The tape doesn’t lie.
And, to clarify, Jason Negro is not talking about Trent McDuffie’s tape.
He’s talking about Trent McDuffie’s tape consumption.
Negro — the head football coach at prep powerhouse St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, Calif. — talked last week about a web tool that allows him to monitor how much time each of his players spends watching film away from the facility.
If they watch eight consecutive hours of film, he knows. If they skip a week to catch up on Netflix, Negro sees the numbers. High school kids have been known to occasionally exaggerate their study habits, but Negro has access to the ultimate lie detector.
And with McDuffie, he never needed it.
“It’s an amazing tool, and we call kids on it all the time,” Negro said. “But without even having to talk with him about it, he was one of the leaders within our entire defense.”
McDuffie — now an ascending freshman corner at Washington — transferred from Servite High School to St. John Bosco prior to his senior season, and (literally) hit the ground running.
“He was an open book. He wanted to learn,” Negro said. “He would spend time and never missed a practice (in the spring of 2018), even though he was in the heart of running for a state title in the 4×100. He still was at every single practice. He still did every single weightlifting session, never missed a film session.
“He was a student of the game and you could tell immediately that he wanted to be the best player possible and he wanted to use all the resources we had available at Bosco. He took full advantage of them.”
And, in return, Bosco took full advantage of McDuffie’s talents. Operating on the opposite side of fellow four-star corner (and current USC Trojan) Chris Steele, McDuffie contributed 37 tackles, three interceptions, three fumble recoveries and one he returned for a score. He added a rushing touchdown and a punt return touchdown as well.
“I think the thing that I appreciated most about Trent was his versatility,” Negro said. “At Bosco, we rarely if ever play two-way guys. Trent played tailback for us. He was a punt returner. He was a kick returner. He played corner. We put him in the nickel and he played in the slot.
“So for him to show that type of versatility and the skill set to play on both sides of the ball with really a lack of full-time practice … his versatility was very unique for us in what we’ve been able to experience at Bosco.”
Now, it’s probably unfair to expect McDuffie — who, as a first-year player, was not made available for comment — to make any offensive cameos on Montlake this season. But the 5-foot-11, 185-pound freshman is making an impression nonetheless. Despite UW’s significant secondary depth, McDuffie has started at cornerback in each of the last three games.
He’s not as long as Keith Taylor, or as athletic as Kyler Gordon.
But McDuffie’s preparation, from Servite to St. John Bosco to Seattle, has put him in a position to succeed.
“Trent’s been one of those guys since we got him. He’s been locked in,” UW coach Chris Petersen said. “It’s … yeah, it’s hard to describe. You can just tell. The stage is not too big. He’s ready to compete and ready to go. He understands what we do, and he’s used to playing at a high level.”
That level hasn’t dropped since McDuffie arrived at UW. In Washington’s 45-19 win over Brigham Young, he forced and recovered the first fumble of his young career. In the 28-14 win over USC last weekend, he limited redshirt junior Tyler Vaughns to four catches for 44 yards and led the team with nine tackles.
Like Petersen said, the stage isn’t too big. Then, and now, McDuffie’s tape tells the truth.
“Trent McDuffie … he’s a warrior,” Petersen said after the USC game. “We talked about him last week, and he just plays at a high, high level.”
Added defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake: “I enjoy (coaching) all the guys, for sure. But it’s definitely a proud moment when you see a player that you just recently recruited, that just signed and arrived here, and he’s learning the techniques, learning all of our coverages.
“For him to go out there in a big game against a big-time opponent and make those plays, it’s definitely a proud moment.”