Top Talent

Varina (Va.) High School head coach Stu Brown isn't shy about evaluating the talent of Marquis Wallace and Trey Johnson, who committed to West Virginia on Monday.

"Marquis Wallace is just an impressive talent. Everyone talked about Morgan Moses, who was a great offensive lineman in Virginia last year. Well, I can tell you that Marquis is better. He was a unanimous all-conference and all region pick, and the film doesn't lie. And Trey Johnson is the single best athlete we have had at Varina in the past 15 years, and that's saying a lot. We have put about 35 players in Division I during that time, and three in the NFL."

Brown isn't just blowing smoke. Wallace is a mobile, athletic lineman with the ability to play anywhere along the offensive front. He has also worked very hard to realize his athletic potential, shedding about 30 pounds to get down to his playing weight of 285.

"He's mean, and he's aggressive," Brown said of Wallace's playing style. "I was at a Pittsburgh Steelers camp, and he's just nasty on the field. He loves the game, and he gets after it. I think it says a lot about his dedication that he was able to drop weight and get into the shape that he is now."

Brown noted that Wallace could play any position along the offensive line, and in fact shuffled around during his sophomore year. He even played center, and showed his versatility by snapping the ball with either hand while demonstrating superior footwork. However, it was decided to feature him at left tackle, where he could best work on and utilize his skills.

"He could fit in anywhere," Brown said. I think he could play any position on the line. He run blocks and pass blocks equally well. We had a 2,000-yard rusher and a 1,700-yard passer last year, and we were only sacked twice."

The 2K rusher was Johnson (5-10, 170 lbs., 4.5), who ripped off gains at an average of 9.8 yards per carry last year and topped the magic mark despite missing the last two games of the year with an injury. He recorded an electronically timed 4.5-second 40-yard dash on a "cow pasture" according to Brown, and also has a 43-inch vertical jump.

"He's just an explosive player who can run anywhere," Brown said. "He has breakaway speed and runs hard. The knock on him was that he couldn't run inside, but that's not the case. He can do it, and we run him both inside and out. But if he gets clear, you're not going to catch him. He is a go-to player, and he wants the ball."

Brown, who studied the origins of the spread offense under Rich Rodriguez at Glenville State College, thinks West Virginia was attracted to Johnson because he worked in that system and would be able to translate what he has learned quickly to college. While WVU is incorporating more throws into its offensive scheme, it will still feature plenty of running with spread principles, and Johnson looks to be a great fit.

"We try to get him outside to use his speed, but he can run inside too. He doesn't have any problem with contact. And he likes pass protection, because he views it as his chance to hit other people. He's been playing in that system, and he should be able to make the move without much problem. He hasn't caught the ball much here, because that's something we don't do a lot of, so that's one thing he might need to work on. And he knows he will need to get stronger in order to take the hits in college, but he has all the athleticism and speed he needs."

If Brown is effusive of his praise of Wallace and Johnson, he is absolutely glowing when he speaks of WVU assistant coach Chris Beatty, who recruited the pair.

"I'll tell you what, Chris Beatty is one of the guys you look forward to walking into your school. Some coaches sell their programs or bad mouth others, but Chris is one of those guys who develops relationships. He is a mentor to these kids, and that goes a long way with them. He cares about the kids, and he becomes a mentor and friend to them, and that's something a lot of kids might not have. And they end up coming to play for him because he cares for them. He's good, and West Virginia is fortunate to have him.

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