You hear it every year. A big, long-limbed offensive line prospect gets mentioned as a top recruit among college programs, and invariably a fan will post "I don't understand it. I saw the kid play last week and he didn't dominate like you'd think he should."
For many reasons a given high school game may or may not properly showcase an offensive lineman's potential.
Imagine a boxing match between a 6-5, 270-pound heavyweight like Lennox Lewis and his counterpart from the welterweight division. Unless the ring is mighty small, the big man is likely to be embarrassed.
Without his opponent's (stupid) cooperation--or the heavyweight resorting to tactics more suited to a wrestling match, the taller athlete would be lucky to land more than one or two solid blows against his faster and quicker opponent the entire match.
High school football games can sometimes take on that feel. If a defensive lineman is outweighed by 50+ pounds, he'd be foolish to crash straight into his opponent at the snap.
Recently I watched a prep match-up between Hartselle and Cullman. Cody Green (6-5, 302) and Justin Britt (6-4, 255) started for Cullman at right tackle and guard respectively. Needless to say their Hartselle defensive counterparts were significantly smaller.
On several running plays to the right side, Green and Britt would fire off the ball and it would look like "fruit basket turnover" in front of them, as smaller defenders scrambled to run away from and around the two behemoths.
More than once Cody Davis (6-7, 265) of Hillcrest has experienced the same thing. Tall and athletic, Davis has the long wing span and quick feet that college coaches are looking for. But it's hard to appear dominating when your man is running away from your block.
I watched Davis in person work against Eric Phillips of Wenonah High School. It was an interesting match-up, because both athletes were similar in size and athleticism. Each man won his share of the battles.
At this point in his athletic career Davis isn't particularly polished, but the long-term potential is definitely there. He's still a teenager, and Davis easily projects as a 330-pounder by the time he's finished growing and lifting weights.
For his size, Davis has very good feet. When you're watching tall athletes in high school, pay attention to their balance. If he's big, moves well and stays on his feet, then you've got a keeper.
On the other hand, if the big man ends up on the ground a lot...
Davis certainly excels in pass coverage. With his long arms and size, the pass rusher simply has too far a distance to travel to get there in time to do much damage. In the rushing game, once Davis locks his man up then it's over.
Additionally, and this is a very important point, Davis is remarkably flexible for an athlete his size. Leverage (coaches usually call it "pad level") is everything in blocking, and Davis a 6-7 athlete who plays like he's 6-3.
Davis is seriously considering several schools, including Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Clemson and South Carolina. He's been careful in his public comments, but it's believed that the hometown Tide has the advantage. Davis has official visits set to all five schools, but he's visiting Alabama last (1/30/2004).
Cornerback Travis Robinson, a teammate of Davis at Hillcrest, is already committed to Alabama.
RECRUITING NOTES: Alabama is expected to sign 4-6 offensive linemen this year, but that number can be misleading. Athletes listed as prep tight ends or defensive linemen could well end up playing on the O-Line in college.
Read all of the recent recruiting stories on Alabama recruits from TheInsiders.com.