The most under-the-radar prospect to receive an offer at the first Texas Junior Day last Saturday was Fort Bend Ridge Point cornerback Jordan Tolbert, but the 5'11 prospect who is teammates with Longhorns target Cameron Townsend deserves to be a household name.
He also could be the next commit for Texas in the 2015 class, though Rockwall-Heath safety/outside linebacker DeShon Elliott is certainly in contention as well with his own decisions looming this spring. The first Junior Day made a strong impression on Tolbert, just as it did on Elliott, and the Crystal Ball predictions for Tolbert are now unanimous in projecting him as a future Longhorn.
Committed to Houston since last October, Tolbert also holds offers from Baylor and Colorado. Rated as a three-star prospect, 247Sports likes the 165-pounder more than the rest of the industry, rating him as a near four-star recruit with a grade of 89, which makes him the No. 33 cornerback in the country and the No. 54 player in the state of Texas.
But none of that really describes why Tolbert is even a better prospect than his rankings by 247Sports would indicate.
Before getting to those reasons, it's worth pointing out that Tolbert has a ways to go physically, as he's a pretty thin kid, although it's not like he's so skinny he looks like he's never been in the weight room. Think Josh Turner coming out of high school. Unfortunately, Turner never put on a great deal of muscle mass and can still struggle sometimes as a tackler.
For Tolbert, that won't be as much of a concern because he's a pure cornerback and should be able to stick at the position, even if his reported 4.45 40 time isn't exactly accurate.
Cornerback can be one of the toughest positions to evaluate because there often isn't a great deal of film on them. Tolbert is an anomaly in that regard with extensive film that allows a full examination of his skill set.
The first clip, a long kickoff return for a touchdown, is a telling one -- it suggests that he's the fastest and most dynamic player on his team to be returning kicks. And he should be the fastest and most dynamic player on his team. Tolbert also blocked several kicks as a junior using his speed off the edge, making him a true difference-maker on special teams when including two fumble recoveries and a high-pointed onside kick in heavy traffic.
Tolbert is also a physical, lockdown cornerback. Pressing at the line of scrimmage is one of his strengths and even though he doesn't appear to have the most developed upper body, he does an excellent job of playing stronger than he looks, moving all over the field to handle the opposing team's best wide receiver, including one X receiver he pushed well out of bounds. He understands how to use the sideline to his advantage.
On another play, Tolbert doesn't allow the wide receiver to come across his face on a slant near the Ridge Point end zone, instead battling his opponent and knocking the pass away.
When playing off coverage, Tolbert sinks well into his backpedal and has the fluid hips to transition easily, allowing him to make plays on the football in coverage. There's some evidence that he can finish plays with interceptions. Check the 1:15 mark of his Hudl highlights to watch an interception against Texas target JW Ketchum that Tolbert returns for a nice gain after beating the wide receiver for the football.
If there's one quibble about his play in coverage, it's that he let several possible interceptions slip through his hands on the season.
All told, however, there's a lot to like about Tolbert both athletically and with his ability to get physical in coverage, along with the fact that he projects as someone who could make plays on special teams. Likely a field corner because of his height, Tolbert could make for an underrated addition to the 2015 Texas class in the near future.