Coach Speak: Tony Johnson On Oseh-Lie Saine

Maryland landed a commitment from post-graduate defensive end Oseh-Lie Saine Jan. 17, and in order to gain more insight into the 6-foot-4, 275-pounder, we spoke to his most recent coach at Worcester Academy (Worcester, Mass.), Tony Johnson.

Maryland landed a commitment from post-graduate defensive end Oseh-Lie Saine Jan. 17, and in order to gain more insight into the 6-foot-4, 275-pounder, we spoke to his most recent coach at Worcester Academy (Worcester, Mass.), Tony Johnson. Here's our question-and-answer session with him:

Terrapin Times: So, Coach, glad I could catch up with you. I know Oseh is no longer at Worcester Academy, but I asked him to send me his most recent coach's number, and he said you're the guy to talk to...

Tony Johnson:(laughs). Yup. And by the way, it's pronounced "Oh-say." Kind of like, "O say can you see."

TT: Noted. Hopefully the Maryland PA announcer gets that down too. But, Coach, could you just give us a little background on Oseh, and what sort of happened with him after he graduated from Lincoln High in Rhode Island.

TJ: Well, what happened was Oseh really got into football late. He's huge and he played linebacker in high school, but he really didn't learn a lot. But when people [college coaches] were looking at him, they were really kind of looking at him just at the outside linebacker position -- to be that rush linebacker. Because Oseh came into this country kind of late [he lived in Gambia for eight years, until he was 10 or 11], his academics were kind of low, though. He's a very intelligent kid, but again, he came here when he was like 11, so he had to do a post-graduate year. He really had to go that extra year.

So he came to us at Worcester, and he was phenomenal. Unfortunately he got hurt, but we moved him from linebacker to defensive end, which is going to be his college position -- his natural position.

TT: Can you break down what Oseh brings to the table, Coach? And, also, what do you think he needs to do to succeed in the Big Ten?

TJ: He's big, he's strong and he has a very, very long wingspan, and he has a great motor. You're going to see him get up the field -- that's what his forte is, because his feet are so good. He's going to beat a lot of people off the line of scrimmage. I mean, he's got great feet. And he's got really, really good hand strength too. It's going to be interesting to see how he develops. Right now he's about 275 pounds, but he'll easily bulk up to 300 without missing a beat.

He just needs more technique, though. He just hasn't played the game that long, so he's got to get better technically. And he has to get stronger. He's a strong kid, but he has to dedicate and live in the weight room. He has to get a little more flexible, but he is flexible for a kid his size.

TT: Was there a moment on the field -- and I know he was only at Worcester for a few games, because he got hurt -- that stuck out in your mind? A play that made you say, Hey, this kid can play at the FBS level?

TJ: We compete at a very high level at Worcester as a football program. The first game he played, we went against Poly Prep, and Oseh just dominated. Poly Prep had an offensive tackle that is now at Notre Dame, and Oseh did a great job against him. Then the very next week we played Choate [Rosemary Hall], and they had a left tackle going to Pitt. Oseh dominated him. So I knew right then and there he was special. When you watch Oseh run and just get off the ball, you know, you sit there and go, 'He's got all the tools; he just needs the technique.' And, man, he's got a motor. He does have a motor. You challenge him on anything, and he's going to take it on.

TT: Does Oseh remind you of another player, either at the college or NFL level? Someone you've seen or coached before?

TJ: Well, I didn't coach him, but there was a kid in New Hampshire who I saw named Kendall Reyes, who is now with the San Diego Chargers. Oseh is very, very similar to Kendall Reyes in high school. Kendall Reyes was an outside linebacker/end in high school, and he's 6-foot-4, 305 pounds now.

Oseh reminds me a lot of Kendall, because Oseh has long, long limbs and he can run. He's got a very, very thick lower half -- thick thighs, his gluteus maximus, it's all what you want in a [defensive lineman]. He's got to beef up his upper body, and that'll be easy to do. Usually kids coming in [to college], you have to beef up the lower body, and that can be a problem. You can build up the upper body quickly; the lower body takes more time. Oseh has the lower body.

TT: So this sounds like a kid that's going to be able to compete against the Ohio States and Michigan States of the world?

TJ: Yeah. Yeah. He's as good as I've ever coached. And he's got a great attitude. He's a phenomenal kid with a great attitude. I can't say enough about his outlook on life.

TT: He sounds like a kid that really gets along with people well. What was he like in the locker room and around his teammates?

TJ: Phenomenal. Even when he came back here, I was telling Coach 'D' [Dudzinski], Oseh was like the mayor. He's got great charisma, he's always smiling, people love him -- he's like the mayor.

TT: Backtracking here a bit. You mentioned how Oseh played linebacker in high school. So I'm guessing he must have gained like 30 pounds after arriving at Worcester? I've never heard of a 270 pound linebacker before (laughs).

TJ: No, he was just that big. He came to us at 265, 270. But in high school, basically what he did was just rush. Every play he just blitzed. And when he came to me, I was like, "No, no, no, no. This is a much higher level. You're going to have to start learning the game.' So he did a great job, and midway through the season he hurt his shoulder, so he was out for the last four games. And then after that he just had to get qualified. He had to get his SATs up.

He had a greyshirt opportunity at Boston College, but it turned out he had a better opportunity down the road at Maryland.

TT: But after things fell through with Boston College following his year at Worcester, is there a reason he was out of football and had to go to the Community College of Rhode Island? Any reason he couldn't go back to Worcester?

TJ: Well he came to me as a post-graduate. Post-graduate is basically one year. There's no similarities between JUCO and a post-graduate year. The prep school, post-graduate is a one-year stint, and it basically allows you to keep your four years -- or five years -- of eligibility in college, whereas if you go JUCO you lose two years. So Oseh will have four years at Maryland.

TT: Is there a reason more schools didn't jump on Oseh after the BC fallout? Any reason others didn't get on him when he was done Worcester?

TJ: Initially Boston College came in early, and I kind of protected Oseh away from everyone else. I didn't really market him, because BC was on him, and BC fit all the requirements. It had the academics, it's a great school, it's good athletics, and the proximity to home was good. So, literally, almost the entire year he was here I didn't market him. And then when we had to market him [after BC backed away], I started making calls, and people [college coaches] remembered him.

But, again, it's the three components you want. Maryland just fit it well in that 1) Oseh and his family can get there pretty quickly either by plane, car or even the train. 2) Maryland is a very, very good academic school, and Coach [Randy] Edsall does a great job making sure his kids are graduating and attending class. That's what you want in a head coach. And I knew Coach Edsall at UConn, and that was a big requirement with him there too. And 3) the league Maryland plays in -- the Big Ten. Oseh can play in any league and any level, and the Big Ten is one of the best.

TT: Did Oseh consult you often after he left Worcester?

TJ: Yes. We talk; we talk a lot. I brought him back up for some games this year. He's an important piece to any organization. When you have a kid like that -- that's very vivacious, with a great personality and a great character, you want him around. So he had some free weekends last year, and I asked him to come up and talk to the kids. He's that type of kid, though -- you want him around.

TT: Oseh had mentioned that Norm Kelly and the Kelly family played a major role in his life and where he is now. What's sort of the family dynamic there?

TJ: Well, it's kind of a sensitive subject, but thank God for the Kellys. They brought him in during his junior year [at Lincoln]. Sue and Norm [Kelly] just did a wonderful job, and continue to do a wonderful job with Oseh.

TT: And I know you said you met with Coach Dudzinski. How did that go with him and the recruiting process with Maryland?

TJ: Oh it was great. Coach D was great, and, really, all the coaches have been great at Maryland. When you make a decision on a school, well, you know, I don't like to influence kids. But Maryland, it just fit everything. It was definitely a great fit for Oseh and everyone is very excited about his future there.

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