COLUMBUS — Andrew Anderson knew what he was watching was different when he saw the freshman work.
Anderson trains defensive backs from around Florida. He coaches defense at powerhouse Jones High School in Orlando. He’s been around some of the best cornerbacks and safeties the Sunshine State has to offer.
The rare combination of size, speed, length and ability on the field doesn’t come by often, even in the football haven of Central Florida. But he knew the player he was watching was bound to be special when that player was just in his first year of high school.
“What usually separates an elite athlete from a good athlete is they have those certain things that’s just rare,” Anderson said. “When you have a 6-foot-2 guy who can transition like he’s 5-foot-10? That’s rare. That’s very rare. And then on top of it, him being coachable and hungry for the knowledge, that makes a guy elite. It really does. That’s what makes those type of guys who are at the Power Five rare …
“Such as Sevyn.”
Sevyn Banks has stood out since the moment Anderson started coaching him. Banks didn’t play for Anderson for his first two years of high school, but he began working on developing Banks into an elite defensive back for all four years of high school.
And he saw the potential from Banks instantly.
“I’ve been working with him since he was a little ballplayer,” Anderson said. “When I first started really seeing him, paying attention to him, I think it was ninth grade. He was playing receiver and defensive back, he was all over the field. But I definitely saw a quick twitch and length. With that quick twitch and length, I thought: ‘Man, he could be a big-time DB.’ Because that’s rare.”
Anderson was right. Once Banks transferred to Jones High before his junior season, the offers started pouring in. Maryland was first, then Florida, South Carolina and Virginia Tech.
Then Ohio State.
Four months after that offer from the Buckeyes, Banks committed and shut his recruitment down. He went to work, rising to a top-250 player in the country and becoming one of the best cornerbacks in the state of Florida.
“We see a lot of guys in Florida,” Anderson said. “We always see there’s some guys that just stand out. Even in high school, they just stand out. You see that: ‘Man, if this guy just stays healthy and stays focused, he’s going to get drafted.’ We said that about Sevyn.
“We knew he had potential as long as he stayed healthy, he stayed focused and stayed the person he is, continue to grow in that same path, he definitely has an opportunity to get drafted. We said it then in high school.”
It never mattered who Banks had to guard on the man-to-man island, a staple of Anderson’s defense at Jones High. Banks outmatched receiver after receiver. Even the best receiver Jones faced, now-Duke wide receiver Darrell Harding, couldn’t find room to make plays against Banks, who held the Division I receiver to just one catch.
And Sevyn Banks did it with a smile the entire time, showcasing the confidence and swagger he carried along the way.
“That’s Sevyn all the way,” Anderson said. “That bubbly personality, that is him. That’s always been him. He’s always got that smile, that signature smile. He always has the smile and had pretty good confidence as an athlete overall.”
That confidence allowed Banks to choose the Buckeyes over in-state schools such as Florida, Florida State and Miami, along with other top programs. It made him a better cornerback as he entered the Buckeyes program.
It’s part of the reason Banks became a starter last year, a spot in which he continued to get better as the season wore on despite early growing pains. The confidence he carries is certainly a reason Banks has a chance to be the best cornerback in the Big Ten and beyond next season while playing for a national title contender in Columbus.
Anderson saw potential from Banks early, even before Ohio State saw it. He knows Banks better than nearly everyone else in Banks life. He can see the progress Banks has made while also still waiting for the potential to become fully unlocked.
If that potential can be released, the “different” athlete Anderson noticed years ago will likely be one of the first cornerbacks taken in the 2022 NFL draft — after Banks has one more season with the Buckeyes, which he at least considered skipping after the loss in the national-title game.
“I wasn’t surprised — but I know he was torn, obviously, declaring versus staying,” Anderson said. “If he could do both, that’s what he would do because he loves Ohio State. He loves it there. He’s had a great experience there. I know if he could split himself in half, he would love to do both of them. But I wasn’t surprised because he loves the staff, his teammates, the Ohio State environment.
“Everything is a great possibility for him that he can accomplish, even the draft status of the NFL, first round. I think he’s going to do it. I think he’s going to perform well. He’s all about trying to fix what he considers his weaknesses, areas he messes up. He’s always trying to strengthen himself. And again, he’s coachable. When you have that kind of guy, the sky is the limit.”
Now Sevyn Banks has one more year to tap into that potential with the Buckeyes.