An Interview With Benjamin Obomanu

The Selma High wide receiver talks about what he likes about the Tigers and Tide and discusses recruiting trips he plans to make.

Selma, Ala.--Ben Obomanu is the most wanted uncommitted high school senior football prospect in the state of Alabama.

The 6-2, 182-pound Selma High wide receiver and the state's Mr. Football, Auburn commitment Brandon Cox, have received more publicity than any other high school players in the state this year.

Friends and others predicted last summer that Obomanu would probably be in the center of a major recruiting battle during his senior season. That is exactly what has happened.

"I heard what they were saying, but I really didn't pay too much attention to them and at first I was kind of shocked," he says. "However, I am used to it now and I am kind of enjoying it, too, knowing it is one of the things that I always wanted. I am happy and I feel blessed that I am having the chance to be a highly recruited athlete like I am."

Ben Obomanu is shown in action at Cramton Bowl in Montgomery as a senior.

The speedster, who clocks 40-yard dash times under 4.5 seconds, has the size, speed and hands that college coaches are looking for as well as a tremendous academic background as an honor student. His brains and maturity have obviously helped him gracefully handle the pressure of being a high-profile prospect.

"The recruiting is going fine," he tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "Some people think I may be getting stressed out and I won't be able to stand it, but that isn't the case. There are only about two weeks until the whole thing is over with, anyway, so I am not going to get stressed or fed up with it. There are only five schools that I am still considering--LSU, Auburn, Alabama, Florida and Notre Dame. They are in no particular order.

"In my heart, I really have two schools. I really feel in my heart I know where I will be going to college...but I want to finalize some things first. I am probably going to let one of the schools know I am coming there and then let all of the other schools know, too, before I make my announcement. I have not set an exact date for making an announcement--it may be next week."

Obomanu is taking his third official visit this weekend to LSU. He has already been to Auburn and Tuscaloosa to check out the Tigers and the Tide, who are currently the favorites in this recruiting battle. He was on the Auburn campus Jan. 11th-13th and visited Alabama last week. "Next week, on Tuesday and Wednesday I am going to visit Notre Dame," Obomanu says. "My last visit is supposed to be Feb. 1st with Florida."

Florida once looked to be the main competition for Auburn, however, when former UF coach Steve Spurrier checked out of the swamp, that drained some of the wideout's enthusiasm for the Gators. Early in the recruiting process, he was considering Nebraska, but the Cornhuskers are not on Obomanu's radar screen anymore. However, there is an out-of-region candidate in Notre Dame, which sent new head coach Tyrone Willingham in to visit Obomanu on Wednesday.

The Fighting Irish will be playing catch-up to the Tigers and the Tide in this recruiting battle and so will LSU and the Gators.

Commenting on his impression of Auburn, the wideout says, "Auburn is a good school and it is not that far away from me. The thing that I really like about Auburn is the fact that I feel I can go in and really make an impact early."

The Tigers are thin at wide receiver and that is a high priority in the 2002 signee class. "Auburn is not really known as a school that produces a lot of good wide receivers who do a lot of good things," Obomanu says. "They don't really have any top-notch wide receivers they really can go to and I feel that I can be one of those guys who knows how to put Auburn on the map a little bit more. I feel like if I go there I will be featured at Auburn. They really don't too many of those guys like some other schools do.

"Of course, Auburn is a good school academically and I like the coaching staff there," Obomanu adds. "I had a good time talking to Coach (offensive coordinator Bobby) Petrino on my official visit. He told me what they are planning to do with the Auburn offense this coming season. That was one of the things I really worried about when there was a coaching change with the offensive coordinator. I wanted to know how the new offensive coordinator was going to handle the offense.

"A plus for Auburn is that the Tigers have already landed a big verbal commitment from (quarterback) Brandon Cox and they already have Jason Campbell at the quarterback position, too, so they are sitting pretty good. The only thing that bothers me is that they won't have a national championship caliber team right off the bat. They are going to have to work for it so that is the only down part about going to Auburn."

Obomanu says that he can see positives for future Tiger offenses run by Petrino, who Tommy Tuberville hired away from the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars earlier this month. "They showed me the stats from Coach Petrino's time in college where his teams were leading the nation in total offense when he was a coordinator. Of course, that really appealed to me a lot. He loves to score and put a lot of points on the board."

Petrino developed a reputation for producing dynamic passing games while still moving the football very well on the ground. The offensive coordinator says his philosophy is to be able to pass first to set up the run and then put opponents away with a strong ground attack. Obomanu says the AU offense interests him. "I know football and I understand that some teams pass more than others and some run more than others," he says. "I feel that you do have to run to set up the pass and you do have to pass to set up the run. If you want to be a good team, a championship caliber team, you have to be able to do both. I know there are going to be those games when it is better for a team to run the football 60 times rather than pass it and, at other times, it will be better to pass the ball more. I have no problems with the offense that Auburn will be running."

Commenting on his interest in the Tide, the receiver says, "You think of the University of Alabama having a good tradition of being a national powerhouse in football. They might not have been there in a couple of years, but people still respect Alabama a lot and realize that some of the great names have come from Alabama. Alabama has Tyler Watts at quarterback and then they have Brodie Croyle, the number one quarterback in the nation a couple of years ago and Spencer Pennington, another quarterback.

"The reason I talk about the quarterback so much is because as a wide receiver, I feel it is very important to build a good relationship with him. If you want the ball, you have to be friends with the quarterback. From talking to Coach (Les) Koenning (the offensive coordinator at Alabama), he said the reason why they ran so much last year is that their young offensive line really wasn't doing well as pass blockers.

"Of course, Alabama has NCAA problems," the Selma star says. "There are people who say that nothing is going to happen to them other than taking away some scholarships, but nobody really knows what is going to happen to them. Personally, I don't think it is going to be too bad."

Obomanu received an in-home visit on Thursday from Dennis Franchione. The Alabama head coach was trying hard to sell the Selma star on the hope that the Tide can get through its latest embarrassing run-in with the NCAA enforcement staff over breaking rules without incurring a major hit that will be felt in the program throughout his collegiate years.

Ben Obomanu

"Coach Franchione came in with three of his offensive assistants," the Selma star says. "They spent time with me at school. They spent time with my mother and my relatives while I was at school. Later on, they came to my home and visited more of my relatives so they had a busy day running all over Selma."

Obomanu is juggling his recruiting schedule around basketball and school work. He plays forward for the Saints, who are traditionally one of the top 6A basketball powers in the state. "It is going OK," he says with a note of concern. "Right now, we are kind of struggling. We are having a problem putting a winning streak together. We lose one and then we win one.

"Our biggest problem we have is playing a complete game. We might play well in the first half and then not the second half, or we play well in the first and fourth quarters. If we play a whole game, we will be fine. Our last game was a tough one when we lost to Robert E. Lee. We had beaten them the first two times we played them this year."

Obomanu says he is averaging 12-13 points per game and around nine rebounds. "Coach has me playing the power forward position, the four," he says. "Our coach likes to go with a small lineup a lot of the times." The wide receiver has to overcome his lack of height for a power forward with athleticism. He notes that he has tested at better than 40 inches on vertical jump drills and says that he consistently can jump around 38 inches.

Ben Obomanu

Tiger Ticket Extra: Thursday was report card day at Selma High and the senior wide receiver received an A in every subject to keep his quest going to become the school's valedictorian. "I feel really good that I have been able to handle going to the football games and recruiting pretty well and still keep my averages up," he says...AU linebackers coach Joe Whitt is recruiting Obomanu for the Tigers.

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