The Miami Hurricanes did some of their best recruiting on the West Coast this week, and it paid off on Sunday night.
Linebacker James Burgess Jr. and wide receiver Herb Waters, teammates at Homestead (Fla.) Senior High School, became the latest verbal commitments to Miami after spending a week at The Opening in Beaverton, Oregon.
Miami has 22 verbal commitments with 12 coming from an area once known as the "State of Miami" that includes Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Burgess said his constant communication with Miami commits Randy "Duke" Johnson and Keith Brown, teammates at Miami Norland, helped sway him.
"We were talking about [committing] on the entire trip to Oregon, all week while we were there and on the trip back," Burgess said. "Herb and I always talked about playing at the same school and he really wanted to commit before our senior year began."
Burgess wanted to wait awhile and possibly take his recruitment up to signing day. The 6-foot, 210-pounder had offers from Cincinnati, Florida, Louisville, Ole Miss, North Carolina and West Virginia.
Instead, the four-star prospect will follow in the footsteps of his father, who played at Miami in the 1990s.
"To be honest I really liked Oregon and FSU during this process," Burgess said. "But Oregon looks like they have gotten into some trouble and I haven't been in touch with the FSU coaches in quite a while.
"I still plan on going to Tallahassee for their camp in a week or so because I want to compete there."
Burgess said his father never pushed him in any direction and for much of the process it looked like Miami was on the outside.
"I always said I wasn't going to The U but really I was fooling myself," Burgess added. "I had to sit back and realize that it was my dream school. It's the place I grew up supporting."
Waters, a 6-0, 170-pounder, had offers from Florida State, UCF, Louisville, Oregon and West Virginia.
"I really like the family that's coming together at Miami and I wanted to be close to home," Waters said. "I'm excited to be playing on the same team with my best friend.
"We're going to be part of the group that gets Miami back to the top."
Don't expect The Opening to be the end of the Miami recruits' connections. According to Burgess, they are still targeting a few guys.
"My man Lucas Thompson [Winter Garden, Fla./West Orange] is ready to join us," Burgess said. "We were texting today and I think he's waiting for the right moment and he's going to commit. I know he wants to check out a few other schools but I believe he's going to end up here.
And they aren't limiting themselves to uncommitted prospects either.
"I'm working on Sean Price [Citra, Fla./North Marion] too. I know he's committed right now, but we've got to get the best of the best here," Burgess said.
Pittman thrives without pads
Although a rule in the Ohio High School Athletic Association left defensive lineman Se'von Pittman (Canton, Ohio/McKinley) without pads for the lineman events, the Michigan State commit said it was a blessing in disguise.
"To be honest I really liked it because it allowed me to focus on using my hands more," Pittman said. "Instead of just using strength I had to use more technique to get the job done.
"It's something that will help me a lot in the upcoming season."
The 6-4, 230-pounder committed to Michigan State a month ago and says he couldn't be happier.
"The more I know about the program the better decision I feel like I've made," Pittman said. "Everything is a fit for me on and off the field."
Gridiron Kings talk begins
Several of the prospects couldn't wait to leave Oregon before they began talking about the next big showcase.
Running back J.C. Coleman (Chesapeake, Va./Oscar Smith), who will be playing for the Midwest team, didn't take long to get into playful banter with future Southeast opponents Chris Bivins (Gainesville, Fla./Gainesville), Sean Price (Citra, Fla./North Marion) and LaTroy Pittman (Citra, Fla./North Marion).
"Time for that Southeast streak to come to an end," Coleman said. "They know they can't cover me so I'm going to get the ball every time and score."
Not surprisingly, Pittman disagreed.
"What? We're going to fold you like a beach chair, man," Pittman said. "Look at this squad we got on the Southeast. We're going to fold you up man … and I don't even play defense!"
Defensive back Travis Blanks (Tallahassee, Fla./North Florida Christian) was disappointed about his team's early exit from the Nike 7on competition and vowed that things will change later this month in Orlando.
"I'm not real happy about not being able to compete right now," Blanks said. "You come out here to make plays and it didn't happen for us.
"Everyone was real good here and you had to bring your best game. We have another event coming up soon and things will be different."
Kline continues pitch
Now that wide receiver Bryce Treggs (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) is in the fold at Cal, quarterback Zach Kline (Danville, Calif./San Ramon Valley) is back to working on another Cal target, running back KeiVarae Russell (Everett, Wash./Mariner).
"Oh yeah I've been talking to KeiVarae all week because he's a heck of a running back," Kline said. "He can do it all in the backfield and frankly we need a running back like him at Cal."
Although Kline was the first pick in the Nike 7on draft, his team, Alpha Speed, was one of the first to be eliminated. Despite the results of the tournament, Kline loved his time in Oregon.
"Overall I had a blast, I mean it's disappointing to go out of the tournament early but it doesn't mean I didn't have fun and enjoy the experience," Kline said. "I came here for the competition and to bond with some of the best players in the nation. I did that."
Kline also has a better idea of where he stands amongst the best.
"There are no bad players out here so I have a real good idea where my game is and the things I need to work on," Kline said.
Bivins grateful for opportunity
Defensive back Chris Bivins (Gainesville, Fla./Gainesville) started the camp circuit without an offer.
But six months later, Bivins is committed to USF and just enjoyed a "dream week" in Oregon.
"It's crazy when you think about it really," Bivins said. "I never doubted myself or my abilities but this has really been one of the best experiences of my life.
"The people at Nike were so nice and treated us well. This is the best I've ever been treated. All the players were great, too. They were all real chill and no one was stuck up."
The accolades keep coming for the 5-11, 175-pounder, as he'll head to Gridiron Kings to be part of the Southeast team in two weeks.
"We're going to keep the Southeast's streak of winning alive," Bivins said. "With me, Duke, Keith, Travis, Sean … it's going to be a lot of fun."
Bivins said he and linebacker teammate Tashon Whitehurst will take an unofficial visit to USF this week and might camp in Tennessee next week.
Corey Long has been covering high school football and recruiting in the Sunshine State since 1995. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.