Back in the spring when GBW traveled to the Penn State Nike camp we witnessed overpowering performances from two of the top defensive linemen in the country. One was Randallstown Maryland’s Melvin Alaeze. The other was Philadelphia West Catholic’s Marques Slocum. The agile lineman tipped the scales at over 330 pounds that day, but still displayed the nimbleness that we’ve witnessed in other big guys like Gabe Watson and Alan Branch.
Fast forward a half year to this week’s Army All American game. There is something that sets Marques apart from the aforementioned Wolverines. We are looking at a young man who has undergone a metamorphosis that the other two never did while in high school. Slocum has shed much of the excess weight he was carrying and is starting to pack on the muscle. Now down to a svelte 310, the already graceful big man is an even more imposing adversary for those unfortunate youngsters he squares off against.
His versatility was on display earlier in the week he beat out Dace Richardson for the starting offensive guard spot. Originally slated to play both ways, he made no secret of the fact that he prefers defense. Yesterday we got word that he ill now be starting at defensive tackle in the game. When speaking of potential, Marques has only scratched the surface according to Coach Will Cooper.
“Marques hadn’t really lifted weighs before we got him at West Catholic,” Cooper said. “Not a lot of people knew about him because the school he was at previously didn’t really push their players like we do. Everyone was talking about Callahan Bright. Well Callahan is a great player, but so is Marques. Callahan is a kid that has been lifting weights seriously for years. Marques is just naturally strong, quick, and explosive. Plus he is bigger. I think Marques is the better player.”
In today’s game, it will not take long for him to start seeing double teams. If the West refuses to do that, expect Marques to pitch a tent in the West backfield.
Slocum’s line-mate, James McKinney, returned to action Friday and had some of the spring back in his step. Though he is still nagged a little by his hip flexor injury, he should be able to go in today’s contest. If he doesn’t make it into the lineup, expect him to get significant ribbing from his friend Marques. The West Philly native has not let up on James’ Kentucky twang. “James is from Lou-Vull,” Slocum said laughing.
Toward the end of the practice session we moved on from watching the defensive line to the watching Zoltan Mesko. We observed him practicing directional kicking again, and time after time, the young man accurately dropped them inside the ten. Of course, it was only practice. That said, if what he shows in game prep translates to when the bright lights are on and the rush bearing down on him, the Wolverines may actually be able to look to their punter as a weapon.
That would certainly make Zoltan unique, but so too will his a character. Both funny and gregarious, the other kids on the team seem to genuinely like him. Whoever heard of the punter being the most popular guy on the team? As odd as it sounds, if Zoltan does not hold that distinction, he is very close to doing so. He is without question one of the more well-liked kids on the East squad. That will surely be the case for both fans and players alike in Ann Arbor. That is, of course, unless he shanks a few too many punts!
By the way, did we mention that Mesko beat Iowa’s Jake Christensen in the