DeAngelo Gibbs might be the top junior cornerback in the country, according to college football scouts.The Peachtree Ridge standout might also be the best player in Georgia, regardless of grade level.
Watch Gibbs in practice. Star rankings can be chucked by that chain-link fence. No. 8 in blue glides more than he labors. It is always five yards in two steps, but he’s got at least one more gear left.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pounder is wearing hardly any pads below his waist, but it still looks like it. Gibbs is what a guy with two uncles who played for 12 (Jake Reed) and 14 (Dale Carter) seasons in the NFL should look like on a varsity practice field.
What schools sit well with Peachtree Ridge junior right now?
“There’s so much more out there that I still need to see,” Gibb said. “I can honestly say I haven’t see everything that’s out there yet to narrow any of it down.”
The only thing he knows is he’ll take an official visit to Oregon next year. That’s the only certainty. His eyes go big when the Ducks and their new 2015 glow-in-the-dark togs gets brought up.
UGA appears to be in a good spot. Some schools have dangled a starting spot from the day he arrives on campus.
“Georgia is a great backyard school,” Gibbs said. “Not too far. Georgia checks off a lot of things and it is a hometown school. Who wouldn’t love to play for their hometown backyard school? They keep telling me to get back on to their campus.”
How good can he be? Well, Peachtree Ridge head coach Mark Fleetwood has seen future NFL stars like Eric Davis, Terrell Owens, Osi Umenyiora and DeMarcus Ware along their high school and college ascents to pro football.
Fleetwood pointed to Gibbs in practice on Tuesday and made a jaw-dropping comparison. The tone of his voice remains level the entire time. Its like he’s talking about their stretch play.
“DeAngelo is a high school junior,” Fleetwood said. “I coached Terrell Owens in college when he was a sophomore. Now Terrell hadn’t really figured out football at that point in college but right now DeAngelo is a better football player than Terrell Owens when he was a sophomore in college.”
Owens finally matured and figured out his craft over the next two or three years is college, but that is still significant. Owens is a future NFL Hall of Famer who caught more than 150 touchdown passes in pro football.
Gibbs said he’s taken a trip to Tennessee, which ranks as the best college visit he’s ever been on. He stayed overnight and spoke with several of their players and got the orange-and-white picture.
Despite the accolades at defensive back, his primary position at Peachtree Ridge is at receiver this fall. Gibbs will be kind of an equalizer to plug in on defense to lock down a blue-chip receiver when required. He may float all over that scheme. His role on that side of the ball sounds like a baseball closer. He’ll be called on to douse hot receivers.
That’s only possible because Peachtree Ridge could have the best secondary in Georgia prep football history with two players rated among the top 5 nationally. Then there’s also a UGA commitment (Chad Clay) and the son of another NFL player (Baylen Buchanan) who has pledged to Louisville.
Gibbs has no idea whether he prefers playing receiver or corner on Saturdays. He can’t even answer the question about which spot he feels more comfortable at. That’s one of those Diablo-or-Testarossa questions. Any school worth its Power 5 status will certainly let him do either or both.
Can Gibbs fulfill his vast potential? Perhaps the best barometer is the family dinner table. His mother Karen Gibbs is a middle school principal. That’s part of the reason why the 5-star recruit carries a 3.5 GPA. She also was a Hall of Fame basketball player at Miles College in Alabama. She set a school record by scoring 49 points in a single game.
His father Deon Gibbs also played college basketball. DeAngelo has two older sisters who both played college basketball. One of those graduated from USC in three years and has since transferred to play at Pitt.
He comes from a family of achievers.
“They set the standard for me,” Gibbs said. “My sister graduated from college in three years. That’s the expectation for me as a student-athlete. Not the football stuff. That’s the standard for me to follow on a college campus. If she can do it, then I can do it. My whole family kind of is expected to be an athlete, but also be able to handle that classroom.”
Gibbs got the chance to speak with NFL All-Pro Richard Sherman at Nike’s The Opening in Oregon this summer. That two chatted on-and-off for almost an hour. He sees a potential parallel in his career and the road Sherman went down.
“He told me to never give up and you hear that a lot,” Gibbs said. “But he told me he almost gave up football until he switched from receiver to cornerback when he was in the NFL. Imagine that. He converted to cornerback when he got to the NFL. I still can’t believe that. You’d never expect that from one of the best cornerbacks in the league. We also talked about life in general. He’s a great dude.”
Ready for some highlights? Well, this was Gibbs against Archer last fall. That’s a pretty good litmus of skill for any player in Georgia considering the talent level of that opponent.
Jeff Sentell covers UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges.