Miami recruiting: Hurricanes pitch Kevin Harris on academics, relationships
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Elite DE Kevin Harris prepares for Tuesday commitment
Kevin Harris already knew plenty about Alabama and LSU heading into the weekend of April 21. The 4-star weakside defensive end from Grayson High School in Loganville, Ga., had put out a top 3 with the Crimson Tide, the Tigers and Miami about a month earlier, and with less than two weeks until a decision Harris finally traveled to Coral Gables, Fla., to learn more about the final team in his top group.
The Hurricanes were still a somewhat new team on Harris’ radar, but it didn’t take long for things to click. Defensive line coach Jess Simpson had strong Peach State ties from his time as coach at Buford (Ga.) High School, and his initial conversations with Harris were enough to make the defensive end give Miami a shot. Once Harris got down to Florida, the campus and program could sell him on the rest.
“It was a different experience for me,” Harris told SEC Country’s Chris Kirschner on Monday. “Less of a college town, more of a city-like thing.”
After his official visit with the Hurricanes, Harris made one final stop in Tuscaloosa, Ala., last Monday. He then called off a final official visit to Baton Rouge, La., which had been scheduled for this weekend. Harris’ mind was made up in the past few days, and he already knows where he’ll commit on Tuesday at 6 p.m.
Watch LIVE on Tuesday at 5pm and 6pm on FOX 5 Atlanta as four of the Top players in the country make their college decisions from Sports & Social. Come support all are welcomed to be there as early as 4:00pm. @Mansell247 #True19 #Ramszn pic.twitter.com/o0cCmRTlec
— Coach K Watson (@therealkwat) April 30, 2018
“I did the cons and pros of each school, compare and contrast all the schools I’ve visited so far in the top 3,” Harris said. “All the schools are great, though, so it’s tough.”
In all likelihood, the choice will be either Miami or Alabama. The pitches from the schools have some similarities — both are offering the opportunity to contend at a national level and both have a track record of producing NFL talent — but some of the potential decisive factors are wildly different. The Crimson Tide offer a businesslike atmosphere around the football program and a student body of almost 40,000.
Conversely, the Hurricanes harp on a family atmosphere around the football program and a smaller student body of about 17,000.
“For me I guess that was a big deal because what I want to major in requires a lot of attention,” Harris said. “My parents, they took note of that, too. The campus isn’t too big. It isn’t like 40,000 students.”
Miami couldn’t have picked a better weekend to showcase its family feel, either. Harris’ visit just so happened to coincide with the Hurricanes’ final spring practice, which brought out hundreds of former players for an alumni event.
RELATED: 2019 Miami recruiting big board
While Harris doesn’t remember specifically all the alumni he talked to, the conversations let him gain a unique perspective on the program.
The most unique pitch Miami offers, however, is Simpson. The newest member of the Hurricanes coaching staff, Simpson earned legendary status as Buford’s coach and most recently worked as a defensive analyst for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. While Simpson was with the Wolves, Grayson coach Christian Hunnicutt served as Simpson’s offensive coordinator. Hunnicutt can vouch for Simpson, and Harris admits his coach’s opinion is a factor.
— Coach K Watson (@therealkwat) April 22, 2018
It wouldn’t matter if Harris didn’t hit it off with Simpson, though. The first time the two talked on the phone, they spoke for about half an hour. When Harris finally met Simpson in person, the relationship felt stronger than ever.
“It was like automatic. We could just relate really,” Harris said. “It’s very rare really to have someone that knows your head coach and how it is in Georgia and that kind of thing and to tell you stories about what he did in high school. That’s pretty cool. You just don’t get that everywhere.”
Harris, of course, won’t say where he’s going yet, but he has told his future coach he’s coming.
The 247Sports composite rankings peg Harris as the No. 86 overall player in the country. The 6-foot-4, 218-pound edge rusher is a potential Day 1 contributor wherever he ends up, particularly if he’s lining up at defensive end for the Hurricanes.
“They really wanted me there bad,” Harris said of Miami. “He told me straight up that they did research on me, they know that I’m the fit for them right now. It’s just a great relationship between me and the coach and I trust in him to make me a better player.”
Prediction: Miami, but I’m not as sold as others are. Harris likes Simpson, which should put the Hurricanes over the top. Some in Loganville are giving off the vibe it will be the Crimson Tide, though.
Blue-chip Georgia athlete Jaylin Simpson picks Auburn
It’s been a while since Jaylin Simpson seemed like much of a target for Miami. The 4-star athlete from Frederica Academy in St. Simons Island, Ga., visited the Hurricanes in July, and the trip to Coral Gables, Fla., was enough to place Miami in Simpson’s top 5 when he released it in November.
The 5-11, 160-pound athlete hasn’t been to South Florida since. He did, however, consistently mention the Hurricanes as one of his favorites. Still, it’s no surprise where Simpson is heading for college. On Monday, the two-way standout committed to Auburn fresh off a weekend in Alabama.
Respect it. pic.twitter.com/Dhcqvzera1
— Jaylin Simpson (@jaylinsimp) April 30, 2018
“I’m 1,000-percent committed to Auburn,” Simpson told SEC Country’s Benjamin Wolk. “I had a great visit. It was my second visit here. My family felt it was a great place for me. I talked it over with them, and we’re all pretty confident. This is the place for us.”
While Simpson plays wide receiver at Frederica, he projects as a cornerback. Miami doesn’t lack for in-state targets in the secondary, which meant out-of-state prospects were not a major priority. Tyrique Stevenson, a 4-star cornerback from Miami Southridge High School, remains the No. 1 target at the position for the Hurricanes, while 4-star cornerback Jaden Davis from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale and 3-star cornerback John Dixon from George D. Chamberlain High School in Tampa are among other in-state targets. Stevenson, in particular, will be tough to land as Alabama, Georgia, Florida State and Clemson are all in the mix. Dixon has a similar list of high-profile suitors with Georgia, South Carolina and Ohio State involved, while Davis’ recruitment has long looked like a battle between Miami and Florida.
Miami also remains hopeful it will host 4-star cornerback Chris Steele from St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, Calif., before his July 7 commitment. Steele’s list of suitors is gargantuan, though, with Oklahoma, Texas, Penn State, Southern Cal, Oregon, California, LSU, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Florida and South Carolina all feeling at least somewhat decent about their chances.
The Hurricanes still have quite a few athletes on the board, too, headlined by 4-star Miami metropolitan area prospects Josh Sanguinetti and Mark-Antony Richards. Sanguinetti, who plays wide receiver and cornerback for Fort Lauderdale’s NSU University School, has the Hurricanes and Stanford out front. Richards, who plays running back and cornerback for Wellington High School in West Palm Beach, Fla., plans to release a top 10 soon with Miami, Florida, Georgia, Auburn and Oregon all seemingly likely to make the list.
The most similar analog, though, might be Kenny Logan. Like Simpson, Logan plays a variety of roles for Pedro Menendez High School in St. Augustine, Fla., including running back, wide receiver and free safety. The 3-star athlete has the Hurricanes on top early in his recruitment.
As for Miami’s wide receiver pursuits, Simpson’s commitment just means there’s one fewer potential prospect on the periphery for the Hurricanes. Miami still seems content to stick with one wideout after missing on 5-star wide receiver Frank Ladson earlier this month. Kendrell Scurry, a 3-star wide receiver from Maplewood High School in Nashville, Tenn., is probably the biggest name to know after he included the Hurricanes in a top 5 with Louisville, Virginia, Mississippi State and Kentucky on April 15.
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