Recruit Notebook - Jermaine Grace

Recruit Notebook - Jermaine Grace

Cameron Underwood
As recruiting season continues, my job of choosing which prospects to profile has been made easier with every passing day. Almost every recruit has been in the news for some reason, and today’s prospect is no different.

Today’s installment of the Recruit Notebook, we look at a player who I have had the pleasure of covering every day for the past 3 years: Miramar LB Jermaine Grace.

Part 1: Jermaine Grace, the player
Grace, better known as Country to the Miramar faithful, is one of the top players in this class. He is a very explosive athlete who impacts the game in a variety of areas.

Grace has good height at 6’1.5”. He has a very athletic build, and weighs 208lbs. The debate about Grace putting on weight, or having enough size to play at the next level has raged on for the better part of the last 2 years. Grace has added size since his Junior year, when his playing weight was around 195. Grace has the frame to support him adding another 20-30lbs of muscle. I think that might take time, because his natural build is more lean muscle than bulk.

Grace has outstanding speed. He was timed at 4.57 in the 40 back at Nike’s The Opening, but that was coming off of a hamstring strain that kept him out of spring practice. I know he tested as average at The Opening, but I would put him more in the 4.43-4.45 range. Grace’s quickness in short areas is very good, and he uses that to make a lot of plays.

Tackling/Run Support
Grace is one of the best read and react players I have seen. He has a football sense you simply can’t teach. When defending the run, Grace uses his diagnosing skills to quickly locate the ball, and then runs to it. His short area quickness and superb speed allows Grace to make plays from sideline to sideline with surprising ease.

Grace has very good tackling technique. He showcases good balance at the point of contact, and wraps up well. He drives through the ball carrier well, and rarely misses tackles, or has them broken. Grace has surprising tackling power, which he displayed throughout the season.

Grace has been one of the most productive players in Florida, if not the country, based largely on his ability to affect the running game of opposing teams. Grace had 150 tackles (including 37 tackles for loss) as a Junior, and 120 tackles, with 26 tackles for loss as a Senior. That Grace was able to replicate his Junior year statistics while opposing teams made it a point of emphasis to stay away from him is a testament to his abilities as a defender.

While Grace is a very good run defender (see previous section if you need more description about that), what really set him apart are his spectacular coverage skills.

Grace has great technique when taking his drops in coverage, and hits his depths well. He is very knowledgeable about route combinations and uses that knowledge to anticipate where the ball may be heading. He shows good fluidity in his hips, and transitions well between taking space and closing on receivers.

Grace is comfortable in both zone and man situations, and understands the subtleties of each deployment. His pass knockdowns aren’t the typical ones you see from a linebacker batting them down in the middle of the field. Grace’s come from close proximity coverage near the point of potential reception.

Grace is able to run with all but the fastest receivers, and allows limited amounts of separation to the player he is covering. Grace is able to affect the routes of receivers with good physicality within 5 yards of the line. He uses his hands well, both in bumping/jamming receivers, and deflecting and catching passes.

Grace had 5 interceptions as a Junior, and 1 interception as a senior, with a combined 23 passes defended/broken up over that time. To end this section, I’ll leave you with a story from practice this year. Yes, I’m talkin’ about practice:

In the early stages of the season, while Miramar was working to integrate new players into the lineup on offense, the team worked on the passing game with the 7-on-7 drill. From his position at Left Linebacker, Grace knocked down 3 passes, and intercepted another, all within the first 10 plays of that practice session. When Grace was taken out of the drill to enable another player to work on their defensive skills, I heard the offensive coaches saying “Country’s out now? Good. Maybe we can actually do something in this drill, finally.”​

One man affected an entire passing drill. As a linebacker.

That’s Jermaine Grace.

Pass Rushing
Grace wasn’t really utilized as a pure pass rusher, though I think he could have been devastating in this role at the High School level. Grace’s comparative lack of size (for a Defensive End) is something that I don’t think he could overcome to be a consistently effective pass rusher at the next level.

In short, this is not one of his strong suits, nor is it the best use of the skills he possesses

Grace blitzes from time to time, usually with good success. His speed and quickness enable him to cut through, or around, the offensive line and make his way to the QB or RB.

Grace can be stymied by blocking schemes from time to time. If he is, he’s shown a good ability to hold the point of attack and for the play back toward the center of the defense.

Positional Versatility
Grace is well built for Weakside Linebacker. This position enables him to read and react to the running game, and also drop into coverage when needed. He has additional experience at Tight End, and Long Snapper, neither of which he figures to play in the future.

Grace’s build is lean and muscular, and has led people to think that a player of his size and athleticism would be best utilized at Safety. While Grace has some experience at this position, and definitely possesses the athletic talent to be successful there, I do not think this is the best place for him to play.

Grace also played on the kick coverage and return teams. Having a player of this caliber on the field for as many plays as possible is an obvious advantage. I suspect that Grace will continue to be involved on Special Teams in College.

Unlike most linebackers, Grace’s skills trend backwards (playing sideline to sideline and excelling in coverage) instead of forward (rushing the passer and blitzing). Still, the multifaceted nature of Grace’s game is, in my estimation, best suited for Linebacker as opposed to Safety.

Part 2: Game Evaluation
Grace is a top talent, who affects the opposing offense just by being on his team’s roster. He has a well earned reputation as an impact defender, and that figures to continue as his career progresses to the next level.

Statistics tell a large part of the story with Grace. Over the course of the last 2 years, Grace has made 270 tackles, more than 65 of them for loss, along with 6 interceptions and many other impact plays. Grace’s productivity, while always high, reached new levels in the biggest games of his career. He had 11 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and 2 passes defended in the playoffs against Cypress Bay in 2011, 8 tackles with 3 tackles for loss against Alex Collins’ South Plantation Paladins in the playoffs in 2012, and 24 tackles with 3 tackles for loss against Cypress Bay in his last high school game. Add in 2 huge games against St. Thomas Aquinas and Cypress Bay in the regular season each of the last 2 years, and you start to get a picture of just how disruptive Grace has been, and figures to be.

As I said before, Grace is a spectacular read and react player. His instincts and diagnosis skills are among the best I’ve ever seen. He has a knack for understanding the play and finding the ball that is rarely seen. This trait enables Grace to be involved in nearly every play.

Grace’s knowledge of opposing offenses enables him to be lined up in the proper position on nearly every play. Grace’s position at Weakside Linebacker lets him run freely without much contact from opposing lineman. When Grace is confronted with blockers, he uses his hands to fight off blocks. While his technique is sound, Grace will be positively aided with additional size and strength, which will enable him to deal with the blockers more physically.

Grace tends to take flat pursuit angles. While this always the best, he can overcome a bad angle with his blazing speed. Obviously, linebackers are taught to run to the ball, while defensive backs are taught to run deeper to be the last line of defense. Grace is so fast that taking a flatter pursuit angle than most players at his position actually helps him make plays. Pursuit angles are an easy fix, so this doesn’t really concern me. If needed, I’m confident that his college coach will be able to fix this small detail.

Grace’s size is the biggest area of concern, but it rarely manifested itself as a problem at the High School level. It was easy for Grace to run around blocks from much larger players (like Palm Beach Gardens/Auburn OT Avery Young, and linemen from Cypress Bay and St. Thomas), and run over smaller players (around 240lbs and under). With more physically mature players at the next level, I don’t think Grace will have the same ability to out muscle his opponents without the addition of more size and functional strength.

Grace plays with a quiet intensity, punctuated with moments of emotional explosion. After a particularly big hit or punishing crackback block on a return, Grace has been known to yell, scream, or even flex towards the Miramar sideline and fans. This isn’t an every play reaction, which makes it all the more powerful when it does happen.

Grace is a talented player who has found great success to this point in his career. With continued hard work and dedication, I don’t see any reason why that can’t continue into the future.

Part 3: College Projection
As I said earlier, Grace is perfectly suited for Weakside Linebacker. Even at 208lbs, I believe he can be successful in college, if utilized properly by the defensive system. I think that Grace will be able to get up to 220 or 225lbs in time, but his natural build will make that weight addition process take until at least his Sophomore season. He should still be able to add some size before getting to campus in the fall.

Early on in his collegiate career, I think that Grace will be a very good to outstanding Special Teams player, as well as a situational substitute to the defense. Grace has the coverage skills of a defensive back, an ability that will be an added weapon from the linebacker position for whichever school he chooses to attend. He is so advanced that I have no doubt that he will see the field in passing situations throughout his Freshman year. The determining factor in him seeing even more playing time will not be his size. It will be his ability to shed blocks and tackle larger RBs and TEs, in my opinion.

While the obvious comparisons of Grace to Sean Spence and Lavonte David are accurate based on their sizes, I don't think that's the best comparison of playing styles and skills. The player who I would compare Grace to is former Tampa Bay Buccaneers OLB Derrick Brooks. Brooks played very well for Florida State in college, lettering for 4 years, and being a 1st team All-American his final 2 years, before enjoying a long NFL career. His abilities in both run stopping and pass coverage was one of the main components to the development of Monte Kiffin’s famed Tampa 2 defensive scheme. While Grace needs to add size to physically resemble Brooks, their skills are very close in nature.

Final Grades
Athleticism – A
Football IQ – A
Tackling/Run Support – A-
Coverage skills – A+
Pass Rushing – D-
Fundamentals and Technique – A
Leadership/Maturity – B+
Physical development – C+
Versatility – B
Potential – B+

Overall Recruit Grade – A
Grace is a top player who figures to be able to contribute immediately on the collegiate level. He is being recruited by Miami, Tennessee, Florida State and Texas A&M, among others.

As a prospect, Grace has recently seen his stock rise, but questions about his size has come into primary focus. Grace is a cut and defined physically, but lacking the size typically found in linebacker prospects.

Grace has an intangible knack for finding the football, and his coverage skills are second to none at the linebacker position. He figures to start his career as a Special Teams player, and Pass Coverage platoon specialist, but he should develop into a key contributor for his chosen school in due time.

The thought that Jermaine Grace is only an average player is crazy to me. He’s a top recruit, and comes from the same High School Program that produced West Virginia stars Geno Smith and Stedman Bailey, and current Miami Hurricanes Tracy Howard, Malcolm Lewis, and Ryan Williams. His skills are remarkable, and his training superb. The team that secures his services will immediately get better.

We’ll just have to wait and see which school that ends up being.

Comments (40)

Outstanding work as usual.

Anything even approaching Derrick Brooks would be a grand slam. IMO, he is the greatest WLB of all time.

One thing that made Brooks special is the combination of brains and athleticims. Sounds like Grace is cut from the same cloth.
Outstanding work as usual.

Anything even approaching Derrick Brooks would be a grand slam. IMO, he is the greatest WLB of all time.

One thing that made Brooks special is the combination of brains and athleticims. Sounds like Grace is cut from the same cloth.

Thanks D$.

I'm glad you liked my comparison too. I had to think long and hard so that Lu doesn't come in here and shoot me down again lol
That was awesome,similiar to Brooks! I like Thomas this young man,sounds like a play maker! Thanks for the write up.
seems like a stretch and pushing this guy too hard

hope it pans out - Derrick Brooks? hmm

would love anything remotely close
Outstanding work as usual.

Anything even approaching Derrick Brooks would be a grand slam. IMO, he is the greatest WLB of all time.

One thing that made Brooks special is the combination of brains and athleticims. Sounds like Grace is cut from the same cloth.

Thanks D$.

I'm glad you liked my comparison too. I had to think long and hard so that Lu doesn't come in here and shoot me down again lol

LMAO. I'm a big Grace guy and on record (when we were still fucking around about his weight) as saying he'd be the type of guy who ends up a 6' 1" 235 pound SEC monster and 2nd or 3rd rounder. I just can't **** around with anymore Derrick Brooks comparisons, but I think we know what you're trying to get across.

You guys remember a VTech backer named James Anderson? He plays for Carolina. That's who comes to mind. He seems like a natural football player who can do well in any number of roles - weakside or strongside or even blitzing.
I don't know if you've gotten insight to these kids reading these articles and threads but it seems like you reaching a little bit. I get you want these kids to translate on the next level, but until they step on the field and pan out I can't be very accepting of this evaluation. Good read tho
Grace has a picture of him holding up the u sign in the locker room of the canes and is wearing number five. good sign.. look it up
He's a bit of a slam dunk...would love to see him be a signing day announcement. Last minute momentum is always key rolling into the next class.
I don't know if you've gotten insight to these kids reading these articles and threads but it seems like you reaching a little bit. I get you want these kids to translate on the next level, but until they step on the field and pan out I can't be very accepting of this evaluation. Good read tho

The first 2 sections are based on prior performance. The 3rd section, projection, is speculative. I'm not claiming that everything I write is the gospel truth, but the majority of these articles comes from what I've seen these players already do on the field.

Projection is by definition reaching to try and extrapolate prior performance and current abilities onto the next level. You might not agree with it, but I don't think that it's misrepresentative of the player.
Cameron: Your best work yet. Absolutely Outstanding! I look forward to more of these updates. No one, I mean no one, has detailed scouting reports similar to yours on the internet. Obviously professsional scouting reports are as detailed but these are HS reports and yours are the very best. Thank you.
Can't help but see him at safety with his natural coverage skills. Always hear d'orito talk about positional a safety he could always play the box in obvious passing downs as a way to get an extra DB on the field...either way kid is a stud!

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