University of Miami

Get to know Miami’s 2020 recruiting class: Jaiden Francois is Florida’s top ballhawk

Diaz: Our team isn’t far from competing for championships

The Hurricanes football coach Manny Diaz says, "Maybe it just takes me". as he speaks to the media at the University of Miami on Wednesday, February 6, 2019.
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The Hurricanes football coach Manny Diaz says, "Maybe it just takes me". as he speaks to the media at the University of Miami on Wednesday, February 6, 2019.

Jaiden Francois already had a reputation as one of South Florida’s top defensive backs for the Class of 2020, but his junior season certainly elevated his profile.

While helping South Dade to the regional finals, Francois pulled in 12 interceptions. It certainly led all players in the Miami metropolitan area and set a Buccaneers record. It probably also led all of Florida and maybe even set a Miami-Dade County single-season record, although full historic records are difficult to pin down.

This all made it unsurprising to see Francois come down with interception after interception at The Opening Miami regional Sunday at the Miami Dolphins Training Facility. Exactly two weeks to the day after he committed back to the Miami Hurricanes, the three-star safety provided another reminder of why Miami wanted him so badly.

“Just being a ballhawk,” Francois said after the camp wrapped up in Davie. “All my hard work in the offseason’s paid off.”

Currently the No. 60 overall prospect in the state for the 2020 recruiting cycle, Francois could be a steal for the Hurricanes and he provides an early reminder of the benefits of quickly scooping up Manny Diaz to coach once former coach Mark Richt abruptly retired. Francois was one of four players in the Hurricanes’ 2020 recruiting class to decommit the day Diaz left to become the coach of the Temple Owls. Of those four, Francois is now the first to join back.

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Even when he decommitted from Miami at the end of last year, Francois considered Miami his favorite. The Hurricanes sent coaches to visit Francois throughout the winter, so the defensive back felt like a priority. Heading into Miami’s junior day event Feb. 3, Francois knew he was going to commit back to the Hurricanes.

“It was kind of the plan,” he said. “UM was still like my top school when I decommitted. It was no hard feelings. I just needed time to open my recruitment and see what I wanted to do.”

Francois, who plans to enroll early, just wanted to get back on campus to see the energy around the program. Once he was there, Francois had no doubts about his decision.

“Just seeing them in person, I think they’re going to like change everything, change the whole program around,” Francois said. ”I just want to be around to see it. I want to be a part of it.”

Francois, who was primarily recruited by safeties coach and co-defensive coordinator Ephraim Banda, could be an option at either safety or cornerback for Miami down the road. Last season, Francois primarily played safety for South Dade, but he did grab four of his interceptions while playing cornerback.

At The Opening regional, Francois grabbed at least three interceptions in one-on-one work and ran a 40-yard dash in 4.64 seconds. The 6-foot, 184-pound defensive back could be due for a ratings bump, and he’s added offers from the Michigan Wolverines and Oregon Ducks since the start of the year. The Georgia Bulldogs and Ohio State Buckeyes were also suitors for Francois before he orally committed to the Hurricanes for the second time, and he said schools still reach out to him.

“A whole bunch of schools are looking at me, texting me everyday, constantly like trying to get me to decommit,” Francois said. “I don’t have any for-sure visits.”

In the meantime, he’s trying to reestablish the pipeline from Homestead to Coral Gables. At one point last fall, Francois, and fellow Buccaneers Keshawn Washington and Jonathan Denis were all committed to Miami. Washington, a four-star safety, decommitted the same day as Francois, while Denis, a four-star guard, backed away from his pledge earlier in the fall. All three were on campus for junior day earlier this month

One of Francois’ main goals now: get them back in the fold.

“I can’t really say,” Francois said. “I’ll try to get them back on, but right now I can’t say.”

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David Wilson, a Maryland native, is the Miami Herald’s utility man for sports coverage.


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