Malik Jefferson is the highest rated prospect in the most football-crazed state in the country. So it’s not surprising his recruitment is being closely followed.
Coverage of Jefferson’s pending college choice has intensified since he announced his decision date in August -- Dec. 19 -- and his campus visits over the coming weeks will only add more speculation.
Whichever school Jefferson chooses, it’s not hard to identify what he’ll do best at the next level: rush the passer. “He’s going to help you win games by going to get the quarterback,” Kody Groves, Jefferson’s coach at Mesquite Poteet (Texas) High, said.
Jefferson played defensive end in a 4-3 scheme early on before moving to outside linebacker after Poteet switched to a 3-4. From that position, Jefferson’s primarily responsibility is attacking the quarterback. What separates him from other pass rushers is his combination of explosiveness, power and range.
At The Opening -- a prestigious recruiting camp help in Beaverton, Ore., in July -- Jefferson measured in at 6-foot-2.5, 215 pounds, but he said he now weighs 225. That’s much bigger than most wide receivers, yet Jefferson could beat an overwhelming majority of them in a race.
He was clocked at 4.39 in the 40-yard dash and 4.19 in the shuttle run and recorded a 39.7-inch vertical leap to earn a SPARQ combine score of 145.65, the second highest at The Opening behind Destrehan (La.) High linebacker Kirk Merritt (147.60).
In addition to his speed, Jefferson is one of the strongest players on his high school team. He says can bench press 375 pounds, power clean 315 pounds and squat 490 pounds. Players with that much power are not supposed to move as quickly as Jefferson does, which is why he’s so tough to stop off the edge.
Because Jefferson’s role as an outside linebacker at Poteet mostly consists of pass rushing, it’s fair to wonder how he’ll adjust when asked to do more at the next level.
While he can run with opposing pass-catchers and cover lots of ground, Jefferson doesn’t have much experience dropping into coverage outside of 7-on-7 competitions. Still, given his athleticism and willingness to improve as a cover man, it may merely be a matter of getting more repetitions.
“I think he’s more than capable of becoming really good in pass coverage,” said Jason Howell, the Mid-South recruiting analyst for Rivals.com, which ranks Jefferson No. 1 among outside linebackers and No. 22 overall in the class of 2015. “He does a great job of tracking things down from behind against the run when teams aren’t running at him.”
Howell added: “Yes, he is best at one particular thing right now, but he has the work ethic and everything that’ll help him grow along the way.”
Jefferson’s father, Michael, believes baseball would be Jefferson’s best sport, even though he stopped playing it years ago. Jefferson also played on his school’s basketball team for two years and participated in multiple events on the track team, including the 100-meter sprint, 4 x 100-meter relay and long jump.
Where will Jefferson end up? His Twitter bio reads, in part: “Commited [sic] to Dr. Ralph H. Poteet high school !”
He acknowledged that Texas A&M was his top school at one point but said that’s no longer the case and that he’s still considering several options, including Baylor, LSU, Texas, TCU and UCLA. Jefferson said he plans to take several official visits before announcing his decision.
Whatever the outcome of Jefferson’s recruitment, his blend of size, speed and power should make him a force in any defense and a nightmare for any offense.
Around the nation
- Heralded receiver Jovon Durante allegedly had his transcript “fixed” to make him eligible at Miramar (Fla.) High, according to a report from the Sun Sentinel. Ira Fluitt, the athletic director of Miami Norland, the school from which Durante transferred this summer, reiterated former Miramar coach Matt Strout’s claim that Durante has played this season despite being academically ineligible after completing the spring semester with a 1.87 GPA.
Strout, who says Miramar principal Maria Formoso requested that he resign, told the paper that Durante’s low GPA was first brought to his attention when Strout, Durante and Miramar athletic director Horatio Major met last June. Strout says Durante’s transcript was changed to raise his GPA to 2.027, above the 2.0 standard required for eligibility under Florida High School Athletic Association rules.
Broward County Schools is now investigating the situation. If Miramar is found to have fielded an ineligible player, the school may face a financial penalty and be required to forfeit games. "The district and school leadership are taking this situation very seriously," spokeswoman Tracy Clark said in a statement Thursday, according to the paper. "At all times, the district intends to comply with FHSAA rules and regulations."
Durante, the No. 17 wide receiver in the class of 2015, committed to West Virginia in April. He did not play in Friday’s 34-14 win over Cypress Bay (Fla.) High. Miramar’s athletic directors told interim coach A.J. Scott to sit Durante until there’s a resolution on the school’s alleged violations of FHSAA rules, Scott said.
- Authorities arrested a senior football player at South Plantation (Fla.) High after he allegedly created a fake Twitter account and threatened to bomb the school and start a shootout. Among the tweets police told the Sun Sentinel that Andrew Leacock, a 5-foot-9, 170-pound running back, allegedly posted to the account were, “They call me a school shooter anyway so I might as well live up to that name" and “I pick who lives I pick who doesn't." Leacock, who reportedly admitted to creating the fake account, was charged with making a false report of planting a bomb, explosive or weapon of mass destruction.
- Another high school has canceled the remainder of its football season amid an investigation into a hazing scandal. Central Bucks High West (Pa.) superintendent David P. Weitzel announced in a statement that the school will not play its final two games in the wake of “allegations of improper conduct by numerous Central Bucks West football team members, and the failure of the coaching staff to properly supervise activities.”
The school district’s inquiry found that first-year players were asked to perform “humiliating and inappropriate” initiations, according to the statement, including one that required a newcomer to grab another player’s genitals through his clothing with other teammates watching. In addition, a police official said the school’s principal told him that younger players were led into showers with towels placed over their heads, in a routine they referred to as “waterboarding.”
"It's unfortunate," former Central Bucks West star and current Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine said, according to The Plain Dealer in Cleveland. "If what it is (out there) is true, there's obviously no place for that. As an alum, I can speak for all of us that it's an unfortunate thing. Bucks County, Pa., and Doylestown is a great place to grow up, it's a great place to raise a family, and to have a negative light cast on it, it's an unfortunate thing." Central Bucks West, which went 2-6 this season, won four titles in the 1990s.
Jason Parkhurst for Sports Illustrated
Two big-name programs led by coaches whose futures appear uncertain saw players decommit last week. Central Gwinnett (Ga.) High linebacker Adonis Thomas announced he is backing off his commitment to Florida, while Benedictine (Ohio) High linebacker Jerome Baker flipped from the Gators to Ohio State. St. Christopher’s (Va.) School cornerback Garrett Taylor elected to renounce his pledge to Michigan. Taylor is the No. 6 cornerback in the class of 2015, while Baker and Thomas are the No. 5 and No. 17 outside linebackers, respectively. Both Florida’s and Michigan’s 2015 recruiting classes count nine commitments.
- A Nike shoe honoring Plant (Fla.) High football sold out within 23 minutes, coach Robert Weiner told the The Tampa Tribune. Only 500 pairs of the black-and-gold shoe -- which includes the word “Plant” inscribed on the back heel above paw prints, a nod to the school’s Panther mascot -- were produced, and several of them were later listed on eBay.
Plant has won nine consecutive district championships and four state titles under Weiner. Nike also created a custom shoe for New Jersey powerhouse Don Bosco Prep in 2012.
- Demetris Robertson has been ruled eligible to play in his junior season. The Alabama commit was originally deemed ineligible after transferring from Savannah Country Day (Ga.) School to Savannah Christian (Ga.) Prep because of uncertainty over his change of address. Robertson won his appeal and caught three passes for 49 yards and a touchdown in a 24-14 win over Portal (Ga.) High last week. The No. 1 athlete and No. 5 player in the class of 2016, Robinson committed to the Crimson Tide in July.
- Timber Creek (Fla.) High senior Jacques Patrick committed to Florida State. Patrick is the No. 2 running back in the class of 2015.
- Wisconsin picked up commitments from Armwood (Fla.) High senior linebacker Jordan Griffin and Mater Dei (Calif.) High senior defensive tackle Olive Sagapolu.
- Ridge Point (Texas) High senior Cameron Townsend committed to Texas. Townsend is the No. 34 outside linebacker in the class of 2015.
- Two linebackers committed to Arizona State. Etiwanda (Calif.) High’s Khaylan Thomas is the No. 18 inside linebacker in the class of 2015, while Butler County (Kan.) Community College’s Davon Durant is the No. 8 JUCO player.
- Arkansas received commitments from Nashville (Ark.) High senior La’Michael Pettway and Fayetteville (Ark.) High senior Dre Greenlaw. Pettway is the No. 44 athlete in the class of 2015, while Greenlaw is an unranked cornerback.
- Nevada Community (Texas) High quarterback Jordan Graham completed 30 of his 39 pass attempts for 501 yards and nine touchdowns (one short of the state record) in a 67-62 win over Emory Rains (Texas) High. Receiver Tay Madkins caught five of Graham’s touchdowns, recorded 189 receiving yards and returned a punt for a touchdown.
- North Ridgeville (Ohio) High’s DeMario McCall carried 26 times for a county-record 445 yards and six touchdowns in a 57-46 loss to Elyria Catholic (Ohio) High. The game was McCall’s first start at quarterback this season.
- Long Branch (N.J.) High running back Dahmiere Willis rushed for 370 yards and four touchdowns on 36 carries in a 40-28 win over Matawan (N.J.) High.
- Columbia (Ill.) High running back Lou Isringhaus rushed for 229 yards and five touchdowns in a 45-22 win over Nashville Community (Ill.) High.
- Vicksburg (Mich.) High quarterback Dalton Ketelaar threw for 227 yards and four touchdowns and added 75 yards and three scores on the ground in a 56-39 win over Otsego (Mich.) High.