Ask anyone who knows 2018 cornerback Verone McKinley III, and you'll rarely find someone utter a negative word.
McKinley in a very short time has blossomed into, pound for pound, one of the best defensive backs in his class. As a freshman at Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, Texas, McKinley—known around the area simply as "V3"—recorded 28 tackles, four interceptions and four pass deflections in only nine varsity games, according to MaxPreps.com.
LSU likes recruiting young talent. LSU also likes recruiting star-caliber defensive backs. For those who follow LSU and national recruiting, it made perfect sense for the Tigers to surprise McKinley on Tuesday evening with his first scholarship offer.
"I was a little shocked, just in awe," said McKinley, who was offered by LSU defensive backs coach Corey Raymond. "I'm honored to receive the offer, especially this early. It's a blessing.
"[Raymond] said I fit into what they were trying to do, and they're trying to get their 2018 class going. I liked how he was open with me."
At 5'9" and 165 pounds, McKinley still has some growing to do, but instinctively he has the mind of a veteran shutdown cornerback. Part of that comes from his father, Verone McKinley Jr., who played in the secondary at Texas Tech from 1992-95.
The elder McKinley is a defensive backs coach at Prestonwood and gets the chance to work with his son daily. He's watched his son grow into an athlete worthy of having one of the premier SEC programs be the first school to offer.
"I've always told him from an earlier age that you've got to have fundamentals and technique," McKinley said of his son. "What he's grasped is being a smart football player. With him only being a freshman, his football IQ is on the level of a high school senior. I've always been a stickler on technique and football IQ."
When the younger McKinley isn't working with his father, he's doing training sessions with either George Adams or Clay Mack, two athletes who have extensive football backgrounds. Adams, the father of LSU safety Jamal Adams, was a running back at Kentucky who went on to play for the New York Giants.
Mack, who played in the secondary at Mississippi State, is one of the co-founders of Quick Twitch Training, which specializes in improving overall technique, quickness, control and agility for skill-position players. In fact, minutes after McKinley received the LSU offer, he asked his father if he could attend a Quick Twitch session the same night.
"V3's skill set at cornerback rivals that of Jamal Adams' skill set at safety at that age," said Mack, who trained Jamal in high school. "Jamal was advanced as it related to the physical nature, instincts and paying attention to details, as his primary position was running back, which allowed him opportunities to think the play and the game through. My job was to structure what he and his father had instilled in him and add a true DB skill set.
"V3, on the other hand, has always had a craft element to his disposition. He's natural at adjusting to angles and reacting, and by V3 having a more slender build, he has had to learn how to adapt his game as he physically natured."
Perhaps, Mack said, this explains why McKinley's feet, hips and overall movement compare to so many defensive backs older than he. The offer is valued by McKinley, who not only respects the culture of the LSU secondary unit but also a player in Adams, someone he considers a big-brother figure.
"It's DBU," McKinley said. "I like what they do and how they put DBs in the league. Plus, I know I can drop some questions here and there to Jamal and know that he'll be there to help me perfect my craft. He's a very physical player, and he also covers well."
McKinley has had his share of accolades in his young career. In addition to being an Adidas Freshman All-American, he will also be one of only 44 athletes nationally to participate in the inaugural NFL Prep Academy, which will be held June 17-20 in Philadelphia. The program is a leadership development initiative recognizing some of the nation's top incoming sophomore athletes.
McKinley's father said his goal is "to be the No. 1 corner in the 2018 class" and that he has a blueprint for success. McKinley's hoping to receive several more offers in the near future. If he stays healthy, he's expected to be one of the most talked-about defensive prospects nationally in his class.
"He's phenomenal to train and [to] watch grow in his craft," Mack said. "He pushes the older guys to the max in our training sessions."
Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles.