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December 21, 2010Calvert Hall junior cornerback Daquan Davis certainly does not lack for confidence. Picking off four passes, racking up over 40 tackles and helping his team to its first Metro Interscholastic Athletic Association A-Conference title will do that for you.
But these days Davis' mouth is running even faster than his 4.5 40-yard dash time.
"I take a lot of pride in being a top corner," said the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Davis. "I feel as though I can be the best cornerback in the state, if not the country."
Wait a second. The country?
Davis didn't hesitate.
"That's right," he said. "I take time to perfect my craft. Backpedaling, reading receivers, speed, instincts - everything. I truly believe I can be one of the best around."
Big talk for such a little guy. Whether or not he lives up to it remains to be seen, but the early reports on Davis are promising. Opposing coaches were hesitant to throw to his side of the field. Moreover, talent evaluators and coaches rave about his technically sound skills and his take-charge attitude. He's already receiving heavy interest from a number of Division-I schools from the ACC, Big East and Big 10.
"Daquan can cover most anybody," said his senior teammate Adrian Amos, who is a Division-I player himself (Connecticut). "He has real quick feet; he has the best footwork I've seen of any DB at any of the combines and camps I went to. He works real hard on his backpedal and change of direction. He's definitely a D-I player."
One of the more surprising areas where Davis excels is his physicality. Even though most receivers tower over him, Davis isn't afraid to get in their face, knock them off the line or come up and make a big hit on a receiver screen.
Amos remembers one play during the Gilman-Calvert Hall game where Davis shot up and dropped Gilman's four-star quarterback, Darius Jennings.
"One of the knocks on Daquan early on was he wasn't physical enough," said Calvert Hall coach Don Davis. "The thought was that he was one of those track kids who could run but wasn't someone who was going to get up in a receiver's face. But he's very physical at the point of attack and he really answered the call this year. He got up there and would put his hands on the kid. That really helped us defensively because it allowed us to move other guys around."
Amos, for example, was able to move from cornerback to safety this year. That allowed him to freelance more in coverage and focus more on run defense. Amos noted how he didn't have to cheat towards a certain receiver because he trusted Davis to hold his own.
"When I'm at safety I don't have to worry about him in man coverage," Amos said. "When we were playing Gilman I was able to come up and try to stop Darius [Jennings] because Daquan had the back end covered."
While Davis did play well against Gilman, he said that's hardly his best performance. Gilman, you see, doesn't pass the ball a whole lot, so he wasn't tested more than a couple times all night. But against Loyola's wide-open spread attack in the Turkey Bowl at M&T Bank Stadium, Davis saw passes galore. He and his teammates responded by shutting down the Dons' offense, limiting them to just 100 yards.
In the second quarter, Davis left his mark. He lined up across from Loyola receiver Jordan Floyd, who has a Division-I offer from Maryland. Davis noticed a "tell" in Floyd's route running, which he picked up on from watching film and from earlier in the game. He was ready to break if the ball came his way.
After the snap, Davis backpedaled, glanced into the backfield and saw quarterback Mike Fafaul eyeing up Floyd. Davis patiently waited. When Fafaul unloaded, he fired forward, jumped the route and snared the interception before dashing 17 yards down the sideline.
"My coaches wanted me to play press coverage, but I told them, 'Let me play off because I think I can make a play here,'" Davis said. "When he made the throw I knew it was mine. It was a big moment for me, getting an interception in M&T during the Turkey Bowl. I showed I could step up against a great offense."
Davis' technical skills are superb, but those aren't even his best qualities, according to coaches and teammates. Even though he was an underclassman last year he assumed a leadership role and became a vocal presence. When Calvert Hall prepared for games he'd often rally the team with a pregame battle cry.
"He's a tremendous personality. He's a kid that could have been a captain this year," Don Davis said. "That surprised me, even more then what he did on the field. His teammates felt great about him, the coaches felt great about him - he's a true leader."
Davis, who is naturally out-going, said that being a leader is a role he actively sought. He noticed that many of his teammates were quiet types (including Amos), who led with actions instead of words. That's all well and good, but Davis knew the Hall needed a more vocal presence.
"Since I've come here I've had that mentality," Davis said. "It could have backfired with me being an underclassman, but the seniors welcomed me with open arms to being a leader.
"And my coach embraces that and believes in what I do," he continued. "He told me a few days ago that it's my team now."
It may be "his team," but Daquan's coach said there is plenty of room for improvement. While Davis has become more physical, Don Davis would like to see him be even more active in man-to-man coverage.
More pressingly, he wants his young corner to develop into a primetime playmaker ala Amos, who developed a knack for making a play when the team needed it most. When the Cardinals trailed Gilman 21-0, Amos had an interception that spurred Calvert Hall's comeback.
"When we had to have a play, Adrian made it," Don Davis said. "Daquan has to advance from being a very good corner to an elite corner, where when we desperately need a pick, he's going to go get it."
Naturally, Davis said he's got his coach's back. Could you expect anything less from the best corner in the country?
"I've been waiting for this opportunity and this pressure since I was a freshman," Davis said. "I thrive on it. I'm ready for it."