SUMMER SPOTLIGHT: Paradise Camp Keeps Hurricanes In National Spotlight

Larry Blustein
July 31, 2018 - 9:44 am

Larry Blustein

No matter how you slice it, this year’s Paradise Camp at the University of Miami was indeed a success.

With hundreds pouring into Coral Gables on Friday and Saturday evening for this yearly ritual, it is now evident that the Hurricanes are in this for the long haul.

As Hurricane legends of the past roamed the sidelines with today’s players - along with the prospects of tomorrow – this was certainly everything as advertised.

A recruiting weekend that truly would last a lifetime for some – while being a determining factor for many recruits, who are now weighing all options.

They came from Georgia, Ohio, New York and all over the state of Florida. It was the culmination of an offseason that set the tone for the year ahead.

What recruiting has come down to is keeping up with the competition. Weight room, practice facilities living quarters, stadium, and just about everything else that makes a difference to athletes.

Since arriving, the changes that Coach Mark Richt has made is what recruiting is all about. Indoor facility, improved fields and so many other things that go into the entire process.

While what happened in the past will always be part of the total legacy of this school, recruiting was really not a priority. Not to say that they didn’t work at, but south Florida is an area like no other. It’s a culture that you either understand or fall behind. Coaches and programs with egos have long checked everything at the door. Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach athletes are too good and make too much of a difference on any roster they are part of.

High school and youth coaches will change the fortune of your college program based on their influence with many of these top-flight players an their families. Like or not, recruiters who deal with prospects in this region have a long road to go when looking to build a pipeline.

Young athletes and their families are always reaching out to mentors to help in the process, and while it goes on in many areas of the country, south Florida parents, guardians and mentors know the score when it comes to recruiting – and all realize that the stakes are high for everyone.

To fully comprehend the entire recruiting process, part of it is to never hide your head in the sand and always make sure that you are the one calling the shots.

“When it comes to recruiting, this is a place like no other,” explained Dana Wiley of Prep Films South Florida. “Many college coaches from across the country come in here and feel they can dictate the recruitment. In a majority of the cases, it doesn’t work that way down here. There are too many people involved with every athlete. It’s been that way forever and it won’t change.” 

As a number of Class of 2019 commits attended with other invited prospects, athletes were coached by the Hurricane coaches as well as players who are now competing. It was a thrill for so many who attended - and by the end of the night - memories were certainly created.

COMMITTING TO THE U

The criticism over the past years is the University of Miami is not keeping everyone home.

While we understand that keeping everyone home is never going to be a reality, the Paradise Camp did produce six commitments, (five local) which made this entire weekend something very special.

On Friday night, the South Dade trio of offensive lineman Jonathan Denis, athlete Keshawn Washington and defensive back Jaiden Francois all pledged to UM. All three are top flight prospects who have a few years to continue to get bigger and learn more.

After Saturday night’s Paradise Camp, Class of 2021 standout Donell Harris, a defensive end from Booker T. Washington and Class of 2020 receiver Bryan Robinson from Palm Beach Central announced their commitments to the Hurricanes.

Both of these talented prospects are indeed elite - and over the next year or two - will blow up and will still be courted by every Power 5 team in America. 

In addition to the area commitments, defensive line coach Jess Simpson has already made an impact - when Buford (Ga.) standout defensive lineman Jalar Holley committed as well. Holley plays at a school where Simpson had so much success back a few years ago.

Among committed players to attend, although a number didn’t participate in drills, were Chaminade-Madonna defensive backs Keontra Smith and Te’Cory Couch. Neptune Beach Fletcher wideout Jeremiah Payton, 2020 Miami Central cornerback Henry Gray and 2021 safety James Williams, who recently transferred from Miami Monsignor Pace to American Heritage.

Perhaps the athlete that everyone had their eyes on all night - and for good reason - was Paradise Camp “Alpha Dog: winner, Vero Beach defensive end Jahfari Harvey, who is going to be a major star!

“Being a part of the University of Miami is so exciting for me and my family,” Harvey said on the South Florida High School Sports Radio Show on 560 WQAM. “I’m looking forward  to my first year at Vero Beach and winning a state title before I get to Coral Gables.” 

Among those on hand included Wellington standout Mark-Antony Richards, St. Thomas Aquinas Class of 2020 receiver Marcus Rosemy, University School Class of 2021 offensive lineman Marcus Tate, Miami Northwestern quarterback Isaiah Velez and 2021 receiver Romello Brinson, American Heritage 2019 TE/DE. Beau Johnson, whose father Charles was a Hurricane baseball legend.

There was also nationally-rated 5-star receiver Jadon Haselwood, a Georgia commit, who came and showcased his skills. 

South Dade had a huge presence at the event - including Class of 2021 rising standout LB/DE Tyler Johnson - the younger brother of Hurricane standout Jaquan Johnson.

“There were so many talented young men that I recognized from all over south Florida - many who I have read about,” Wiley said. “This was a weekend where the recruits indeed felt special - which is the main objective.”

THE STARS WERE OUT

The signature of the Paradise Camp has not only been the tremendous athletes who have shown the first three years, but also the former players take part in the event as well.

This year, the list included Pro Football Hall of Fame members Warren Sapp and Michael Irvin, linebackers Jon Beason and Jon Vilma, offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie, Bennie Blades, running back Clinton Portis, receiver Lamar Thomas and quarterback Gino Torretta all made an impact this weekend.

Catch the South Florida High School Sports Radio Show each Saturday morning (10-11) on WQAM (560AM - https://wqam.radio.com/media/podcast/south-florida-high-school-sports-radio). For the past 11 years, the players and coaches who are making the headlines, join the program. You will learn a lot about football recruiting!