Sooner Target Derrick LeBlanc Talks Basketball Background, Lincoln Riley's Prestige
Oklahoma’s 2021 recruiting class is still taking shape, and Sooner Nation barely pays a thought the class of 2022.
But Alex Grinch and the Sooner defensive staff are already working to build the class of 2023.
They’re in it for the long haul, and the latest evidence of that reality is their offer to 2023 defensive end Derrick LeBlanc. He’s a 6-foot-5, 240-pound defensive end from Kissimmee, FL, and he’s already one of the most coveted pass rush prospects in the country. LeBlanc owns an astonishing 41 Division I scholarship offers, and that number is all the more remarkable given his dearth of experience on the gridiron.
“This is only my third year of playing football,” he told SI Sooners. “I’d been playing basketball my whole life.”
Sound familiar? 2021 DE Nathan Rawlins-Kibonge, who committed to Oklahoma on June 17, was also reared as a hoopster before giving football a try in his junior year of high school. For LeBlanc, the transition to football largely came as a product of his dominance on the hardwood.
“It got boring, and my coaches for basketball were telling me to try football because I was getting a little too physical,” said LeBlanc. “And the first day I came to a football practice with a helmet and shoulder pads, we were doing hitting drills and I hurt the [other] kid. And my coaches told me that if I take this serious, I’d go really far in life. So I took it serious.”
As a born-and-bred basketball player, LeBlanc knows that his footwork as a pass rusher is already elite. But he acknowledges that he’s still got plenty to learn about the finer points of defensive line play.
“[Basketball] helps me with my feet,” he said. “But all the striking and pass rushing, I just have to learn it from somebody.”
LeBlanc spoke very highly of his coaching staff at Osceola High, as well as an alumni network that includes Virginia Tech defensive tackle Mario Kendricks and Virginia defensive end Jordan Redmond. He also mentioned that the Osceola staff is especially familiar with one very conspicuous Sooner coach.
“I talked to Coach Thibs [Calvin Thibodeaux] and Lincoln Riley,” said LeBlanc. “My coaches from my school already knew about Lincoln Riley, because he used to coach at ECU and he used to recruit our area. He already knew my coaches.”
Another program that’s hot after LeBlanc is defending national champion LSU. Ed Orgeron is making a significant push to bring the Kissimmee standout to Baton Rouge, but LeBlanc says he’s pumping the brakes for now.
“I talked to Coach O today,” LeBlanc said. “They want me to commit right now so I can build a class, but I don’t listen to that. I take my time, weigh my options. I’m not trying to go to a school for a logo or something like that.”
So what is LeBlanc looking for at the next level?
“For me, their strength program, relationship with the coach, environment, graduation rate, how many sacks they average per year, and who’s in front of me [on the depth chart],” he said. “The little things matter to me.”
As he continues to grow and develop as a defensive lineman, LeBlanc says that watching tape has helped him take note of all the ways in which he can refine his game. It’s also helped him see just how raw his talent is, and just how high the ceiling might be.
“I’m not even anywhere close to where I want to be,” said LeBlanc. “I’ve got a lot to prove to a lot of people. I watch a lot of pass rushers - Lawrence Taylor, Nick Bosa, Chase Young, Dwight Freeney. I want to be the next elite pass rusher.”
As the nation’s top football schools continue to seek his commitment, LeBlanc says that every scholarship is an additional incentive to chase greatness.
“It’s just teaching me to stay humble,” he said. “Every offer just means I gotta work harder.”
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