When college coaches call Mesquite Poteet to inquire about 2015 linebacker Malik Jefferson, coach Randy Jackson starts by talking about his star's intangibles.
"I told all of them that every one of his teachers would list him as their favorite student," Jackson said. "He's a great kid. When your best players are your best leaders, that's so huge. He'll be here for every summer workout that's voluntary, and that's a huge factor. He's a leadership council kid, and when players vote on team captains, he's a can't miss team captain. So he has all the intangible stuff. He's an A++ kid, and I can't say enough about him."
Jackson said that Jefferson is the kind of leader where if he's having a problem with a kid, or if a parent e-mails him needing help, Jefferson is willing to step forward and help that person out.
"It's pretty special," Jackson said. "Normally kids wait until their seniors. It's rare to be a leader as an underclassman. You have to be a pretty special kid. Of course, you have to have credibility, and the first way to get that is to be a good player. And with as good as he is, that's not a problem."
Nor has it been one. Jackson said that Jefferson was a great player from little league on, meaning that players were familiar with his abilities. And this past year, he really took off.
"Athletically, he's just a freak of nature," Jackson said. "He's about 6-foot-3, and somewhere around 215, and we've timed him at 4.5-flat. Last year, at North Texas's camp, he ran a 4.4 something. He's going to compete in the regional track meet in the long jump, and he's on our sprint relay this year. He's just a great athlete."
Still, Jackson said he wasn't sure how well Jefferson would be able to impact games as a sophomore.
"You just never know about the transition up to varsity," Jackson said. "We had him on JV as a freshman because we thought he might play varsity as a sophomore, but you're never 100 percent sure.
"Of course, then he just impacted game after game," Jackson said. "He blocked punts. He blocked field goals. He had seven sacks and 25 tackles for loss. He was tremendous a year ago."
Jackson called Jefferson an ideal pass-rusher and a "prototypical outside linebacker", especially in a 3-4, when Jefferson's ability to rush the passer surfaces. This year, he'll actually play some offense as well.
"We're going to put him at tight end just a little bit," Jackson said. "And that says a lot about him, because we really don't run a tight end. But we figured it would be better to get him on the field someway, rather than having him stand next to me for half the game."
No prospect is perfect, and Jackson said that Jefferson's lone issue — if it can even be called that — is a lack of experience in coverage.
"We don't ask him to cover a whole lot," Jackson said. "We're not going to ask him to. I really can't imagine that at the next level he won't be rushing the passer quite a bit. So that's really the only thing he would need to work on, his cover skills.
"We've talked about it, about putting him in coverage some just so we're not predictable," Jackson said. "But with his ability, if he's coming off the edge, I really don't care if [our opponents] know what he's doing."
"I came from a small school before this, so I'm not totally used to this," Jackson said. "I kind of thought once he got those offers from A&M, Texas and OU, other people would back off, but I'm glad to see him get all this interest. With the Internet now, it's so easy to watch kids' film.
"He's probably going to cause me a lot of extra work," Jackson said, laughing.
Those that do watch his film have been impressed, Jackson said.
"I can't imagine anybody watching his tape and saying they don't want him to be a part of their team," Jackson said. "I was at A&M visiting spring practices, and one of the coaches said that they just watched four plays and turned the film off and said 'hey, let's offer him.'
"I think he'll get a bunch of offers before he's finished," Jackson said.