Illinois linebacker coach Mike Ward has recruited the Midwest for many years. Among his friends is Plymouth, Indiana, head football coach John Barron. He is utilizing that relationship to recruit Barron's star offensive lineman Dan Samuelson. Barron speaks highly of Ward.
"He's recruited some of our players over the years to Toledo and Bowling Green. He's a good guy, and he's a pretty honest coach. I love Coach Ward. I would love to have him play for a guy like that. He's going to have to make that decision."
Samuelson is beginning to discover for himself what Barron has known for a long time about Ward.
"I haven't met him yet, but I send him messages to Facebook. He sounds like a very good coach, and I can't wait to meet him."
He'll get that chance Sunday when he visits the Illinois campus for a Junior Day. He doesn't have an Illini offer yet, but that may change with time. Barron talks about his star pupil.
"He's got two offers right now. He's got an offer from Bowling Green and an offer from Wyoming. So things are starting to heat up. He traveled out to Wyoming last summer, and he loves it out there, which was crazy. Wow, it's a long way from home. But I think he wants to remain in the Big Ten.
"He's a good one. We've got a tight end who went to IU a couple years ago, and it's the same type of hype for this kid. He's a legitimate 6'-5" or just a little taller than that, and he's a shade over 280. His arms are long with a long wingspan. He's a physical specimen. He's also a great student, an A-, B+ student.
"He's got all the attributes. He moves well and has great feet. And I think the thing that separates him now from some of the kids I've had in the past, he's really determined. He wants to be good, he lives in the weight room. He's got all the intangibles people are looking for.
"Dan is a multiple sport athlete. He's a thrower in track and field. He spins, so he has good feet. He can dunk a basketball, he can do all that stuff.
"I've watched a lot of the stuff from combines that I can get a hold of. I've seen video clips of some of these top-rated kids, and he's as good as anybody I've seen. I've been coaching for 21 years, and the last seven years as head coach. He's the best lineman I've had."
Samuelson says he's a physical blocker.
"I love to run block. I feel that I'm good at it. I love to head-butt people and push them down. I love to pancake defenders. I do like to see myself as an aggressive blocker. I get into people's chests, and I go until the whistle blows."
Barron says there's a reason Samuelson is better at run blocking than pass blocking.
"Dan is better at run blocking, but we don't throw it very much. We run a double tight 'T,' a throwback offense. And this year we went to a flex offense, and we're running a lot of triple option and play-action."
Samuelson doesn't care what type of offense his college team plays. He can always add pass technique once he gets there. Other than that, he believes he has few weaknesses.
"I have been told that my bench press could go a little higher, and I agree. I'm at 300 right now, but I'd like to see it at 350. Besides that, I don't see too many bad things."
Barron believes Samuelson can play tackle or inside in college.
"He plays guard for us, but he's long. He's longer than a 6'-5" frame; he has long levers. He looks like an offensive tackle. The offensive line coach for Michigan said he could play either guard or tackle. Mike Elston says he could play tackle at Notre Dame. So he can play either one."
Barron has received numerous inquiries from college coaches."Notre Dame has taken film, as has Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Minnesota, Boston College has flown in. Also Penn State, Dan watched Joe Paterno's last game, the one before he got fired."
What is Samuelson looking for in a college?
"I'm looking for someone that's interested in me. Not necessarily a place that's close or far away. Obviously a great academic institution so I can get a great education in preparation for my job after football. And obviously a competitive place, such as a Big Ten school like Illinois."
Barron isn't one to brag excessively about his players. But he sings Samuelson's praises.
"He's the kind of kid you love to promote. He's never gonna get in trouble. He comes from a great family. He's a good one, he really is. He can play in the Big Ten."