Zack Craig: His Coach's Take

GoPokes.com interviewed the high school coach for each of the Oklahoma State commitments in the days leading up to National Signing Day. In this installment of "His Coach's Take," we visit with Smithson Valley head coach Larry Hill about Zack Craig, a defensive back who originally committed to Colorado before switching to Oklahoma State.

What are his strengths as a football player?
Larry Hill: Well, I think versatility is one. I don't know if it's his main one or not but he can do so many things. He played corner for us because that's what we needed him to do for the team. He tackles well, so he could be a nickel back or he could be a safety. He blocked a number of kicks for us through the years on special teams. He's good at covering kicks, and he's returned some kicks for touchdowns. I just think he's an excellent football player. I don't know if OSU is going to play him at corner, nickel, safety, or all of the above. He's 6-2 and still kind of lanky, and he's going to fill out. In this era of spread offenses and everybody is looking for tall receivers who can play jump ball on the fade over smaller corners … to be able to have a guy that can run like Zack and who has some height, I think that was something that pulled some of these schools toward him.

What do you believe will be his biggest challenge in going from high school to playing in the Big 12?
Larry Hill: The obvious one coming from high school to the Big 12 is a tremendous transition. He has played at a high level in Texas, which is a fine football state, but that's not to be confused with the Big 12 at any means. Adjusting to the speed of the game even though he's got tremendous physical skills, and obviously every receiver or running back that he was matched up with (in high school) did. I think the usual things that every freshman goes through – my mom's not here, I've living in the door, I don't know these coaches and kids yet. It's just a transition in getting comfortable but he'll get through all of that. It will be a little bit of a culture shock for him and the only 25 but he'll be fine.

Was there one game, or maybe even one play, during his career that you'll always remember?
Larry Hill: I think back to a year ago when we felt like we were in control of the game but through a series of circumstances they clawed their way back in and then scored what would be the tying touchdown. Then Zack comes off the corner and blocks the extra point. It was a superhuman effort. Just to see how fast he closed in a hurry, and the extra effort that he gave. It was maximum effort when he stretched his frame out to block it, which allowed us to hold the one-point lead and ultimately win the game. It was a little thing but not everybody can do that. He's a big-play guy. It's funny, his stats weren't eye-popping this year. Being a three-year starter people just avoided him a lot, and you get that sometimes at corner. They're going to run the other way, they're going to throw the other way, so sometimes this year his big plays were things like blocking kicks or taking a great angle across the field to run somebody out of bounds, or breaking up passes. He just didn't get as many chances.

What are three words that describe him as a football player?
Larry Hill: Intense. Competitor. Dedicated.

Why do you think he chose Oklahoma State?
Larry Hill: Well, being in the Big 12 for one (reason), a quality program in a quality BCS conference. And, of course, his parents both attended OSU. Even though it is out of state, they're going to be playing a number of their games in state. His folks will be able to get to his games, whether it be in Stillwater or Waco or College Station. I think it's a program that he had his eye on from the beginning. He's glad, and we're all glad, that it worked out for him.

What type of impact to you expect him to have on the OSU football program?
Larry Hill: There's no telling because he's so versatile. I think it will be a positive impact, a play-making impact. I think the thing that they'll end up liking about him is all the different things that they can do with him. Sometimes you get guys who can fill one role, and they'd better get it done there or they're not going to help the program, not going to help themselves. But they're going to be able to take Zack and put him where some other kids who need to play this position, and then Zack can fill a gap somewhere, or maybe where they're short. You can never have too many of those kind of guys.

Over the course of his college career, whether it be four or five years, what do you expect him to accomplish?
Larry Hill: He's hopeful, and I'm hopeful, that they'll win a conference championship. Obviously when you play for any program you want that to happen. I expect him to be a big part of that, and major victories at OSU. I expect him to get his degree, and he will. He'll be a good student and will be a degreed guy when he gets through playing. I expect him to be successful at whatever he tried to do because he's got that "it" factor that you like to have no matter what your career ends up being. They'll be glad they have Zack Craig, no question.

What will you remember the most about coaching him?
Larry Hill: His commitment to our program. Some times your most talented kids are not among your hardest workers because they don't have to be. I think he's a guy you can hold up to future players (to look at) and say, that was kid that had a lot of talent but he's a kid who was here every morning at 7 o'clock busting his tail. That's the kind of thing that can have a lasting impact on a program after a kid leaves it, and I think Zack will be one of those.

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