CB Caleb Offord, 6-1, 175; Southaven (Miss.) High.
The numbers: Offord tallied 41 tackles, five interceptions, 10 pass breakups, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries — one of which he returned for a touchdown — in his junior season at Southaven. The Chargers (4-7) missed the MHSAA 6A playoffs following a 3-4 finish in district play. Offord plans to enroll early in January.
The rankings: 247Sports — Three stars, No. 43 CB, No. 530 overall. Rivals — Three stars, No. 61 CB.
First impression: Notre Dame’s trio of three-star cornerback commits — Clarence Lewis, Landen Bartleson and Offord — each offer upside and the potential to play safety. Unlike the former two pledges, Offord rarely plays offense. At this point, Offord looks more technically sound on defense than Lewis and Bartleson. Offord might find a better fit at free safety than corner. Ole Miss never offering the in-state product remains a mystery.
Strengths: He’s not the strongest, and he’s certainly not the fastest. But Offord flashes the traits and instincts college coaches look for in defensive backs. The Southaven coaching staff told the Tribune that Offord operates in press-man coverage on about 70 percent of his snaps. He still needs work, but Offord looks natural transitioning from press to backpedal to running with receivers. He displays good anticipation when running with receivers and often isn’t fooled by their sudden movements or changes in direction. Offord's impressive ball skills come from his long arms and 35-inch vertical leap. He can catch interceptions at their highest point or swat away passes at the last moment.
Proof of prowess: (0:15, 1:39, 2:08) Playing free safety requires one to read and react on short notice and close on the ball quickly. Offord shows why he could handle those responsibilities on these three plays. The first two screens are almost instantly sniffed out by Offord. He fights through blocks well and packs a punch when given a full head of steam.
(0:44, 2:55) Not many passes are too high for Offord. With his long arms, body control, concentration and well-timed leaps, Offord can break up (first play) or intercept (second play) passes intended for receivers behind him. Offord displays solid hand-eye coordination when deflecting or intercepting passes at their highest possible point.
(2:22, 3:47) Offord’s ball-hawking ability, which was alluded to in the section above (0:44, 2:55), is another attribute needed at free safety. On the first play (2:22), the opposite side tight end runs free across the middle. Offord multitasks by sticking to his receiver while studying the quarterback’s eyes as he releases the football. Offord abandons his man with precise anticipation, leaving himself enough time to break up the pass intended for the tight end. On the second play (3:47), the quarterback places the back-shoulder throw in a spot where only his receiver can secure it. Refusing to call it quits, Offord extends his arm and punches the football out of the receiver’s gloves.
Competition level: Mississippi tends to produce above average talent on a national scale. One of the best years for the state, though, came in the 2019 recruiting class. 247Sports offered a three-star rating or higher for 60 recruits, three of whom earned five-star status. Both of those marks shattered Mississippi’s records in 247Sports’ database, which dates back to the 2010 recruiting class. The 2020 recruiting class cooled off but still has 48 recruits at three-star status or higher — the second-most in Mississippi history. Five recruits reached four-star distinction, but none entered five-star territory.
All but one of Southaven’s 11 opponents ranked among the top 75 teams in their state across all divisions, per MaxPreps. Cordova, ranked No. 50 overall in Tennessee, marked Southaven’s lone out-of-state opponent. The nine Mississippi teams were Horn Lake (No. 1), Oxford (No. 13), Olive Branch (No. 14), South Panola (No. 26), Tupelo (No. 32), Germantown (No. 50), Hernando (No. 63) and DeSoto Central (No. 71).
Offord held his own against the top recruits representing those teams. Oxford’s Jeremiah Pegues, a four-star 2020 athlete, tallied just two receptions for 15 yards and four carries for 10 yards and a touchdown. Tupelo receiver Jordan Jernigan, who signed to Ole Miss’ 2019 recruiting class, secured one pass for 16 yards. Offord did not allow a touchdown in 2018.
Left to prove: Neither Rivals nor 247Sports considers Offord as a top 40 cornerback in the 2020 recruiting class. Both recruiting sites seemingly under-ranked Offord, though a three-star rating is still fitting.
Lewis and Bartleson bring better measurables than Offord and look faster on film. Offord clocked a 4.61 40-yard dash at The Opening Regional on May 19. Position uncertainty also hinders Offord's floor. He must add a lot of strength to fit into where he will likely begin his career — boundary corner. That position will also call for Offord to sink his hips better during backpedal transitions. The Irish coaching staff told Offord he could move to safety, but that's only if his body develops like one.
Among Offord, Lewis and Bartleson, Offord makes the most sense at safety. He’s been cross-training at corner and safety over the last year, especially since the Irish began recruiting him in May. As a two-way player, Lewis is the most fluid athlete among the three. Bartleson has the rawest technique, yet he possesses the most potential with his 4.4 speed and strength at 6-1, 185 pounds.