Miami's Class of 2012 off to good start

MIAMI, Fla. -- It was an effort that would have left junior linebacker Keith Brown (Miami, Fla./Norland) speechless if he hadn't seen it before.

"That's the Duke man," an exhausted Brown said about his teammate Randy "Duke" Johnson. "That's what Duke is all about. He'll do anything to win."

Fighting injuries to his ribs and hamstring Johnson did a little bit of everything at the right time to lead Norland to its first playoff victory, a 19-16 victory over Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington. It was a display that must have made coaches at the University of Miami smile.

Brown and Johnson were the first players to come on board for the Hurricanes in the Class of 2012. With Miami expecting to sign a small class in February, it's important that the group led by the ESPNU 150 Watch List teammates can usher Miami into a new era of success.

"We're the guys that Coach Shannon has pointed to for the future," said Johnson. "That's why it's so important for us to win games like we did tonight.

"It's not easy at the next level and we want to show the program and show the supporters that we never surrender. We don't give up now and we won't give up in college."

The 5-foot-9, 165-pound Johnson proved why Miami made him one of their biggest priorities. He played defensive back and grabbed a first quarter interception to stop the Tornadoes drive that could have put Norland down 14-0. His play led to a game-tying touchdown.

Johnson played running back and rushed for a 32-yard gain on a busted third-down play. Two plays later Johnson was in the role of quarterback on a halfback option and completed a 40-yard pass to Brandon Snell to set up a short touchdown to trim the Vikings deficit to 16-13.

And finally Johnson played the role of receiver on the game-winning drive, snagging a seven-yard pass for the game-winning score.

"We knew that Duke was hurt and we had to be careful about how we used him," Norland head coach Daryl Heidelburg. "But as the situation in the game changed we had to lean on him and he was ready."

Brown, a 6-2, 210-pound tackling machine, has been through enough adversity this season. He missed a little over half the season with injuries but his double-digit tackle performance Friday showed what kind of potential he has when he's fully healthy.

"Keith is a natural team leader," Heidelburg said. "He's a leader in the classroom and he's a leader to his peers on the field. When the chips are down you know Keith is going to fight harder."

The future of Miami was sprinkled all across the field at Curtis Park on Friday. After Johnson scored the game-winning touchdown he flashed the 'U' sign with his hands to the crowd.

One of the members of the crowd was quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (Miami, Fla./Northwestern), a member of Miami's 2011 class.

The Hurricanes' future signal called flashed the 'U' right back.

"I didn't see him do it but that's what it's all about right there," Johnson added. "I've known Teddy for years and I think we're all going to be doing great things in the future."

Watson moves on
On the other side of the field, defensive tackle Elkino Watson (Miami, Fla./Booker T. Washington) couldn't help his emotions as his family and friends consoled him after the stunning loss to Norland.

Still, for Watson, it was a victory just to get on the field Friday.

"He's been hurting a bit," said Booker T. Washington coach Earl Tillman before the game. "He's definitely not 100 percent but he's going give it a go."

The 6-1, 280-pounder has jumped on several recruiting boards in the last few weeks and recently secured an offer from Florida State to go along with previous offers from Florida, Louisville, Rutgers, South Florida and a dozen other schools.

The Seminoles have recently stepped up their efforts to land Watson and Louisville has always been in the picture thanks to Watson's close bond with Cardinals assistant Clint Hurtt. Watson's hometown team, Miami, has yet to come on board with an offer for Watson but if they do expect a three-team battle.

Corey Long has been covering high school football and recruiting in the Sunshine State since 1995. He can be reached at coreyespn@gmail.com.