If you've taken an early peek at some West Coast and national 2004 recruiting lists and tables, a tight end that has possibly caught your attention is John Gibson from St. Mary's High School in Stockton, California. One problem, though. Gibson hasn't played tight end since the first game of his junior year. He worked out at tight end last summer and caught the personal attention of Norm Chow and Pete Carroll at USC's football camp, which sparked his national recruiting reputation. His athleticism and quick feet helped propel his reputation as one of the West's best tight ends in the 2004 class.
But Gibson's high school coach at St. Mary's, Tony Franks, has had experience at the college level as an assistant at UC Davis, and Franks had a heart-to-heart with his 6'4" talent late last summer on his future. Franks told Gibson that with his feet he could be a good tight end prospect, or a great offensive line prospect. The junior big body didn't see himself as a lineman, but he took the leap of faith and played the entirety of his junior season (minus his first game) at offensive tackle and center.
With that sudden change, Gibson enjoyed sizable success. He recorded 97 pancake blocks and earned 1st team honors in his league, as well as 2nd team honors for the Stockton area. St. Mary's enjoyed a successful season at 7-3, with Gibson making a big impact up front on offense as well as his presence at defensive end and long snapper. On defense, the Stockton junior recorded 10 sacks and 35 tackles.
On film, Gibson shows off exactly what his coach thought: quick feet. Gibson comes off the ball faster than anyone else on his team or any opponent, and shows the ability to explosively pull as well as get under the pads straight ahead. He has been timed in the 40 yd dash at 4.8 seconds, and the shuttle at 4.55 seconds. Gibson also jumps with a 27 inch vertical leap, on par with some of the top skill players at this level. Those are awfully good numbers for an offensive lineman. At 240-plus pounds, you might wonder if he's a little lean, but that again is a conscious decision that Gibson and Franks have made.
"John wanted to really put on weight when he looked at some of the big linemen going to Pac-10 schools," says father George Gibson, "but Coach Franks told him that he could add weight later. It's more important now to show quickness and athleticism."
Though maybe not displaying an overload of beefcake, Gibson is not hurting for strength. He currently benches 290 pounds, squats 475 pounds and cleans 250. And those numbers come as he is just gearing up for a big weight training focus this spring.
The spring will also bring a big surge in his recruiting process. In addition to the expected trip he will take May 10 to the Palo Alto Nike Camp held on Stanford's campus, Gibson is dropping by in late April for a look at the campus and at a Stanford spring football practice. He and his father are also making a round of some West Coast schools and their summer camps. They'll be visiting Colorado, Oregon, USC and Stanford.
There is somewhat of a special tie between the Gibson family and Stanford, which gives the Cardinal a unique position in this recruiting battle. The Gibsons have long been family friends with Stanford Athletics Director of Marketing Bob Carruesco, as well as with former Cardinal baseball standout Ed Sprague. USC might stand toe to toe with Stanford in the early lead, given their early exposure and interest at last summer's camp and an unofficial trip he has taken to the campus. The St. Mary's junior says that those two schools plus Washington are tentative early favorites, though he also notes that his father has been a lifelong Irish fan. The seeds have been planted early for Notre Dame thusly.
Gibson gave The Bootleg his early top ten list of schools, which include his three favorites plus Notre Dame, Colorado, Oregon, Texas, Illinois, UCLA and Arizona State. "I would like to stay in California if I can," he says, "but I'm not too picky. Most important to me are the coaches, atmosphere and the program's rankings." He goes on to note that Stanford has a strong appeal because of the family ties, close proximity to home, and the strength of the school's academics. He is thinking business right now, and recognizes the strength of a Stanford education in that field. He currently carries a 3.42 GPA and is taking the SAT soon this spring. His goal is between a 1250 and 1300, which would outstrip his already strong 1130 PSAT score.
Where John Gibson projects at the college level is hard to say. Will USC still embrace him as a tight end, despite his recent focus as on offensive lineman? If he sticks on the OL in the minds of college evaluators, would his quickness best suit him inside as a guard/center? Or do his long arms and light feet give him a shot at tackle, despite his 6'4" height? No doubt that these questions will begin to clear up as Stanford and other college coaches get a closer look at him this spring and summer.
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