Frank Ladson’s blend of size, speed makes him priority for Miami despite Florida pledge

MIAMI — It’s easy to see just from looking at him why Frank Ladson is already considered one of the top wide receivers in the Class of 2019. The junior from South Dade High School in Homestead, Fla., blends the two attributes coaches can’t teach. At 6-foot-4 and 170 pounds, Ladson has the size to reach up over defenders and make plays. And with his lanky frame, Ladson has the long strides to create separation and stretch the field.

On Thursday in Miami, during the opening round of the Florida High School Athletic Association’s Class 8A postseason, Ladson put the former aspect of his skill set on display. The 4-star wide receiver hauled in a pair of touchdowns during South Dade’s 21-3 win against North Miami (Fla.) High School, both from inside the red zone. The receiver finished with 3 catches for 33 yards.

“I did pretty good this season, but I think I could’ve did a lot better,” Ladson said after the Buccaneers’ win at Nathaniel “Traz” Powell Stadium. “This year I’m focusing on my route-running.”

It’s easy to see why Ladson is one of the prospects Miami most wants to flip from Florida in the wake of the Gators’ recent coaching change. Ranked No. 22 at his position in the 247Sports composite rankings, Ladson is just as likely to develop into a deep threat as he is a red-zone weapon.

Two weeks before South Dade’s win against North Miami, Ladson helped spark the Buccaneers to an upset win against Miami Southridge High School by scoring a 79-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. On Thursday, his first touchdown came on a 13-yard slant in the middle of the field. His second came when he burned the North Miami cornerback at the line of scrimmage from 6 yards out, a score set up by Ladson drawing a pass interference in the end zone on a goal-line fade a couple of plays earlier.

Already, Ladson shows flashes of both skills. If he can meld them at the next level, he’ll have a chance to be one of the best wide receivers in the nation.

“My favorite thing to do,” Ladson said, “I like to go deep.”

Ladson isn’t just developing tantalizing potential in his wiry frame. The wideout is already producing. Through 10 games, including Thursday’s, Ladson leads South Dade with 25 catches, 554 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns, according to the Miami Herald. In two of those games, Ladson averaged more than 25 yards per reception.

“Once he gets separation, it’s a wrap because he’s got those long strides,” said Buccaneers senior D.J. Ivey, a 3-star cornerback committed to the Hurricanes. “Once he’s striding, it’s pretty much over with.”

With a little help from Ivey, Miami seems to have a good chance to sway Ladson. The wideout plans to be in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Saturday when the No. 7 Hurricanes host No. 3 Notre Dame. It will be Ladson’s third visit to Hard Rock Stadium in as many home games and he’ll make the trip, once again, with Tyrique Stevenson.

The junior 4-star athlete from South Dade is also committed to Florida and is another of Miami’s top flip priorities. Stevenson said he plans to reassess his pledge whenever the Gators settle on a replacement for former coach Jim McElwain, and the Hurricanes are making a strong impression in the meantime. Stevenson has visited even more frequently than Ladson.

Both remain Florida commits, although Ladson paired a Gators T-shirt beneath his jersey with a Miami wristband Thursday. He doesn’t shy away from his love of the Hurricanes one bit and said he has frequently spoken with Miami wide receivers coach Ron Dugans since Ladson first visited for the Syracuse game.

“Miami is showing me The U is back,” Ladson said. “Undefeated right now. Hopefully, they can pull out the W on Saturday.”

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