Scouting report: Want a sure tackler? Iowa 2021 LB recruit Jaden Harrell is your guy

Matthew Bain
Hawk Central

URBANDALE, Ia. — Things didn't exactly go well for the Urbandale J-Hawks last Friday.

An early 7-0 lead quickly became 27-7 deficit, and they lost 42-21 to Ankeny Centennial.

Urbandale has plenty to figure out, as do most teams after Week 2 of the high school football season. It'll certainly help when they get all-state running back and Northern Illinois recruit Harrison Waylee back on the field.

If the J-Hawks had one consistently positive presence Friday night, it was its defensive captain: middle linebacker Jaden Harrell.

Urbandale linebacker Jaden Harrell, class of 2021, poses at Frerichs Field on August 20, 2019. Harrell announced his commitment to the Iowa Hawkeyes  in July.

The 6-foot-2, 225-pound junior didn't make any "wow" plays. But he was a sure tackler and he kept the Jaguars' offense at bay whenever it came his way. (The Jaguars were smart, though — they didn't go his way very often.)

"He's a very special player," Centennial head coach Ryan Pezzetti said after the game.

More:Des Moines Register’s Super 10 Football Rankings: Ankeny teams bookend Week 3 poll

More:Des Moines Register High School Football Rankings: With Dowling’s loss, Centennial tops Class 4A

By the Register's count, Harrell, who is already committed to Iowa, finished with 7.5 tackles. Here's a scouting report from what we saw:

When Harrell gets his hands on you, you're going down

At least that was the case against Centennial. He stays low and wraps up well, and his hits pack a pretty hefty punch. There were several plays in which Harrell got through the line of scrimmage, tracked down the ball-carrier and helped bring him down from behind.

Other times, like in the second clip, Harrell anticipated where the running back would go, filled the gap and stopped the ball-carrier in his tracks.

Showed promise in pass coverage

Harrell looked, for the most part, comfortable when he dropped back into pass coverage. Centennial never threw his way, but Harrell had little issue tracking the quarterback's eyes and moving fluidly in coverage.

Put another way: He didn't look lost out there.

Some issues getting through traffic

If a Centennial offensive lineman was able to get two hands on Harrell, he was mostly kept out of the play. There were a couple times where, once engaged in the scrum at the line of scrimmage, an offensive lineman was able to drive Harrell backwards several yards and out of the play.

The good news? Those instances were much less common that the plays in which Harrell made his presence felt.

There's no doubt the future Hawkeye will improve in close quarters.

Versatile athlete

Ideally, you want some of your program's best athletes at linebacker.

And Harrell is certainly versatile out there.

He plays running back, but in effect he's pretty much an H-back who serves as lead blocker for his quarterback or another running back. He is also Urbandale's punter. He was called upon quite often against Centennial and put up a workmanlike performance on special teams.

Combine Harrell's athleticism with a sturdy frame that'll only get stronger, and you've got a promising young Big Ten linebacker recruit.

Matthew Bain covers recruiting, Iowa/Iowa State athletics and Drake basketball for the Des Moines Register and USA TODAY Network. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.

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