2014 College Football Recruits with Skills to Thrive on Offense and Defense
It takes a uniquely talented athlete to command consideration as an elite player on both sides of the ball. The task requires superior athleticism, selflessness and a foundation of strong fundamentals.
We've seen these two-way players emerge in professional football, including Troy Brown, Chuck Bednarik, Julian Edelman and Deion Sanders. Versatility is the key, and we'll take a look at several high school senior recruits who appear capable of taking on offensive and defensive roles.
5-Star John Smith (Long Beach, Calif.)
Long Beach Poly star John Smith plays like a heat-seeking missile at safety, where he displays enough speed to patrol center field on an island. The 6'1", 200-pound prospect is an outstanding tackler and provides run coverage in the box.
On offense, he can take over along the outside. A physical frame and impressive leaping abilities enable Smith to gain position while the ball is in midair (a trait that also serves him well on the defensive end). When the ball is in his hands, he looks rather comfortable and runs with the tenacity of a running back.
Smith is also a dangerous weapon in the special teams' return game. He remains uncommitted, considering offers from Michigan, Oregon, Alabama, Notre Dame and Ohio State.
5-Star Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J.)
Paramus Catholic is led by one of the most complete athletic prospects to come out of New Jersey in years. Jabrill Peppers is a dominant defensive back who has the look of a first-year starting cornerback in college.
The 6'1", 205-pound Michigan commit was named the 2011 Sophomore Player of the Year and has simply continued to progress. Peppers pounds receivers at the line of scrimmage and has the smoothest coverage skills of any player in the 2014 class.
However, his abilities with the ball are too tremendous to ignore. He is an exemplary receiver in the slot or lined up wide.
At running back, Peppers is a punishing runner who displays an array of fancy footwork and off-the-charts agility. There's no doubt his future in college is on defense, but Wolverines coach Brady Hoke would be selling himself short if he didn't create some wrinkles in the offense tailored toward this prodigious prospect.
5-Star Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif.)
Adoree' Jackson is a jack-of-all trades playmaker at Junipero Serra High School. He has piqued the interest of college programs across the country, including Florida, USC, UCLA, Notre Dame and Oregon.
The 5'10", 180-pound playmaker can suit up as a running back, wide receiver or cornerback at the next level. It would be tempting for any coach to give him snaps on either side of the ball.
Through three games of his senior season, Jackson has caught 19 passes for 331 yards and five scores, according to 247Sports. He also has 11 tackles, a forced fumble and 130 yards and another touchdown on the ground.
4-Star Bo Scarbrough (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
While Bo Scarbrough may not be the most athletic Bo to take over football action in Alabama, he certainly has a scintillating skill set. The Tuscaloosa native, who currently attends IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., is a powerful runner with downhill speed that is simply scary for anyone standing between him and his intended target.
Scarbrough, a 6'2", 225-pound freight train, is best suited for a collegiate career in the offensive backfield. The Crimson Tide commit has rushed for 403 yards in his past two games, per 247Sports.
Based on his demeanor and toughness, it would be extremely interesting to see Alabama coach Nick Saban implement him on defense. He would be a mighty intriguing prospect at strong safety if given a chance to really embrace his ferocity.
Scarbrough routinely welcomes contact when he has the ball. Lining up on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage would give him plenty more opportunities to flash his raw power.
4-Star Kevin Shorter (Newton, Texas)
Kevin Shorter is among the most versatile skill players in football-rich Texas. He is a dynamic and dominant running back who provides a touchdown threat for Newton High every time he touches the ball.
The 6'0", 185-pound speedster (clocked at a 4.40 40-yard dash per 247Sports) rushed for seven touchdowns in his first three senior contests. He has excellent rushing-lane awareness and rarely dances before dashing through a crease at the line of scrimmage.
Shorter, who committed to Texas in August, is also a shutdown secondary force. Few wide receivers can match up with his size, and he isn't shy about setting the tone early with scrappy effort upon the snap.
Although he is widely considered a cornerback prospect on the defensive side of the ball, his speed and toughness could translate quite well at free safety.