FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — It’s getting kind of crowded in here, isn’t it?
Jimbo Fisher (Florida State) and Jim McElwain (Florida) to the north. Mark Richt (Miami) to the south. Charlie Strong (South Florida) and Scott Frost (UCF) in the middle. Even Butch Davis (FIU) and Lane Kiffin (FAU) have joined the party.
There’s as much football talent in Florida as there’s ever been — and more big-name coaches in the state than ever lining up to try to keep home-grown talent around. Although that didn’t stop Devin Bush Jr. from casting his lot with the Michigan Wolverines last winter. And it won’t stop the linebacker from continuing to try to sell other Florida kids on riding coach Jim Harbaugh’s Sunshine State pipeline north.
“I got most of (these) south Florida guys and I talk to most of them and it seems like now they have no problems with leaving home,” the Wolverines freshman linebacker, who prepped locally at nearby Flanagan High in Pembroke Pines, Fla., told reporters earlier this week. “And, you know, exploring new options or going hours away from home. Miles away from home.”
Bush Jr. was one of three Flanagan standouts to join the maize and blue’s class of 2016, along with high school teammates Josh Metellus and Devin Gil. Harbaugh already has a commitment from top local line prospect Kai-Leon Herbert from American Heritage School, and is trying to add Herbert’s teammate, Tedarrell Slaton, to the mix.
“(The Michigan weather) does play a role,” said Bush Jr., who’s been credited with 11 tackles and a quarterback hurry in spot/reserve duty this season. “When you’re not used to something, you’re like, ‘Man, I don’t want to deal with that. I’d rather stay in the heat.’”
The former Flanagan standout rolled the dice with the cold, and took his father — ex-Florida State safety Devin Bush — with him. Dad now works on Harbaugh’s staff as a defensive analyst, although he still, rather notably, keeps flashing his garnet-and-gold Seminoles love via a frame around his car’s license plate.
“It’s actually pretty funny that it happened this way.”
— Devin Bush Jr., Michigan LB and Florida native
“As soon as it happened, it felt like everybody was supportive of me,” Bush Jr said. “They got a feel of what Michigan is. They got a good feel from that.”
It’s a small world, sometimes, especially in football circles. Florida State, Michigan’s foe in Friday night’s Orange Bowl, was among the final choices for the younger Bush’s services — and in his first bowl game, he’s going head-to-head against some of the guys he’s known for years. Seminoles safety Trey Marshall actually hosted Bush Jr. on his recruiting visit to Tallahassee, and they played video games (Madden, mostly) for hours.
“It’s actually pretty funny that it happened this way,” Bush Jr. said. “(With) Michigan, Florida State being part of my recruiting process. Now (with) me getting to face them in this bowl game, it feels like it’s pretty funny. It’s coincidence.”
Or kismet. Or fate. Or just a pain in the backside. At the start of the week, Bush Jr. said he had access to just six tickets for friends and family, and was hoping to double that before game time.
“It seems like everything changed to Michigan now,” said Bush Jr., whose sister, Deja, plays softball at Florida State. “My little cousin is wearing Michigan gear. My mom’s wearing Michigan gear. My grandma is wearing Michigan gear. My dad’s wearing a lot of Michigan gear, too. It kind of changed.”
When it comes to recruiting, your best closers are your kids. And Bush the younger’s take on northern winters changed, too — once he’d finally made it through one relatively unscathed.
“I’m like, ‘Man, you’re in the snow probably five minutes,’” Bush Jr. said. “‘Other than that, you’re in the building.’”
So no, he’s not the first. And if the Wolverines can take care of business Friday night, he sure as heck won’t be the last.