When the initial Scout.com 2007 recruiting rankings are soon released, one of the top linemen in the Golden State will be Justin Cheadle. The 6'5" 257-pound two-way beast from Bakersfield (Calif.) High School has college coaches talking to him about both sides of the line, and his stock is rising this spring.
"He's probably the best lineman in the Central California region," says Southern California Scout.com recruiting analyst Brandon Huffman. "He is a good-looking kid - one who definitely passes the eyeball test. But I also think he translates that on the field. He's very athletic, which is an added bonus for a lineman."
The question du jour when talking about Cheadle is whether he will play offense or defense in college. To address that debate, we have to follow a winding road. We start with the Bakersfield man's junior season, when he played defensive end and offensive tackle.
"I definitely played more at left tackle. When I played on defense, I made a lot of plays. But on offense, we ran the ball 24/7," Cheadle describes. "We play a three-man line, and this year I'm moving from defensive end to nose guard. That will be different, but I'll still get to slant a lot. It will be pretty easy; I don't think it will be very hard. I think I'll be way too quick for a center to snap the ball and get set before I hit him."
A more accomplished offensive lineman, Cheadle earned First Team All-League and All-Area honors as a blocker. He has been projected by most scouts and in most reports on that side of the ball, though he has remained interested in defense. When the lineman showed up at the Stanford Nike Camp last weekend, instructors told him and other participants to pick a single position. He took a chance and worked on defense the entire combine. Cheadle turned heads with his quickness, athleticism and aggressiveness. Curiously, however, some follow-up reports discussed him as one of the top offensive line performers on the day.
"I saw that, and I honestly have no idea where that came from," the recruit comments. "I played D-line the whole time."
After talking offense just a couple months ago, Cheadle has more recently been quoted as saying that he prefers to play defense in college. Once and for all, where does the big Bakersfield athlete have his heart on the football field?
"I like the defensive line, but I just want to play," he answers. "The heart lies in the game itself."
"Either way, I'm going to hit somebody," Cheadle adds. "There are going to be a lot of factors that go into my college decision, and the position I play isn't the biggest one."
24 hours after his strong combine performance, the Bakersfield recruit had an even more eventful day. Cheadle attended Stanford's Junior Day, and after a sit-down with Walt Harris in the head coach's office, he received an offer from the Cardinal ("I don't know which side of the ball - the O-line and D-line coach are fighting over me"). It was a big moment, which he had been waiting for.
"I've been in contact with Stanford for the longest time. Stanford has always been in my top five," Cheadle proclaims. "I couldn't even speak - I was so happy."
Also in attendance that day were the recruit's mother and father.
"They were extremely happy," the son says. "They loved it there. They liked Stanford a lot, and all it has to offer."
This was also the first time for Cheadle to take in The Farm. Beyond the scholarship offer he gathered, the line recruit also took in the Cardinal campus and facilities for the first time. Both left a big impression.
"The campus is real nice. It's a nice town," he reports. "The academics are top of the line. A Stanford degree - it doesn't get any better than that. If I get a Stanford degree, when I am done with football, I will still be making money."
"The weight room was awesome," Cheadle continues. "As soon as I stepped into the weight room, I fell in love. I've never seen anything like it." That includes the recruit's unofficial visit to USC for their Junior Day.
The Trojans have not offered but stand as one of Cheadle's favorites. His offers have come from Colorado State, Washington State, Arizona, San Diego State, Fresno State and Nebraska. The Cardinal became his seventh scholarship offer this past week. Interestingly, Cheadle names a group of favorites that has only a little overlap with his offer list.
"USC, Stanford, Cal, UCLA, Arizona State, Oregon University and University of Arizona," the recruit relates. "All of them are talking to me, and they want to offer. Everything has been crazy after the camp."
"Arizona State told me they were very interested and would be talking to their head coach," Cheadle describes. "Cal and USC appear to be really interested, but I do not have a offer from them yet. I am hoping that one will be coming in the near future."
One unmistakable trend in Cheadle's favorites list is the 100% Pac-10 representation. Offers from the Big XII, Mountain West and WAC thus far are unable to break their way into his top seven. This is one recruit looking for the best football out West, keeping close to home.
"My top three right now are USC, Stanford and Cal," he shares. "Location-wise, they're perfect. I can stay in the state, kind of close to home."
That being said, Cheadle says that he wants to make sure he takes one or more of his official visits elsewhere in the country. And unlike many recruiting stories you are reading in this 2007 recruiting class, the Bakersfield target is indeed eyeing official visits his senior year.
"I'm going to take all five of my official visits," Cheadle declares. "Right now, I'm talking to Pac-10 schools, but I also want to visit some out-of-state colleges. This is one chance in a lifetime for me."
Once chance Cheadle wishes he could have back is his April 1 SAT. The strong 3.8 student at Bakersfield High School cleared NCAA minimums on the standardized test, but he did not score as well as he would have liked the first time out. He plans to retake the SAT in the fall. A retake is not uncommon for Stanford hopefuls, and Cheadle knows he needs to improve his testing to become a Cardinal.
"I want to get a higher verbal score," he offers. "I will be working with an SAT tutor this summer and will be ready for the test in the fall. I know I will do better."
An SAT retake. More Pac-10 offers about to break. The debate over offense vs. defense. There are plenty of stories to watch with Justin Cheadle in the coming months. This beast will be at the center of one of the more heated recruitments on the West Coast in the 2007 class. Stay tuned to TheBootleg.com and Scout.com as it all unfolds.
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