If you haven't taken us seriously before when we told you that the offensive line would be a major emphasis in this recruiting class, well, perhaps Stanford's 2nd commitment in this 2004 class will convince you. 6'6" offensive tackle Ben Muth from Pinnacle High School in Phoenix (AZ) just this week joined center Alex Fletcher, making both verbal commits to date offensive linemen. In a class that could be as small 12-15 players, the Cardinal coaches have already landed a pair of OL and could easily take three more.
While Fletcher fills an important need as a rare natural center, both athletic and nasty, Muth gives Buddy Teevens a frame with size and range that he so badly needs outside at tackle. The Phoenix lineman also moves well on his feet. "I finish my blocks really well, and I pull pretty easily," he details. "Our offense is pass-oriented, so I am very comfortable pass blocking. Coach Teevens has told me that he likes that I'm big, can move, had a good junior year and have the grades. He seemed pretty excited when I called him with the news on Wednesday."
Indeed, the timeline for how this all played out slipped a little bit under the radar. As it turns out, Muth made the trip up to Palo Alto back in early June for Stanford's Junior Day. The Cardinal coaches had already seen the Pinnacle junior on film and made the trip to his high school during the May evaluation period to watch him practice. They liked what they saw and used the Junior Day unofficial visit as their opportunity to extend a scholarship offer to the big tackle. Muth already had offers from Oregon and BYU, but this one lit up his eyes a little something extra.
"My parents were rooting for Stanford because of the academics, but they told me it was going to be ultimately up to me. I was the one who would have to live out my college decision," he describes. "But getting the offer from Stanford was exciting. Both [Stanford and Oregon] are great and I'd be stoked to go either place. But at Stanford the campus was just awesome, and I loved the weight room. I loved the coaches more and more, every time I talked with them. And every time I thought about Stanford, I could really see myself being there."
In addition to Stanford, Oregon and BYU, Muth says that he was being recruited heavily by Cal, Arizona State and Northwestern. One reason more schools were not hot and heavy with the offensive tackle is that his tape went out to only a few schools. Part of the reason for that is a coaching change at Pinnacle in this off-season.
But Muth is very happy with how things proceded and to have his college recruitment over with so early. "After I got my Stanford offer, it really was a matter of waiting to see if I got in," he comments on the Stanford admissions process. "Coach Teevens told me Monday that my application had been accepted, though that of course requires that I keep my grades up my senior year. I told him that I wanted to think things over and would have a decision to him by the end of the week. I thought about it for two days and knew it was the right thing." Muth then called Teevens Wednesday with the good news, and also made sure to let assistant coach Tom Quinn know as well. Quinn was the lead recruiter with Muth, which gives the tight ends/special teams coach two notches on his recruiting belt in this young year. He also was the first contact and lead recruiter for Fletcher.
Though the all-consuming recruiting process is now concluded for the rising Phoenix senior, he has more than enough on his plate with off-season practices and conditioning to prepare for his final season at Pinnacle. Muth and his teammates tallied a very disappointing 2-8 record in 2002. He played offensive tackle, with spot duty in certain situations as a defensive lineman, but he had plenty of adjustments to make on the offensive line alone. The philosophy was not to play as a left or right tackle, but rather to switch back and forth with the strength of the formation.
"We had been flip-flopping last year, but this year I'll play just right tackle," he begins. "It helps to be in one pass set all the time. It's also nice to pull the same direction every time. Now I can concentrate on my stance and one direction for everything."
But beyond such nuances there is a bigger question of strength and quickness, and he is purusing both with vigor this summer. Though he played at 250 pounds last fall, he is a solid 280 today. And such a magnificent weight gain did not come through extraordinary means. Though there was hard work in the weight room, Muth found himself the beneficiary to some old-fashioned maturation. "I was throwing shot and discuss for track in the spring and it just kind of happened," he says of his body filling out. "I'm happy with my weight right now and wouldn't mind holding at 280 for the season."
Muth also is an avid hoopster, playing basketball as yet a third sport in his busy year-round athletic schedule. "It was really nice to play basketball this year," he admits. "Coming off the 2-8 season was tough, but in basketball we went all the way to the state semi's. I really like playing basketball a lot, but I honestly don't have as much time to put into it as I might like. Football is where I have to put most of my time. Hopefully we can have some success there, too, this fall." The time in football paid off last year, with the OT earning 2nd Team All-Region honors.
Answers will come soon enough, as Muth and his Pinnacle mates kick off their season September 5 against Coronado. The biggest games of the year will likely come against Cactus and Centennial, which Cardinalmaniacs will remember is the high school that produced incoming offensive guard Mikal Brewer. Muth says he knows Brewer from football by reputation and from one brief matchup on the field, plus track & field competitions.
To help Muth have a big senior season, and to push his team to some taste of success, he is engaged in lifting and running this summer. He lifts and runs with his team throughout the week, and has previously maxed his bench at 315 pounds and his squat at 415. But Muth also runs with noted Phoenix professional trainer Warren Anderson. Those workouts put Muth in the company of several other top area high school and college standouts, as well as pro stars like Donovan McNabb, Keith Bulluck, Anthony Clement and Matt Joyce.
Though the final frontier this future Stanford OL says he needs to conquer lies inside him, rather than in his physical trappings. He was met face-to-face with one of the darkest demons that accompanies a brutal 2-8 losing season. "If there is one thing I want to improve my senior year, it's keeping my head in the game better," he allows. "There were times last year, particularly in blowout losses, that I know I let my head get away from me. Maybe I'd take a play off here and there. I can't ever let that happen again, and I need to stay just as focused in the wins as the losses."
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