By John Davis, Oxford Citizen
Mique Juarez is the nation’s top-ranked football prospect for 2016 that has yet to find a home. The Torrance, California standout is currently in San Antonio getting ready to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. The next time he puts on on a uniform after Saturday could be in Oxford playing for the Ole Miss Rebels.
Juarez (6-foot-2, 230 pounds) is the top outside linebacker prospect in the nation, according to the recruiting services. He is ranked No. 5 overall in the class of 2016 by Rivals.com. Juarez, who attended the Ole Miss-LSU game on one of his five official visits, was named Player of the Year by several different publications in California.
He finished his career with 107 touchdowns scored. This past season, he played quarterback for the North High Saxons, and finished with over 3,000 yards combined through the air and on the ground.
His coach, Todd Croce, knows him better than almost everybody else. He’s seen Juarez grow from a freshman playing on the varsity, to the player leading the entire varsity squad.
“He is so versatile. He can do so many things at a really high level,” Croce said. “He is definitely very talented, gifted. He can run really well and play like a defensive back or a linebacker or a defensive end all in the same body. He’s a freak of nature. He runs in the 4.5s and he weighs 230. He’s something we haven’t seen here at our place in a while.”
Croce coached Juarez’s uncles in high school. One played linebacker at Michigan State.
“His uncle was a very good fullback-linebacker type kid in high school,” Croce added. “(Mique) can do anything. He can play receiver, running back, quarterback. Last year (2-14) he split time at quarterback and receiver and a little running back.”
With that being said, Croce made it clear that Juarez was being recruited to play linebacker.
“He does have that kind of a defensive mentality. He’s a special kid who likes the physical aspects of the game. I think he’s mentally suited to play on the defensive side.”
Following the Army game, Juarez will take two more official visits before making a final decision. Croce said NBC wanted him to make a call on TV during the contest, but he was unable to see all the schools vying for his signature.
Alabama is one of the other schools that Juarez will visit this month. UCLA is the school closest by that Juarez is looking at. In October, he was committed to play at USC. Washington and Oklahoma are the other two schools that have seemingly done the best job with Juarez and his family.
Croce said that Juarez was very impressed with his visit to Ole Miss this past November.
“He is people pleaser. He is a great kid. He wants to make everybody happy. In the end, he is choosing one school,” Croce said. “That’s where he has to see himself living for the next handful of years and playing an important role in his development, and not just as a football player, but as a person. I think taking that trip to Mississippi was great for him. He was really influenced positively by the coaching staff. He likes the group of guys and how they are focused. He obviously felt comfortable and felt at home. He’s a 17-year-old kid and he wants to eat and he brought up how great the food was.
“He’s kept Ole Miss up high on his priority list. Coach (Hugh) Freeze and the rest of the coaches that he’s been dealing with have made an important impression upon him. He’s considering it seriously. He’s a Polynesian kid, a Tongan kid and it’s definite that the family thing is something they want to be involved. If he’s going to take off from here, it’s got to have that same kind of feel for him.”