp.
“I was walking and he said, ‘Hey, Will,’ ” recalled Mallory, whose father, Mike (the Jacksonville Jaguars’ assistant special-teams coordinator and a former New Orleans Saints assistant special-teams coach) coached Shockey. “I turned around and said, ‘What’s up?’
“He said, ‘You were a lot smaller the last time I saw you.’ ’’
Walter Camp Player of the Year semifinalist Jaquan Johnson, a UM safety entering his senior season, relayed his own “What’s up?’’ to former NFL great Ed Reed two years ago at the first Paradise Camp.
“That’s amazing,’’ Johnson said last week at the Atlantic Coast Conference Football Kickoff. “You have a bunch of high-schoolers who look up to those guys. ... He’s the best safety to ever play the game. He’s going to be in the Hall of Fame. ... Things like that you can’t take for granted. “
Canes legends such as Ray Lewis, Willis McGahee, Michael Irvin, Jonathan Vilma, Jon Beason, D.J. Williams, Antrel Rolle, Bryant McKinnie, Calais Campbell, Brett Romberg, Vince Wilfork, and Devin Hester have joined Reed and Shockey at one or more of the previous two Paradise Camps — some of the most gifted recruiters any coach could want.
Seven former players will be in attendance this time: Vilma, Beason, McKinnie, Bennie Blades, Warren Sapp, Clinton Portis, and Lamar Thomas.
“I think it’s become a fad from a former player’s standpoint,’’ said Beason, who was drafted in the first round by the Carolina Panthers in 2007 and by Saturday will have been at all three Paradise Camps. “Kids embrace the fact that the former guys get a chance to sit down and talk with them about their time at UM, what the program has meant to them, the level of excellence we expect.
“It gives them an opportunity to see what this true family is about, because it’s right there in front of their faces.’’
The Miami coaches certainly won’t take for granted the considerable talent gathered under the lights Saturday. Some of the camp-goers are already committed to the Canes, and others are still weighing their options. This year, recruits have tough decisions to make about which camps to attend because of the limited amount of face-time that coaches can have with recruits in July and August.
Just a seven-day window — one that started Wednesday and ends on Aug. 1 — separates two month-long summer dead periods, defined by the NCAA as a time during which a college coach “may not have face-to-face contact with college-bound student-athletes or their parents, and may not watch student-athletes compete or visit their high schools.”
Thus, most schools are holding their annual marquee recruiting camps this weekend. The Florida Gators (Friday) and FSU Seminoles (Saturday) are no exception, making the battle to get top in-state players on campus before the football season starts that much tougher.
UM coaches not only covet in-staters, they especially want players from Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties.
Of the 16 recruits committed to UM’s 2019 class, nine are from Broward or Dade and all 16 are from the state.
“That’s going to be the identity of the roster for this head coach, for sure,’’ UM director of player personnel Matt Doherty said this week on WQAM. “We’re going to look right here for what we want and only look beyond it if we can’t find that. ... What the [South Florida] geography produces is fast, explosive, violent talent. The odds are in your favor if you go out and load up your team with hungry South Florida kids.’’
According to InsideTheU, 247Sports’ Miami Hurricanes recruiting site, some of the Class of 2019’s top uncommitted recruits, as well as all of UM’s verbal commitments for this cycle, are expected to be on UM’s campus Friday and/or Saturday. Friday’s event was scheduled to be a dinner and pool party that includes current Hurricanes, who also help coach Paradise Camp on Saturday.
Among the top expected visitors who the Hurricanes hope will commit to them are:
▪ Mark-Antony Richards, a four-star athlete out of Wellington High in West Palm Beach who is the 10th-ranked player in the state and 77th nationally, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings. Richards, one of South Florida’s top remaining uncommitted players this cycle and the brother of Hurricanes star receiver Ahmmon Richards, holds offers from 18 schools, with UM, Florida, and Auburn seen as the front-runners.
▪ Nay’Quan Wright, a four-star running back from Carol City who is ranked the 26th overall prospect in the state for this recruiting cycle. He named his top six schools on June 15 as UM, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Florida, Alabama, and Oregon.
▪ Braylen Ingraham, a four-star defensive end from St. Thomas Aquinas who is ranked the 46th overall prospect in the state. The 6-4, 260-pound lineman holds scholarship offers from 26 schools, including UM, Oklahoma, Florida, and Alabama.
▪ Marcus Rosemy from St. Thomas Aquinas will be one of the top juniors on campus. The 6-0, 178-pound receiver is pegged as the second-best player in the state and No. 23 overall recruit for the 2020 cycle. He already holds 14 scholarship offers.