You think offensive tackle nowadays and you are thinking some guy around 6'5" or so and over 300 lbs. At a reported 6'6" and over 300 lbs., Mike his that criteria to a tee. You also think strength with a good combination of speed to go with that and Mike's 5.2/40, 370 bench and 460 squat, again, he's not dropping off a lick. Add to that 48 pancakes from last year and a 2nd team Super-State honor and you've pretty much got a package with enough potential that schools from all over are going to be turning their heads to see just what he's going to do.
In regards to measurables, stats and all that, Mike certainly deserves a second and even third look, but you know how it is. I've seen guys just as big turn into even bigger busts, because of bad habits because of a lack of competition obtained or coaching that just didn't prepare them for what was to come. In both cases, Mike appears to be meeting those challenges head-on.
The bad habit someone Mike's size can sometimes develop in high school is that quite often, these juggernauts never face anyone even remotely close to their size. Because of that, they get blocking habits that are more like "laying down" habits, engulfing their guy and that's that. You say that's good, but not in this day and age. It's not just about what you do at the point of attack, but what you do after that.
Mike is one of those guys that has ran into the problem of being bigger than everyone else as he recalls just how many players he has faced that were close to his size. "Nobody." Huff stated.
So, does Mike think he has fallen into any of those bad habits? "No." Mike said. "I think it's just natural I guess. I just get off my guy and go." Natural? Maybe some of it, but I'm betting there is some coaching in there as well. Either way, that's a huge obstacle Huff has managed to avoid or conquer, depending on how you look at it.
Another thing that big guys like Mike usually have going against them is the fact that most of these guys are pass-blocking machines, but can't run-block to save their lives. Again, Huff doesn't bite. "Actually, I think my run-blocking is a little better." Mike said.
Well, Mike is confident at run-blocking, plus he's able to consistently get beyond the point of attack. Looking pretty good. Ok, how about attitude? You get a real quick idea of the kind of attitude Mike plays with by the player he looks at as someone he says he somewhat resembles. "Richie Incognito." Mike said in reference to the intense and occasionally insane Nebraska lineman. "I like the way he plays."
For those not familiar with the talented Nebraska lineman, he's a budding superstar, but has also been considered to be maniacal at times, having drawn personal fouls on more than a few occasions and was actually ejected in one game, that being against Penn State for "extracurricular" activity. Mike says he doesn't necessarily look at some of the end-results, but rather the big picture when looking at how Incognito plays the game. "You have to have a craziness to play the game." Mike said, although he did quickly qualify that. "But, it's got to be a controlled craziness."
That controlled craziness is part of the package Mike brings to the table and it's that face he is eager to put on, especially when he gets to deal out the punishment on unsuspecting defenders. Every linemen loves to pull, because it gives them one of those few opportunities to actually get a running head start, before slamming someone into the ground. And, if that defender just happens not to be noticing at the time, well, these "bigguns" live for that. "I just lick my chops when that happens." Mike said.
He's not the only one licking his chops as Mike is going to be watched by many from places all over the country. Though Ralston is basically part of Omaha, Nebraska, it hardly gets a ton attention, even after going to the state title game this last season. Mike isn't going to let that stop this season from being a success for himself or his team though. "I'd like to get to the state title game." Mike said. "I want to go out with a bang."
The bang might be better suited for the sound made when Mike hits unsuspecting defenders, but his version will work to. Any way you look at it though, Mike isn't going to just turn ears, but eyes. In fact, as he put it, plenty of eyes are already looking his way. "There's a good list of them." Mike said in regards to the teams sending him letters right now.
By the way, for those that are fans of teams other than Nebraska, confident that the best talent in the Husker state will indeed be Cornhuskers in the end, Mike didn't offer a concrete rebuttal, but one that does put teams other than NU in the mix. "I'm going with the offers." Mike said. "I want to keep my options open and just look around. It's pretty early."
It is indeed. So early, that nobody should get excited about anyone, right? Well, if Mike turns out to be as good as his potential indicates, right now might not be a bad time to start.
Steve Ryan can be reached at email@example.com or 402-730-5619