As an assistant coach Jonathan Cobb witnessed NFL and former Ohio State defensive end Tyquan Lewis perform at Tarboro High School between 2009 and 2012.
Cobb is now the head coach at Southwest Edgecombe High School in Pinetops, NC, where he has directed the career of Lewis’s cousin, Jaquaez Powell. Powell, a rising senior, has been part of the Southwest varsity since his freshman season, playing everywhere from fullback to defensive line to center.
“I personally watched Tyquan because he played for our rival, and they are very similar when it comes to their size and mobility in high school,” Cobb said.
That’s very positive news for East Carolina, which received a verbal commitment from the 6-foot-4, 305-pounder on April 2nd. Powell became the second member of ECU’s recruiting Class of 2020 less than a month after receiving his first scholarship offer from the Pirates. Soon after making his pledge, Powell was also offered a scholarship by Georgia State.
But Powell’s familiarity with ECU – Pinetops is a mere 21 miles from the college campus – made the Pirates an easy choice.
“He’s gone to their prospect camps and things, so their staff has had a chance to see him up close and personal,” Cobb said. “He’s an impressive kid. I think they were smart in getting ahead of the game and giving him an offer. He and his parents chewed on it a little while and decided it was a good fit. They didn’t see any point waiting any longer.”
Powell has been recruited by the Pirates to play center, but Cobb believes he’s versatile enough to help in a variety of areas.
Cobb joined the Southwest Edgecombe staff as an assistant in 2004 under his father, Raymond, who produced more than 250 career victories during a 33-year career at the prep level. Jonathan replaced his father in 2012 , just as Powell was starting to make a name for himself in the county’s recreation football program.
By the time Powell reached middle school, he was already well known by the Southwest High varsity coaches.
“I watched him play middle school ball. He was the biggest kid out there at the middle school,” Cobb said. “We were looking forward to getting him (on varsity). He actually played fullback in middle school and played fullback for us as a freshman.”
Powell played in four games as a freshman for the Cougars, rushing 22 times for 107 yards and a touchdown in Cobb’s wishbone offense. Lacking size up front on offense and defense the following year, Cobb shifted Powell to center and defensive line.
On offense as a sophomore, Powell helped pave the way for two 1,000-yard rushers and a team that averaged 314.3 yards on the ground. He delivered 21 pancake blocks, while also contributing 29 tackles and six sacks on defense.
Powell achieved all-star status as a junior. After making 28 pancake blocks, he was named to the Wilson Times All-Area squad on offense. His statistics on the defensive side included 32 tackles and one sack.
One of Powell’s most memorable performances as a junior came last October going head-to-head against incoming ECU freshman defensive tackle Keziah Everett in a game against Farmville Central. The Cougars rolled up 383 yards and averaged 11.6 yards-per-carry in a 42-13 victory.
“The Farmville kid (Everett) had been giving everybody fits,” Cobb said. “It was a great matchup between our center and their nose tackle. You can look up the score. Jaquaez did a fantastic job on him.”
East Carolina has recruited Powell as a center, but Cobb believes he’s capable of playing on either side of the ball in college.
“I personally think he’s just as valuable on the defensive side of the ball,” Cobb said. “But that’s what you want, a kid who is versatile like that.”
Lewis was that kind of athlete at Tarboro before heading off to Ohio State where he appeared in 55 games during his career and earned All-Big Ten Conference honors as a senior in 2017. The Indianapolis Colts made Lewis their second-round pick in the 2018 draft.
“Jaquaez has that same potential, I believe,” Cobb said.
Powell may not be the only Southwest Edgecombe player in the Class of 2020 to be pursued by the Pirates.
Also starting to gain momentum in recruiting is Southwest’s 6-4 receiver Keshon Porter and 6-1, 235-pound running back Cortezz Jones.
Porter was also chosen to the Wilson Times All-Area squad after leading the Cougars with 43 receptions, 790 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior. He’s also the star guard for the Southwest basketball team, averaging 19.3 points during his junior season. Porter is receiving recruiting attention in both sports, but Cobb thinks “his ceiling is higher in football.”
Jones averaged 10.4 yards per carry as a junior at Southwest. “He’s 6-1, 235 and made 1,210 on the SAT recently,” Cobb said. “He’s a fast, strong kid.”