CB Deante Battle (profile)
Starr's Mill (Fayetteville, GA)
Ht: 5-9; Wt: 189
no forty; 4.19 shuttle
17 bench reps; 31.6" vertical
Deante Battle is a special and unique student-athlete from a special and unique school. Before I delve into Deante, I would like to give some background on Starr's Mill, his high school. This helps give context to Deante as a student and athlete, but also in an interesting case educationally. This also sounds like a school to watch for years to come as a breeding ground for Stanford prospects.
Starr's Mill is a proud new experiment, of sorts, in Fayette County, Georgia. Started less than five years ago, the school sought to create an elite public entity to offer the very best in the area. Similar in some ways to the magnet school concepts of the 80's, but different. The first aim of the school was to attract the absolute top teachers of the county. They have succeeded, with a strong majority of the staff possessing advanced degrees. Some 95% of their teachers have master's degrees, and approximately 60% are working part-time toward their PhD. The school is built as a complex, with the middle school connected to the high school, and the elementary just next door. They have constructed more than just schools; they have constructed an educational ecosystem for an entire K-thru-12 educational journey.
The result has produced what some argue is the top public school in the state. It doesn't hurt to be located in the highest per capita income in Fayette County, with a wealth of resources in the school and at home. The average SAT is 1170, and 13% of students there have yet to earn a B grade in their life.
From a football standpoint, Starr's Mill has made a quick run to a highly competitive position. With only five years of varsity football in the school's history, the Panthers have logged records in their past three seasons of 8-2, 13-1 and 9-3. Every year, they have made the state playoffs. According to Deatne's father, Johné Battle, the team is characterized as "fundamentally sound and disciplined. They are warriors who without fail always fight to the end." The overall talent has been young for Starr's Mill, including several underclass multi-year starters. That has the Panthers poised to make a serious run at a state title this fall. Johné says that this is the most athletic team they have fielded to date, by far.
Defense has been a leading force in Starr's Mill's newfound success, having installed the same defense run by Virginia Tech. And college football fans know that the Hokies' success in the past few years has been better attributed to their record smothering defense, and not so much by the high profile Michael Vick. Indeed, Starr's Mill has sent a ferocious pass rush with its front seven, and asked the secondary to play on a true island in man coverage. While that is a lot to ask of high school kids, it has paid off huge dividends. The secondary gave up just five passing touchdowns all of last season, while Deante Battle and Johnny Edwards each gave up just one. Just one score was yielded by each of these standout corners in the entire season. Remarkable.
Stanford is so attracted to this pair for two reasons as a result: they are already proven commodities in defensive responsibilities very similar to what Stanford will be employing in the new BuddyBall era; and they have the experience in a college scheme that could put them in an earlier position to contribute at Stanford.
Stanford is not alone, though. Some 65 Division I schools sent coaches to check out Starr's stars in the recent May visit period. Deante has racked up a lucky 13 offers to date, with notables including Stanford, Northwestern, Colorado, Vanderbilt and Virginia. Notre Dame and Virginia Tech have been two very recent offerees, as well. Deante's father says that Florida State and Texas have both indicated that they are about to offer. By the 'offer theory' of evaluating recruits, Deante's national attention from some of the top schools in a breadth of conferences speaks to his abilities and future on the football field.
The notable absences from Deante's list of mutual interest with schools is the locals. Georgia and Georgia Tech are the familiar foes for Stanford in-state, but they are not players in this picture. That would send up a red flag on many recruits, but this case is different. Academics are of great importance to the Battle family, and that appears to have dinged the local giants. UGA is far from known for academic excellence among state schools in the country. Tech is a more interesting case, given its strong rating as an engineering school against many nationally elite universities. But as a state school, Tech has long been known to try to weed out students in the first year. My own father went to Tech and has often told the story of when he was addressed by a university official at his orientation many years ago. "Look to your left and look to your right. One of you will not be here a year from now." Things have not much changed since, as my brother informed me when he recently attended Tech for his undergraduate and masters studies. Johné Battle won't say a bad word about Tech, but this is what I have gleamed reading between the lines.
Johné says that there is no single leader, but that three schools currently stand above the rest for football and academics: Stanford, Northwestern and Notre Dame. An interesting note on Notre Dame is that Trent Miles has been recruiting for them, and Johné noted some "comical comparisons" that the former Stanford receivers coach has made to the Battles about Stanford and Notre Dame. Apparently, the claim from Notre Dame is that Stanford is merely a tougher school for gaining admission, but that the two schools are completely equivalent educational experiences and prospects for a student. Johné Battle knows enough to laugh that outlandish claim off, but it is still intriguing that the former Stanford coaches make this claim in earnest to recruits with a straight face.
Deante is on track to finish up high school this coming December, and has plans to get his recruitment done early to enroll at his college destination for the spring term. He furthermore hopes this could help him to get his master's degree in five years. This is a story Stanford saw recently with Brandon Hancock, and it could serve as a disadvantage to the Cardinal, given that Stanford does not allow students to enroll off-track in the winter or spring prior to their freshman year. Summer school aside, all frosh at the Farm are to start in the fall. Is this a problem in Deante's consideration of Stanford? Not according to his father.
"Stanford is the one place that would be an exception to the plan. Deante wants to get started early, but Stanford's academics move them ahead of a lot of schools. He could go there and have the chance to interact with the brightest minds in the country."
While Johné Battle maintains that there is no single leader for Deante at this time, it has come clear through many conversations with him - and I have talked with Johné at greater length than any other parent in this class to date - that Stanford is a cut above all others for Deante. I don't think it hyperbolic to say that the Battles are in love with Stanford. They have talked with JR Lemon's father and Julian Jenkins' mother and heard nothing but glowing reviews of Stanford. They have been very positive on all interactions with Stanford's staff as well. Johné made particular note to me that the collection of Stanford parents' statements about Stanford last winter impacted the Battles tremendously. In fact, Johné told me that it said more to their family about Stanford than any coach has said or could ever say to impress them.
Some schools are closer to Fayetteville than others, though it is notable that the three leaders right now are all great distances away. Johné says that he and his wife are "not selfish" in this process and understand that the best opportunities for Deante may likely move him quite a distance from them.
"This is not a four-year decision; it's a forty-year decision. Distance is not a factor."
Deante has the Stanford application in his hands currently, and has been putting work into it. Most of this teacher recommendations are done, as is the Basic Information Sheet. He is currently putting a lot of thought and effort into his essays, cognizant of how important they represent him to the Admissions Office. Deante's core GPA is a 3.4, and Johné was careful to stress that this 'core' is the way Stanford looks at GPA's. For once, recruitniks can take this GPA at face value and not worry about adjusting it. He has scored a 1180 on his SAT, and is likely to take it again. The ACT is something he's looking into as well. Though Stanford has told the Battles that they feel good about Deante's 1180 right now and encourage him to get the application in now, as opposed to in the fall after another SAT attempt. Johné Battle says that he embraces the unique admissions requirements of Stanford.
"I'm happy it is not a cookie cutter approach. It should be about how well-rounded you are, more than just scores and numbers."
This is a case of a great kid beyond his numbers, as recognized recently with the Chik Fil-A All American award. The award recognizes excellence not only in the classroom and on the field, but also in the community. Deante spends time every week working in the community with mentally challenged kids, providing a friend and role model.
Deante has dabbled in a variety of academic interests, including a recent stay at a leadership and government camp called Boys State. It was a week-long camp where kids were immersed in a complete daily routine of the intricacies of politics. But his greatest interests to date lie in engineering, and though interests always change, he is looking for a cross between biomechanical and industrial engineering. His enthusiasm and grades have been strong in math and science, including all honors and AP classes.
On the football field, Deante has goals every bit as lofty as those in the classroom. He aims to win the Jim Thorpe Award in college, a national championship, and then to play on Sundays. I would not want to tell him he can't achieve any of those things.
My final assessment is that Deante is headed to Stanford if and when he clears Stanford admissions. Notre Dame has played its cards and will lose the academic battle handily. I have no reason to believe that Northwestern is drawing the same emotional reactions that Stanford has yielded to date. Admissions is the hurdle to watch here.
Additionally, I have received a scouting tape on Deante and will be bringing some commentary and analysis on his football abilities and style of play to The Bootleg soon. Stay tuned.