Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Rising star watch: Jonathan Lenard

Jonathan "Jay" Lenard of Rio Mesa High School in Ventura County does double duty as ball hawking safety and hard-hitting enforcer. Lenard holds five scholarship offers, including a recent pledge from Mountain West Conference runner-up Fresno State (photo contributed). 
It's been six years since Rio Mesa High School near Oxnard has ever seen a recruiting chase like this.

Class of 2016 prospect Jonathan "Jay" Lenard - who's the Spartans' most coveted recruit at five scholarship offers - has emerged as Rio Mesa's most highly wanted prospect since Jamaal Perkins (Class of 2010) wore the black and red and starred in Rio Mesa's secondary/receiving corps. Perkins ended up with Iowa State, Ole Miss, Marshall and New Mexico State offers before settling on Northern Arizona.

Fresno State of the Mountain West Conference extended its scholarship pledge to Lenard on Tuesday, April 21. Judging from what I saw, Lenard is capable of adding more scholarships.

Here's a closer look:

WHAT TO LIKE: His nose for the football is exactly what you want in your secondary. Lenard shows good eyes and excellent instincts, then he'll either snatch the football away or destroy the big play. He'll force fumbles and grab interceptions, then becomes a threat to score. He's fluid with his speed and closes fast on the ball carrier. Does an excellent job of not only shadowing a wide receiver in man or zone coverage, but has long enough arms to swat the ball away. At 6-foot-1 and 185-pounds, size shouldn't be an issue for his future collegiate home. He won't hesitate to come crashing down near the line of scrimmage and demolish a running back or quarterback. He's capable of playing in the box like a young Troy Polamalu. An aggressive player who clearly loves to pulverize opponents with his shoulder.

WHAT TO BUILD ON: I noticed he comes up too high on his tackles. While he might get away with that under the Friday night lights, he'll need to work on lowering his pad level and sinking his hips in college. I'm also interested in seeing more of his ability to fight off blockers during blitzes. He tends to place his hips in the wrong direction and can take the wrong angle pursuit. But he has enough speed to chase down people.

OVERALL: In the always talent-deep Ventura County, Lenard is - without a doubt - the most complete safety in that region. He doubles as a ball hawk and ferocious hitter; two traits I've always admired from safeties. He looks like another former Spartan star: ex-USC defensive back and NFL/CFL veteran Kevin Thomas (Class of 2005).

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