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January 31, 2011

Junior of the Year: Green-Beckham

Even before National Signing Day 2011 is wrapped up, the recruiting insanity has commenced for Dorial Green-Beckham, one of the top prospects in the 2012 class.

High-profile coaches from some of college football's best programs have already found their way to Springfield (Mo.) Hillcrest to get a jumpstart on recruiting Beckham-Green, a 6-foot-6, 220-pound prospect who's been compared to Randy Moss, A.J. Green and Calvin Johnson.

Comparisons can oftentimes be overstated as people try to prop up recruits into someone they're not, but seemingly everyone who has seen Beckham-Green play raves about his advanced abilities and just how special he is on the football field.

And in basketball. And in track.

Beckham-Green is so physically impressive that comparing him to current NFL standouts is no stretch. He's built like a lean tight end but has the athleticism of the world's best wide receivers.

Huge hands. Catches everything. The complete package.

There's not much to say negative about Beckham-Green. It's difficult to imagine he's still just a junior in high school.

"He dominates with his body and his strength and he has big hands that snatch the ball out of the air," Rivals.com analyst Mike Farrell said. "He's a natural red-zone threat, he can be a possession guy who can move the chains and make tough catches over the middle and along the sidelines and he has that deep threat ability.

"He's like Kyle Prater from a couple years ago but more filled out and seems to be more physical and faster. He looks like the kind of receiver who would challenge for No. 1 in any year we've been doing this. He's that special."

The offer list is already impressive and it's growing. Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Miami, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, UCLA, USC and Wisconsin have offered Beckham-Green, who had more than 1,700 receiving yards as a junior despite playing with a first-year quarterback.

With so many programs involved, guardian and coach John Beckham is trying his best to not let things spiral out of control. He's trying to be a middleman, an intermediary between so many college coaches and Green-Beckham so the teenager doesn't lose control of the process or lose focus on that he's still so young.

"Dorial is not really focused on recruiting and what's happening right now," Beckham said. "People find that surprising but right now I'm trying to do the best I can - it's not that easy - to create a little barrier in front of him, kind of be a gatekeeper. There's just so much. I want to make sure he stays focused on academics at school and he has basketball. He's really just being a pretty typical 17-year-old right now.

"There are a lot of great schools that have offered him. He has a lot of great opportunities. You just have to find that one that fits him. It's important to find a good fit academically. That's the most important aspect of it all. The football aspect will take care of itself. If it's not a good academic fit it's not going to make sense. It doesn't matter how many BCS bowls you go to, if it's not a good academic fit for him then it's not a good fit."

On the right path

Note to college coaches: Beckham isn't just giving lip service about academics. He's quite serious about finding Green-Beckham the perfect school for football and on the school side as well.

JUNIOR ACHIEVEMENT
Here is a look at Rivals.com's past Juniors of the Year:
ClassPlayerCollege
1999T.J. DuckettMichigan State
2000D.J. WilliamsMiami
2001Kevin JonesVirginia Tech
2002Lorenzo BookerFlorida State
2003Demetris SummersSouth Carolina
2004Rhett BomarOklahoma
2005Derrick WilliamsPenn State
2006Percy HarvinFlorida
2007Jimmy ClausenNotre Dame
2008Terrelle PryorOhio State
2009Matt BarkleyUSC
2010Seantrel HendersonMiami
2011James Wilder Jr.Florida State
Beckham has a vested interest and not only as a football coach. Green-Beckham lives with Beckham and his family, the product of a single mother who reportedly has alcohol abuse issues.

According to reports, Green-Beckham doesn't know his father. During his youth, Green-Beckham bounced between Springfield and St. Louis, never finding stability along the way. These were nightmarish realities of having no support system and dealing with the ravages of hunger and homelessness.

It so happened that later Beckham and his family decided that it was time for Green-Beckham and his brother to move in. The maturation process continues, the molding of a teenage boy into a man while the spotlight beams bright on him.

Beckham admits that Green-Beckham struggled early this season. Local newspapers and sports talk radio covered his every move. At times, it was too much and Green-Beckham felt no matter how well he played, no matter how much he dominated, it wouldn't be enough. Then around week four, Beckham said, the star wide receiver accepted his fate.

He just played.

That's when he started to dominate.

"Guys come in here and they say he's the best they've ever seen and that's coming from people who have seen a lot of great players," Beckham said.

"I don't think he takes that very seriously. There are things he needs to work on. You can compare him to Randy Moss and A.J. Green and Julio Jones but he isn't those guys yet. He knows that. Those are good expectations but that's really not the case right now."

The potential is there though. Green-Beckham had more than 800 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns as a freshman. He had a big sophomore season when he already was becoming a national name, a superstar in the making. His junior year was exceptional even though he regularly had two defensive backs draped on him.

Rivals.com recruiting analyst Barry Every saw Green-Beckham in person this season and was clearly impressed.

"He is a huge receiver that can make a play on balls that most receivers couldn't even dream of catching and he also has the speed to be a serious deep threat while making yards after the catch," Every said. "Green-Beckham is in his own zip code as far as talent as a receiver."

Great expectations

Beckham said this next calendar year will be crucial as Green-Beckham plays his senior year of football, decides on a college and prepares to leave Springfield for the next phase in his life - transitioning from a high school star to a college freshman.

The expectations are so high. Everybody expects him to have 200 yards receiving and four touchdowns every week and if he doesn't do that, he's overrated.
- John Beckham, Beckham-Green's guardian and coach
"This next year is going to be really important for him," Beckham said. "After next year he's going to be in a new place, new people and it's really important he continues to mature as a young man and take on those responsibilities.

"The expectations are so high. Everybody expects him to have 200 yards receiving and four touchdowns every week and if he doesn't do that he's overrated. There are expectations from a lot of people to perform at an extremely high level all the time."

A player of his caliber commands those unreachable expectations. The better Green-Beckham plays, the more people want out of him. That has been the way of sports since time immemorial. What Green-Beckham has to focus on, if possible, is what he can control, how well he plays, how he goes about the recruiting process and decides on a future home.

It's the burden for all the great ones.

"At the beginning of this year, he really felt the pressure," Beckham said. "When the season first started, the first few weeks, there was so much hype about him with the local media and there were articles in the paper about him and they talk about him a lot on the radio. You could tell the pressure was getting to him to perform. There were coaches here every week to see him.

"After the first few weeks he settled down and accepted his role and just started playing and having fun. Ever since week four, he accepted the situation and has been great ever since."



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