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Monday, June 10, 2013
Plattenburg makes his mark at cornerback

By Erik McKinney

John Plattenburg (Corona, Calif./Centennial) has been playing football since he was six years old, pouring countless hours on and off the field into the game he loves. But as it turns out, it took just six games for Plattenburg to establish himself as one of the most highly-recruited players in the state.

Plattenburg moved to California following his freshman season at Houston Lamar High School. In his two years at Centennial, he has played a number of positions. He grew up playing running back and safety -- running back because he had a passion for offense, safety because he was so athletically gifted, as he could simply run down any opponent who broke loose.

As a sophomore, Plattenburg played his way onto the kick coverage team as well as tailback. During the playoffs, Plattenburg lined up at defensive end in order to speed rush off the edge. Heading into his junior year, he and fellow tailback Tre Watson were asked to work in the offensive and defensive backfields. Eventually, Watson stuck at tailback while Plattenburg moved to safety, where he stayed until the first game of the playoffs.

"My first time ever playing corner was the first game of the playoffs," Plattenburg said. "I was trying to adapt from offense to defense while I was playing safety during the season, but I was a little sour about moving from running back. Personally, I thought I was a great running back, but I can't take anything away from Tre."

Those six games at cornerback turned out to be pretty sweet for Plattenburg, who recorded 24 tackles and five interceptions in the playoffs. Moving from safety to cornerback was a quick transition for Plattenburg, who had never before put his full concentration into defensive technique.

"My first game in the playoffs, I was a little hesitant," Plattenburg said. "It was lonely, but for me it was better than safety because I'm able to make plays and not really think about things. You get into a position where you don't think, you just play fast with athleticism and technique. That made it fun. Instead of all season where I was lining guys up and calling out coverages -- you still have to do some of that, but you don't have responsibility for as many people. As I made it more fun, I gained more confidence in myself and could play around more with the position."

John Plattenburg
John Plattenburg's instant conversion to cornerback has caused his recruiting to take off.
As a result, the 5-foot-10, 176-pound athlete is closing in on 20 offers after a spring that ranks as one of the most impressive in the state.

"I thought this spring would be about me getting better as a player," Plattenburg said. "I was hoping for offers, but I wasn't expecting anything this early."

His first offer came in mid-March, as Nevada entered the picture. After landing multiple offers shortly thereafter, Plattenburg knew it could be the start of something big.

"Probably after getting three or four, I said, 'Oh, dang,'" Plattenburg said. "A lot of coaches were coming to our school and we'd introduce ourselves. They reaction they gave when they saw me, when they'd say, 'Oh, is this him? We didn't know about you but we saw your film.' The reaction they had made me realize maybe I was doing something right. That's when it hit me."

The sudden attention came as a surprise only in its timing. The standout athlete had been preparing for the recruiting process since seventh grade, studying the ins and outs of what to expect. He thought it would begin following his sophomore season, when he was playing running back. He said the position switch to defense might have delayed his recruitment plan for a year, but he's glad it happened.

"I'm blessed to have the athleticism to make the switch because a lot of offensive guys can't make the transition to defense," Plattenburg said. "I'm glad I made the move. I can never close off the possibility of moving back to offense, because at any time something can happen and if I need to step up, I'll have to do that. But right now the mindset I have is at cornerback. When I stepped on the field for 7-on-7 this spring, nobody runs routes on me or catches passes against me. That was my position and my mindset."

College coaches are certainly impressed by Plattenburg's five interceptions last season, but many of them didn't know they came in the first six games he played at the position.

"Most of them are surprised when my coach tells them," he said. "To me, that gives me even more confidence. If I can do that in six games, I think the sky is the limit if I keep working."

At this point, Plattenburg holds nine offers from the Pac-12, as well as ones from Baylor, Mississippi, TCU, Texas Tech, Vanderbilt and Wisconsin. He visited UCLA for a camp last week and is now in Texas on vacation for the next two weeks. The trip was planned well before the offers from Texas schools came in, but he said he might try to visit those schools while he is down there. He'll camp with Washington later this month and said he will try to visit the Arizona and Oregon schools as well around a trip to The Opening. He said he wants to get to at least five schools this summer.

He also spent this past Sunday coming up with a recruiting plan. He said that by Friday or Saturday of this week, he wants to narrow his list to a final 10 schools -- down from an unofficial 13 or so that he has in his head now. Then, the following Saturday, he wants to have a final five or six schools to focus on heading into the final weeks of summer. He plans to take all five of his official visits to experience the game day atmosphere, but those trips could come after a commitment is made.

"I talked to my mom about it and I do want to commit before the season, either July or August," Plattenburg said. "I want to get it out of the way for now so I can focus on the season. If not, it may come midseason, but the goal is to get it done before the season."