MIAMI - The names on the jerseys are different, and their school colors clash with each other, and they are one of the biggest rivalries in the nation, but once you dig beneath the surface it’s easy to see that Miami Northwestern and Miami Carol City have many similarities – including their ability to produce high quality blue-chip players every single year.
And this year is no exception.
Carol City is home to two of the nation’s top recruits, period. Defensive end Ricky Jean-Francois amazed onlookers at the recent Miami NIKE Training Camp with his size, speed and raw ability.
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His partner in crime Kenneth Phillips wasn’t able to make it because of a family engagement, but many recruiters consider Phillips the top player in the state of Florida and he definitely looked the part when Rivals100.com met with him on Monday.
But neither of them would be at the point they are now without the guidance of coach Walt Frazier, the dean of high school coaches in Miami, and the academics and family first attitude that’s in place at Carol City.
“Discipline is the strength of the program,” said Fraiser, with trademark cigar hanging out of his mouth. ‘The kids know what this program is about. They know we take academics seriously, working out hard every day and we have high expectations of our kids. If they don’t meet those expectations, then they won’t be playing for us.”
Or even practicing.
Before Monday afternoon’s workout Frazier checked each kid’s grades to make sure they’re still eligible. If they weren’t, they were sent packing without even a chance to complain or gripe. It’s that type of focus that has made Carol City home to some of the best players, best kids and most disciplined prospects in Florida.
Forget about all the negative stories you’ve read about Willie Williams, who played his senior season at Carol City, because Coach Frazier runs a tight ship and it’s now the must-stop spot for college coaches when they come to Miami.
“We keep the same atmosphere in the weight room as we do in the football field,” the 22-year veteran said. “The seriousness you see here in the weight room is the same type of attitude that you see with our kids and coaches on the football field.
“We also worked hard to develop our JV program. We’ve not lost a JV game in seven years, and we’ve got kids that are in middle school coming over to work out and get accustomed to our routine.”
Combine the great work ethic, leadership from the coaching staff, focus on academics and tough love discipline with amazing athletes that Miami’s known for and you have a formula for producing blue-chip players like Jean-Francois and Phillips every single season.
And there is little doubting that the dynamic Carol City duo are among the nation’s top prospects.
“I don’t think coaches are going to have a problem finding a spot for Ricky,” Frazier said. “He’s in that transition stage, and he’s trying to figure out if he’s going to be a defensive end or a linebacker in college. He’s just an amazing athlete. He throws the shot 60 feet and threw the discus 165 feet.”
Then there is Phillips. When asked if he was the top player in the state of Florida, Frazier didn’t hesitate to give his opinion.
“We think so,” the coach said.
“The college coaches have been conscious of him since his sophomore year. He’s far beyond his age when it comes to his maturity. He acts like he is 29 with everything he says and he does. He’s a good leader. His overall dominance makes kids gravitate to him. He’s selective in the things that he does off the field, and that makes all the other kids want to pattern themselves after him.”
Both players will be highly recruited, but Phillips said he plans to not turn his recruitment into a circus.
“I really only want to focus on four or five teams,” Phillips said. “I like Florida State, N.C. State, Miami and Rutgers. Those are really the ones that I can think of right now and those are the ones that I think about the most.”
Yet, those aren’t the only two senior-to-be recruits at Carol City. College coaches might come for Phillips and Jean-Francois, but they might also fall in love with talented receiver Eddie Brown, offensive lineman Sherrod Brown and kicker Ramon Russell.
“Brown is a one and a half year starter for us,” Frazier said. “He’s a captain that grades out about 80 percent in 15 games. He’s about 6-foot and 325 pounds. His specialty is run blocking, and he was instrumental in our success. Eddie’s dad played receiver at West Virginia. He’s a receiver, too. He’s about 5-9, 165 and really explosive. He had four touchdowns that were over 40 yards. He’s a lot like his dad.
“Ramon put about 80 percent of his kickoffs in the end zone and had four field goals that were longer than 40-yards. He’s honestly better than the kid we had a few years back that went to Miami.”
Over at Northwestern the blueprint for success is very much like at Carol City, but coach Roland Smith Jr. points to the community’s involvement as another big key.
“We are the community,” Smith said. “We live here in the community, and we’re the only school that sells out every game and can have a game at Pro-Player Stadium because we pack the stands so much. The support from everybody in the area is a big key for us. I also think another big thing that helps us succeed is that almost all of the coaches went to school here and played here. They know what being a Bull is about.
“We put a lot of pressure on our kids to be the best, and that’s exactly what we expect of everybody in the program.”
And Northwestern often is. Year in and year out, Northwestern produces countless blue-chip recruits. The list of college and pro alumni is amazing, but the most recent recognizable Bull to make it big time is Willis McGahee.
If Carol City is the place for college coaches to visit, then coaches have already visited Northwestern or they head across town to visit shortly after. And you can count on the coaches stopping by Northwestern when the spring evaluation period for a number of reasons, but maybe reason No. 1 is offensive lineman Christopher Barney, an early Rivals100 selection.
“He’s more developed as an overall player than Vernon Carey was when he was a junior,” Smith said about his star lineman. “At this stage, he’s more polished. His work ethic is amazing, and he’s such a great guy for a big guy.”
Barney has been doing damage for the Bulls since he was a sophomore.
“We asked him to step in and play a big role as a sophomore,” Smith said. “And he came in and made huge contributions right away. If there is a better lineman in the nation, then I’ve not seen him yet. He’s the best of the best in the entire country.”
Off the field, Barney is a good leader.
“He’s a vocal kid off the field,” Smith said. “If Chris does it, then the kids do it.”
Smith predicts Barney will handle the recruiting process quite well, especially after spending the past two years under the guidance of Smith and as part of one of the best programs in Florida.
“He knows what is in front of him,” Smith said. “He’s going to really look hard for the school that’s the best fit for him. He’s a humble kid that’s worked hard to get here. The sky’s the limit for him. He’ll be an impact kid the school that’s lucky enough to get him.”
Smith is also excited about the other prospects in his program, and at least three other coaches in Miami said Northwestern has the best collection of juniors in recent memory.
Along with Barney, outside linebacker Dustin Forston will be highly recruited. The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder plays defensive end for Northwestern, but will make the switch to linebacker in college.
“He’s a guy at defensive end that is in the 4.45 range,” Smith said. “He’s a good student that is very explosive. And when he closes on the ball on the other side of the field, he closes quickly. He also goes up against Chris every day in practice, so that makes him an even better player.”
Smith says he has a Joe Cohen type player with linebacker/fullback Adam Coffee. At 6-3 and 215 pounds, Coffee plays linebacker, defensive end and fullback for Northwestern. It’s that versatility and athletic ability that’ll make him a hot commodity.
“He’s our second strongest kid on the team,” Smith said. “He’s so athletic all across the board. I think he could be a guy that could be an impact at so many different positions, just like Joe Cohen was a few years back.”
Smith also raves about 6-foot-2, 315-pound offensive guard Solomon Brown, who is the strongest guy on the Northwestern roster. Linebacker Cornelius Troy (5-11, 205) will also be recruited because of his big-hitting ability and his ability to be a full qualifier as a junior. Defensive end Leron King will also get looks because of his 6-2, 205-pound frame and his ability to always be around the football.
In the end, Northwestern and Carol City have one of the biggest rivalries in the entire nation, but it’s amazing to see how closely the programs mirror each other and what steps they took to become powerhouse programs.
It’s obvious there is no secret formula or easy way that these schools have built their success and college coaches are now bearing the fruit of their labor each year when they sign high-quality players, students and people from these two storied programs.