Miami Central has seen an extreme turnaround the past two seasons under a new coaching staff. Of course, it also takes playmakers and the Rockets have had plenty of those as well. One of the main threats for an offense that averaged over 37 points per game a year ago was wide receiver Charles Gaines Jr.
Despite missing five games with an injury, the 5-foot-11, 181-pound junior caught 24 passes for 440 yards and eight touchdowns. After a strong spring showing as well, Gaines now holds seven offers with more likely on the way.
"I have written offers from the University of Central Florida, FIU, Louisville, Minnesota, West Virginia, Marshall and Duke," Gaines said. "Florida, Florida State, Miami and South Carolina haven't sent written offers, but I think they're close to it. They should be sending them after the first game or two."
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This summer, Gaines is looking to continue to impress coaches.
"I attended the Florida camp. That's the only camp I've attended so far. It went really well. (Fellow Central wide receiver) Durell Eskridge and I both went there and handled business, as usual. I'm going to be attending some others this month, but I'm not sure which ones yet."
With programs from all over the country having made their way to the South Florida school to check out all the talent on the team, Gaines has the luxury of allowing the recruiting process come to him.
"I'm not really looking into any other schools," he said. "I'm going to just play the season out and see what comes my way.
"I'm going to sit down with my family and my coaches and talk about it. I'm not trying to rush the situation. I'm trying to see academically, football-wise and outside of football, what fits me."
Gaines says he is keeping an open mind to the entire process and has not ruled any schools out.
"It really doesn't matter to me where the school is," he said. "It's just going to come down to where I feel comfortable. It may be far away and it may be close. I want an offense that suits me and a place I just fit in. I'll have to figure out where that is.
"Living in Miami, everybody loves the Hurricanes. Of course, I grew up a big fan of them. I'm open to anything, though. I don't have a problem if a school is further. I am going to look at anybody who looks at me. I can't just automatically go with the school I've watched growing up. There's more to it than that."
Central has a schedule this season with games against teams from Georgia, Texas and Alabama and the Rockets play in one of the toughest districts in Class 6A. However, with a lot of returning starters and quarterback Rakeem Cato and receiver Tommy Shuler transferring in from Miami Gardens, there are still high expectations for the team, especially the offense.
"There are some pretty high expectations on our offense this year," Gaines said. "We have to come together as a team, though. We're working on that. We've got a great new QB but we can't get too cocky. We've got to take baby steps and we should be pretty good."
The team looks to improve on a 12-2 record from a year ago. The season saw them fall in the playoffs to eventual Class 6A state champion Miramar.
"As far as 12-2, we don't see it that way," Gaines said. "We finished 0-1. The last game is the only one that matters. We didn't accomplish our goal. We didn't get what we came out here every day and worked hard for. We want to win that last game this year. That's the thing we're focused on."