|Bench Press:||315 pounds|
|School:||Hamden HS, Hamden, Ct.|
The reputation of high school football in the state of Connecticut ranks far below other Northeastern states like Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey. However, each year one or two really sensational prospects emerge, catching the eye of schools from all over the map. More often than not, Hamden HS in Hamden, Ct. produces one of these stars, after having been responsible for former Nittany Lion LB/current Boston College RB Horace Dodd and current Wisconsin defensive tackle Anntaj Hawthorne. Meet this years Hamden stud, defensive tackle/offensive tackle Eric Ball.
A two year starter, Eric amassed 75 tackles and 12 sacks from his defensive tackle position, en route to helping Hamden HS reach a 7-3-1 record this season. Those statistics have had college recruiters clamoring to get Eric on to their campus, despite the fact that he has not yet qualified.
Eric describes himself as a good student, bringing home B's and C's, meaning his grade point average is sufficient enough to get him into college. His only holdup now is his standardized test score. Waiting until last month to take the S.A.T. for the first time, Eric has been anxiously awaiting his results.
"I still waiting for them to come in. They're actually suppose to be in tomorrow. I think I did pretty good."
If he does not reach a qualifying test score, Eric plans to retake the test on the next scheduled test date on January 25th.
College coaches have still made their way to Hamden, despite the uncertainty about Eric's score. Currently Syracuse, UConn, Iowa, Boston College, and Penn State have offered. Do any other schools figure in the picture?
"Wisconsin offered, Maryland offered, and actually Michigan State, that's another big one, they offered me too. I had a change of feeling about Wisconsin and Maryland, so I let those two go."
Eric will make his first official visit this Saturday (January 11th) to Syracuse. In the following weeks, Eric will go to Iowa (January 17th), Boston College (January 24st), and Penn State (January 31st). UConn also figures into the equation, but Eric is unsure when an if that visit will occur.
"It might actually be before Penn State, because they've been switching it back and forth so that they can get me in before the deadline on signing day on the 5th. It might go mid-week. But the first four visits are definite."
Eric has never been to any of the schools recruiting him, so the official visits could become an important factor in his final decision. Does he currently have a favorite?
"I'm very interested in Syracuse and Penn State. If everything goes smooth with Syracuse, I might end up at Syracuse. Michigan State just gave me an offer a couple weeks ago. They want to jam me into their schedule and go up there, instead of going someplace else. Me and my coach go back in forth when I'm in school about which schools to go to. Syracuse is up there though."
Does a decision seem imminent this weekend?
"I talked to my dad about it last week. I said I'm very interested in Syracuse and there's a chance I might commit this weekend."
With Syracuse in the number one slot, Eric rounded out his top four with Penn State second, Boston College third, and Iowa fourth. Michigan State and UConn could sneak into the top four, but right now sit on the outside looking in.
If Eric makes it past the Orangemen this weekend without giving them a commitment, Penn State seems to be in great shape with him. Have the Nittany Lions made a serious attempt to land him?
"Coach Brian Norwood came to my house last month. He just stopped by. My parents were very pleased with everything he had to offer and say. The way the school is set up, it's like its own community, its own little town. My parents like that because it's better than outsiders being able to come in and go out. Plus my dad's family is from Pittsburgh. He re-offered me the scholarship and said they were having a hard time finding lineman, so I'm top on their list."
In talking with Coach Norwood, Eric's father was particularly curious about the playing time his son would receive at Penn State, considering the Nittany Lions lose both Jimmy Kennedy and Anthony Adams.
"He [his father] was like 'if I went up there would I sit my first year or jump back and forth.' He [Coach Norwood] said there was a good chance I would get a lot of playing time. He said there's a very big need at lineman."
Despite being a solid defensive tackle, Eric has the ability to move over to offense and play tackle. Boston College, a school that has produced solid NFL lineman over the last couple of years, has told Eric they want him for offense. All of his other suitors want him for defense. Does he have a preference for college?
"Most coaches ask me that. They're like well, how much do you weigh and when I tell them 290, they look at me and say you can't weigh 290. The way my body shape is that I'm tall, but I don't look 290, they think I weigh about 275 or so. I tell them when they say offense or defense, your the coaches, you should know."
"I tell them I just want to play football."