The left tackle, a player who was once thought of as just another offensive lineman, has quickly become one of the highest paid positions in the NFL and one of the most important on almost any football team. Because many colleges are passing the ball as much or more than the pros in this era, high school linemen who have the ability to play left tackle are highly sought after by colleges hoping to protect the blind side of the quarterback.
Perhaps the premier player at the position in Alabama and one of the best in the South is big B.J. Stabler from Clarke County High. A 6-4, 293-pounder with 5.3 speed in the 40-yard dash and a 28-inch vertical leap, Stabler has shown quick feet on the outside and the ability to drive defenders off the ball in the running game. Those qualities, along with being a solid student, have schools all over the country trying to get Stabler to look their way.
"I have heard from Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Michigan State, Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina State, Miami, Florida, Georgia, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and several others," Stabler tells Inside The Auburn Tigers. "I've got offers from some of those already."
Growing up in Alabama during a time when Auburn and the Crimson Tide have been battling back and forth for state dominance, Stabler says that one school has always stood out to him and has been his favorite since he was old enough to remember.
"I grew up as an Auburn fan," he notes. "I just like them. I have been liking them since I was real little. I grew up as a die-hard Auburn fan. Bo Jackson was my favorite player growing up."
A three-year starter at left tackle, Stabler played on a team with a 5-6 record last year. The 11th game came as the result of a berth in the state playoffs. Returning several key players on both sides of the ball, Clarke County is shooting for a championship this season and Stabler says his team should be much improved this fall.
If that happens, you can bet much of the success will be due to the strong play of Stabler up front. A visitor to both Auburn and Alabama last fall for games, he has been to both campuses this summer for football camps. Trying to improve both his strength and footwork, he has shown the work ethic coaches are looking for out of their offensive linemen.
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Along with Stabler, Auburn is recruiting some of the top offensive linemen in the South and it looks to be a good year for the big guys up front. Among the players interested in the Tigers right now are monstrous Glen Davis from Lab High in Baton Rouge, La., Jeremy Ciulla from Kennessaw Mountain (Ga.) High, Hamilton Holliday from Walton High in Marietta, Ga, Cody Davis from Hillcrest High in Tuscaloosa and Anthony Boudreux from Chalmette, La.
Trying to capture lightning in a bottle and find a freshman skilled enough and physical enough to play as a freshman, much like Marcus McNeill last season, the Auburn coaching staff is in on several players that could fit that bill. Boudreux is perhaps the most capable of playing right away up front with his massive size (6-5, 358) and athletic ability (30 inch vertical leap and 5.2 speed in the 40-yard dash). If his performance at a recent Auburn summer camp is any indication of his desire to play on the next level, his opponents better be wary this season because he appears ready to dominate.