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Better Know a Freshman: Drake Davis

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Can the mega-talented WR find his focus?

"And this above all: to thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man."

-Polonius, Hamlet, 1.3.79-80

Language barriers can be tremendous obstacles. It’s easy to acknowledge a barrier between differing languages, say French and Italian. Though much harder to parse a shared language spoken in different communities, generations and even platforms. The internet serves as prime example: tone and context are applied by the reader, because they cannot perceive other standard conversational cues like body language, and tone of voice. Many an internet war have begun by one person simply misunderstanding what another intended, and we all, far too often, find ourselves leaping to the most irrational conclusions.

Reading Shakespearean texts is no different. Yes, they are written in English, but not a form we presently speak. Further, the phrasing and structure and layers of complexity due to them being written as a literary work, or lines to be performed in a staged play, rather than standard conversation pieces. Thus, 450 years later, his works are oft-misquoted and even more oft-misapplied. "To thine own self be true" is a phrase you’ve probably seen an emo teenager write on his or her forearm. Sure, the general implication of the statement holds true, but in the text what Polonius intended carried far greater nuance and meaning.

Readings of Polonius vary from scholar to scholar. He speaks in aphorisms, which were perceived as clichéd even in his day. Still, elements of truth were present within his words. In the context of the play, Polonius imparts his son, Laertes, with these bits of knowledge before he embarks off to Paris. He’s the overbearing-est Dad of overbearing dads. Where meaning is lost in the modern era is that Polonius isn’t hearkening Laertes to maintain some purity of character. "To thine own self be true" isn’t an imploring to adhere to a sense of self. No, "to thine own self be true" is a call for, in essence, selfishness. What Polonius is really telling his son is to take care of himself first before worrying of any others.

In many ways, Drake Davis may be the Laertes of the 2016 signing class. He’s passionate and impulsive. His greatest strengths are his strongest weaknesses. We must hope he’s not undone by his own brash actions.

How Did We Get Here?

The long way. When Robert Frost talked about taking the road less traveled, I’m not sure he had what Drake Davis did in mind. As a freshman, Davis attended Saint Stanislaus in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. He then popped up at Dunham High in Baton Rouge, before transferring to Zachary High School for his final few weeks of the Fall semester.* Davis then shipped off to Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia. He ran track in the Spring. As a rising high school junior, Davis elected to forego playing football to chase playing soccer. It was a head scratcher at the time, as Davis’ star as a football prospect continued to grow. Barton Simmons, the National Scouting Director for 247 Sports, labeled him a freak. Finally, for his senior season, he made one final transfer, this time to IMG Academy, where he would once again take up football. Davis caught only 11 passes his senior season, but converted 7 of those into TDs. He rushed the ball twice, once for a score. He also returned two kicks for TDs. It was enough to impress USA Today, who elected him as a 1st Team All-American as an athlete.

*Editor’s Note: Davis tweeted that he never attended Zachary. This is stated in various articles across the web, so not sure where it comes from originally.

During the season, Davis kept his recruitment fairly low key. He visited Ole Miss in September and then LSU in October. After his trip to Baton Rouge, he named the Rebels his leader. In November, he visited LSU once again. In early December, he finally took his official visit to Baton Rouge. By month’s end, he announced he would make his final decision at the Under Armour All-American Game. On January 2nd, Davis pledged to LSU.

But, it wouldn’t be Drake Davis if he didn’t take the hard way. Two weeks later he took an official visit to Alabama, officially putting a scare into LSU fans. There were murmurings of a flip come singing day, but Davis held true to his verbal commitment and signed with the Tigers, penning an emotional letter about returning home.

What Can He Do?

Height: 6’3"
Weight: 212
40: 4.38

It’s difficult to find verified testing results for Drake Davis. This account, which appears to be associated with LSU Football Recruiting Ops has him running the 40 at 4.38. There’s plenty of insane videos of him doing ridiculous dunks with ease, so I have little reason to be concerned with his leaping ability. Bottom line, Davis is probably the most athletic member of the 2016 signing class and perhaps the nation, even if I said that about Devin White.

Sophomore:

Senior:

Strengths: Size, Explosiveness, Acrobatics, Run After Catch

Weaknesses: Route Running, Off Field Focus

Size: LSU’s roster already lists him at 6’3", 212 pounds, which is good size... for an NFL no. 1. I’m sure he needs to get bigger and stronger, but he’s already a pretty big cat. That will make bodying up CBs, Safeties and LBs much easier. It also makes him a deadly threat in the RZ with his leaping ability.

Explosiveness: Just :04 into the Sophomore reel, you can see that quick-twitch explosion that makes Drake unique. At 6’3"-6’4" he’s a big bodied WR, but flashes some scat back type skills, spinning out of an arm tackle and then hitting near full stride quickly. Watch his kick return at :44 of the Sophomore tape again, and you’ll again see some of those quick-twitch skills that make him so special.

Acrobatics: His leaping ability being well documented, Davis has a flare for the spectacular with his length and ability to lay out for balls in the air. Check :38 of the Sophomore tape and watch him lay out to make a tremendous catch in between two defenders. That’s great body control and focus. Check out 2:07 on his Senior tape to see him put the skills into action on a FG block. 2:31 what you see is just a guy dominating everyone around him.

Run After Catch: That explosion plays a major role in his after catch abilities. After securing the ball, Davis turns into an open field terror for defenses, as evidenced by 1:04 and 1:22 of his Sophomore tape.

Route Running: There isn’t much evidence of it. Most of Davis’ time is spent either running slants or verticals, which isn’t all too uncommon in HS. He’s got a full array of skills to be a great route runner in time, but he will need to refine that part of his game.

Off Field Focus: In no way to I wish to disparage Davis. There are some lingering questions about his focus and mentality. Is he willing to put in the effort to be great? Is he going to master his craft and hone his immense physical talents into a complete WR package?

I believe this is an apt description:

What’s Next?

Opportunities to contribute as a WR are simply waiting to be had at LSU. Malachi Dupre lead all LSU receivers last season with 43 catches and just under 700 total receiving yards. Travin Dural only played in 9 games, though his numbers slightly regressed. While both return in 2016, there’s a very real possibility both could be gone after next season. There’s no proven, discernible no. 3 threat behind them, either. Plenty of bodies, but none with distinction. John Diarse and Trey Quinn are gone. Tyron Johnson registered nine catches last season and seems most likely to assume the role. D.J. Chark continues to be on the lips of coaches and media.

Long story short, there’s opportunity to be had. Davis has an array of skills that should fit perfectly into what LSU likes to do on offense. Even if he can’t immediately find a role in the passing game, his return skills make him an immediate contributor.

The big question for Davis remains: how bad does he want it? Davis doesn’t strike me as lazy, but eccentric and possibly brilliant. He’s your friend that’s good at everything without ever really trying. And that talent may betray him if he lacks the focus to refine it. Skating by on pure physical skills works up to a certain level, but greatness is reserved for those who chase it the hardest.

To me, Drake Davis is Julio Jones. He’s a big, physical freak with circus freak leaping ability and top end speed. Does he want to work as hard as Julio? If he puts in the time and energy, he can do anything he wants on the football field.

Like Laertes, he’s impulsive, but let’s hope his story ends much better.

High End: All-American, 1st Round Draft Pick
Low End: Washes out.
Realistic: Davis is a kid, and I think Dameyune Craig can get through to him. The biggest challenge may be this season. I get the sense he’ll be itching to contribute and if he plays a minor role, will he get frustrated and do something impetuous? Or perhaps he comes out like gangbusters from day one? In the end, I think Drake Davis will be one of the better WRs we’ve had since Beckham and Landry.