In today’s installment of The Recruit Notebook, we meet a record-setting RB with breakaway speed and the pedigree of greatness for the Canes: RB Jaylan Knighton.
For years, the Miami Hurricanes have struggled to recruit elite players from Deerfield Beach (FL) High School. Whether it was Denard Robinson, or Adrian Witty, or Jason Pierre-Paul (but, in fairness, JPP wasn’t JPP until after he had to go to JUCO and get his mind and life together), or Brandon Powell (he of #GottaFeedTheFam twitter infamy), or Jerry Jeudy, or Riley Ridley or Jason Strowbridge or many others, the Canes seemed unable to get a single DBHS player after QB Derrick Crudup in 1999.
Early in this cycle, Miami got one: ATH/WR Xavier Restrepo (more on him in his own Recruit Notebook). But Restrepo isn’t REALLY a Deerfield kid; he transferred to DBHS after 3 years at St. Thomas Aquinas so that he could enroll early (which isn’t possible for Aquinas students). But with Restrepo’s commitment to Miami, the Canes gained an on-site recruiter for Knighton. And that’s when RB coach Eric Hickson, with an assist from Restrepo, started to chip away here.
For his recruitment, Knighton began by exploring his many, many options. This is a good thing: players should look at all their options. After some initial contacts and visits, Knighton seemed to narrow his recruitment down to Florida, Florida State, and Ohio State. Bear in mind that Miami already had 4-star RB Donald Chaney Jr. committed, so that wasn’t great, but it wasn’t a back breaking circumstance, either.
After it seemed as though he would commit to Ohio State after a June Official Visit (you can debate if he or they changed course). Knighton made his initial commitment to Florida State in July after attending a camp in Tallahassee. Even then, Miami stayed in contact with Knighton, as the Canes’ plan was to get 2 top RBs in this class.
As FSU’s season tanked, Knighton started to pop up at Miami events a bit. When Noles coach Willie Taggart was fired, Miami kicked this recruitment up into high gear. Knighton decommitted from FSU, and subsequently took several unofficial visits to Coral Gables. While FSU and Florida tried to stay or get connected with Knighton, Miami’s lengthy and consistent relationship started to pay dividends. Knighton ended the suspense and committed to Miami on Thanksgiving night.
While Florida will say they told Knighton “no” to his attempt at committing, I don’t believe that, and I don’t care. Whether by intent or default, Miami has secured a commitment from one of the most explosive players in this recruiting class at a premium position, and from a local school that the Canes have STRUGGLED to secure recruits from for nearly 20 years.
On the 247sports composite, Knighton is a 4-star prospect, the #10 RB nationally in this class, #19 in the State of Florida, and #104 recruit overall.
Knighton committed to Miami over Florida State, where he had been previously committed, as well as over offers from Ohio State, Oklahoma, and Alabama from his robust list of 31 scholarship offers.
As a Player
Knighton is a smaller back at 5’9” 194lbs. He could add some weight to his fram, but you don’t want to do that at the expense of his quickness or speed. Plenty of shorter RBs have been successful at every level of football, and Knighton fits the profile as another one who will add his name to that list.
The thing that makes Knighton SPECIAL is his speed. Clocked at 4.49 in the 40 yard dash at Nike’s The Opening, Knighton has the speed to take a medium run and turn it into a long touchdown. Knighton has good quickness too, as evidenced by his 4.26 short shuttle time at The Opening. He also runs with a low center of gravity, and impressive power, since he runs behind his pads. Knighton has very good vision and patience as well, and can transition from searching for a hole to bursting through it and getting to top speed very quickly.
When talking about prospects moving to the next level, the conversation usually centers around traits and skills. And that’s good. But for Knighton, there’s another level of discourse to be had: production. It is widely known that South Florida is the recruiting hotbed of the CFB world. And, in Broward County, some of the best HSFB anywhere in America is played. And, in the history of Broward County HS football, there are only 2 players who amassed 5,000+ rushing yards in their prep careers: the late Tyrone Moss, once a standout at Pompano Beach (FL) Blanche Ely HS before playing for the Canes, and Jaylan Knighton. That’s it. That’s the list.
Congrats to our '20 RB @jaylan_knighton for surpassing the 5,000 career rushing mark and becoming the 2nd All Time leading rusher in BROWARD COUNTY HISTORY! #BeachBoys #AndStillCounting #MakeHistory pic.twitter.com/N2LCAxsIpj— Deerfield Beach Football (@DB_BucksFB) November 27, 2019
That seems pretty good to me.
So not only does Knighton have skills and athletic traits that bode well for the future, he’s already used them to great success. And now you see why it’s laughable that rivals are saying they turned him away. But hey, whatever works. He’s coming to Miami so their stupidity is our benefit. Fine. By. Me.
Here’s another look at Knighton from former 247sports and now SI lead National Recruiting analyst John Garcia Jr.
Compact, muscular build adequate for the running back position. Explosive athlete with head-turning instincts as a runner. True home run threat with good vision, quickness and verified long speed. Very productive against high-level competition in South Florida. Elite burst and change of direction ability with strong set of moves in between the tackles and in space. Strong lateral skill with fluid jump cut. Solid balance and body control. Effective pass catcher out of the backfield with plus instincts. Minimal wasted movement with north-south, one-cut style with the ball in his hands. Decisive runner with the ability to win the edge with or without momentum. Runs with solid lean and can transition speed to power to finish plays. Better power than frame suggests but not a bruiser. Anticipates well and gets to top speed quickly, ideal in modern style of offense. Kick and punt return ability. Could show more elusiveness against support defenders. Physically developed prospect with less room to add mass than others. Should find way to earn manufactured touches relatively early at high-end Power Five program to start notable college career.
- Straight line speed
- Short area quickness
- Runs hard every play
- Dangerous receiver out of the backfield
- INCREDIBLY productive
- Slight build
- Pass protection (all HS RB’s can develop in this area)
- Average at making defenders miss
Like I wrote about Donald Chaney Jr., it’s not a matter of if Knighton sees PT at Miami, it’s When. And for a player with his skillset, which is different than the other backs on the roster, a small role could be available for him this year, with a bigger role coming in the future.
Chances of a Redshirt: 6/10
Sooner or later, Jaylan Knighton will be an impact player for Miami’s offense. With several backs in front of him on the roster, I think that will maybe take a year before happening, but the future is bright for this talented player nonetheless.
That’s it for this installment of the Recruit Notebook.