Posted On: 11/21/20 7:07 PM
Nijal Mooney is a young man that I’ve had my eye on for a little while now. When I received word that was I going to get to go to the OHSAA State Semifinal game between Roger Bacon and Ironton it would have been safe to say that I was as excited to see him live as I was the other highly recruited players that would be playing in the game. My thoughts after the game were that Nijal was everything that I was hoping for and more! As a prospect a little background is required here. You see, Nigal didn’t play football until his Sophomore year of high school. While it’s been a relatively quick ascension in his development as a player, there’s no time to wait start learning about the D1 talent that is Nijal Mooney.
After his freshman year of high school Mooney was looking to get bigger and stronger. As he thought about ways that he could achieve the desired result he had an idea. What about football? So Nijal asked some of his classmates who played football if playing football would get him bigger and stronger. Their response was that it it absolutely would, and after a little nudging from those classmates Mooney would go on to join the Roger Bacon football team.
In his first season he played mostly special teams at the varsity level. Last year as a junior he lined up at defensive end before being moved to middle linebacker where he’s resided ever since. Mooney has legit sub 4.50 speed (timed 4.47) in the forty yard dash which for a 6’0 220 middle linebacker is an elite time. His defensive coordinator/strength and condition coach Solomon Tentman was a football player at the University of Cincinnati and was also an assistant strength and conditioning coach at Ohio State before his time at Roger Bacon. So it’s safe to say that he knows a D1 athlete when he sees it. So when coach Tentman sought me out and asked me to take a look at Nigal I definitely obliged.
Anyone who coaches linebackers can tell you that speed doesn’t matter if you don’t have the eyes. What this means is that if your eyes aren’t trained to tell you where to go as a defender it doesn’t matter how fast you are because you’re going to play slow. In the beginning you could see a player who was clearly thinking rather than playing instinctively and reading the plays. As I watched Mooney’s film from game to game, however, I could see his eyes get better and better and as a result of his hard work and development, his playing speed quickly began to catch up to that elite speed that he’s been tested at.
Fast forward to last Saturday night’s playoff game against Ironton and Nijal’s stat line for the night was 13 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, and a pass broken up. Talk about playing the game of your life in the state semifinals and in the swan song of your high school career nonetheless. I was blown away. What I saw was a kid who was no longer thinking anymore, he was simply reading, reacting, and making plays. Game changing plays. Of course there were a lot of plays where Nijal showed his elite range and ability to run down hill and make tackles. It was a pass play though that stood out to me when rethinking about the game. A play where he was lined up 2 yards off the ball and had middle zone in coverage, he quickly flipped his hips and ran stride for stride with the inside wr and tipped the pass away 25 yards down field as he had perfect inside position. His 3 forced fumbled were game changers in the game. Mooney’s range and coverage ability will make him a valuable asset as a linebacker who can play all three downs at the college level.
Where I project Nijal too play and where I think he holds the most value at the college level is as an inside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme, but that being said I think he could easily play the WIL as well. Unfortunately like many seniors in the 2021 class, his recruitment has been derailed in the midst of the pandemic. Only having a season and a half of film doesn’t work in his favor. Like all other seniors he missed a valuable chance to show his elite athletic ability and movement skills to college coaches and recruiters when he was not able to attend summer camps in 2020 due to COVID-19. So I want to put it out there for all D1 coaches to take notice and start making appointments and contact with Nijal. You will not be disappointed He’s a great kid, with a great work ethic who’s ready to go to work and be that playmaker in the middle of your defense. The time is now!