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Frank Buncom IV was engaged in a conversation that his father couldn’t quite understand. Buncom was visiting Stanford, and he was discussing neurology with a professor in the school of medicine. “It’s over my head,” Frank Buncom III said of the subject his son plans to study in college and beyond.
Buncom IV, a four-star defensive back in the class of 2015, first took interest in neurology when he was 7, around the same time his grandmother died after contracting a disease that affected her brain. Buncom began to look up brain science on his computer, and neurology became his focus as he kept researching and reading. “I don’t know what [the interest spawned] from,” Buncom said. “Maybe it just happened.”
Buncom studied neurology as part of his home schooling curriculum in seventh grade, and he has remained committed to the subject even though he has not been able to study it in a class since enrolling at St. Augustine (Calif.) High in 2011. Buncom listens to parts of college lectures through an iPhone application and reads books about neurology. Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, by Dr. Eben Alexander, is one of his favorites.
When Buncom isn’t studying neurology on his own time, he is excelling on the football field. He has developed into one of the top cornerback prospects on the West Coast, and standout performances at multiple camps this summer, including the Rivals100 Five Star Challenge in June and Nike’s The Opening in July, have vaulted him into the top 130 of Rivals.com’s 2015 player rankings.
Buncom, who has drawn offers from UCLA, Stanford, Oklahoma and Tennessee, among others, is the grandson of Chargers Hall of Fame linebacker Frank Buncom II. Buncom IV is a big, physical cornerback who thrives in run support and boasts good instincts and coverage skills. “That combination of being a guy who has great size at cornerback, but he also moves really well,” said Adam Gorney, a West recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. “He can keep up with smaller receivers or bigger receivers."
Gorney added: “And then he just understands the position. I think everybody knows he’s a really smart guy, and he takes that, and it translates over to the field really well, where he understands what his coaches want. He understands wide receivers' routes, so he doesn’t get burned on a lot of plays.”
If there’s any uncertainty about Buncom’s ability to develop into an elite corner at the next level, it’s rooted in his high school competition. Playing in the San Diego Section Division II level, Buncom rarely matches up with Division I-caliber talent. Some have also questioned his straight-line speed and initial burst. “What really convinced us that he’s a player was that he went to every national event this summer against really elite players and performed just as good or better than a lot of them," Gorney said.
Buncom is entering his fourth season as a starter at St. Augustine, where he also plays receiver. He doesn't plan to make his college decision any time soon, and it may not come until National Signing Day on Feb. 4. He announced his list of top five schools -- Duke, Oklahoma, Stanford, UCLA and Vanderbilt -- in July and plans to take some official visits, though the only one he has set so far is to Stanford, the school multiple people close to him believe he favors.
Buncom maintains a GPA above 4.0. He holds a position in student government and regularly visits an orphanage in Tijuana, Mexico. If his prep career is any indication, he has the brains and the brawn to make a splash in college football -- even if it's not always easy to understand what he's saying.
Around the nation
- Kahlil McKenzie, one of the top defensive line prospects in the nation, has been ruled ineligible for the 2014 season after transferring schools. McKenzie, who committed to Tennessee and was named the defensive line MVP at Nike’s The Opening in July, announced earlier this summer that he would leave De La Salle (Calif.) High and enroll at Clayton Valley (Calif.) Charter. Under North Coast Section rules, players can be ruled ineligible if their transfers are deemed “athletically motivated.” The McKenzie family is appealing the decision and issued a statement on the matter: “The fact that a system would deny any child of his or her senior year, in any activity for which that student has a God-given passion, is highly disheartening.”
- The top-rated all-purpose back in the country will be sidelined for the remainder of his senior season at McEachern (Ga.) High. Taj Griffin, who rushed for three touchdowns in the first quarter of Aug. 23 game against North Gwinnet (Ga.) High, tore his ACL while trying to make a special teams tackle in the fourth quarter. Griffin verbally committed to Oregon in April, a few months before his older brother, Georgia Tech freshman quarterback Ty Griffin, announced that he would transfer to the Ducks.
- Quarterback/Athlete Torrance Gibson has yet to verbally commit to a school, but the American Heritage (Fla.) High product may have tipped his hand. Gibson, who has announced Ohio State as the leader in his recruitment, wore a pair of Buckeyes-themed cleats in a recent game against William T. Dwyer High. During American Heritage’s 49-23 win, teammate and Miami receiver commit Dredrick Snelson could be heard referring to Gibson as an “Ohio State commit.” Gibson, the No. 6 athlete in the class of 2015, is expected to announce his decision in October.
- Michigan is determined to ensure that Mike Weber, the No. 11 running back in the 2015 class, honors his verbal commitment to the Wolverines. The Cass Tech (Mich.) product posted a message on Twitter last week indicating that coach Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier sang happy birthday to him. Hey, whatever works, right?
- Fans may be familiar with Timber Creek (Fla.) High product Jacques Patrick, one of the top backs in the 2015 class, but do they know about his brother? Peter Hayes-Patrick, 14, is entering the eighth grade at Orlando Avalon Middle School. Last month, Patrick, who plays running back and quarterback, received offers from Ohio State and Florida State. This isn’t the first time a player has been offered multiple scholarships before reaching high school. Dylan Moses, an athlete from Baton Rouge, La., also received offers when he was an eighth-grader.
- A hearing is scheduled for Thursday to resolve whether defensive end Rashan Gary, one of the top prospects in the country, is eligible to play at Paramus Catholic (N.J.) High this fall. Gary’s former high school, Scotch Plains-Fanwood, has alleged that Paramus Catholic recruited Gary. Scotch Plains coach Jon Stack charges that a man outfitted in Paramus Catholic gear spoke to Gary at a track meet last spring, and that boosters and star defensive back Jabrill Peppers, a Paramus Catholic alum who is now a freshman at Michigan, called Gary. Paramus Catholic president Jim Vail and Gary’s mother, Jennifer Coney, have denied that Gary was recruited, and Coney said his move to Plainfield was a legitimate change of residence. Under NJSIAA rules, New Jersey high schools are prohibited from recruiting players. Gary, who has drawn offers from Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State, among more than 25 other major-conference schools, is the No. 8 overall player in the class of 2016.
- Tennessee is taking an interesting approach in its recruitment of Lexington, N.C., defensive tackle Shy Tuttle. The Volunteers photoshopped a picture of Tuttle next to Beyonce on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Tuttle, who has a top five of Miami, Clemson, North Carolina, Tennessee and NC State, is expected to announce his decision on Sept. 26.
- Boynton Beach Community (Fla.) High quarterback Lamar Jackson committed to Louisville. Jackson is the No. 11 dual-threat quarterback in the class of 2015.
- North Little Rock (Ark.) High receiver K.J. Hill committed to Arkansas. Hill is the No. 26 receiver in the class of 2015.
- Ravenwood (Tenn.) High receiver Van Jefferson committed to Georgia. Jefferson is the No. 23 receiver in the class of 2015.
- Creekside (Ga.) High offensive lineman Venzell Boulware committed to Tennessee. Boulware is the No. 10 guard in the class of 2015.
- Lincolnton (N.C.) High defensive lineman Darian Roseboro committed to Michigan. Roseboro is the No. 6 defensive tackle in the class of 2015.
All rankings according to Rivals.com.