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Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Top junior Cornell avoids the 'dark side'

By Jared Shanker

The No. 1 junior nationally will not be going to the dark side. No, Big Ten fans, Jashon Cornell is not referring to Arkansas or Florida or Missouri or any SEC program recruiting the nation’s top player in hopes of persuading him to leave the Big Ten’s backyard.

The dark side of the ball is a place Cornell, the No. 1 prospect in the 2015 ESPN Junior 300, has played only twice before and told his St. Paul (Minn.) Cretin-Derham Hall coaches to never put him again.

“Offensive line, I refuse to play it,” Cornell, a defensive end/linebacker hybrid, said. “I can’t play the O-line. It’s not for me. That’s going over to the dark side.”

Always big for his size growing up -- he stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 245 pounds now -- Cornell was never relegated to flag football as a child. Instead, he was outmatching third-grade players before reaching kindergarten. Through youth leagues he spent time at quarterback, defensive end, safety, fullback, receiver and tight end. In seventh grade, his coach tried him at offensive line on two separate occasions.

Cornell whiffed both times. It might have been on purpose.

So now Cornell makes a name terrorizing quarterbacks, not protecting them. Florida, Florida State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State, Stanford and USC are just a handful of the schools to offer Cornell, who is being looked at as a defensive end by some schools and a linebacker by others.

The most feared junior in the country does not like to be hit, though, which is why he loves defense.

“I don’t like anybody laying a hand on me. I want to deliver the hit,” Cornell said. “I want them to know how painful it is.”

Much of the country was not aware of Cornell’s strength, speed and highlight-reel hits, though. Minnesota is not a high school football hotbed. There has not been a top-100 recruit from the state since five-star Seantrel Henderson was No. 8 overall in 2010.

Minnesota is a hockey state. Cornell admits as much. Even basketball gets more love in the state than football, he said. So this offseason, Cornell made it a point to visit as many schools and go to as many camps as he could. He was not going to let coaches and scouts use his Minnesota competition against him when it came to evaluations.

“I tried to get to as many places as possible to get my name out there and see some of the top players in the country,” Cornell said. “I need to go some other places to compete with the better talent around the country.”

If they were not already, colleges are aware now. He counts more than 20 scholarship offers, with at least one from every BCS conference. He will add several more in the near future. He will visit Ohio State at the end of the month and hopes to visit Florida and Florida State soon.

By the end of September, the picture will begin to clear as to which schools Cornell will list among his favorites. He has not cut any schools yet.

“I’ll think I’ll have a top 10, top 15 by the fourth game of the season,” Cornell said.

He could have 10 or 15 sacks against the his dark-side opponents by then, too.