This spring, a lot of the focus has been on the Illinois offensive line. One of the key players on the line is center Graham Pocic. Illini coaches are hoping to keep it all in the family as they pursue Pocic's younger brother, upcoming junior offensive tackle Ethan Pocic.The younger Pocic still has plenty of time left in his high school career, but he's already exhibiting much of the same work ethic and competitive nature that his brother has shown the past few years.
"I just live to my fullest and work out to my fullest," Pocic says. "I try my hardest all the time. I don't like to lose."Pocic doesn't view his football career as playing in the shadow of his brother. Many say that he has just as much if not more potential as Graham and views his accomplishments as a challenge.
"I just want to keep it running in the family. If he did it, then I'm going to push myself to do it."
A lot of left tackles play with finesse, but Pocic goes out on every play looking to be physical and have his way with a defense. At the same time, he is also technically sound for his age, especially at a position as critical as left tackle.
"I like to rough people up and hit people. I memorize the playbook pretty well. I try not to mess up any of the plays. I just practice a lot with my coach on technique."
He did admit that his "big" brother helped prepare him for his career. The two have often worked together in their spare time, and it really paid off for Ethan in last fall.
"My brother helps me out a lot with my pass protection. I didn't give up a sack all year, so it worked."
With two more years of high school left, the Lemont stalwart has one major goal on his mind before he ends his high school career.
"Really, I want to try to get to and win state. That's the main goal."
It's hard to call Graham Ethan's big brother, because Ethan is no small guy himself. He's already close to his brother's size and, thanks to some pretty good genes, he believes he can add more height before it's all said and done.
"I recently measured in at 6'-6", 285. I'll probably still grow. My doctors say I still have some growing to do. My dad was about 6'-8", but now he's about 6'-6", so it runs in the family."
Pocic doesn't rely on his size alone. For a sophomore, he already has a rigorous workout regimen that has him busy almost every day of the week, sometimes even twice a day.
"I lift about five times a week, and I run for about an hour and a half every other day. I do offensive line work on Thursday mornings, so my training is pretty intense. I'm training probably 8 or 9 times a week."
Pocic is taking the first few steps in the recruiting process, so he isn't too zoned in on exactly what he wants in a school yet. But he does value the relationships he is starting to form with coaches.
"Really, the offensive system and the offensive line coaches. The coaches are a big part at this point."
Pocic is certain to hear from a plethora of schools before all is said and done. Even now, he is already getting early interest from West Virginia, Wisconsin, Notre Dame and Illinois.
Ethan visited one other visit school prior to last weekend's trip to the Illini Spring Game. He watched Notre Dame in their spring game. Despite drab weather, Pocic had a good time.
"I went to Notre Dame too. It was pretty nice. It was their spring game. It was raining, but it was pretty good. I talked to a couple of the coaches. I don't really have any summer visits planned though."
Last weekend wasn't his first time in Champaign-Urbana. Besides attending his brother's college games, Pocic did get the chance to accompany Graham through some of his brother's recruitment.
"I remember going to Illinois twice with Graham. I went to Iowa and a lot of other schools with him."
Ethan says seeing his brother go through everything has helped prepare him for the long recruiting road ahead. For a younger guy, he already seems to have his act together and is taking the necessary steps to ready himself for the next couple of years.
"It's a lot easier since I saw him go through most of it. I know what to do with tape and how to work at combines and everything."
Pocic is sure to see his stock rise soon. His combination of size, strength and athletic ability makes him a must-get in the eyes of many. Illinois wasted no time making the first move with Ethan and extended a rare scholarship offer to the sophomore.
"Illinois did offer me. It was pretty cool. I didn't really expect it. I came to visit at the Ohio State game, and Coach (Joe) Gilbert told me they were going to offer."
Having been on campus a couple of times, Pocic has built a few relationships already at Illinois. The workout warrior was drawn to the expansive weight room as well.
"I like the people down there. Coach (Paul) Petrino and Coach Gilbert seem like they train hard, and they have a really nice weight room."
With a lot of young players, college interest doesn't truly pick up until their junior years. But Illinois coaches are wasting no time pursuing the young giant.
"I talk to Coach Petrino just about every other week, but I talk to Coach Gilbert any time I'm down there. Illinois is really the only school that's consistently been contacting me a lot."
Having been around the program, Pocic has gotten to know more than just the coaches. He's also formed connections with some of his brother's fellow linemen.
Now that his spring visits are out of the way, Pocic has returned his focus to preparation for the upcoming fall campaign.
"I really want to get the team mentally ready for the season. I want to work on everything, including the small details of my game."