South Brunswick High School in Monmouth Junction (N.J.) has one of the best players in the state in running back Dontae Strickland. Their head coach, Joe George, is expecting big things from the 3-star prospect going into his senior season.
"Dontae has been an outstanding player for the last few years for us," George said. "He's going to be playing running back for Syracuse and he plays running back for us as well as defensive back. So obviously he's a two-way player for us. He's been an outstanding player.
"I think now his focus can having a great summer so he can have a big senior year. I certainly think he can go out with a bang here. Obviously his future is very bright as well."
Strickland committed to Syracuse on Saturday, and coach George believes the Orange got a special player.
"He's certainly got that ability to change direction," George said. "He's got real good vision. Dontae's just a quarter inch shy of 6-foot, so he's basically 6-foot. He's got great vision. He's a low strider and doesn't always look like he's running real fast but the thing is nobody seems to catch him when he gets out in the open field.
"One characteristic that sticks out is that he's just a competitor. Whether it's offense, defense or special teams, he just wants to compete. That's the kind of stuff we're going to look for from him this year."
The focus for Strickland going forward is to bulk up in order to be as ready as possible for the collegiate level.
"I think like every kid we talk about, and certainly a kid like Dontae who's going into major division one football, he needs to work on bigger, faster and stronger," George said. "He's probably between 185 and 190-pounds right now. There's no question in my mind that he could be 200-pounds by September. He's got outstanding speed and quickness now. But it never hurts to get a little faster and a little quicker.
"I think right now he needs to have a great summer program and hit the weights hard. Put on that 10-12 pounds to get him to 200-pounds. Hopefully he grows an inch or two by the time he gets to college. Two-hundred ten pounds, would be something else physically if he gets to 6-foot-1. He has tremendous attributes there."
Another part of Strickland's game that made him such a coveted prospect is his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
"No question," George said. "That's something else about Dontae, no question. That's probably something we need to do more of in terms of just another way to get him the ball. When he gets out in space, he's tough to bring down. That's something that we're going to start working on all summer long. We need our quarterbacks to step up and get him the ball."
Now that Strickland has made his decision, he can focus on football and just being a teenager. The process has a tendency to weigh on a kid's mind, coach George says.
"Dontae is kind of like a regular kid," he said. "I know this whole process, I've said it because I've been around a while and talked to many of my former players about it, it can take a strain. You're a 16 or 17 year old and all of these colleges are coming after you. It's a great thing, don't get me wrong. We wouldn't trade it for anything.
"But I think now, there's probably a little sigh of relief for Dontae and his family. Now he can get back to just being a regular kind of kid."