Recruiting: Rising-the-charts LB/DE Jason Berryman

As promised in <I>IT's</i> Inside Scoop, we're bringing you even more information about Jason Berryman, the standout blue-chip from Kashmere High School.

Head coach Kirby Jones was nice enough to give us Berryman's updated measurements for our Inside Scoop's first edition, but IT spoke with the coach again and caught up with Berryman and his father, who is heavily involved with the recruiting process. And IT has learned the state's hottest prospect will earn a few distinguished accolades, courtesy of an inside tip provided by Berryman's head coach.

According to Jones, the 17-year coach of Kashmere's football team, Berryman will earn 1st-team all-district at DL, LB and TE. But the most exciting award will be the unanimous decision selecting Berryman as 22-4A's defensive MVP. It's that type of attention that has befuddled a number of "gurus" despite Berryman's impressive performance at the Camp at College Station in early-May and his extremely productive senior season.

Berryman accumulated 113 yards rushing in roughly one game as a tailback and caught everything thrown to him at the TE spot, totaling eight catches for 82 yards. His defensive stat package is still a work in progress, but as a junior he had 56 tackles and six sacks earning a 1st-team district nod. Jones said Berryman had at least 16 sacks this season, but the tackles, INT's, forced fumbles and fumble recoveries have not yet been tallied.

Coming off a dominating 25-tackle, three-sack performance in his last playoff game, not to mention recovering two fumbles with one of those directly caused by Jason himself, the "Jim Thorpe" of Kashmere makes a living out of being around the football.

"He just pursues the football," said Jones. "He's got a nose for it. And he's just got tremendous range, tremendous speed...just the definition of a sideline to sideline player. The play could start out going away from him and he'll catch the running back before he can cross the line of scrimmage. In the playoff game with C.E. King, he was our defense. He really controlled the game, but we couldn't score."

Jones said Berryman has excellent pass-rushing moves utilizing swim techniques and a stone-cold bull-rush where he can use his quickness and strength to get by would-be blockers.

"I think I've mastered all the pass-rushing moves," Berryman told IT. "I've got really good speed, but I have continued working on my quickness. I know that I can get faster and I think that has helped me get to the QB this year. And I think my ability to get to the QB is almost natural. I just react to what my opponent is trying to do usually setting him up for an inside/out move or an outside/in move. No one was able to shut me down because of the different moves I have. If the guy was pretty strong he couldn't handle my quickness and speed. If he was quick himself, my bull-rush was too strong."

But what about the next level?

"Well, I have a mindset that is about being confident when you step on a football field," said the state's fastest rising LB/DE prospect. "It can be in the game, practice, scrimmage or whatever. But you have to have confidence that you are the best. At the same time, you have to fear that someone is better than you are if you want to be the best. That means practicing like you can't believe because if you're not, someone else is and they're going to be better. I think I practice harder than anybody and run more than anybody. I work out harder because someone is coming to that field to prove they're better than me and I'm not going to let that happen. That's where the confidence comes from. And that's why I step on the field knowing that I'm the best."

Jewel Berryman, (Berryman's father) said his son is up to 6-3, 225 pounds, with a 4.5 forty time and that his strength is underrated. "Jason has a lot of upside in the strength department," he said. "The upside with Jason is most of his strength is actually natural. He hasn't really been on a real strenuous weight program. When he gets into college and on the weights, you'll see a big upswing because it's going to build his body even more. You know, he kind of reminds a little of Cory Redding when he came out of Houston. Redding was probably a little bit bigger, but they had projected him to be a linebacker when he first went to Texas and he turned out to be a monster defensive end. So, with the right strength and conditioning program, there's no telling what Jason could end up at."

"And we have a lot of size in our family," he continued. "I'm right at 300 pounds myself. His twin brother Jule plays OG for the football team and he's easily 300 pounds. And he's got two step-brothers that are big. Osefel's at about 330 and Aaron's at 280, so with Jason, [laughing] there's really no telling where he can be at by his senior year of college football."

With a 325-pound bench mark and a 425-pound max on his squat, he's looking pretty stout. But to play both offense and defense, not to mention averaging 36-37 yards as the punter, a player must have excellent stamina.

"Jason just stays active," said the elder Berryman, who played under Ron Earhardt at North Dakota State as a defensive linemen from 1971-'74. "And he loves to work out. He's always running in the offseason and that keeps him in shape. He really works hard at that. One of the SMU coaches told me that he was really impressed with the film of Jason's last game because he saw Jason going all out in the 4th quarter, like it was the 1st quarter. So, he keeps himself in very good shape."

"It's really been hectic around here," Berryman's father said about the recruiting interest in his son. "LSU first contacted him over a year ago, OU jumped in in September, Texas and Florida began contacting us in October, but Pittsburgh, Iowa and SMU have really shown the most interest. With A&M, TCU and Colorado State coming on, we're going to have to sit down and figure out who really wants Jason and who doesn't. Paul Rhodes (Pittsburgh defensive coordinator) really wants Jason and said they have a scholarship offer waiting if he wants one, so they're definitely going to get a visit. The Iowa coaching staff is really high on Jason. They have offered and they're going to get a visit. SMU has offered as well and Notre Dame's beginning to look at him."

When asked who might lead for his son's services, the elder-Berryman said, "Well, it's hard to say. I think my son would lean heavily toward Texas if they recruit him properly. They really need to let him know that they really want him in the way that Pittsburgh has shown. With Texas, it's mostly been feelers. You know, Coach McCrary and I have exchanged a few e-mails back and forth, but they (Texas) haven't really made up their mind or they have other people in mind."

"Right now, A&M is trying to go through Jason's cousin Chris Alexander (A&M fullback commit from Humble). He's been talking with Jason a lot and is trying to get a feel for what Jason wants to do. And I think Rodney Hampton (former NY Giant and Kashmere alum) is trying to lean him to Texas. But no one is showing the same interest as Pittsburgh, Iowa and SMU have. Those schools are really working for Jason's commitment, especially Pittsburgh. You know, they have three linebackers graduating and feel that Jason could come in and play right away. So, he has a lot to think about. Actually, what Jason told me was that he'd like to take all of his visits and then sit down and discuss the pros and cons before making a firm decision."

Thanks dad, but what does Jason think?

"I'm not really going to focus on just one school," said the well-mannered Berryman. "You know, I said I liked Texas on another interview but I haven't had a chance to really think everything over. I like Pittsburgh, Iowa, SMU, Florida, OU, A&M, LSU and Texas. And my dad said Colorado State and TCU are calling, so I'll really have to figure out what visits I'm going to take and go from there. I'm probably not going to visit Texas because I took an unofficial trip there before and have already seen it, so I'll start trying to set up some visits here next week. I'm wide open and everyone needs to understand that. I just got done with my season and a lot of schools are starting to call me. I'm definitely giving Pitt and Iowa a visit."

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