In this installment of The Recruiting Notebook, we meet another twitchy, lengthy edge rusher to join the stable in Coral Gables: Tampa (FL) Wharton 4-star EDGE Booker Pickett Jr.
In the effort to add elite edge rushing talent to the roster, the Miami Hurricanes turned their attention to and recruiting effort to Tampa (FL) Wharton EDGE Booker Pickett Jr.
The son of the former Miami DE of the same name, Pickett Jr. has long been exposed to the world of big time college football. His uncle, Ryan, played DT at Ohio State (editorial opinion: BOOOOOOOO) and was a first round pick in the 2001 NFL draft. Uncle Ryan would go on to win a Super Bowl Championship with the Green Bay Packers (see earlier editorial opinion) in his career.
Anyways, back to Booker Jr. Unlike many other recruits, who take a year or two of HSFB JV or backup duty to cut their teeth before making an impact at the varsity level, the 6’3” 205lb defender made his presence felt from his freshman year. Pickett Jr. had 67 tackles, 5 TFL, 8 sacks (how’s that math work?), and 1 forced fumble as a 9th grader, and immediately, he was a name to know in the world of recruiting.
Pickett Jr. followed that up with a couple of massive seasons on the gridiron for Wharton. After posting 60 tackles, 17 TFLs, 22 sacks, and 3 FF as a sophomore in 2021, Pickett Jr. upped his game to another level as a junior, when he had 55 tackles, 16 TFLs, an insane 30 sacks, 4 FF, 2 PBU, and a FR. For his efforts as a junior, Pickett Jr. was named a MaxPreps All-American, 1st team All-State, and earned an invite (which he accepted) to the Under Armour All-American game.
A known legacy CFB recruit, Pickett Jr. has been getting scholarship offers since forever. Michigan. Georgia. Miami. Florida State. USC. Ohio State. Notre Dame. Those are just some of the schools that had extended offers to Pickett Jr after his stellar freshman HSFB season.
Evaluating his options, Pickett Jr. took plenty of unofficial visits to plenty of schools through 2022, after his sophomore season and through his junior season. Trips to Florida State and Georgia kicked things off in June, and in-season unofficials to Miami and Florida State continued the process.
Pickett Jr. was at Miami in January 2023 for Junior day, and it was then that the Canes started to make a serious push with the talented defender. But, rival teams were not going to let Pickett Jr. go to Miami without getting their say in the matter, so another round of unofficial visits ensued through 2023. Trips to Texas, Texas A&M, USC, Florida State, UCF, and Ohio State preceded two trips to FSU — one in June and another in September.
Through it all, Miami was steadfast in their pursuit of the defender, and got him down to Hard Rock Stadium for an unofficial visit for the Texas A&M game in September. 6 weeks later, Pickett Jr. committed to the Canes on October 19th. A late OV to UCF on December 1st was the only other action, but that wasn’t enough to sway Pickett Jr., who signed with Miami earlier today.
As for on the field? Pickett Jr. had another standard season. 66 tackles, 23 TFLs, 16 sacks, 3 blocked FGs, and 1 blocked punt was his stat line for a Wharton team that made the playoffs for a second consecutive season.
On the 247sports composite, Pickett Jr. is a 4-star prospect, the #17 EDGE nationally, #32 in the State of Florida, and #219 player overall in this class.
Pickett Jr. committed to Miami over robust list of 37 scholarship offers from around the country, which included Ohio State and UCF among many others.
As A Player
At 6’3” 200lbs, Pickett Jr. has good height for an edge, but needs to gain weight. He’s very light for an edge rusher, and adding weight will be necessary for him to stay at this position, one he’s incredibly productive at playing.
Which....leads me to the foundational quandary for Pickett Jr.: what position will he play? There have been rumblings that maybe a position change to linebacker may be in his future. I think Pickett Jr. has the athleticism to make such a switch, but he’s been so productive at edge that I’d like to see him have a chance to stay there, if possible.
Pickett Jr. is quick off the edge. He has a variety of pass rush moves, including a very nice spin move, that he uses to great success at the HS level. With his lack of weight/relative strength, speed has been Pickett Jr’s go-to in terms of ways to get past linemen. Sure, there’s been some power, but it’s mostly been speed. It will be interesting to see him at the Under Armour All-American game, where the competition is top notch.
When faced with double teams, Pickett Jr. does good work to try and split the offensive players. Usually his double teams are a tackle and a te or rb, not two linemen. That’s a combination that Pickett Jr. can handle, and I’m interested to see how he’d handle multiple linemen shading his way, if that were to happen.
Pickett Jr’s quickness allows him to get into the backfield often. He’s good at getting to the QB, and also does well when defending the zone read game. Sometimes, however, he ends up defending the run by accident, as the back comes his way as he’s making his way to the QB. Hey, whatever works.
For another look at Pickett Jr., here’s an eval from 247sports Director of Scouting Andrew Ivins:
A dangly speed rusher that’s full of juice. Racked up 60 sacks his first three years at the varsity level including 30 as a junior. Size hasn’t been verified in a while, but is believed to be over 6-foot-3 and carrying roughly 205 pounds. Obviously, will need to add some mass moving forward, but bloodlines suggest that shouldn’t be much of an issue as dad played defensive end at Miami while his uncle was an NFL defensive tackle. Terrorizes opposing offensive linemen (and quarterbacks) with an elite first step. However, isn’t one that just wins with his get-off as he’s already well-versed in a few different pass rushing moves and can swim/rip his way around the edge. Ability to dip and bend is extremely encouraging at this stage in his development. So is the fact that he understands backside pursuit and is constantly trying to produce negative plays. Biggest question moving forward will likely surround his future position/role. Seems destined to tack on muscle and settle in as a “Jack” linebacker in a 3-4 front, but might be able to eventually put his hand in the dirt and operate as a wide 9 in a 4-3 look depending on how his body fills out. Regardless, should be viewed as one of the top pass rushers in the 2024 cycle, and has the production to back that up. NFL upside.
- Variety of pass rush moves
- Unclear future position
Note: changed this up from just a freshman-season outlook to a career outlook for each player a couple years ago and we’re continuing that style this year as well.
As stated above, the first step toward projecting Pickett Jr’s path at Miami is defining a position for him. Is he able to stay a edge? Or will he move to linebacker? His path to the field, and success on the field, starts there.
Pickett Jr. will probably be a depth player for a season or two as he develops his body and increases his technique at whichever position he lands at. Past that, he has the ability and athleticism to be a force in the 2-deep at either spot, and potentially push for starting time as well. At worst, he’s a good program building player whose presence will raise the floor for the roster. At best, he’s a disruptive defender whose play impacts games and earns him awards along the way.
That’s it for this installment of The Recruiting Notebook.