WELCOME TO OUR RUNNING BLOG … LOOKING BACK AT WHAT TODAY'S FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICKS WERE SAYING AS HIGH SCHOOL RECRUITS
Josh Garnett, are you kidding me? He was a GEM recruit and they know what they're getting out of Stanford. We talked to him in 2011 and 2012.
"The schools recruiting me say they really love my feet and aggressiveness, they tell me my feet are well beyond my years and I feel that's what is going to set me apart at the D-I level. I feel my intelligence will also help me out think my opponents, too. To land my commitment the school is going to need to have a great school legacy of football, great players and coaches and a great bio engineering program."
One of the reasons I love Keanu "Kiki" Neal is because of who coached him at South Sumter High School–one of Florida's legends, Inman Sherman, and one of my best buddies in the business who just was named Sherman's successor after Inman's 30-plus years–my class of '93 HS classmate Ty Lawrence.
When Kiki was a freshman, Ty told me he had a freshman that was as good as any they'd had at the school ever–that includes a LOT of talent. Ty said over and over–this kid is a hitter.
Neal and I talked several times that year, including the day he picked the Florida Gators. He is the younger brother of former NFL player Clinton Hart, who never even played college football but used the Arena League to get to the NFL and racked up 333 career tackles, 10 INTs and scored a few defensive TDs in his 9-year career.
"People love my physicality and Florida has a defense where they want their players to attack. I fit perfectly in that defense and how they run it. You have more reaction time at safety, further away from the ball and you can get a better angle. You can pretty muchy roam. You can be pretty free to go. I do feel like I bring that to the game. I'm a smart player and I make smart plays."
In the June of 2012, I spent a day with Laremy Tunsil and his teammates as they worked out at Lake City Columbia HS in north Florida, later meeting with head coach Brian Allen and Tunsil’s quarterback Jayce Barber—who went on to sign with FCS powerhouse Jacksonville State.
Coming into this visit, I’d heard from rival high school coaches that Tunsil was soft. That he was not nearly the prospect people made him out to be.
Geez …. were those coaches wrong.
QB Barber told me how nobody ever touched him from his blindside. How he had more faith in his blindside than his front side—thanks to the athletic Tunsil.
The very soft-spoken and friendly Tunsil offered this up.
“I don’t say nothing at all,” Tunsil told me that hot June day in Florida. “I just worry about my angle on him, and I tell my guard to do it too. That’s just the way I am. I’m not a talker. I feel like I can talk on the field with my pads instead of talking trash."
“I’m an assassin, just a quiet one.”
He also offered this … read into it what you may:
“I’ve got to protect the quarterback from going to the hospital … it’s very important to me. In the NFL the blindside tackle is the second most paid player. That’s amazing right there.”
“They say I have a defensive player’s mentality,” Stanley told me back then. “I am quicker and faster than most linemen my size and I’m very athletic and that I can thrive at the next level.”
The thing I’ll always remember about Ezekiel Elliott is how bubbly the kid was in high school. He loved to talk, not necessarily in a bad way. He was a kid who could express what he thought.
We talked earlier about Goff being prophetic back in 2012, how about Elliott being prophetic back in April 2012 about what Urban Meyer would do for the Ohio State program …
“I just like the want of Urban Meyer, the want to win and his abilities to turn programs around."
“He has done it in the past, and I believe the recruits and myself think he can do it now and win a national championship in a few years."
"I can be used as a rusher and as a receiver and yes, as a Percy Harvin type.”
In June of 2012, three months after his commitment to Cal over Boise State and Washington State, I asked Jared Goff if he would answer a few questions for a Sporting News magazine poll we were running about recruiting.
“Sure, no problem!” a friendly Goff texted back.
When we got to talk, he told me that if he could check out a school that wasn’t one of the big schools after him, he would love to take a visit to Alabama. He listed his favorite recruiter as Cal’s Marcus Arroyo, who is now at Oklahoma State.
His feeling about the “hat dance” some recruits do when announcing their school choice?: “I think it’s cool, but sometimes looks immature by the recruit. It would be cool to be able to do it, but I wouldn’t want it televised.”
Biggest tall tail he heard from schools: “You’ll be a four year starter”. Turns out he started three at Cal.
When asked about coaches bringing up NFL potential, he said most of the coaches he dealt with talked about grooming him into an NFL prospect as much as they talked about academics. For a future Cal player, that obviously sticks out.
Then when I asked him what percentage of coaches guaranteed him he’d go to the NFL if he chose their program.
“I’ll say probably about 80 percent of them said that,” Goff told me.
“But I believe most of them.”
Prophetic? Indeed. Way back in June 2012.