James Boyd is a quarterback celebrated for his superior size, sturdy arm and uncanny elusiveness.
All of which should make the L.A. Jordan High standout a valuable USC freshman next season.
At defensive end.
The 6-foot-5, 230-pound senior is a rare hybrid, combining agility and precision with heft and brute strength. He primarily plays quarterback and defensive end for the Bulldogs but also has unnerved opponents at other positions.
"He might even be a better nose guard because he's so disruptive and his instincts are so quick," Jordan Coach Elijah Asante said. "He vexes the center and the quarterback is thinking about him coming across that line."
Boyd has also played receiver and linebacker for the Bulldogs (1-2), who will need their versatile star to thrive on both sides of the line Thursday night at Santa Ana Stadium against Santa Ana Mater Dei (2-1), ranked No. 5 in the Southland by The Times.
Boyd will be the third future college teammate of Mater Dei's Matt Barkley to face the Monarchs quarterback in four weeks, following Morrell Presley, a tight end and defensive end from Carson, and Vontaze Burfict, a linebacker from Corona Centennial.
But, unlike the others, Boyd will have a chance to outshine the reigning Gatorade national player of the year at his own position.
"At the end of the fourth quarter, that's when we're teammates," Boyd said. "Until then, I'm coming after him."
Boyd has been playing quarterback and chasing them since Pop Warner, where his girth made him a natural defensive lineman. When his coaches got a glimpse of his arm strength, they decided he should also play quarterback.
Boyd says he receives quizzical looks from those who hear about the combination.
"People don't understand how I do it," Boyd said.
Then there are his coaches, who can't imagine utilizing him any other way -- especially on an undermanned Jordan team that has only 26 players.
"You usually don't have a guy that big that can play such a physical position and then play a skill position. That's what makes it different," Asante said. "I'll say once every 20 years you'll see something like that."
Though Boyd has no position preference -- "Both are fun," he said -- his mother, Helen Boyd, says he favors defense.
"On the defensive line," she said, "he can take his frustration out."
Boyd must have been completely relaxed, then, by the end of Jordan's 42-15 victory over L.A. Locke on Sept. 5. He had 14 tackles, including two sacks, plus one fumble recovery and two forced fumbles. He also passed for 301 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 74 yards.
"He presents problems for you no matter which side of the ball he's on," said Locke Coach Wayne Crawford, who used two players to block Boyd when he lined up on defense. "I fear him more on defense because he's pretty much unblockable."
Last week, Boyd nearly engineered an improbable rally against No. 6-ranked Ventura St. Bonaventure, leading the Bulldogs back from a 24-0 halftime deficit with three third-quarter touchdowns during an eventual 38-20 defeat. He also had 23 tackles, leaving his teammates once again shaking their heads in admiration.
"He's just an athlete," senior receiver Delvon Purvis said. "Put it that way."
Asante says he has no doubt that Boyd, who has completed 62.4% of his passes for 909 yards and seven touchdowns with five interceptions, could play quarterback at the next level.
Boyd says he'll miss playing every down at USC, where he is expected primarily to be a defensive lineman but could also be used at tight end and linebacker. An agreeable sort, Boyd says he just wants to help wherever he's needed.
"If I was big enough," he said, "I'd play O-line and block for them."