Miami-Dade High Schools

Changes force recruit to revisit decision

Booker T. Washington figures to have some of the biggest developments in Miami-Dade County on National Signing Day.

Two of the anchors of this year’s Class 4A state championship team — linebacker Matthew Thomas and offensive lineman Denver Kirkland — will choose their college destinations as will several teammates.

Other Dade powerhouses such as Central and Northwestern will have several players sign.

But for one of Dade’s most talented running backs, Lorenzo Woodley of Columbus, Wednesday will mark the end of what has been a roller-coaster recruiting process.

Woodley had his four favorite schools lined up and was ready to start narrowing down his list.

But USF, Cincinnati, North Carolina State and Purdue all changed coaches since the end of the season.

Woodley basically had to start over and go through the recruiting process from the beginning.

“I haven’t seen anything like this in my career,” Columbus coach Chris Merritt said. “It’s been crazy. But I’ve got to say, I’m proud of the way he’s handled it. He’s a very mature kid and taking it in stride.”

Woodley, a 6-2, 210-pound back, is ranked ninth in among recruits in Dade by The Miami Herald and for three years showed off his combination of size, strength and speed in the Explorers’ backfield.

Woodley tied for a county-best 24 touchdowns this season and ran for 1,086 yards to lead the Explorers to their second Class 8A state semifinal in a row.

“With the position of running backs you have a certain skill set, and if he doesn’t fit the one a school is looking for there’s not a lot he can do,” Merritt said. “When you have a coaching change, it’s not for a good reason usually. They want to change philosophies, and sometimes the new coaches try to bring over kids they were already recruiting at other schools so you end up affecting a lot of kids’ situations.”

Woodley took an official visit to Massachusetts this past weekend and told Merritt he enjoyed the trip. Merritt said he has also been contacted by Georgia Tech, Nevada and Kent State over the past couple of days regarding Woodley.

“Lorenzo’s a captain for us, and we put him there because he’s one of our best both on and off the field,” Merritt said. “He’s going to be fine. If his biggest concern is attending a school like UMass, I think he’s in pretty good shape.”

Woodley’s backfield mate Daryl Chestnut, who also ran for more than 1,000 yards, will decide between Western Michigan and Indiana. Merritt said both schools are offering him a chance to play immediately. Columbus also expects to have wide receiver Jesus Wilson (FSU) and linebacker Jordan Guest (FIU) sign Wednesday.

One of Central’s top players will likely also end his recruiting process Wednesday.

Da’Wan Hunte, ranked 17th overall in Dade, is considering Purdue and Marshall.

Central also has defensive back Ahmad Thomas signing with Oklahoma, linebacker Marqez Hodge signing with Syracuse and linebacker Devante Duclos signing with Western Kentucky. The Rockets already have kicker Emilio Nadelman enrolled at South Florida.

Northwestern expects about a dozen of its players to sign including defensive back Artie Burns (Miami). Defensive back De’Andre Coley (Arkansas), running back Darius Tice (Cincinnati), linebacker Darius Redmond (Kent State), offensive lineman Gerald Wright (Marshall) and running back Fabian Johnson (Western Michigan) are among the Bulls’ early commitments.

Two more talented defensive backs are also undecided.

North Miami’s Troy McCollum, No. 16 overall in Dade, is considering either Hawaii or Louisiana-Lafayette among his final choices. Carol City’s Simeon Thomas (No. 20) is choosing between Syracuse and FIU.