If you guys follow me on Twitter (and you should…@tpeck2), you will notice that I am on there a lot. I follow about 3,700 people. And probably 3,500 of those are high school or non-FBS college coaches. It is through one of my D2 follows that I happened across this 2018 wide receiver prospect: JT Luper, the 5-9 dynamo from Edmond, OK.
There is a lot to talk about here with Luper… and not a lot of information to find. As I get messages back, I will update this article. We will start with the good, and lordy there is a lot of good. About 1300 reasons… that is how many yards Luper has (on 83 catches) with 3 regular season games left in the UCO season. Couple that with his 10 TDs, and you are talking a Madden create-a-player type production here. This is not a fluke, in the 2015 season he had 735 yards on 65 catches, while averaging 14.4 yards per punt return, and 22.6 kick return yards.
Something that NFL scouts look for when scouting FCS or below is domination of opponents. If you aren’t a man among boys at a lower level, there is no hope for you in the NFL. Luper is showing that he can indeed stand out here.
Watching his HUDL (yes, HUDL), you can see his speed and hands on display with every highlight. Luper has a limited route tree, at least in these clips, but he shows amazing awareness of holes in zones, and utter fearlessness when encountering double or triple coverage. His QB also implicitly trusts him to either make the catch, or defend the INT, as he will throw deep in to triple coverage often. He catches balls away from his body, and is able to track them in the air on deep routes. His awareness of the “red line” is also notable, he leaves his QB about 3 yards of real estate to drop a ball in on the sideline.
Luper as shown a tenacity in blocking that is greater than his frame suggests (5-9 175), and has special teams value as a cover man and punt returner. His creativity in the open field is one of his major skills, and should serve him well as he battles for a 4th or 5th WR spot in the NFL initially.
Luper is an all around athlete. He reports a 4.42 40 yard dash, but may clock at the high 4.3s during the Combine or Pro Day. He also boasts some great explosion for such a small frame, as evidenced by his high school junior year track numbers:
43′ 4″ Triple Jump
5′ 6″ High Jump
School record 800m relay
Now, some concerns. There is obviously not much film (yet) on Luper. I am going off highlights here. I am currently searching for film, and will update as needed. Also, he mysteriously sat out the 2016 season after a good 2015 newcomer year to UCO (after two years at Tyler (TX) JUCO). I make no assumptions here, and will continue to search for the reason for that absence. These are questions that NFL evaporators will have, so we must ask them as well. Aside from those, the jump from MIAA Division II football to the NFL will be large, but it has been done. We will see what this offseason brings for Luper.
For the Colts, Luper projects as slightly slower Tyreek Hill. He has a similar skillset, in that he can line up in any backfield position (even QB, he has thrown for one TD), and make a big play. He is a game breaker who will take time to adjust to the overall speed of the NFL game, but can find a home as a returner and special teams ace, while getting 30 or so touches his first two seasons. He would be a 6th-priority UDFA selection for the Colts, hopefully becoming what Dorsett was supposed to be. A complementary speed WR and Hilton handcuff, while providing great special teams value and a change of pace in the backfield.
ISC-Colts, as far as we know, is the first to break down JT Luper as a prospect. We hope to see him on the field next year.
UPDATE: NFL DRAFT DIAMONDS has him listed as a Small School Prospect, but no write up associated.
UPDATE 10/31: New information about Lupers missing 2016 campaign, according to a verified team source:
“Just giving you some information on JT Luper. He had some academic problems in the spring of 2016 that forced him to be academically ineligible for that season. [Source omitted]… I can assure you he was missed last year. Definitely no character/emotional/humility flaws. Awesome teammate, and obviously a hell of a wideout. Just had one poor semester in the classroom that cost him. And for the record, he very easily could’ve checked it in after becoming ineligible. But he came back faster and stronger this season. Kid is a stud! He’s one of the leaders on that offense no doubt. Not someone who will rah rah you to death, but he speaks up when necessary.”