It’s not everyday Missouri pulls a recruit out of South Carolina. In fact, it’s only happened once in the past 20 years, according to Rivals.
The Tigers’ first - and only - signee out of South Carolina in the Rivals era was Trajan Jeffcoat. The 3-star recruit had just two known power five offer: one from Missouri and another from Indiana. I think it’s fair to say that’s worked out pretty well.
Missouri is back in South Carolina, this time landing a commitment from 3-star linebacker Brayshawn Littlejohn. Littlejohn is Missouri’s first known linebacker commit for the 2023 class. The Tigers have added some southeast flavor to the linebacker room in recent years with Dameon Wilson (North Carolina) and Zachary Lovett (Florida) as part of the 2021 class and Carmycah Glass (Louisiana) and Xavier Simmons (North Carolina) last year, and now Littlejohn in the 2023 class.
In case you missed it on IG Live, here's the video of @Brayshawn22 selecting @MizzouFootball over other finalists: @CUBuffsFootball @CharlotteFTBL @AppState_FB @GeorgiaStateFB. pic.twitter.com/2Bs4jkIlDb— Sam Albuquerque (@SamBAlbuquerque) August 13, 2022
Where he fits: Littlejohn plays a hybrid outside linebacker/edge rusher position for his high school team, leading the team with 87 tackles, 20 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks last season en route to an undefeated 5-A state title season a year ago. He also reportedly ran a 4.55 40-yard dash while attending a football camp at Anderson University earlier this year. I’ll be honest, when I read that he ran a 4.5, I shrugged it off, assuming it was an exaggeration or an unverified time.
#Mizzou LB commit Brayshawn Littlejohn plays at a different speed than everyone else on the field. He reportedly ran a 4.55 40-yard dash at a college camp this summer, and you can see that speed on full display in his game. pic.twitter.com/Cv7kHDA35y— Brandon Kiley (@BKSportsTalk) August 15, 2022
After watching him on tape, though, I’m less skeptical. He moves at a different speed than everyone else on the field. And he does everything in their defense. Want to see him bend the corner as an edge rusher? Check. Want to see him carry a receiver up the field as a nickel? Done. Need to see him plug a hole as a run defender? No problem.
“He makes it tough on offensive tackles when the offense has to throw the ball and block him. He’s long, quick off the ball, and very aggressive as far as attacking the football,” Gaffney head football coach Dan Jones told the Spartanburg Herald-Journal. “He plays the position in our scheme that we put our best player at because of what we ask him to do. He might play man coverage, he might rush quarterback or he might be the guy we expect to squeeze and spill a counter play.”
I do think it’s up for debate as to where Littlejohn will play at the next level. It seems possible he could end up at inside linebacker, outside linebacker, edge rusher or as a “star defender” - the position Martez Manuel currently plays.
When he’ll play: I think Littlejohn has a chance to come in and play right away on special teams. His speed and physicality is different. That’s something that will immediately translate to the next level, regardless of what he does defensively.
Brayshawn Littlejohn - a linebacker prospect - bends the corner as well as most DE prospects you watch. He can do a little bit of everything. It'll be fascinating to see where he projects to play at the next level. pic.twitter.com/gzhBEvAzoh— Brandon Kiley (@BKSportsTalk) August 15, 2022
As for the defensive side of the ball, that’s a bit trickier. He has the athleticism to see the field right away. But his positional versatility is both a blessing and a curse to get on the field right away. Where will he play? What is his long-term position? Could it change year-to-year depending on how much mass he puts on his frame in Missouri’s strength and conditioning program?
He’ll contribute on special teams early, and the rest will figure itself out over time.
What it all means: Missouri might have found an underrated gem with Littlejohn. He has the size, speed and physicality to be a contributor at the next level.
I’ve watched a lot of prospects doing this over the years, and you simply don’t see very many linebackers who move like Littlejohn does. I’m honestly not sure I understand why he’s not rated higher by the recruiting services.
Whatever the reason, Missouri looks as if it found a good one. It shouldn’t be a surprise if other power five universities follow suit with offers. The next challenge will be keeping Littlejohn on the commitment list.