It was pretty obvious DeAngelo Gibbs wouldn’t last long playing junior varsity football the first time he stepped on the field.
Peachtree Ridge (Ga.) head coach Mark Fleetwood realized just what kind of talent he possessed in his freshman athlete pretty quickly and immediately bumped him up to the varsity level without Gibbs ever having played in a high school game.
“It wouldn’t have made sense to keep him at the ninth grade level,” Fleetwood told InsideTennessee. “It wouldn’t have made him a better player, the competition level, he needed to move up. He started for us our first game.”
On one of the first plays from scrimmage, Gibbs jumped in front of a 15-yard out to make the interception right in front of his coach standing on the sideline. Just two years later, that confident freshman playmaker has developed into the No. 4 overall prospect in the 2017 class and one of the most desirable prospects in the country.
The 6-foot-1, 191-pound defensive back/wide receiver with dozens of offers from some of the most elite programs in the country like Alabama, Baylor, Notre Dame, Tennessee and USC, among others, is the personification of versatility. Gibbs can play virtually any position on the field, something that helped garner him a coveted Scout five-star rating.
"DeAngelo will be a kid who can play free safety, he can play corner, he can play wide receiver,” Fleetowood said. “You wouldn’t go wrong putting him at any of those positions. He can play those positions as well as anybody.”
Tennessee’s staff wouldn’t mind Gibbs and his resourceful skill set coming to Knoxville, and they continue to heavily recruit him while he sorts through a long and extensive offer list. The junior visited Tennessee once more Saturday for the Vols’ matchup with Georgia, marking the sixth time Gibbs has come to Rocky Top in the past year.
With Gibbs on his latest trip was teammates and Scout four-star safety Nigel Warrior, another blue chip prospect the Vols are courting. The duos had front row seats for Tennessee’s 21-point comeback win over Georgia last week and are both keeping Tennessee in the mix during their recruitment process.
“Both of those guys come to practice every day like they’re trying to get better than they were the day before,” Fleetwood told IT. “When you’re like that with that much ability, then things will continue to get better, and Nigel and DeAngelo both are very similar with the athletic skills that they have.”
Gibbs’ soft hands, speed and explosiveness help make him the No. 1-rated athlete in Georgia’s 2017 class who can virtually handpick where he wants to play at the next level.
“He does a lot very easily,” Fleetwood said. “He’s got good hands, he’s got really good concept, he’s got his high ball. He can go up and get the ball at its highest point. He judges the ball really well. He’s got the ability to make the great catches with the concentration and hand-eye coordination that he’s got. It’s really impressive.”
Tennessee certainly finds itself in the center of his recruitment and will continue to pursue the Peach State’s best athlete. Gibbs recently told InsideTennessee he is “completely wide open” at the moment and doesn’t have a top list of schools.
Despite all of his on-field talent and football acumen, however, Gibbs’ best attribute might be in his mentality. Where some highly ranked recruits begin to read their own press clippings and buy into their own hype, the Scout 100 player and his four-star teammate have kept their heads down and worked toward making progress with their talents while schools continue their pursuit.
“They’re not concerned about where they’re going, “Fleetwood said. “They’re concerned about where they are. They know that doing good at where they are will get them to where they want to go, and that’s a hard thing for some kids.”
Managing editor Danny Parker contributed to this story.