Notre Dame needs a strong 2022 linebacker class from both a numbers and talent standpoint. A must-get for the Fighting Irish at linebacker is Evanston (Ill.) High School standout Sebastian Cheeks.
SEBASTIAN CHEEKS PROFILE
Hometown: Evanston, Ill.
High School: Evanston
IB Grade: 4.0 (Top 150 caliber player)
Upside Grade: 4.5
Offers: Notre Dame, Oregon, Texas, Michigan, Stanford, Wisconsin, Louisville, Iowa, Ole Miss, Kentucky, Boston College, Iowa State, Minnesota, Indiana, Northwestern, Arizona State, California, Syracuse, Vanderbilt, Illinois
Recruited By: Clark Lea, Marcus Freeman
Rivals: 4-star - No. 109 overall - No. 12 outside linebacker
247Sports: 4-star - No. 158 overall - No. 19 outside linebacker
ESPN: 4-star - No. 249 overall - No. 25 outside linebacker
Composite: 4-star - No. 125 overall - No. 14 outside linebacker
Cheeks is still on the thin side, but he started filling out as a junior, and he has the kind of frame that should allow him to get to at least 225 pounds.
The Evanston standout shows impressive foot quickness, and his short-area burst and box speed are outstanding. As a sophomore he showed the ability to time his blitzes well, and he constantly put on display the ability to get through narrow holes en route to the ball carrier.
His instincts on film are impressive, both in the run game and pass game. Cheeks makes quick decisions and then explodes downhill. His first step burst downhill stands out, and he closes on the football in a hurry. He shows impressive lateral quickness on film and in drills, possessing quick feet, suddenness and good change of direction ability. Cheeks has good range and open-field speed, and he uses those traits to get good depth in coverage and to drive well on routes.
Cheeks not only makes good decisions, he plays with good angles and shows good gap discipline. He plays within the system effectively and doesn't over-commit.
Cheeks played inside linebacker as a sophomore, but as a junior he spent most of the time on the edge. That helped him get a lot more work on block destruction, but there is still work to be done when it comes to improving that part of his game, and he needs footwork improvement as well.
The knock on Cheeks, and one of the reasons he doesn’t grade quite as high as he athletic skills would project is his lack of experience. Cheeks missed a big chunk of the 2019 season with a shoulder injury, and Illinois had a shortened 2021 spring season.
Of all the prospects on the board, Cheeks still has the most to prove, but that also means he has the most room to see his grade take a jump if he can stay healthy and continue enhancing the technical part of his game.
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