Class of 2018 wide receiver Devonta Jason became the most discussed prospect in recent Kansas football memory when the New Orleans native verbally committed to David Beaty’s program in February.
Despite some skepticism on whether Jason, rated the No. 22 prep senior in the nation and a five-star talent by Rivals, will indeed end up playing at KU because commitments are non-binding, the athletic, 6-foot-3 receiver coveted by LSU and a number of other high-profile programs remains on board some five months away from his anticipated December graduation and the NCAA’s new early-signing period.
Associate head coach Tony Hull, responsible for recruiting Jason and other Louisiana standouts, such as KU sophomore safety Mike Lee (also an early Landry-Walker grad), might deserve another raise if Jason and his high school teammate, four-star cornerback Corione Harris, actually end up at Kansas and aren’t stolen away by a more successful program before they sign their letters of intent.
In a new video feature for NOLA.com, recruiting analyst Jimmy Smith explains why Jason is so intriguing for Kansas and the many other programs from which he has received offers, such as Alabama, Georgia and Florida.
“He’s 6-3, 205 pounds and he has the leaping ability of most NBA guards,” Smith says of Jason. “His athleticism, explosiveness, leaping ability — I mean, the kid’s been impressive from Day 1 of his prep career and he’s been a dominant force throughout high school.”
The way Smith, who first watched Jason as a freshman, describes the KU pledge, the receiver has the character to succeed, as well.
“Devonta has a desire to be great, and so he’s got that work ethic and that drive, and that will help propel him through his future. He’s doing it for a lot more than just himself,” Smith says. “He puts his family on his back, his community on his back.
Jason told NOLA.com the drug scene and violence he has witnessed in his community while growing up served as a form of inspiration.
“It just keeps me going,” Jason says in the video. “I don’t want to be in that predicament. To not put my life in danger.”
He began playing football at 11 as an offensive lineman, Jason reveals, but his athleticism and hands made him a natural at receiver. Not to mention his competitive nature.
What kind of play does he enjoy most, while trying to beat a defensive back (or backs) in coverage?
“Most times I like to go up top and make them feel like even less of a DB,” Jason says.
The prep star showed off some of those skills this past weekend at the USA Football 7v7 National Championship Series Tournament, in Frisco, Texas. In a highlight video from the event produced by Scout.com, Jason displays his open-field speed and footwork, as well as his ability to out-muscle or out-leap his defender to make a play.
He’s a long way from officially becoming a Jayhawk, but Jason could be a program-altering recruit for Beaty and his staff.
The first five-star prospect to ever commit to the University of Kansas football program, New Orleans prep receiver Devonta Jason has heard the murmurs and seen the skepticism floating around the recruiting world in response to the non-binding pledge he made back in February.
That much was clear in Jason’s comments to Bleacher Report, for a feature titled: Do You Believe 5-star WR Devonta Jason is Kansas-bound? LSU and Alabama don’t.
"People were asking me if they gave me something," Jason told Bleacher Report’s Adam Kramer. "Everybody was going crazy. They wanted to know what I was thinking. I'm just going to be me."
A 6-foot-3 rising senior at New Orleans’ Landry-Walker High, Jason, of course, is the marquee prospect in third-year KU head coach David Beaty’s Louisiana-heavy 2018 recruiting class. Rivals ranks Jason as the 22nd-best player in the country, and considering KU’s current seven-year streak of winning three games or fewer, many outsiders scratch their heads or scoff at the idea of Jason officially signing with the Jayhawks months from now.
According to Jason, a coach from another program texted him “really?” upon hearing of his verbal commitment to Beaty, associate head coach and Louisiana native Tony Hull and Kansas.
"It really didn't get to me," Jason told Bleacher Report. "I know they went 2-10 and 0-12 the year before. It's really not about what school you go to or being a big fish in a big pond. It's about your future and making an impact on your life. It's about being known and recognized."
Given that most prospects of Jason’s caliber typically sign with the likes of Alabama, Florida State, Clemson, Ohio State or some other renowned program, Rivals’ national recruiting director Mike Farrell characterized Jason as a “unicorn.”
Farrell explained: “I’ve never seen one in person, and I don't know if they exist. If this sticks, it will prove that they do."
Hull, who also helped lure commitments from Jason’s current Landry-Walker teammates, four-star cornerback Corione Harris and three-star defensive end Josh Smith, as well as former L-W standout Mike Lee, gets credit for making this unique recruiting situation possible. Jason said he connected with Hull when he visited Lawrence.
“Being as far away as I was,” he told Bleacher Report, “it still felt like home.”
As Jason had stated previously, he intends to graduate from Landry-Walker early and enroll in college for the spring semester of 2018, ahead of his freshman year of college football.
David Beaty’s already hyped 2018 recruiting class for Kansas football now has a five-star prospect in its midst.
The Jayhawks haven’t snagged another commitment from a coveted rising high school senior. The boost, instead, comes courtesy of one of the young men who ignited the so-called “Louisianimal” frenzy in the first place. A four-star wide receiver when he first announced in February his intentions to sign with KU, New Orleans’ Devonta Jason has since impressed enough within the recruiting world for Rivals to bump him up to five-star status.
The latest Rivals 100 rankings for 2018, unveiled Tuesday, list Jason, a 6-foot-3 wideout from Landry-Walker High, as the No. 22 senior in the country, with an extra star next to his name. Jon Kirby of Jayhawk Slant said this makes Jason the first five-star prospect ever to commit to KU.
When Jason visited Kansas nearly four months ago and — along with prep teammate Corione Harris, a four-star cornerback — committed to Beaty, Louisiana native Tony Hull and the Jayhawks, Rivals rated the talented receiver as the 35th-best player in the country.
So what has changed since then, considering Jason’s senior year at Landry-Walker is still months away?
“The Kansas commit spent the spring making highlight reel catches at camps and 7-on-7 tournaments across the country, proving that he belongs in the five-star class,” Rivals’ Woody Wommack explained. “Jason has everything from measurables to on-field and camp production on his résumé, and his size and catch radius makes him one of the nation's best. Kansas has never signed a five-star prospect in the Rivals.com era, but now has a chance to do so.”
Only three Class of 2018 receivers in the country are currently ranked ahead of Jason in the Rivals 100.
“His ability at his size to go up and get the ball and really outplay defenders has been really impressive,” Wommack detailed in a Rivals video highlight package of Jason. “You know, he’s not the quickest wide receiver in the world, and that’s what some people are concerned about, but we feel like he can get enough separation, especially when he needs to be. And he’s a guy that may not light it up on the clock, but when the lights come on in a game situation, he’s super-productive. We’ve seen it on film, we’ve seen it in person and now we’ve seen it at several elite camps.”
Jason and many of the country’s other top high school seniors will soon converge to compete and prove themselves at the Rivals 100 Five-Star Challenge, June 9 and 10, in Indianapolis.
KU’s 2018 recruiting class, highlighted by Jason and Harris, currently ranks 21st nationally, according to Rivals.