February 5, 2007
Baton Rouge, LA (CSTV U-WIRE) -- "Reggie-like."
John Curtis Christian High School running back coach Jeff Curtis used this adjective to describe one of this year's highest-ranked prospects, running back Joe McKnight.
"He's such a versatile athlete," Curtis said. "He's not just limited to a power tailback or a speed tailback but can also play receiver, [defensive back] and kick returner. Just like Reggie Bush at [the University of Southern California], he can do it all."
McKnight, five-star recruit from River Ridge, who saw time at running back, wide receiver, defensive back and kick returner for the back-to-back-to-back Louisiana Class 2A state champion Patriots, enters signing week as the No. 2-ranked prospect in the nation by Rivals.com.
During nine regular-season games, McKnight averaged 16.4 yards per carry and 36.7 yards per reception for the Patriots. In 14 total games this past season, he carried 45 times for 709 yards and 14 touchdowns, an average of 15.7 yards per carry, and caught 24 passes for 735 yards and 13 touchdowns, an average of 30.6 yards per reception.
John Curtis head coach J.T. Curtis said McKnight is one of the most talented players he has ever coached and said what makes him so special is his ability to play a multitude of positions.
"He's a guy that has the ability to make big plays with both his speed - he has outstanding speed - and his great elusiveness in the open field," Curtis said. "He's just one of those guys that is well-rounded and has the ability to make big plays regardless of the position he is in, whether it's at running back, whether it's at wide receiver or at punt returner."As a special teams player, McKnight averaged 22.3 yards per return, returning 12 punts for 268 yards and three touchdowns. He also returned five kickoffs for a 34.6-yard average during his senior campaign.
During his junior year, the 2006 Louisiana Farm Bureau Mr. Football carried the ball 36 times for 500 yards and nine touchdowns while hauling in 20 receptions for 497 yards and five scores.
He also scored five special teams touchdowns - four from punt returns and one from kick returns - while averaging 38.7 yards per kick return and 29.3 yards per punt return in 2005.
The numbers McKnight has compiled over the past two years have earned "the next Reggie Bush" nationwide attention from many scouts, including JC Schurburtt, the Southeastern analyst for Rivals.com.
"He's exceptional with the ball in his hands," Schurburtt said in his scouting report. "He has elite speed and can score from anywhere on the field but isn't just a burner. He's a tough runner between the tackles, has excellent vision and also has an excellent feel for the passing game."
"McKnight follows his blocks well, and his outstanding football instincts cause him to accelerate at just the right time on big plays. [He] doesn't have ideal size for an every-down tailback, but his ability and versatility - he could spend time in the slot - more than make up for it."
According to reports, McKnight will not announce where he plans to attend college until National Signing Day on Wednesday, but whether it is LSU, USC, the University of Alabama or one of the other five schools that he has shown interest in, his head coach is confident McKnight will have no problem performing at the next level.
"The difference in college and high school is the speed of the game, and the speed that he possesses will allow him to compete at that level extremely well," Curtis said. "That's why a lot of times guys in high school that go into college, some of them never quite get to that level that you might think they [can] because a lot of it's based on the speed. Joe has been blessed with excellent speed, and I think that will make the transition relatively smooth for him." After losing to John Curtis the past two years in the state championship game, St. Charles Catholic High School coach Frank Monica said McKnight is the best Louisiana high school player he has seen in his 38 years of coaching.
"He has great body control," Monica said. "He has excellent size. He has all the moves. He has pure speed. He has the power. He certainly has tremendous hands and good football instincts. I don't know what he lacks. I would like to be his agent. I think eventually that he's a guy that's going to be NFL-bound - if the good Lord spares him from injuries - and he's just the whole package. If there's a better player in America, I wouldn't want to play against him."
With all the talk about McKnight's speed and ability to make a small play into a big one, Monica said many of his skills are often overlooked.
"One thing that is not known is that he is a very physical player, so he can do a lot of things for you, and he can beat you a lot of ways," Monica said. "He's a special team's player. He can play offense. He can play defense. He has a tremendous nose for the football. If you're going to have a pick game and you want to start a football team, he's the first guy you pick."
(C) 2007 The Daily Reveille via CSTV U-WIRE