Junior Season Highlights:|
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At Jordan's first scrimmage of that season, Rhodes had a solid performance at safety. However, he really opened eyes when he was experimentally moved to offense.
"We found out that he was really skilled at running back," Briggs said. "From that time on, we decided he was going to stay with us [at running back]."
Since then, Rhodes, a 5-foot-10, 200-pounder, has been more than just the feature running back in Jordan's multiple veer, multiple split back offense.
"He's multi-talented," Briggs said. "I think he's had touchdowns receiving, of course rushing, [and] throwing. It wouldn't surprise me if we gave him a day or two of practice if he couldn't be our punter. He's just very skilled, very coachable, he's smart – you don't have to tell him the same thing two or three times, and on game day he shows up and has a pretty good work ethic."
Rhodes ended his freshman season with 757 yards and four touchdowns on 137 rushes (5.53-yard average), 160 yards on nine catches, and returned a punt for a score. He also threw three passes and not only completed all of them for 74 yards, but all three of them went for touchdowns.
"It was a good learning experience working with the older guys ahead of me," Rhodes said. "I was scared at first just getting out of eighth grade, but practicing with those guys got me better."
Rhodes exploded as a sophomore, rushing for 1,545 yards and 11 touchdowns on 244 carries (6.33-yard average). He also recorded 22 catches for 252 yards and two scores, and completed one of his two passes for a 52-yard touchdown.
Injuries prevented Rhodes from eclipsing his sophomore yard total the following season. He missed two full games and most of another with a minor ankle injury.
Rhodes averaged 7.05 yards-per-carry and ran for 16 touchdowns on 183 rushes (1,290 yards) as a junior. He continued his triple threat reputation by turning two of his 19 receptions into touchdowns and tossing two touchdown passes of his own. He had 281 yards in receptions and 134 yards on five-of-nine passing.
"I had a good line and they blocked well for me," Rhodes said.
Rhodes' highlight tape, which is 12 minutes of long gains and touchdowns, has just begun to reach the DVD players of college coaching staffs.
Last week, North Carolina's viewing of the film prompted area recruiter Kenny Browning to contact Jordan assistant coach Jason Luck.
"He just said that he just started to look through the film and as the film went forward he just fell more and more in love with what he was seeing," Luck said. "The big thing was the different things J.R. could do... He also liked the fact that he felt like that he was a guy that shows potential to be a breakaway guy, not simply a pounder – somebody that can go in and once he got through those holes accelerate and then go the distance."
According to Luck's conversation with Browning, UNC would like to do some more research before extending a scholarship offer.
"He indicated that the staff in general watched the film, all liked what they saw, and that [Rhodes] was high on their list," Luck said. "He said they need to come out and see him and look at grades – kind of look at the whole person who J.R. is – and from there make a decision."
Luck, who handles much of the recruiting tasks for Jordan's players, has also fielded phone calls from Maryland, Michigan, NC State, Northwestern, and Purdue. Each of the conversations were with coaches impressed by Rhodes' film and looking for more information.
Ball State, though, is probably the closest school to extending a scholarship offer.
"The head coach and their offensive coordinator like what they see and they want to proceed with an offer if everything else checks out," Luck said. "They will be down here soon."
However, Ball State and many other interested schools might be too far for Rhodes' taste. While he says he will consider out-of-state schools, one of the main factors in his college decision is proximity to home.
Thus, unsurprisingly, Rhodes claims UNC his early leader.
"It's close to home – close to my mom," Rhodes said. "I want to be close to home."
Rhodes hopes to make a visit to UNC sometime this spring or summer, but no plans have been established. He has, however, attended a junior day at East Carolina.
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