It’s probably a shorter list to figure out which big-time college football programs don’t come to South Florida to recruit ahead of National Signing Day.
But, even so, here’s a look at the top out-of-state schools who have had the greatest success in the most fertile recruiting area in the nation:
FOUR BIG PLAYERS
▪ Louisville: Ten of the Cardinals’ 20 signees in December are from South Florida. And who can blame the Louisville staff for coming down here in droves?
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The wave began in earnest in 2011, under coach Charlie Strong, who is now running the South Florida program. Strong signed Miami Northwestern quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who changed the program’s trajectory and became a first-round pick.
When Bobby Petrino returned to Louisville in 2014, succeeding Strong, he found another gem of a quarterback in South Florida, signing Boynton Beach Community’s Lamar Jackson in 2015. Jackson went on to win the 2016 Heisman Trophy.
Louisville’s 2018 class has a strong defensive flavor. It includes Aquinas defensive tackle Dejmi Dumervil Jean, Carol City outside linebacker Yasir Abdulah, Miami Central middle linebacker Robert Hicks, Miami Central cornerback Chandler Jones and Aquinas safety Trenell Troutman.
In addition, Columbus wide receiver Tyler Harrell and Miami Northwestern athlete Tutu Atwell could hit it big at Louisville.
▪ Alabama: With five national titles in the past nine years, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban gets immediate attention when he swoops into town, and that’s exactly what happened last year when he landed on Hollywood Chaminade’s campus in a helicopter.
Saban got the player he was after — wide receiver Xavier Williams — and that continues a trend.
Since 2012, Saban has made a habit of extracting this area’s best wide receivers, including Miami Northwestern’s Amari Cooper, who is now an NFL star, and Monarch’s Calvin Ridley, who is projected to be a first-rounder this year.
Deerfield Beach’s Jerry Jeudy, a 2017 recruit, and Williams could be the next wave of Alabama receiver stars from South Florida.
▪ Georgia: The Bulldogs went all the way to the national championship this past season, and former American Heritage five-star running back Sony Michel was a huge part of the Georgia attack.
Michel was signed by Mark Richt, who is now Miami’s coach. But Richt’s replacement, Kirby Smart, is no dummy. He has signed three South Floridians in this class, including former Miami Central running back James Cook, Miami Northwestern cornerback Divaad Wilson and Norland cornerback Nadab Joseph. All three are four-star recruits.
▪ Auburn: The Tigers snatched two of the biggest playmakers in the state for the Class of 2018, signing Chaminade running back Shaun Shivers and getting a commitment from American Heritage wide receiver Anthony Schwartz.
Tigers coach Gus Malzahn also signed Champagnat defensive end Kayode Oladele — a four-star recruit — as part of this class.
FOUR TO WATCH
▪ Nebraska: Coach Scott Frost, who built a UCF team that went 13-0 this past season, has returned to his alma mater, where he was once a star Cornhuskers quarterback.
Frost has barely settled in at Lincoln, but he already has commitments from three South Florida players: Miramar wide receiver Dominick Watt, American Heritage wide receiver Miles Jones and Oxbridge safety C.J. Smith. Look for the connection between Frost and South Florida to grow because of the credibility he has built and his need to import speed at Nebraska.
▪ Oklahoma: The Sooners have a history of pulling star players out of South Florida, going way back to the 1970s with Miami Central running back Elvis Peacock and the 1980s with Miami Northwestern running back Buster Rhymes. Both became first-round picks.
Fast-forward to 2018 where coach Lincoln Riley, in his first year as a head coach at any level, just took the Sooners to an 11-2 record and a berth in the NCAA semifinals. He also coached the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner, quarterback Baker Mayfield.
The Sooners’ proud history, coupled with current success, is a powerful combination, and Riley already has two South Floridians in his 2018 class: defensive end Nick Bonitto (Aquinas) and Deerfield Beach cornerback Miguel Edwards.
▪ Oregon: Former UM offensive lineman/FIU coach Mario Cristobal took over the Ducks’ program last month. It was too late to have much impact on the 2018 class, but it would come as no surprise if Cristobal doesn’t work his contacts to mine this area for talent, starting in 2019.
And with the facilities that the Nike-backed Ducks have at their disposal, South Florida kids will be receptive.
▪ Kentucky: Wildcats coach Mark Stoops, a former Florida State defensive coordinator, knows this area well. And his wide receivers coach is former Hurricanes standout Lamar Thomas.
That helps explain how and why the Wildcats have signed 14 South Floridians in the past two classes.
The Recruiting Column is a year-round feature of the Miami Herald. If you have a tip or story idea regarding recruiting or an impending college commitment, please contact Walter Villa at: firstname.lastname@example.org