Vitals: 5-foot-10, 160 lbs
Hometown: Plantation, Fla.
School: American Heritage School
Scout.com Ranking: Currently Unranked
Recruiting: Committed to Syracuse on 1/20
After taking his official visit to Syracuse over the weekend, it took Juwan Dowels about 24 hours to make a commitment to the Orange.
So what is Scott Shafer and company getting in the Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage state champion defensive back? We examine after getting an in-depth look at his skill-set from his junior and senior year tape.
The first thing apparent in watching tape is Dowels' instincts. He's not very big, but his smooth nature in attacking a wide receiver, his route and/or the football makes it seem like he can cover much more ground than his vitals suggest. Couple that raw ability with the fact that he is very agile, can high-point the ball and possesses above-average speed – and SU may have a sleeper on its hands.
The most impressive skill within his instincts are the techniques Dowels has added to his arsenal. As a junior, his ball recognition skills were slightly off, though he remained successful. But as a senior, he located the football as good as one can ask, usually helping him to make the correct play on it soon after. His quick twitch towards the football, or head-snapping, works well with his good speed and ball skills. It is why opposing quarterbacks had fits against the state champion Patriots, trying to find a hole on the edge between Dowels and class of 2015 four-star Tavarus McFadden.
The added dimension with Dowels is with the ball in his hands. Apparent from earlier in his high school career, it was his top asset. While his finesse cornerbacking and improving off-man coverage skill caught up, he still possesses a game-changing ability in the return game as well as after a turnover. Dowels is a natural runner in space, makes defenders miss with relative ease in the open field, and his stride opens up well on a straight line.
Still Needs Work
Dowels plays in a sophisticated defense against great competition, meaning the wideouts he was assigned to were better than average. Because of it, the Patriots were more inclined to play in a deeper zone, or even disguise coverage as man before Dowels and McFadden would bail upon the snap of the football. This could also have something to do with his listed size and exceptional ball skill, but it also limits the reps we can evaluate in a true press-man scenario.
That said, he shows some flashes of physicality. Dowels isn't afraid to support the run, despite not being a big hitter, and he can finish through a receiver when he breaks on the ball. Outside of those scenarios, he's not physical at the point of attack and may rely on his solid speed too much at this stage. This isn't uncommon, but often contributes to tougher transitions towards BCS programs.
Another potential gift that could be a curse for Dowels, is his ability to break on the football. On tape, he does it with great pass recognition and that head-snapper mentality we examined. But elite cornerbacks, especially in a zone scheme, anticipate routes and cut them off more than Dowels does. Again, the lack of true man coverage could be a contributing factor for that fact, but Dowell's natural ability hurts his ability to recognize certain routes.
While he may be an ACC starter down the road, Dowels seems somewhat limited in what he can accomplish early in his college career. His prowess as a great zone defender and off-man cover corner could enable him to see limited playing time sooner than later, but he's going to have to hit the books in his new playbook and more importantly on film before seeing major playing time in college.
Dowels can do several things one cannot teach, like make plays on the ball, react quicker than most along with the speed to actually get the job done on defense and the return game, so he's not that far off. Most high school cornerbacks need to refine their press-man game, and Dowels lies well within that group. He needs to be more physical in his technique. His return-game skill and ball skill may enable him to contribute on special teams before defense, and it's safe to say his ability is above his current Scout ranking despite some typical flaws.