Four-star defensive back Deommodore Lenoir naturally plays with a chip sitting atop his shoulder pads.
“Yea. All the time,” the Los Angeles (Calif.) Bishop Mora Salesian cornerback admitted.
This week at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, rather than a chip, Lenoir has the entire potato on his shoulder.
“You know I wasn't the first one chosen. I was actually last, so obviously I've got to come out and prove myself to prove that I'm one of the best.”
He has done that through the first two days of practice. Lenoir has been the most consistently good cornerback on the West team despite the nation’s top cornerback and safety both lining up at the same spot.
On Monday, he finished a perfect 4-0 in one-on-one reps, including a terrific leaping interception on the sideline against the nation’s No. 1 receiver, Joseph Lewis. Lewis tried to run a stop and go pattern, but Lenoir never bit on the fake, reading it perfectly and running along with Lewis until leaping up to snag the pas upon the ball’s descent.
“He's got the big frame, big body,” Lenoir said. “Me being undersized, I had to go compete. I have to be smart, use technique, then play with my feet.”
Lenoir has been a technician, staying with every receiver that has been thrown his way, including the impressive East corps that torched the West repeatedly in the Competition Tuesday period where the East and West squads went head to head in one on ones and seven on seven pass skeleton. Of the seven West defensive backs, Lenoir was one of only two to force an incompletion on the opening round of one on ones. He finished the drills giving up only one completion.
“I did pretty good,” Lenoir said of his first two days. “I could always do a little better by catching interceptions, by creating turnovers. Get the offense back on board.”
He’s had to be consistent in his technique because at 6-foot, 170 pounds, Lenoir is one of the smallest players at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. When he got off the plane from Los Angeles, Lenoir ran into a couple of the other participants. He immediately was looking up at his competition.
Deommodore Lenoir intercepts a pass intended for Joseph Lewis during the first USAAB practice. (Shotgun Spratling)
The eight East receivers on the roster average out to be 6-foot-1.25. The West receivers in attendance are closer to 6-foot-2 on average. The linemen and linebackers all dwarf Lenoir, but being smaller hasn’t deterred him.
“Everybody is big. You've just got to play big.”
Lenoir is coming down to a big home stretch of recruitment after recently de-committing from Oregon. The Ducks are one of five teams in the running for his services along with local schools USC and UCLA and two schools just a bit further away in Nebraska and North Carolina. The Salesian standout is preparing to make his commitment during a ceremony on signing day.
As the process winds down, Lenoir is looking for the right player-coach relationship and school environment, but he will also be keeping an eye on the depth charts to see if he has an opportunity to compete for a spot as a freshman. USC doesn’t have any secondary openings currently, but that could soon change when Adoree' Jackson makes his final determination of whether to return for his senior season or enter the NFL Draft.
“You know everywhere you go, you're going to have to compete. I would say [the Trojans] got pretty good guys and I'm all about competing, so we'll see.”
Lenoir sees himself filling a similar hybrid role as Jackson, one of his favorite players, participating both on offense and defense. USC is recruiting him as an athlete.
He grew up a Trojan fan and has a unique dynamic with USC because he is being primarily recruited by head coach Clay Helton.
“We have a good relationship,” Lenoir said. “It's actually different because all the other head coaches, they be talking to me, but he's constantly on me. It's just kind of different. It makes me feel like I'm really needed and wanted, so it just made me look at things different.”
“I love it. I love getting a lot of attention from the head coaches.”
Besides growing up watching the Trojans, what piques Lenoir’s interest in USC (and UCLA) is the opportunity to be able to have his family see him play every home game rather than an occasional appearance at Oregon, Nebraska or North Carolina game.
If Lenoir weren’t at the U.S. All-American Bowl, he would have been making an appearance, himself, at the Rose Bowl. He wanted to be there for the possible last game of Jackson’s Trojan career.
“I actually kind of knew it was going to happen,” Lenoir said of USC’s turnaround this season. “The first game they played against Bama, that's the No. 1 team in the country, but they forced them to punt a lot of times, so I was like they are going to be pretty strong against the Pac-12 schools.”
Strong like Lenoir has been in San Antonio so far this week.
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