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Better Know a Freshman: Jarell Cherry

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Everything is upside with Mr. Cherry.

Ed Orgeron loves pass rushers.

There’s no question that O believes the edge rusher is a foundational piece to a strong defense. For as long as he remains in the program, I’d put good money on LSU signing at least one edge rusher per signing class, if not multiple. Just look at the numbers since his arrival:

2015: Arden Key
2016: Andre Anthony, Ray Thornton, Michael Divinity
2017: K’Lavon Chaisson
2018: Jarell Cherry, Travez Moore, Dantrieze Scott

Eight players in four seasons all expected to contribute as edge rushers. Amassing depth at the position gives LSU flexibility and the potential to bring relentless pressure, no matter who subs into the game. It also allows younger players that often need time to add additional muscle mass to the lithe frames.

Physically, Jarell Cherry may be ready for Miami, but his game still needs development.

The Story

Cherry prepped at the famed Dallas Carter High School, where he participated in both football and track, not as a thrower, but as a sprinter.

The Dallas native received his first offer from SMU in the summer before his Junior season. Texas Tech came through a month later and then Cherry hit the camp circuit, traveling to Texas and Alabama, subsequently earning offers from each. OU offered and Cherry took unofficial visits to A&M and Alabama as a Junior.

By February he started stacking offers high. Baylor, Ole Miss, LSU, A&M, & Michigan all offered. Colorado, UCLA, Oklahoma State, Utah, Oregon and Tennessee too. In March, he took in OU’s junior day. And then LSU’s.

On April 1st, the spring before his senior season, Cherry pledged to LSU. He showed up for the spring game a few weeks later and he officially visited only to Baton Rouge and never so much as even entertained flipping his commitment, despite other teams remaining in pursuit.

The Numbers

110 - 101 = Franchise Player. One of the best players to come along in years, if not decades. Odds of having a player in this category every year is slim. This prospect has “can’t miss” talent.

100 - 98 = Five-star prospect. One of the top 30 players in the nation. This player has excellent pro-potential and should emerge as one of the best in the country before the end of his career. There will be 32 prospects ranked in this range in every football class to mirror the first round of the NFL Draft.

97 - 90 = Four-star prospect. One of the top 300 players in the nation. This prospect will be an impact-player for his college team. He is an All-American candidate who is projected to play professionally.

89 - 80 = Three-star prospect. One of the top 10% players in the nation. This player will develop into a reliable starter for his college team and is among the best players in his region of the country. Many three-stars have significant pro potential.

79 - below = Two-star prospect. This player makes up the bulk of Division I rosters. He may have little pro-potential, but is likely to become a role player for his respective school.

247 Composite Rating: ****
247 Composite Ranking: .9216

Cherry’s ranking is actually pretty low for someone who falls in the top 247 composite (198th overall). I’m not exactly sure what’s driving that. Rivals has him ranked in their top 200 players, 247 ranks him 202nd and ESPN has him in the 260s. I think when you are flirting with top 200 rankings, you are much more like a middle-rated four-star. Admittedly I’m quibbling on something insignificant here.

Cherry is listed at 6-foot-3, 231 pounds and those measureables held pretty consistent throughout his senior year until now. That’s a pretty good size for a collegiate LB, though his ideal playing weight is probably in the 245-260 range. Still, it’s enough mass that he could see the field in 2018.

He didn’t make All-State or garner selection to any All-American teams. With Cherry, everything is about upside.

The Film

The main attribute everyone calls out with Cherry is speed. Its easy to see why. Cherry plays the speed game, near exclusively. The top highlights are primarily him just out running everyone off the edge to make hay as a pass rusher. He’s explosive with a good first step and able to get to top speed with relative ease. And he’s even got some change of direction ability, as you can see him hit the breaks and run down quarterbacks and running backs.

In the second clip, we get to see him play a bit more inline and having to address blockers more directly. Still not much technique or approach there. It’s basically HIKE RUN SMASH. The bull in a china shop mentality can work fine for HS, but he’s obviously going to need to develop his hand use and pass rush techniques. In that sense, he’s very, very raw. I’d say he’s less developed than guys like Key and Chaisson that preceded him. Chaisson used his hands really well, as did Key.

What I see from the tape is a great athlete playing football right now. He needs refinement.

The Future

Upside, upside, upside is the name of the game with Jarell Cherry. He’s worked with a trainer throughout his high school career to help him navigate the recruiting process. By all accounts he’s a pretty quiet, focused, hard-working kid. That’s good, because he’s got work to do.

Cherry needs development. I think there’s a stray chance he could see the field in 2018, but he would be almost exclusively a guy burning off the edge in pure pressure situations. I can’t see him being ready for much else unless he’s dramatically improved his fundamentals over a Spring and Summer before arriving. If he’s as focused as they claim, he’ll grow more as a player this summer and fall than he did the previous four years. Aranda and O will demand he learn how to play his position the right way.

Still, it’s easy to see the intrigue. Big guys can’t usually run the way Cherry does. We’ve talked before about looking for those physical bench markers, and Cherry checks a lot of boxes. He’s long and athletic. He’s got a nice frame to add mass on. He can really run. Now it’s a matter of translating all those physical attributes into actual usable football skills. His best football is ahead of him.

But I think he needs time. Best course of action may be for Cherry to redshirt this year and continue to mature physically as he learns his position. Anything beyond that I would consider him ahead of the curve.

High End: All-SEC type. High draft pick.
Low End: Casualty of depth/transfer.
Realistic: Role playing pass rusher and eventual starter.