Login |  Register |  help
Wolves Sports

Building the perfect lineman

Posted Thursday, August 30, 2007 by Seattle Times
High School Football Preview
Building the perfect lineman

By Sandy Ringer
Seattle Times
staff reporter

Brawn and brains. Size and strength. Athleticism and attitude.

If Coach Frankenstein wanted to assemble the perfect high-school offensive lineman, he'd start with heaping helpings of those ingredients. Fold in footwork, character and selflessness, and he'd surely mold the kind of player it takes to excel at the next level and beyond.

Today's prep linemen are bigger, faster, smarter, stronger and edgier. And some of the state's best will display their monstrous talents at Seattle-area schools this fall ? Alameda Ta'amu at Rainier Beach, Senio Kelemete at Evergreen of White Center, Trevor Guyton at Redmond, David DeCastro at Bellevue and Drew Schaefer at Eastlake of Sammamish. All but Ta'amu, who has several Division I offers, have accepted Pac-10 scholarships.

"This is one of the better groups of linemen I've seen come out of Washington," said Allen Wallace, recruiting editor for Scout.com and publisher of SuperPrep magazine.

George Yarno, offensive-line coach at Washington State, agrees.

"There are always good, quality linemen in Washington," said Yarno, who was an NFL offensive lineman for 11 seasons. "Some years are better than others, and this is one of those years."

It's a big year in part because these are big guys: Ta'amu checks in at 6 feet 4, 330 pounds. The rest aren't far behind: Kelemete is 6-4, 270; Guyton 6-5, 290; DeCastro 6-5, 290; Schaefer 6-5, 275. That's nearly 1,500 pounds of mass.

"There are more big bodies to evaluate this year," said Randy Hart, long-time Washington line coach and recruiter. "Four or five years ago, you couldn't find a body over 6-4, 250."

Kavario Middleton, a tight end/defensive end for Lakes of Lakewood, is an athletic 6-7, 250 and considered one of the top football prospects in the country. Also a standout basketball player, Middleton sets the bar for defensive linemen in the state this year. He is the top-ranked defensive end in the country according to Scout.com and is the No. 13 recruit overall, regardless of position.

State's line legacy

This state has had its share of high-profile linemen. Bellevue's Stephen Schilling helped raise the standard in 2005-06. At 6-5, 290, he has the blend of size and athleticism coaches crave. Schilling had his choice of college scholarships and opted for Michigan, where he might have played as a freshman if not for a bout of mononucleosis. He could start for the Wolverines as a sophomore this season.

"He has all of the ingredients," Bellevue coach Butch Goncharoff said. "He's a 300-pound kid with incredible athletic ability. You just don't see that very often. I hadn't."

Goncharoff has another dandy in DeCastro, who has committed to Stanford. Like Schilling, DeCastro didn't start playing football until his freshman year, but proved to be a quick study.

Goncharoff praises DeCastro's work ethic and footwork, and notes another important trait that doesn't show up in the weight room.

"He's got a mean streak," said the Bellevue coach, noting the best linemen are inherently anti-social with a "nasty" side. "He's got a chance to be really good."

Schilling concurs and pays DeCastro a considerable compliment: "I see a lot of me in him."

Desire, dedication, discipline, demeanor. All factor into the equation. But in dealing with 17- and 18-year-old players, there's no perfect blueprint for building the perfect lineman.

"Recruiting is an imperfect science," Yarno said. "The best word to use is projection. A kid changes a lot from 18 to 23, both physically and mentally, and emotionally. You never know how a kid is going to develop and grow. Sometimes you're right and sometimes you're wrong."

Weighing in on toughness, size

Most coaches look for large frames capable of packing on pounds, along with long arms and strong hands, but Yarno wants toughness.

"To me, that's the most important thing," he said. "Does he play hard for 60 minutes? Things like arm length is the icing on the cake. I'm more interested in their toughness than the length of their arms. If you play hard, good things are going to happen."

Size matters most to coaches like Hart.

"On the offensive line, first and foremost is size," said Hart, who was an offensive tackle at Ohio State. "You can't play [major college] if you're 5-10 and 210 pounds, even if you're a great player."

Former NFL standout Curt Marsh, who played at Snohomish and Washington, says the size of the brain is as important as brawn.

"You have to store a lot of information in your mind," Marsh said. "You've got to know what you're going to do, what the guy next to you is going to do, what the running back is going to do. You've got to be an intelligent person."

The area's top linemen agree.

"You can be the best blocker," said Bellevue's DeCastro, who carries a 3.65 grade average, "but if you don't know your assignment, it doesn't matter."

Rainier Beach's Ta'amu, a four-year starter weighing offers from Washington, Oregon State and Hawaii, talks about the necessary blend of strength, quickness and intelligence.

"You have to have power in your legs, you have to be quick and you have to be smart, real smart," he said. "You have to be smart enough to read defenses, and you have to be disciplined.

Washington-bound Kelemete, who also wrestles and throws the discus, cites the importance of technique.

"You can be the strongest lineman and have speed, but if you don't have technique, it's not going to help you as much," he said.

Muscle isn't everything

The Huskies recruited Kelemete as a defensive end and he prefers playing on that side of the ball "because you really get to be aggressive," he said. But Evergreen coach Shaun Tarantola said he could see Kelemete as an interior lineman. "He's so athletic for a big guy," Tarantola said. "That's what allows him to be so versatile."

Redmond's Guyton, a California recruit, also prefers defense, and his hard work in the weight room helps him on both sides of the football. He bench-presses 360 pounds and squats 510.

But muscle isn't everything. Guyton also stresses the importance of technique, plus "focus, and just the determination to do your job."

Schaefer, who will join Kelemete at UW, prefers the offensive line.

"I take more pride in playing offense," he said

Schaefer, a 3.79 student, considers quickness and agility keys, and credits his basketball background for his athleticism. Unlike many prospects, who quit another sport to focus on football, he has stuck with both.

Focusing on one sport has pluses and minuses. "It helps them strength-wise, but hurts them athletically," said Puyallup coach Tom Ingles.

Ingles, in his 36th year of coaching, says offensive linemen tend to be ego-less.

"They understand they have the most important job in football with the least amount of recognition," he said. "I've never met a selfish lineman."

Self-motivation is another must, Yarno said.

"Do they play through adversity? Do they play from the snap to the whistle? That's something you can't teach," he said. "Either you have it or you don't."

The biggest difference

That hasn't changed since linemen wore leather helmets and broken noses instead of facemasks. But there is one big difference.

"Kids are getting bigger and bigger," said Kennedy's Bob Bourgette, who coached one of the state's all-time best in Mike Utley and last season compared WSU recruit Kevin Freitag to him.

Yarno was considered big coming into college at 220 pounds.

"Now if you're 220 pounds, you'd better be able to play linebacker," said the Spokane native. "You're not going to be a lineman."

Marsh, who was 6-5, 270 coming out of Snohomish in 1977, marvels at today's massive linemen, some with bellies hanging over their belts.

"They're letting guys get huge and I'm just amazed," he said. "Some of them look out of shape, but they must not be because they're playing 70 plays."

Strength and speed aren't necessarily looked at the same, either. In the weight room, repetition is as important as grunting through two or three heavy lifts, coaches say. For the O-line guys, 40-yard times are giving way to quickness off the ball, initial burst and the lineman's first 10 steps.

"The offensive lineman has to block for the running back, but when the running back gets downfield, the lineman doesn't have to keep up with him," Yarno said.

And while there is no blueprint, this year's top linemen seem built for success, inside and out. With big hands and big hearts, dogged tenacity and mongrel temperaments, they appear to have monster futures.

Sandy Ringer: 206-718-1512 or sringer@seattletimes.com

This page was created in 0.1719 seconds on server 132