GIDEL: ‘Freak' DB is one to watch

When the question arises to college coaching staffs across the country as to what the hardest position to recruit is, a resounding chorus seemingly stands in agreement. Cornerback.

When the question arises to college coaching staffs across the country as to what the hardest position to recruit is, a resounding chorus seemingly stands in agreement.


Despite an array of strategies of late, finding the type of athlete to fit the prototypical cornerback is a lot harder than some think. Hardly ever does an all-pro cornerback star at the position from birth. In fact, the majority of college cornerbacks are converted wide receivers, running backs or athletic quarterbacks.

At six-foot-one and 197 pounds, Jamie Keene isn't going to break that stereotype, but he might just be what college coaches across the country dream about. Despite starring in the backfield for Nelson County coach Bill Mason, Keene is an experienced and certified headhunter that has played corner before.

"I think most colleges are looking for running backs that are 6-feet tall and run a 4.5," Mason said. "You know – the freaks. Jamie's a freak athlete that can definitely play corner or safety at the next level, because he's already getting reps there."

Keene can certainly be defined as a "freak" athlete. Despite being slowed by a hamstring injury that left him a 16th of an inch away from surgery, the three-sport standout has shown considerable improvement after his 5 week rehab – recently running a 4.65 on his first try out.

"He had a severe hamstring injury that he suffered recently," Mason said. "He had a partial tear and is still getting his flexibility back. His latest time, though, was in the mid 4.6's, so he's getting back to 100 percent."

Keene currently stars for the Nelson County baseball team. He'll also be running track for the school this spring in order to improve on his forty time.

According to Mason, Keene's forty time preparation could make-or-break his collegiate future: "He's trying to keep his strength while playing baseball," Mason said. "The speed is gonna be the key for (Jamie), he's got a horrible take off right now and if we can just improve that, I think he'll be set. The fact he's running what he does, is remarkable considering how poor of a take off he has. Once he fixes that, he'll be able to get his number down even further. I wouldn't be surprised to see him running 4.4's by the summer."

Last season, Keene starred in the offensive and defensive backfield for Nelson, helping to form a formidable punch in the three running back wing-T offense. Keene ran for over a thousand yards, while also being one of the leaders statistically on defense.

"We're thinking about moving him to safety this year, so teams can't throw away from him like last year," Mason said. "He's just that good. Offenses had to adjust to where he was on the field because of his athleticism."

Mason said Keene's best asset is his aggressiveness – a characteristic that might translate into him seeing some time at linebacker next year.

"(Keene)'s so aggressive," Mason said, "He's got great hands, speed and athleticism. He's not afraid to get in there and make a play. In fact, he's probably too aggressive sometimes. If he wasn't so good at corner, he'd make for an excellent linebacker."

Offensively, he'll be the cornerstone for the team again this season. "He's gonna be playing half back again next year," Mason said. "He's gonna be a big part of what we're doing and he'll get the bulk of the carries. He's just too good to not have the ball in his hands as much as possible."

According to Mason, Keene is fully qualified after scoring an 18 on his ACT – a statistic that many coaches have already taken notice of. "He's getting the general notes of interest," Mason responded, ‘but that doesn't mean anything. When they start calling is when I think you can start saying colleges are interested. Western, Eastern, Cincinnati and Purdue have all called about him. Indiana, Louisville and Kentucky have all sent letters and want to get him to their camps this summer."

"I'm sure he'll go to UK this summer and the Louisville combine in May."

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