Jaiden Francois turned himself into a national recruit with a historic junior season for Homestead South Dade. The defensive back, now a four-star cornerback in the 247Sports.com composite rankings, tied a Miami-Dade County record with 12 interceptions in 2018 to solidify himself as a blue-chip prospect. About half a dozen Power 5 conference schools offered Francois between the end of his junior season and the start of his senior year, and colleges kept calling even after he orally committed to the Miami Hurricanes in February.
Francois’ senior year is off to another strong start, even if it’s almost impossible to replicate the number of takeaways he created last season. The Buccaneers are undefeated and might be the class of Class 8A. On Friday, Francois helped anchor a monster defensive performance for South Dade in a 21-14 win against Columbus in Miami. The Buccaneers held star running back Henry Parrish to less than 100 rushing yards in part because Francois chased down the Pittsburgh Panthers commit from behind on a 59-yard run to keep the three-star running back out of the end zone.
“I feel like I played a good game, I slowed down the running back, saved a big run,” Francois said Friday. “I knew I had to go get him.”
The work he did as a junior made him into one of the best defensive prospects in South Florida for the Class of 2020. As a senior, he’s out to prove he’s more than just a ballhawk.
It’s why two perennial powerhouses from the Big Ten Conference are both trying to flip him away from his hometown team. The Ohio State Buckeyes have long been a factor in Francois’ recruitment, and the senior took his first trip up to Columbus in June. Now the Penn State Nittany Lions are in the mix, too.
While he had heard from Penn State here and there earlier in his recruitment, Francois is now building a bond with running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider, who recruits the Miami metropolitan area for the Nittany Lions.
“They’ve been reaching out to me,” Francois said. “The conversations have just gotten longer.”
Although he hasn’t lined up dates yet, Francois plans to officially visit both schools at some point in the fall. The 6-foot, 184-pound corner is on track to early enroll, which means he will have to make a final decision in December.
He has still visited with the Hurricanes far more frequently than any other team this year. He was most recently in Coral Gables in July, during the brief window at the start of training camp when Miami could host recruits on campus. He then made the trip from Homestead to Orlando last month to watch the Hurricanes’ season opener at Camping World Stadium.
Although Miami dropped a heart-breaker to the then-No. 8 Florida Gators, Francois was still impressed with the defense he committed to play for.
“The defense had a very good game,” Francois said before the Hurricanes lost to the North Carolina Tar Heels, 28-25, on Saturday. “It’s just the offense has got to capitalize.”
Unsurprisingly, the Miami-Dade native was also giddy at the sight of the new “305” turnover chain. He flashed a big smile when it was brought up Friday and had a simple reaction: “I like it.”