Scenes from Miami Southridge on National Signing Day
It was not about The U at Miami Southridge on National Signing Day.
The Spartans, the reigning Class 8A state champions, released a list on Wednesday that included 14 student-athletes who have earned college scholarships for football.
But none of the signees chose the Miami Hurricanes, even though three of them – safety Billy Gibson, running back Bentavious Thompson and wide receiver Rodney Scott – had all committed to The U at one point.
In addition, outside linebacker Brandon James, whose father Herbert James played defensive back and won two national titles with the Canes, is headed to FIU.
Gibson, a 6-1, 185-pounder who chose Oregon, said the “environment” attracted him to the Ducks.
“The vibe, the players – they’re different,” said Gibson, who wants to own a business after football. “It’s like paradise up there. The town is small, but there is much to do based on football.
“It wasn’t nothing against Miami. I wanted to travel the world, experience … I wanted to do something different.”
Scott, who chose Buffalo, said he wants to follow in the cleat marks of NFL running back Branden Oliver, who plays for the San Diego Chargers.
Oliver went from Southridge to Buffalo, where he was he was a two-time first-team All-Mid-American Conference player.
“He broke records there, and I feel like I can do the same thing,” said Scott, a 6-0, 175-pounder who runs a 4.7 40. “I de-committed from [Miami]because how their offense is set up - it’s run first. I really like the pass. I want to get the ball in my hands.”
Scott said he wants to study engineering or business and is also interested in becoming an actor.
Meanwhile, Thompson chose UCF, making that decision just three days ago.
“It was very difficult process – different recruiters coming at you, telling you what you want to hear,” Thompson said. “It was kind of frustrating.”
Thompson, a 5-11, 185-pounder, said UCF coaches sold him on the idea that he could get “25 carries” per game. He envisions gaining 1,000 yards every season he’s at UCF.
As for the Canes, Thompson said he had a change of heart.
“At first, I wanted to stay home,” he said. “But then I wanted to get away from home. Things were going on, and I talked it over with family members.”
When the Canes lost two running backs from their 2016 roster – Gus Edwards indicated he wanted to transfer, and Joe Yearby declared for the NFL Draft – there might have been a chance for Thompson to change his mind again. In addition, Miami lost out on high school recruit Anthony McFarland, who chose Maryland.
Still, though, Thompson stuck with UCF … but barely.
“They didn’t reach out to me,” Thompson said of Miami.
Asked if he would have been receptive to Miami had Canes coaches made a last-minute recruiting pitch, Thompson said, “probably.”
As for the other Southridge signees, many of them are already in college as early-enrollees.
Florida signed two Southridge players: cornerback Shawn Davis and tight end Kemore Gamble.
FIU got James and offensive guard Cody Bowes, who was thought to be leaning toward Florida Atlantic before picking the Panthers.
UCF got Thompson and cornerback Antwan Collier.
Tennessee signed defensive end Deandre Johnson, and Syracuse swept away outside linebacker Nadarius Fagan.
Safeties Coemba Jones and Juwan Horn will be teaming up again, at Albany State.
The other signees were defensive lineman Dimitry Prophete (Ft. Hays State) and linebacker Travis Murray (Cincinnati Central).
Southridge coach Billy Rolle said there are 10 more seniors on the Spartans who hope to sign this school year, including some who are working on getting their grades and test scores in order.
“We want to have the biggest signing class in the state of Florida,” said Rolle after his players had emerged from behind a red curtain adorned with red and black balloons.
“When I got here (before the 2015 season), a lot of kids were transferring. I told, ‘For those who stay, we will be champions’.”
Rolle proved prophetic, and now many of his seniors are on to college … except not to Miami.