High School Recruiting

With Signing Day approaching, competition intensifies for South Florida teams

Oregon's new head football coach Willie Taggart acknowledges the crowd after being introduced during the Alabama vs. Oregon men's NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016, in Eugene, Ore. Coaches at Miami Southridge told the Miami Herald that senior safety Billy Gibson is expected to land at Oregon with Taggart.
Oregon's new head football coach Willie Taggart acknowledges the crowd after being introduced during the Alabama vs. Oregon men's NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016, in Eugene, Ore. Coaches at Miami Southridge told the Miami Herald that senior safety Billy Gibson is expected to land at Oregon with Taggart. AP Photo

With National Signing Day approaching, the competition for the nation’s top college football recruits will intensify, culminating with decision day on Feb. 1.

The University of Miami has a handful of prospects expected in Coral Gables this weekend when three Hurricanes commits take their visits — cornerback Trajan Bandy, wide receiver Evidence Njoku (yes, that Njoku) and defensive lineman D.J. Johnson. Joining the solid commitments on the trip will be former Notre Dame wide receiver commit Jordan Pouncey and Alabama cornerback commit Jhavonte Dean.

With Njoku — the younger brother of NFL Draft-bound UM tight end David Njoku — as Miami’s lone commitment at receiver, the Canes have a very good chance at landing Pouncey. Dean is currently at Blinn Junior College in Texas and is a Class of 2015 prospect from South Dade High. Miami views him as a player who could potentially start right away, as the Canes are losing their top two cornerbacks in Corn Elder and Adrian Colbert.

▪ Just a week before he was set to enroll at UM, Miami Southridge senior safety Billy Gibson announced on Twitter last week that he would be opening up his recruitment. Coaches at Southridge told the Miami Herald that Gibson is expected to land at Oregon with new coach Willie Taggart. In his message, Gibson thanked Canes coaches, but it looks like he will ultimately choose to head across the country and play for the Ducks.

The Hurricanes have two safety commitments in this year’s class, including Palm Beach product Amari Carter, who just enrolled early at UM. Trinity Christian’s Derrick Smith is expected to arrive in May. Miami coaches are working to get Pittsburgh safety commit and Under Armour All-American Paris Ford on campus for a visit.

▪ Southridge’s other starting safety, Shawn Davis, had been planning for months to enroll at Florida this week. But on Wednesday, Davis found out that he was short on credits and will need to wait until May to get to Gainesville. Although Davis has been solid in his commitment to the Gators, this could open the door for Miami to get him on campus.

Multiple sources at Southridge told the Herald it would not surprise them if Davis visits Miami, but it is still going to be a tough flip for the Hurricanes’ coaching staff. Davis’ high school teammate, Kemore Gamble, just enrolled at Florida this week.

▪ Miami and Florida are battling for two more defensive backs in Columbus’ C.J. Henderson and Miramar’s Brian Edwards. Henderson is visiting Alabama this weekend and will be in Gainesville either next weekend or the following weekend. He visited Coral Gables officially in December, but Florida is the favorite to land him, according to multiple people close to the speedy athlete.

Edwards has three visits lined up over the next three weekends — Louisville, then Miami and then UF. The Hurricanes are selling the lengthy defensive back the opportunity to play both cornerback and safety in a role that would allow him to showcase his coverage skills.

▪ Coral Gables High safety Gilbert Frierson, a member of the 2018 class, told the Herald he played this season with two broken bones in his right foot. The Miami commitment was a leader for the Cavaliers team that made it to the state quarterfinals of the Class 8A playoffs. Frierson said his pledge to the Hurricanes is solid and that he hopes to help Miami land more “savages” for next year’s recruiting class — whom he describes as difference-making-type players.

▪ A battle for one of South Florida’s top quarterbacks, Northwestern’s Chatarius “Tutu” Atwell, is brewing between Lane Kiffin at FAU and Butch Davis at FIU. The dynamic Atwell committed to the Owls in November before Charlie Partridge’s firing. FIU made an offer to him last weekend, and Kiffin has already signed former Florida State quarterback De’Andre Johnson to his 2017 class. Atwell is a 2018 prospect, so expect his recruitment to heat up in the coming months.

Peter Ariz covers recruiting for the Miami Herald, and his reports will appear twice a week. The notebook will feature the latest information surrounding South Florida’s top high school prospects and the programs recruiting them heading into National Signing Day.

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