Justin Flowe can go anywhere he wants to play at the next level.
The inside linebacker from Upland, California, isn’t just a five-star prospect — he’s the No. 5 overall prospect in the 247Sports.com composite rankings with the Clemson Tigers, Georgia Bulldogs and Oregon Ducks all in his top four.
His first official visit, however, will be with the fourth team — the only one not in the College Football Playoff conversation. The elite linebacker is heading across the country this weekend for an official visit with the Miami Hurricanes.
“He wants to play with the best,” said Darryl Thomas, Flowe’s coach at Upland. “He wants to play against the best and he went to Miami and they had a good time and thought it was a good atmosphere. He had an unofficial visit and he enjoyed it. He’s looking for a sense of a family, being there at home and comfort, as well.”
Flowe, who has some family in Florida, is set to arrive in the Miami metropolitan area Saturday and stick around through Monday. He’ll watch the Hurricanes take on the Louisville Cardinals on Saturday in Miami Gardens and get an in-depth look at campus before he returns to the West Coast next week. He also has an official visit lined up with Clemson for the weekend of Nov. 16.
The defending national champion is the presumed frontrunner in Flowe’s recruitment, but a second visit suggests Flowe is giving serious thought to the Hurricanes. He took an unofficial visit to Coral Gables in April and has forged a strong relationship with coach Manny Diaz, who was previously Miami’s linebackers coach and still spearheads much of the Hurricanes’ recruiting at the position.
Miami has already landed oral commitments from three out-of-state linebackers in the 2020 recruiting cycle and Flowe has long been the No. 1 priority. The Hurricanes need to replace both their starting linebackers for the 2020 season and the 6-2, 225-pound senior projects as a potential plug-and-play successor to linebacker Shaquille Quarterman in the middle of the defense.
“I know when he went down there and he took pictures with the seniors who are outgoing,” Thomas said Tuesday, “he was already bigger than the seniors.”
His physical gifts are only part of what makes him the top-ranked linebacker in the country.
Flowe made his debut with the Highlanders varsity team as a freshman and immediately demanded coaches rethink their defense.
In his first game, he was lined up as the backside linebacker on a play responsible for the running back’s cutback. He was so quick to react and so fast he got to the tailback before the onside linebacker on the other side of the play could.
“We were like, Oh, OK. That’s something different,” Thomas said, “so we just changed the defense a little bit. ... His instincts are off the charts.”
Zach McCloud, assuming he doesn’t play in another game to burn his redshirt, is the obvious successor to fellow linebacker Michael Pinckney as Miami’s weakside linebacker next year.
Flowe is talented enough to start immediately at middle linebacker, and follow Quarterman and Pinckney as linebackers to start for three or four seasons, then head to the NFL Draft.
The Hurricanes are selling Flowe on their recent success at the position and their historical success at linebacker.
“He wants to get the right training — or right coaching, I should say — before he goes on to the next level,” Thomas said.
Flowe isn’t the only expected official visitor this weekend. Jalen Harrell, a four-star cornerback from Champagnat Catholic, is also slated for an official visit this weekend.
The local defensive back decommitted from the Florida State Seminoles last month and took an official visit with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets last weekend.
He also has an official visit planned with the Central Florida Knights for the weekend of Nov. 30, but a source close to Harrell indicated the Hurricanes had emerged as the favorite immediately following the 6-2, 180-pound senior’s decommitment from Florida State. Harrell is not likely to commit this weekend, though.
Even beyond the two official visitors, Miami’s expected visitors list for the Louisville game is perhaps the most impressive of the season. Here’s a look at some of the prospects who plan to be at Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday:
Justin Flowe, 5-star ILB, Upland (California)^
Donald Chaney Jr., 4-star RB, Belen Jesuit*
Marcus Dumervil, 4-star T, St. Thomas Aquinas
Jalen Harrell, 4-star CB, Champagnat Catholic^
Ruben Hyppolite II, 4-star OLB, McArthur (Maryland commit)
Elijah Roberts, 4-star DE, Columbus*
Jonathan Denis, 4-star G, South Dade (Oregon commit)
Douglas Emilien, 3-star WR, Plantation American Heritage
Marcus Clarke, 3-star CB, Winter Park*
Brian Balom, 3-star S, Miramar*
AJ Mathis, 3-star OLB, Largo*
Xavier Restrepo, 3-star ATH, Deerfield Beach*
Antonio Smith, 3-star G, Ocala Vanguard*
Trevor Reaves, 3-star CB, Edison
Davonte Brown, 3-star CB, Plantation American Heritage
* — Miami commit | ^ — official visitor