STAFFORD, Va. — It took one practice for North Stafford (Stafford, Va.) football coach Joe Mangano to figure out what he had in running back Devyn Ford.
“We brought him in the spring of his eighth-grade year,” Mangano said. “The first practice, he came out there and right away, we could tell he was the best player on the field. He did a jump cut in practice, we filmed it and sent it to Virginia Tech. They said to bring him to their one-day camp and they almost offered there, but they wanted to see a little bit of varsity film on him first.”
Ford, a 5-11, 195-pound Penn State commit, made our list of the top dozen running backs to watch in the 2019 class. He’s run for more than 5,000 yards in his career, including 2,056 yards and 32 touchdowns on 246 carries last season as a junior.
A lot of what Ford does on the field can’t be taught.
“He’s very explosive, dynamic, he just has that burst, that shift that I call a twitch that you can’t teach and I could see, even at 14 years old, he had it,” Mangano said.
Ford rushed for 1,865 yards and 24 touchdowns as a freshman, so he got a crash course in being recruited. He had nine offers shortly after his first season.
“It made it easier for me to choose from schools because I had a variety of choices, but also hard because I jumped right into it,” Ford said.
He committed to Penn State over Virginia Tech on May 18, which is his grandmother Barbara Clinkscale’s birthday.
“She’s my grandma and it was her birthday, so I wanted to do something special,” Ford said. “She’s superstitious. The one time she came to a game, I got hurt, so she said she could never come back.”
Ford’s choice of Penn State was made easier because of his connections to the school. North Stafford offensive tackle Nana Asiedu will be a freshman at Penn State this fall, as will 2017 second-team American Family Insurance ALL-USA running back Ricky Slade Jr., from Hylton (Woodbridge, Va.), who is a friend of Ford’s because they have the same personal trainer.
“We’ve worked out together, I made a good connection and I follow him on Twitter,” Ford said. “Over the years, we’ve gotten closer. We ended up playing a scrimmage against each other last year. I’m more of an inside-the-tackle runner and Ricky’s more of a speed-in-space kind of guy.”
On North Stafford’s track team, Ford has run an 11.45-second 100 meters and a 23.32-second 200 meters.
“I like track but I don’t like track,” he said. “Track is hard but it helps me for football,” he said.
The one thing college coaches have told Ford he can improve on is his initial burst of speed out of the backfield.
“I’m good out of the backfield, I have good vision, I have good footwork and I have balance and instinct,” Ford said. “I gradually get faster as I run but I need more of that zero-to-60 kind of speed.”
Mangano said that Ford, who has a 3.8 grade-point average, is easy to coach.
“He’s really smart,” Mangano said. “I would say he’s a prodigy. He anticipates very quickly and has a great vision and understanding of zone blocking concepts. Some kids have a gift, but he has a gift and he’s also a hard worker.”