Interview: Manuel Wright

In recruiting, you have your talented and quality prospects, then you have your big time prospects. And then, as in Long Beach (Cal) Poly defensive tackle Manuel Wright's case, you have a few prospects who are absolutely can't miss types.

Kareem Brown and Brodrick Bunkley are very talented instate defensive tackle prospects. And guys like Marcoo Martin, Fred Matua, and Jason Alford are exceptionally talented out of state prospects. But Wright just seems to be on another level.

I remember when watching this kid on tape for the first time early in the spring. On tape, he was as impressive as any defensive lineman I'd seen in several years. (Note: I was on the voting panel for the All American teams, so I saw my share). Wright has Vince Wilfork type talent, but they're completely different types of players. A better comparison in talent would be Tennessee's John Henderson, who goes 6-foot-6 and 290 pounds.

At Southern Cal's summer camp, Wright checked in at 6-foot-6 and 305 pounds. He vertical jumped 30 inches, dominated the camp start to finish, and ran through conditioning drills with the linebackers. But the most impressive thing he may have done at that camp is run a 4.70 on grass in front of several SC coaches, including former UM defensive line coach Rick Petri, who coached Warren Sapp. That's unheard of.

On paper, he belongs in the NFL. On the field, he's still three or four years away from that league, but he's still plenty good. He's got a relentless motor and Wright has dominated competition for three seasons now. As a junior, he had 43 stops behind the line of scrimmage. His natural strength is superb (375 bench press). And his first step is what makes him about impossible to block.

Your current core GPA: It's around a 2.8 or 2.9

Your current test score: I took the ACT, but I haven't gotten the scores back yet.

Which schools have sent you scholarship offers in the mail: In the mail - wow. Everyone I can think of. SC, Florida, Miami, Florida State, Oklahoma, Washington, UCLA, the list goes on and on. It's probably close to 40. Nebraska was like the last major one remaining, and they sent me a huge FedEx package today.

What's your visit schedule going to look like: I am going to visit Washington and Florida State for sure. I won't make an official visit to SC because it's right down the street from my house. My cousin goes to Arizona State and he's been begging me to visit there, so they'll probably by my third visit. I'm still not sure on the 4th and 5th ones yet, but I definitely plan to take all five.

If signing day were tomorrow, what's it looking like: SC, Washington, and Florida State are probably my top three right now, but that doesn't mean someone else could jump to the top if I have a good visit or whatever.

Talk about Miami: I like the Hurricanes. The major reason is because of Warren Sapp. He's the most dominating player in football. I'm a diehard Bucs fan because of Sapp. I've always wanted to be the next Sapp in college, just to dominate the way he did. And there's no better place to do it than Miami. Plus, I like their new defensive coach. He's very tough and aggressive. I would fit in real well with what he's doing. And Miami is my prediction to win the national championship this year. They got screwed last year, because they beat Florida State.

What's the time-frame for your decision: Definitely after the season. I want to see how all these teams do this season first.

Is it true you said you'd only like to play one year of college football: No, not at all. I saw that and was like, "they have me confused with someone else." What I said was I plan on making an impact my first year. I will not waste any time. You're probably thinking yeah right since some of these teams have a lot of talent. But no matter where I'll go, their other defensive linemen won't be more talented. They might be more experienced, but that'll motivate me that much more.

Is Miami recruiting any of your talented teammates: They're recruiting Hershel Dennis, our running back. He's gotten huge and is very fast. Miami hasn't offered him yet, but they are recruiting him.

This was a tremendous interview, one of the best I've had all year. Manuel (not Manual, as often mis-spelled) is a great kid. He's very confident and has all the tools. Wright said his father is on he and his brother (a 6-3 sophomore wide receiver) very hard about getting better. They wake up very early and do a lot of running and lifting. He's a kid that seems to me like he'll be easily qualified by the beginning of the season, and will have a lot of options.

It's going to be very difficult to land him away from Southern Cal since he grew up there, he's being recruited by the coach who coached Sapp at Miami, and USC has produced some quality NFL defensive tackles in recent years. But if he does leave California, I love our chances, especially if we compete for a national championship and if he makes an official visit. Could you imagine the decision Wright could be facing come early January when his top choices could be Southern Cal and Miami if the Hurricanes are playing in Pasadena for the national championship? Things could get very interesting after that.

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