Five-star Houston Lamar cornerback Anthony Cook is equal parts confidence, humility, and sheer talent in the sport that’s earned him 35 offers from major programs around the nation.
Nothing short of an elite prospect, Alabama, TCU, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Nebraska and Tennessee were among the programs that sought the Houston native’s services and found themselves on the outside looking in of Cook’s recent top 10.
Now, just Ohio State, Texas, Clemson, LSU, Baylor, Florida State, Notre Dame, Florida, USC and Georgia remain in the mix. There’s reason to believe the pool of potential suitors is realistically smaller than a couple handfuls and just as much reason to believe that Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes are in the pole position in the race for the nation’s No. 2-ranked cornerback.
Along with a national brand, a 37-4 record, two College Football Playoff appearances and a National Championship in the past three years, it’s Ohio State’s track record of developing and producing NFL-level talent that’s weighing heavily on Cook’s mind.
“In the draft, they just produced three defensive backs first round,” Cook said regarding former Ohio State standouts Marshon Lattimore, Malik Hooker and Gareon Conley. “They just consistently put first round DBs in the league. That’s attractive to a recruit when a school can put your position first round at the next level. That’s what you look for and if I know I can go to a school that can develop me and get me to the next level, and not just the next level, but first round, why not?”
If Meyer and his staff can ultimately secure Cook’s signature, it won’t mark the first time the Buckeyes’ recruiting haul is headlined by a talent from The Lone Star State.
Just last cycle, five-star Texas natives Jeffrey Okudah and Baron Browning departed for Ohio and Cook keeps in contact about what he can expect should he take his talents to Columbus.
“I talk to those guys,” Cook said. “I’m pretty close with them. They just tell me the same thing; that Ohio State is everything they thought it would be.”
As expected, one word and opinion that holds far more weight that than of any recruit, commit or current player is that of his mother.
“She really doesn’t try to convince me, but her opinion means everything to me,” Cook said of the role his mother plays in his recruitment. “If my mom’s not feeling a school or if she’s got a bad vibe then that’s most likely not a school I’ll be going to. If she and my grandma feel like a school is not right, I’m just going to trust them and go on that.”
As is the case with many recruits, Cook’s mother and grandmother would enjoy being able to see him showcase the years of work he’s put into his football future in person. While this generally only seems logistically possible with regional schools such as Texas, Baylor and LSU, considering he’s from Houston, Cook and his family are more focused on the right fit, regardless of location.
“They would like to see me every game and they know if I go far away, they wouldn’t be able to see me play every game. But distance has never been a problem for us. Like we said, if it’s the best fit, that’s the school I’m going to.”
While Cook’s family would like to watch him play, there’s no shortage of high-level recruits attempting to convince Cook to play with them, including current teammates in four-star cornerback D’shawn Jamison and four-star wide receiver Al’vonte Woodard.
“Of course,” Cook said of if he talks with Jamison and Woodard about possibly playing together in college.
If the trio were to continue teaming up at the next level, there’s a good chance they’d be trading in their red Lamar jerseys for some of the burnt orange variety. Just weeks ago, Jamison named the Longhorns his leader and Woodard has long been considered a Texas lean; the Longhorns currently hold all eight of Woodard’s Crystal Ball projections.
“I talk to Jamison and Woodard all the time,” Cook said.“They say that it will be nice if we could all play at the next level together. They try to send me stuff about Texas and kind of persuade me to go to Texas because they want to play with me if they end up going to Texas. They just really want to play with me, it doesn’t matter what school. That could be Clemson, Ohio State, Texas, LSU, whatever. They just want to play together at the next level so we’ll see where that goes.
Going to Texas, or even Baylor, would mean going against the grain of the recent trends as elite recruits have partaken in a mass exodus and headed to powerhouses elsewhere. With just Texas and Baylor being the only in-state schools named in Cook’s top 10, the numbers aren’t in the home-state’s favor.
So what can Tom Herman or Matt Rhule do to keep Cook at home? Well, prove their respective schools are the best fit.
“I don’t think it’s anything specific that they could do to keep me at home,” Cook said. “I’m just going to evaluate my options and if I feel like that’s the best school and God leads me to that, then that’s what it will be.”
Much of what goes into Cook finding the best fit will be an opportunity to see the field sooner than later. This isn’t exactly a surprise considering Cook is already among the most dominant, college-ready prospects in his class, but he simply wants a chance to compete.
“I’m trying to get on the field as soon as possible and make an immediate impact,” Cook said of how important an opportunity to get on the field early will be. “I feel like I’ve got the talent, but that doesn’t mean that I come in starting. I’ll be cool if I get the opportunity to play, but that means a lot, just to get the opportunity to compete against players. If I get beat out, so be it, but I don’t feel like I will at any program just because I’m a competitor.”
At this point in his high school career, Cook’s confident, competitive mindset is well earned. According to the 247Sports Composite rankings, Cook is the nation’s No. 10 player, No. 2 cornerback and the No. 1 overall player in Texas – an impressive feat by any standard.
Yet, despite the national recruiting praise and often coveted five-star ranking, Cook still feels he has plenty to prove each time he steps on the field, largely due to his ranking.
“I’ve always got something to prove even if I am a top-rated guy,” Cook said. “Every camp that I go to, dudes are trying to line up against me and I’ve got to show them why I’m a top-rated guy so wherever I go, I’ve always got something to prove.”
Furthermore, being deemed as a five-star recruit and the headliner of a defensive back class that is arguably the deepest and most talented to ever emerge from the talent-rich state of Texas isn’t something Cook concerns himself with.
“It really doesn’t matter to me because even if people didn’t say I was the No. 1-ranked DB or the No. 1-ranked guy in this class, I’m going to still feel like that regardless,” Cook said. “So I wouldn’t say it matters, I’m just going to keep on getting better and getting ready for the next level.”
To that end, what’s next for Cook? What more can the top-ranked player in Texas that boasts impressive size, elite physical tools and the necessary intangibles polish prior to stepping on a college campus?
“I want to work a little bit more on my overall technique,” Cook said. “There’s always something you can work at because I know at the next level, everybody’s going to be faster than me and everybody’s going to be stronger than me so when I first get there, I’m not going to be as strong as some of those guys that have been in college and I’m not going to be as experienced, but my technique will set me apart.”
The progression is part of the process Cook will endure before his eventual commitment and arrival to one of the 10 programs still in contention.
Until then, though, before Cook can suit up for Ohio State, Texas, Clemson, LSU or any of his other finalists, his senior season still remains. And make no mistake about it; Cook is supremely focused on finally leading his team over the hump after Lamar has fallen in the third round of the state playoffs each of the last two seasons.
According to Cook, what’s finally different in 2017?
Leadership, and plenty of it.
“I don’t feel like our leadership was that strong last year and this year it’s different. It’s kind of like the next guy up and we up now, the 2018 class, so we’re going to lead the younger guys and I’m not letting us lose. Every guy from Tay [Ta’Zhawn Henry] to Vonte [Al’vonte Woodard] to D.J [D’shawn Jamison], we’re all leaders.”
Brought to you by: