Keion Joyner is No. 1 on the initial 2016 football prospect rankings on Scout. He is a long and lean athletic outside linebacker with elite speed to the ball and the frame add another 40-50 pounds as he develops physically over the next couple of years.
Scout placed five stars beside Joyner's name about 10 months ago when we first started to put our list together for 2016. He was that good then. He is better now, and he hasn't even scratched the surface of his potential.
Over 20 schools have offered the 6-foot-3, 210 pound rising-junior out of Havelock a scholarship and he is taking the recruiting process slow. He visited LSU in the spring, the school he grew up following, and he still has family in Louisiana. He plans to visit Florida and Florida State later this summer, but he still does not have a list of favorites.
Nothing will Change
"Being the top prospect in the country means something to me, but I will be the same person and player I was before this," said Joyner. "It is nice to know that people not only local to me know about me and think I am a good player. That is something that really stands out to me."
As a sophomore, Joyner finished with 108 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, 7 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, and 1 blocked field goal. He did not always play four quarters either in Havelock's 15-0 season.
He will only use this ranking as a motivation tool to play even better in 2014.
"I haven't worried about rankings before and I will just use this to push me even more. I try to play hard now, but there is always room to get better, so I will use this to help me get there. There is always someone who wants to be better than me, so I have to keep working for this."
A Special Talent
Havelock head coach Jim Bob Bryant has coached some talented prospects, but Joyner could be his best.
""He's special," Bryant said. "He closes down the outside edge on whatever side we put him on. He's also a tough guy to block and a tough guy to run short routes on because he's so long. Having a player of his caliber brings a lot of notoriety to not only him, but to Havelock football in general. Havelock is a great football town and I'm blessed to be able to coach here and coach players like Keion."
2014 Tennessee signee Derrell Scott was a big-time recruit and Bryant has a prospect committed to North Carolina and South Carolina on his team right now with Joyner. All three should be very productive collegiate players in their time, but Joyner could end up being picked on day one to play at the highest level down the road.
"I think Keion be able to go to whatever college he wants and I'm sure he'll be playing in the NFL someday – and probably be a first-round draft choice."
"It's exciting and I'm excited for Keion," Bryant said. "It's good for our program and means a lot of college coaches will be coming through to look at him, which will also be good for some of our younger players and help them get noticed."
Leading the Way on Scout
A handful of prospects have been in the discussion over the past week about who is No. 1 for Scout. It is a very strong year on the defensive line in 2016, but Joyner was too good not to place at the top in the initial rankings.
Scott Kennedy, the Director of Scouting studies a lot of tape and he sees something a little different in the five-star outside linebacker out of eastern North Carolina.
"It takes a special type of player to be in consideration for the No. 1 prospect in the nation regardless of position," said Kennedy. "The player must combine outstanding physical attributes with instincts and playmaking ability to warrant being placed ahead of every other player in the country."Keion Joyner is one of those special players. At 6-3 and 205 pounds playing outside linebacker, he's long and lean with a lot of room to grow, but he still plays with great leverage and strength. He reads plays remarkably well for such a young player, capable of negating a read option run coming his way, because he's patient enough to make a quarterback make the pitch and fast enough to run down the running back in the backfield."
It is not just his ability to chase a play down with speed and length, he shows aggression as well.
"He attacks the offensive backfield on the blitz, but he's also a standout at dropping into coverage, reading the quarterback's eyes and making a play in against the passing game.
"Joyner is a fundamentally sound linebacker with excellent instincts, but to be the No. 1 prospect in the country, he still must possess a little more. Watching Joyner chase down a play from the backside is a thing of beauty. Offenses can't attack him directly, because he's too smart and strong. They can't run away from him because he's too fast.
"Football is a team game, but Joyner is still a one man wrecking crew. He's the No. 1 prospect in the country because he's plus physically, he gives plus effort, and he has plus instincts on the field. Put simply, he's bigger, faster, stronger, and more impactful than his peers."
See the full 2016 Scout 300 here.