NEW ORLEANS — Jontre Kirklin is listed as an “athlete” for recruiting purposes.
The vague terminology doesn’t do the 3-star LSU commit justice, though.
Kirklin, who measures 6-foot-1 and 166 pounds, is slated to play cornerback in the SEC, ahead of other in-state offers that would allow him to continue lining up behind center.
Heck, Lutcher (La.) High School coach Dwain Jenkins thinks he could play quarterback, wide receiver or really any position at the next level. It’s his choice.
That’s the luxury of being a “freak athlete,” as his teammates and coach so bluntly stated. His frame, his 40 time and his jumping ability are all mentioned when Kirklin’s future in the secondary is discussed.
“Jontre is a really good athlete. He’s born with it and blessed,” said Lutcher teammate and 3-star wide receiver Al’dontre Davis, who holds 20 offers, including ones from Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Mississippi State, Auburn and LSU, among others.
“When he gets to the next level, it doesn’t matter what position they put him in. He’s an athlete, he makes plays and he’s always going to be a leader. When you see Jontre coming out of the hole running a 4.2 (40), you’ll be like, ‘Dang!’ His jumping ability is outrageous.”
An instinctual athlete
Jenkins discovered Kirklin’s leaping ability last year as the coach of parish rival St. James (La.) High School.
During a basketball game, Kirklin scooped up a rebound and — flat-footed — slammed it back. In traditional Kirklin style, he followed the dunk with a brisk jog back across the court.
As his head coach this season, Jenkins has come to love — and at times, hate — watching Kirklin direct the offense. The No. 30-ranked prospect in Louisiana for 2017 is a marvel to watch, especially in the style he plays.
“He’s had a couple of plays where the play has been … off-schedule,” Jenkins smiled. “He finds ways to get the ball off to his receiver or takes a play where I’m hollering, ‘No! No! No!’ and runs it 60 yards down the field, moves in and out of people, and he does those things on a regular night. Sometimes, it drives you nuts, but you take the good with the bad.”
Jenkins is a Lutcher, La., native and, save for his three-year stint at St. James, has been entrenched in Lutcher’s football program for some time. He’s also spent his whole life in St. James Parish and has come across no shortage of notable athletes from the region.
That includes former LSU wide receiver and current Miami Dolphins record-setter Jarvis Landry, as well as Kirklin’s future teammate, Lowell Narcisse, the No. 6 dual-threat quarterback in the 2017 class.
Kirklin already has made his case to be grouped in that category.
“Of all those guys, he has the things you can’t coach,” Jenkins said. “Guys don’t line up and jump as high and do all of the things that he can do. He has that natural type of ability. He’s naturally gifted. He’s extremely competitive and that’s going to help him transition well.”
From quarterback to cornerback
Kirklin amassed nearly 5,000 yards passing and another 1,700 yards on the ground under center during his sophomore and junior seasons. In that span, he also made a combined 92 trips to the end zone.
The 3-star standout will pad those statistics and finish his career at Lutcher as one of the best quarterbacks to ever take the field for the Bulldogs.
Then, a new journey will begin on the defensive side of the ball at LSU. Kirklin boasts great height, wingspan and incredible burst to join Corey Raymond’s vaunted secondary. His experience playing quarterback over the last four years won’t hurt either.
“I’ll be able to read routes based on the way wide receivers line up,” Kirklin explained. “If they line up inside, they’re probably running a corner or comeback, something going to the outside, so I can figure out their routes.”
“He’ll have a great grasp of recognizing coverage and knowing what coverages are supposed to look like, so the learning curve will be shortened,” added Jenkins. “The way college offenses are with pattern-matching and pattern-reading, he’ll be able to fill right in and he’ll know the route combinations and how they fit and when guys are leaving zones. Some of those things will help mentally at the next level.”
— Sam Spiegelman (@samspiegs) September 23, 2016
Jontre Kirklin around the edge … And me backing up pic.twitter.com/JMWYiNdLaY
— Sam Spiegelman (@samspiegs) September 23, 2016
Kirklin’s reputation as being a nightmare for opposing defenses in high school should bode well for his switch to cornerback.
Oh, and that freaking athleticism likely will come to play as well.
Kirklin clocked a 4.6-second 40 time during Nike’s “The Opening” Regional in New Orleans this spring, but he — and his coach — don’t believe what the stopwatch read does the athlete justice.
“My 40 time might be a 4.6, but my game speed is way better than that,” Kirklin smiled. “In a game, you don’t worry about your time. You’re just running.”
“On that level, in the SEC, it comes down to his measurables,” his coach said. “Long arms, 6-foot-1 and can jump out of the building. It’s that freakish athletic ability. That’s what corners in the SEC are — freakish athletes — and that’s what Jontre is.”
All ratings are from the 247Sports composite rankings unless otherwise noted.
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