Competitive drive the x-factor for top-ranked pass-catcher Brandon Inniss (2023)

ByAndrew Ivins

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What makes Brandon Inniss, well, Brandon Inniss? Five-star receiver, among the best at his position, a who's who of national powers after him.

Is it his college-ready frame? His picture-perfect routes? What about his knack for stepping up and making plays against the best of the best — something he's been doing since he took his first varsity snap four years ago? As the summer hits and scouts dig into the class of 2023 to stack the top prospects by position, they'll be chewing on all of it.

Former NFL defensive back and current Miami Dolphins assistant Patrick Surtain, who spent last year coaching Inniss at Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage, saysall the above make Inniss special, but it’s the five-star wide receiver’s mindset that separates him from others.

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“I think the biggest thing with Brandon is his competitiveness,” Surtain told 247Sports. “The guy competes at everything. He comes in everyday and works his ass off. He’s a team player and he’s just one of those guys that you classify as a football player. I know he’s a receiver by position, but you can put him anywhere on the field and he will be that good. He just loves to go out there and compete on the grass.”

That desire to be the best started at a very early age for Inniss, who the 247Sports Composite pegs as the nation's top-ranked wideout in 2023. Brandon’s mother, Amy Flinton, can recall back when her son first started playing football at the age of seven.Many future skill players have pee wee tales ofrunning wild down the sidelines, stiff-arming would-be tacklers and scoring at will. Inniss wore a high jersey number and was utilized primarily as a two-way offensive/defensive lineman.

“He was huge, so they put him on the line,” Flinton said with a laugh. “In practice, he would barely touch the other kids. I was so confused because I knew he was strong. Then the first game he got out there and it was – sack. Tackle in the backfield. Sack. Tackle in the backfield. I was like, ‘Brandon, how come you didn’t do that in practice?’ And he said, ‘Those are my teammates. I can’t hurt them.’ That was the first time when I kind of knew that football was going to be his thing.”

Obviously, Inniss never grew to be a 6-foot-6 pass rusher or a 280-pound pass blocker, but he eventually made the transition to wide receiver and by the time he was in seventh grade he had already created buzz inside South Florida high school football circles as a can’t-miss talent advanced beyond his age.

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Inniss started his prep career off at Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) University School where as an eighth grader he played alongside future Boston College wide receiver Zay Flowers and Georgia running back Kenny McIntosh. Inniss quickly established himself as a playmaker in a stacked offense, totaling 1,125 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns in two years with the Sharks. That type of production under the lights had college coaches from around the country calling.

By the time Inniss began his sophomore season at Miami Gardens (Fla.) TRU Prep his name had gone national as he debuted at No. 7 overall in the 247Sports’ initial top 100 ranking for the class of 2023. While there have been some cases in the past where anointing an underclassmen has backfired or stymied development, Inniss never seemed to change the way he went about things. So, when American Heritage lost its starting quarterback to injury a couple games into Inniss’ junior season, he never panicked about not being able to catch a certain amount of balls or square off against certain defensive backs. In fact, he begged Surtain to take over at quarterback.

“There was never any doubt,” Surtain said. “When Blake [Murphy] went down, he came up to me and was like, ‘Coach I want to do it.’ And it was just like that. He didn’t think of the college situation or his future or anything like that. He was ready to do anything to help the team and he did a helluva job. If he had started at quarterback when he was a little kid, he probably would be a D-1 quarterback. Like I said, he’s just a complete football player and a guy that players want to be around.”

Mike Smith, who took over for Surtain this winter at American Heritage, had previously served as the Patriots’ strength coach. He has worked with pretty much every NFL Draft pick that has come out of the small private school over the past decade or so and is a big reason why alums like Miami Dolphins running back Sony Michel frequently return for games and practices.

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Smith – like Surtain – will be the first to tell you that Inniss’ competitive drive is what makes him special, but he also thinks that Inniss is starting to grow as a team leader, which makes him even more of a irregularity in an era where so many high-profile recruits are concerned about their future and their future only.

“Everywhere he has been, he has been ‘the guy.’ So, he’s really used to being ‘the guy’ and having to be Brandon Inniss. But I think now, he has really bought into the whole team concept of things,” Smith said after American Heritage wrapped up spring football practices. “I tell our guys that the best player has got to be the hardest worker and the thing with Brandon is that he does everything in the weight room. He runs every route full speed. He doesn’t ask for any time off or anything like that. And guys have taken to that.”

“To be honest, that was my biggest question with him,” Smith added. “I knew how talented he was, but I always wondered, what was his leadership ability? And listen, he has been ‘the guy’ this spring. He’s taking the younger receivers under his wing and he wants everyone to be better, which I think is the biggest thing for him. I told him before we started this that he’s all-everything and that he’s got every offer, but the biggest thing for him will be how does he close out his senior year? What’s his legacy going to be? And I think he has really embraced that.”

American Heritage will open its season up on the road at Valdosta (Ga.) Lowndes before squaring off Week 2 with a Los Alamitos (Calif.) squad that features two USC commits: five-star quarterback Malachi Nelson and five-star athlete Makai Lemon. That game should draw plenty of eyeballs and is expected to be televised by the ESPN family of networks.

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When it comes to recruiting, Inniss says he’s not trying to rush into making another decision after having to back off an early commitment to Oklahoma once Lincoln Riley left for USC.

"I'm probably going to take [two official visits] this summer and then three during the season because I want to see some gameday environments," Inniss told 247Sports.

Inniss might not have all of his travel plans mapped out, but he did confirm that he's still planning to spend the first weekend of June at Alabama on an official visit before getting to Ohio State the weekend of June 17 for another official visit. USC, Texas A&M, Georgia, LSU and Miami are a few other schools that should be viewed as contenders in the recruitment at the tail end of the spring evaluation period.

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