Maryland secured a commitment from offensive tackle Alex Hall (Louisville, Ohio) May 28, and afterwards we spoke to his head coach, John DeMarco, to gain more insight into the 6-foot-6, 270-pounder. Here's our question-and-answer session with DeMarco:
Terrapin Times: OK Coach, I guess the first question I'm going to ask is, What does Alex bring to the table as an offensive tackle? We hadn't heard too much about him until the last couple days, so we're interested in what you think about his game. Could you give us a breakdown and what kind of lineman Maryland is getting?
John DeMarco: Well, No. 1 he's a great kid, and for his size he has really good feet. He's 6-6-plus and has really good reach. He's just starting to get better and come into his own. He's always been tall, but he's just now starting to fill out. He played for us last year at about 235 [pounds], and now he's about 265. He's put a lot of weight on this offseason and is just starting to physically get stronger. I think he's just growing into his size right now, and we're expecting a lot out of him.
He plays on our tennis team, and at 6-6 he has really good feet. I think Maryland likes his frame and his footwork, No. 1, and he has the ability to put on a lot of weight yet. He has a frame that can take a lot of weight and get a lot bigger and stronger yet.
TT: Just from an offensive line guru perspective, can you tell us what Alex brings to the table technically? I'm assuming if he's athletic he can pull, get to the second level, things like that?
JD: Yeah, he does do that [pull, get to the second level]. What he really does well is pass block, because he has good feet and has the long reach. He does a really good job with that, and does a nice job containing the end with his leverage when we're trying to run outside plays. And he does get to the next level real well and moves well in space.
TT: Obviously he does need to work on some things to get to a Big Ten level. What areas does he need to improve?
JD: No. 1, he has to get bigger and stronger. He has the ability to do that, but to play in the Big Ten, he has to really work on it. Now, obviously [the Maryland coaches] are going to work on his technique a lot more. It's probably going to be awhile before he actually plays there. A lot of linemen are projects when [colleges] bring them in, and Alex is definitely one of those. But he has the tools to work with -- he's got the length and the feet they want, and those things are hard to coach for sure. Then I think they're going to put a lot more weight on him and get a lot more strength in him.
TT: Was this, getting to the Division I level, is this something you saw coming? I know Alex didn't start until last year, so did you see this coming, or was it kind of out of nowhere?
JD: It kind of came out of nowhere; we really didn't see it. He just continued to grow. He was a big kid through our youth league and on our freshman team and sophomore team, and he's got some brothers that are fairly tall, but we didn't see him going 6-6-plus. We saw him being 6-3, 6-4, but he's just continued to grow, and with that has grown into a Division I football player.
We've got a lot of guys who we think are Division I caliber football players, but just don't reach the size [college coaches] want, whether it's linemen or skill guys. Fortunately for Alex, he reached the height [DI coaches] were looking for.
TT: Typically with recruits, especially in Ohio and the Midwest as you know, you see the Toledos, the Akrons and the Miami of Ohios offer first. Then after that you might see the Marylands of the world, and if they're really good the Ohio States and Michigans come calling. But none of the MAC schools offered. Any reason for that? Any explanation?
JD: I think that would be a question for those MAC schools, not myself. I have no idea what goes through their minds.
All I know is the offensive line coach at Maryland [Greg Studrawa], at first sight really liked Alex. And talking to each other, those two really hit it off and seemed to have a nice communication between the two of them. I don't know [Studrawa] personally, but there's a mutual friend between us, and I have a lot of respect for [Studrawa] and I've heard a lot of great things about him. It just seems to me [Studrawa] was more willing to jump on someone he saw as a potential player as opposed to some of these other schools.
TT: I know you said you don't know Coach Stud personally, and you've only been interacting with him for a few weeks, but how has the process gone with him?
JD: It's been very good. He's been up front, he's been excellent, he's been straightforward, he's been very positive, he's been very encouraging. He seems very knowledgeable, and from some of the things I'd heard from other coaches coming in that recruit against Maryland, they have a lot of respect for [Studrawa]. They say it's going to be very hard to recruit against him, because of his track record and the type of person he is.
TT: And just to get some more background on Alex and what kind of a person he is, he seems very humble and down to earth. Is that how he is around you guys and his teammates?
JD: He is. He is very much that. He has just kind of grown into the physical person he is right now. In the youth league, he was one of our better players, but not the most dominant player all the way up. He's been a late bloomer, and when all of our other guys were excelling at the youth level and the freshman team, Alex was just coming into his own. He's kind of just passed all of them up in the last year.
So because of that, he's come up very humble and doesn't see himself as a prima donna or the dominant player in his class. I don't even know if he even sees himself as a Division I player. He just sees himself as one of the guys, a teammate with his buddies that he's grown up playing with.
TT: When did you finally know Alex could play at that Division I level? Was there a play or moment he had?
JD: I think as we watched him grow and he got that length. He played for us at 235 last year, and we didn't see him as a Division I player at the time. He's been a three-sported all along; he played basketball and tennis at Louisville. But he took this offseason and devoted himself to the weight room. He finally decided to drop basketball and got in the weight room.
He kept playing tennis, though, and the big draw there is his dad is our high school tennis coach and they play tennis as a family. Alex wanted to play tennis for his dad, so he kept that up. But he still was able to take this offseason and put on 30 pounds. So we saw his body transferred from a 6-6 skinny-looking kid to someone who is starting to look like a D-I player. Physically he had the skills, just not the strength to go with it. Now we're excited to see him, because we think he can be even more dominant than he was for us last year.
Now, I mean, he had a really good year for us last year. He didn't really play for us as a sophomore, but he got better and better as the season went on his junior year. He got more confidence in what he was doing, and I think he saw himself on tape having some success, and that boosted his confidence also.
TT: Can you recall a play that he made where he really showed his development?
JD: No, not off hand. The biggest thing is just him moving his feet all the time for a 6-6 kid, and just having lengthy arms. He's just able to get his arms on guys. When he got his hands on you, it was hard to disengage from him just because of that reach he has.
We didn't think he was very strong when he played for us last year, so we're really excited this year with him putting on 30, 35 pounds and seeing what he's able to do now that he has some strength to go with him.
TT: Can you tell any cool stories about Alex just to illustrate who he is, or his personality?
JD: Not that I'm aware of. Our line coach he's been coaching for 35 years, and him and his guys are kind of like their own little clique. And I think that's what Alex is going to like about Coach Stud at Maryland -- just the real tight bond between O-line coach and his O-linemen. They kind of all hang out together and do their own thing. I'm sure they have some stories to tell amongst themselves, but I'm not aware of any off-hand (laughs).
TT: Thanks Coach, I definitely appreciate your time. I know Alex is excited to get down to Maryland.
JD: Well we're excited for him to be there. Everything we've heard about the program out there, from the football to the academics to the campus, it's been nothing but great things.
I told Alex before he visited, I told him everything I'd heard about the school and told him it was a great opportunity for him. So I wasn't surprised at all when he committed. It's a great opportunity, and we're excited he took it. He's going to do really well down at Maryland.
Coach Speak: John DeMarco On Alex Hall
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