WATSON – Live Oak coach Brett Beard believed senior defensive lineman Jalen Lee checked all of the boxes when it came to college recruiting.
Especially the obvious areas when it came to Lee’s immense 6-foot-4, 295-pound frame and ability to squat 575 pounds.
But there were also the intangibles that prospective schools, who through their own due diligence, discovered when spending time with Lee, regarded as a three-star prospect and nation’s No. 36-ranked defensive tackle by 247 Sports.com
“He handles his business, he’s very respectful,” Beard said. “He’s a great kid from a great home life. You can tell he was raised right. I knew this was going to happen for him in time. He’s a special student-athlete.”
This is a full-blown, coast-to-coast recruiting process not often, if ever, played out at Live Oak High School.
Then again, it’s not often someone of Lee’s caliber has stepped foot on the campus at Live Oak where he’s been a two-year starter and All-District 4-5A and All-Parish performer after recording 74 tackles, 9 quarterback hurries, 8 stops behind the line and 5 ½ quarterback sacks.
Conversely, schools from Oregon to Florida and in between with Oklahoma, LSU and Alabama, have beaten a path to Live Oak to get a first-hand look at Lee to further assess his ability and develop a relationship with him.
“It was pretty chaotic,” Lee said of the spring. “Coaches came in and out, came to film me and watch me practice. That’s every kid’s dream, to play football and get D1 offers.”
Beard relayed a similar story once Live Oak had begun its spring practice where college coaches would become commonplace.
“(Assistant) Coach (Brent) Baker said it best,” Beard said. “The first day we had Oklahoma, Texas and Oregon at a Live Oak practice. He said, ‘we really have Oklahoma at practice today’.”
Lee recently took the first big-picture step in his recruiting process, narrowing down the scope of his focus to 10 schools that include: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Texas.
He’s already scheduled his first official visit Aug. 31 to Oklahoma when the Sooners open their season against Houston and said that Florida and Texas are in line to potentially receive similar visits as well.
“LSU and Alabama are recruiting me the hardest,” Lee said. “So are Texas, Florida and A&M. I’m just taking it day by day. I don’t have any favorites yet.”
Beard points back to a scholarship from Florida more than four months ago that changed the trajectory of Lee’s recruiting process. It altered the landscape from more of a regional scale where South Alabama, UL-Lafayette and Louisiana Tech were among the first schools to offer to truly a national scope where, Alabama, Tennessee, Kansas and LSU followed Florida’s lead.
“I knew the potential of it blowing up was great, Beard said. “He was kind of flying under the radar at that point when Florida offered. He’s a big kid that’s at Live Oak where not a lot of people get out to. Florida was the first SEC offer and then people started watching him, wanting to see him in person and whether he would pass the eye test.”
Lee, who plans to attend Alabama’s one-day lineman camp June 2, believes taking official visits during his senior season will make it easier to sign during the NCAA’s early signing period in December instead of waiting until February.
“I’ll want to get into it more,” Lee said of his official visits. “Look at academic part of it; the defensive scheme they run; the bond with the coaches and whether they treat me like family with the players.
“My parents really care about the academic part of it because the football part comes naturally to me,” Lee said. “I know coaches come and go. It’s not about that. It will be about the scheme they run and wherever fits me best.”
Beard praised Lee’s grounded approach to recruiting.
“He’s stayed extremely humble, kept working and stuck with the process of what got him to this point,” he said. “He’s stayed hungry and taken care of Live Oak football and that’s what he’s done. That’s what I’ve been most proud of.”