DALLAS — There has been little down time for Cheyenne Labruzza in the last six months.
The 3-star Louisiana cornerback has made several recruiting visits in and out of the state in between an arduous rehabilitation process to repair a torn meniscus and preparing for his senior year of high school.
Oh yeah, and that also failed to get in the way of Labruzza preparing for his senior year of high school, where he is on track to finish with a 4.25 GPA.
Rated as the No. 20 prospect from The Boot in the Class of 2017, Labruzza committed to Tennessee on the second of two unofficial visits to Knoxville, Tenn., in April ahead of LSU, which had been courting the 6-foot, 186-pound defensive back for the bulk of the spring.
The Albany (La.) High School product had been working at the Mental Edge Sports facility in Madisonville, La., along with former Vols standout J.J. McCleskey. The multiple stages of rehab spanned nearly three months, but eventually came to fruition last weekend.
Labruzza made his debut for the Louisiana Bootleggers during the Pylon 7-on-7 National Championship in Dallas over the weekend, helping the team advance to the title game. Finally back at 100 percent, the budding prospect showed why both Tennessee and LSU are bound to go toe-to-toe for the elite corner in the months leading up to National Signing Day.
A view from the sidelines
A two-way star for his high school squad, Labruzza isn’t used to being a spectator. However, that’s what he had to get accustomed to doing for the bulk of the spring.
Labruzza was unable to participate in Nike’s “The Opening” regional camp in New Orleans, nor Albany’s spring practices that got underway in early May.
In order to fully nurse back his knee from the torn meniscus, the 3-star prospect needed to entrench himself in pre-rehab for a month followed by six weeks of rehab.
“It was sickening,” Labruzza admitted. “I wanted to [gosh darn] play. It was definitely hard sitting out, but the guys were playing for me.”
The 10-week rehabilitation process was spearheaded by
McCleskey, a former Tennessee defensive back who played eight seasons in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints and the Arizona Cardinals, spearheaded his 10-week rehabilitation process. McCleskey also offered uncanny advice to gain a mental edge when he arrives in Knoxville, Tenn.
“He taught me about hard work … hard work over everything. And also being coachable and seeing it translate onto the field,” Labruzza said.
“Because he went there (to Tennessee), he knows some of the coaches to give me a heads up on what to do and what not to do and what to expect. He taught me how to carry myself on and off the field, and how to prepare, how to train going in as a freshman.”
McCleskey’s tutoring paid dividends, which Labruzza displayed in Albany’s spring game on May 18 and during his 7-on-7 debut in the Pylon National Championships at AT&T Stadium.
Labruzza amassed more than 100 rushing yards in the spring game, then snagged an interception at cornerback in the Bootleggers’ first pool play game last weekend.
Cornerback: a mental game
Labruzza’s on-the-field triumphs may pale in comparison to the success the All-State athlete has achieved in the classroom. He maintains a 4.25 GPA, so if you thought that a 4.0 was perfect, then think again.
He has a knack for science and math and history, among many other subjects, and Labruzza credits some of his book smarts for his ascension as a defensive back.
“I would say a majority of the game is mental,” Labruzza said. “If there’s a deep pass, you got to response and have a short memory for the next play. You can’t get down on yourself. Otherwise you’ll give up more.”
Labruzza speaks from experience. Rarely does the uber-athletic prospect get beat in coverage, but he was caught off-guard early in pool play when there was some miscommunication among the defense.
The 4.25 student-athlete didn’t budge, though. Instead, he deflected a pass in the end zone on the following play, then snagged an interception on the following series.
So yes, consider the mental aspect of the game as critical as the physical part.
“It kind of goes hand-in-hand,” Labruzza said. “To be able to communicate on the fly, because communication is a big part of the game. If a coach gives you a last-second check or it’s a last-minute change in coverage, you got to communicate that and process it, then it has to translate onto the field.
“In the previous game, we checked into a last-minute call when there was motion. That kind of goes hand-in-hand with being in the classroom when there’s a test question that you haven’t prepared for.”
LSU’s push for the future Vol
The LSU coaches had ample opportunities to watch Labruzza this spring before he tore his meniscus.
The sought-after corner earned an offer from the in-state Tigers in mid-February when Labruzza attended the team’s “Boys From The Boot” event. He returned a month later for two visits in as many weeks, where it appeared as if the stars had aligned that the Louisiana standout would wind up at LSU.
In March, LSU coach Les Miles made it one thing abundantly clear — he wouldn’t let Labruzza attend college anywhere but home.
Tennessee threw a wrench in those plans, though, as Labruzza toured UT and committed two weeks later during the Vols’ spring game.
Later that week, members of the LSU staff returned to Albany High School to visit with Labruzza.
“I still talk to LSU,” Labruzza said. “After I committed to Tennessee, they came to my school that Wednesday. They were there for about four hours. I still communicate with them, but I’m still solid with Tennessee, too.”
Communication between the 3-star cornerback and the Tigers has continued throughout the spring and into the summer, and defensive line coach Ed Orgeron spoke with Labruzza last week before recruiting’s dead period got underway.
Orgeron made a push for Labruzza to return to LSU’s campus for the first time since he committed to an SEC rival, which has the elite talent contemplating his plans.
“Our last communication was about going to the camp in July,” he said. “I’m still making my plans and I may attend, but I’m not sure yet.”
LSU’s continued interest in Labruzza has not gone unnoticed.
Even though he’s content in his pledge to Tennessee, the Tigers have never stopped courting the in-state star. Labruzza holds offers from Ole Miss, Florida, Texas A&M and Missouri, among numerous others, but LSU has made the strongest push to try and flip the future Vol.
“To me, it means that they want me more,” Labruzza stated. “They were pressing for me, and it’s a good thing when the LSU Tigers want you as a recruit.”
Sam Spiegelman covers LSU football recruiting for SECCountry.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play in Tigers Stadium.