When Alexy Jean-Baptiste joined the Pompano Beach (Fla.) Coconut Creek High football team, it didn’t take long for Kareem Reid to recognize his talent.
It did, however, take some time for the coach to figure out the best position for the three-star Arkansas commit.
Transferring into the program from Blanche Ely in April of 2014, Jean-Baptiste started as a free safety. Three or four games into last season, Reid decided to move him to outside linebacker, where he has been ever since.
“We knew immediately that he was a kid that if we found a proper role for him, he had an opportunity to be a big-time player,” Reid said. “When it came down to it, he was actually better suited closer to the line of scrimmage, applying pressure to the quarterback and doing some things like that.”
Jean-Baptiste is just one piece of Coconut Creek’s talented defense, which includes three-star cornerback and Georgia commit Malek Young and four-star cornerback Trayvon Mullen, who has offers from Clemson, Florida State, LSU, Ohio State, Oregon and USC, among others.
The Cougars also have two-star quarterback and Southern Illinois commit Jhakari Harrison and four-star wide receiver Binjimen Victor, who has offers from Alabama, Florida, Goergia and Ohio State, among others.
“I think they’re all individually motivated to be great,” Reid said. “Obviously, being around great players makes you elevate your game.”
Playing in a new position midway through last season, Jean-Baptiste had to rely on the talent around him, as well as his own athleticism.
“He’s a high-motor kid,” Reid said. “He plays with a lot of energy. He can run; he’s one of the fastest kids on our team. His height, weight, speed ratio is really good because he’s what you’re looking for when you’re trying to build a prototypical outside linebacker.”
Because of that speed, Jean-Baptiste was able to have success both as a pass rusher and a coverage guy.
However, Reid said he has worked this summer to improve his football IQ.
“He made a lot of plays off pure athleticism,” Reid said. “This year, he’s had a full year under his belt, so I think he understands what we’re trying to get done a little bit better.”
The first chance Jean-Baptiste will have to showcase his higher football IQ is Saturday afternoon, when Coconut Creek opens its season in Atlanta against Marist (Ga.), the preseason No. 5 team in Georgia’s Class 4A.
“We’re looking to come out and put on a good performance,” Reid said. “If we execute the way we’re supposed to, I think we’ll be fine, but it’s going to be a challenge.”