Next In Line

As Jimmy Clausen was engineering playoff blowouts en route to a state championship for Oaks Christian High three football seasons ago, a freshman offensive lineman by the name of Erik Kohler was getting his first reps of varsity experience during mop-up time of the same games.

Seven Oaks Christian players went on to sign with Division-I programs that following February. For Erik Kohler, being able to practice with those guys and move up from the junior varsity and get his first varsity snaps in the state playoffs, gave him a huge confidence boost going into the next season.

"Stepping on the field freshman year, I never thought I'd be able to do that," Kohler said. "Stepping on the field, and looking around and seeing what was around me, was an amazing feeling.

"I think it was a really big growing period for me, and it really helped me a lot going up against guys like that, guys that are the best in the nation. Competing against them helped me get a lot better both physically and mentally."

Now, it's Kohler that is one of several Division-I recruits on Oak Christian's campus.

The 6-foot-5, 265-pound Westlake Village, Calif., product, is a Scout.com top-100 player and four-star offensive tackle prospect that is being sought after by some of the top programs in the nation. Kohler has racked up scholarship offers from California, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State, Stanford and Washington. Last Friday, he picked up his first full-ride from a school outside of the Pac-10 conference, when Notre Dame stepped to the table.

"I went into my coach's office to grab some mail, and he told me Notre Dame was going to offer me and to call the recruiting coordinator," Kohler explained. "So I did, and he told me that Notre Dame has offered me, and that Charlie Weis is going to talk to me (this) week.

"This is my first out of Pac-10 offer, so it's kind of cool.

"I'd like to keep all my options open at this point, but Notre Dame, I'm definitely interested and want to go up there and see them soon."

This past season, Kohler helped lead the Lions to an undefeated season and another CIF section championship. He spoke with Notre Dame assistant coach Rob Ianello for a few minutes about his latest offer.

"He said that I'd be able to fit into the Notre Dame scheme of things," Kohler said. "They looked at me, and they really want me to play there."

Kohler would like to figure out where he's going to be playing college football before next season's summer practice begins. He has already taken visits to California, UCLA, Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State and Stanford.

"I've talked to my parents about visiting Notre Dame for the past couple months, but it's been hard to get our schedules to coincide," Kohler explained. "I hope to get out there at least before summer, but if not, definitely during the summer."

Including Kohler, at least five players in his recruiting class from Oaks Christian will be signing Division-I letters-of-intent next February. Quarterback Nick Montana, the son of former Irish great and NFL Hall-of-Famer Joe Montana, also holds a Notre Dame offer. All five talk recruiting and different schools amongst each other on a regular basis.

"It's a really big topic for us," Kohler said.

"I'm looking for a deep history and tradition in football. I'd like to know their football program has always been outstanding, and will continue to be outstanding. And academics, and if they have my major which is going to be business."

Kohler never got to protect Clausen during a game three seasons ago. He says he doesn't know the Irish quarterback that well. That will also likely change over the next few months.


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