They Call Him ‘The Freak'

An Ricky Jean-Francois is one of the most charismatic, dynamic and enigmatic prospects in the Class of 2005, which helps explain why he's called him "The Freak."

It's a term that's rarely applied to football players because few prospects so totally defy categorization. Of course, few players standing 6-foot-3, weighing 250 pounds can run a 4.6 time in the 40 while boasting a 375-pound bench press and a 39-inch vertical leap. Jean-Francois is built like a Greek god and often plays like a man possessed.

However he can also play below his potential which leaves scouts scratching their heads. He turned down an invitation to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio and saw his stock subsequent nosedive. He is currently ranked No. 11 by among the nation's defensive end prospects. That's down from No. 3 going into the Jan. 15 all-star contest.

His list of suitors has changed as often as his list of favorites. He currently has Tennessee and South Florida rated as co-leaders although he will visit Florida this weekend. He was scheduled to visit North Carolina State last weekend but canceled and apparently has lost all interest in the Wolfpack. He's still considering Miami but there are questions about whether the Hurricanes have offered. He is reportedly a little shy of making his ACT score, but he will retake the exam and appears completely confident of his eligibility.

Wherever he ends up high expectations will follow given his depth of talent and array of athletic skills. As a senior, Jean-Francois recorded 93 tackles for Miami Coral City High School with 15 sacks, three interceptions and three fumble recoveries. That was up from 80 tackles and 10 sacks he posted as a junior when Coral City captured the Florida state title.

Speaking of state titles, Jean-Francois holds both Florida's 2004 shot put and discus championships with throws of 61 feet and 164 feet, respectively.

In the opinion of some he is a high-risk signee. To others, he's the best rusher available among defensive ends in the Class of 2005. Then there are those that just aren't sure what to think about "The Freak."

However few deny his athletic talents are immense and given the proper setting and motivation he could become a defensive star of the highest order on the next level.

Tennessee is one of the schools willing to take a gamble on Jean-Francois, hoping for a huge payoff and the Vols may get that opportunity.

"I made my visit to Tennessee just last week," Jean-Francois told IT this weekend. "It was nice, especially at night. My host was Brent Schaeffer of Deer Field Beach. He's a quarterback up there."

So what did Jean-Francois enjoy most about what he saw in Knoxville?

"When they showed me the indoor facilities that was my favorite part of campus," he stated. "All the other schools I've been to didn't have an indoor facility. When they said they have an indoor facility they have a turf and they have a regular practice field."

He was equally impressed with Neyland Stadium and would relish the chance to play before a packed house there.

"I've from Miami," he said. "I've been to Pro Players Stadium and I thought that was the biggest stadium I've ever seen, but once I saw Tennessee's with 109,000 seats I said ‘that's crazy.' You could put Pro Players inside (Neyland) and it still wouldn't be as big as that stadium."

Jean-Francois, a lifelong resident of the largest and most southern city in America, dispelled reports that weather would be a factor in his decision.

"At the beginning weather was a factor with me," he said. "Once you get in college you've got to get adjusted to it. When you get drafted in the NFL you might be playing the Buffalo Bills or the Jets. You got to get used to it so weather is not a factor with me anymore."

One factor could be the impending decision of his Coral City teammate Kenneth Phillips, who is the No. 1 rated safety prospect in America and is also considering the Vols and the Canes.

"Kenneth and I have been good friends ever since we met up playing basketball," he said. "We've both got different schedules but we're still close. It would be good if we end up at the same school."

And if that school is Tennessee, it would be all the better for a team in need of both pass defenders and pass rushers.

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