Focus '06 – West Allis Central

Corey Cortez and Alex Stonehouse are linemen to watch in the state of Wisconsin

If there is one commodity the state of Wisconsin can consistently offer to Division I-A football recruiters, it is linemen. The Badger state produces its fair share of 300-pound road graders and the class of 2005 was no exception. At least a dozen Dairy Land senior linemen will play I-A football on scholarship beginning this fall, including several in major programs.

But who was the state's lineman of the year last season? It was not Jason Fiacco (Arrowhead High School), a center/guard headed to Iowa State. Or Andy Kemp (Menasha), a guard who could start for Wisconsin this fall. Or Raymond Henderson (Oak Creek), a prep All-American defensive end headed to Tennessee. In fact, it was not a senior at all. And it was not Jake Bscherer, a potential prep All-American in the junior class at Sturgeon Bay High School who has verbally committed to UW.

Rather, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's state Lineman of the Year last fall was Corey Cortez, a 6-foot, 270-pound defensive tackle at West Allis Central who was a consensus all-state selection, and one of only four unanimous Associated Press All-State choices.

The other three? Prep All-American Travis Beckum (Oak Creek), an outside linebacker/defensive end headed to Wisconsin; Fiacco; and Jose Valdez, an offensive lineman who will attend Arkansas.

Cortez may never receive the recruiting following of those players, or other top class of 2005 linemen, such as Hudson offensive tackle Eric Vanden Heuvel (headed to Wisconsin) or Hartford defensive tackle Adam Hahn (Northwestern).

But there is no arguing with Cortez's production at West Allis Central. According to the Journal Sentinel, Cortez registered 74 tackles and eight sacks, both team highs, in 2004.

"He's built like a defensive tackle but he runs like a running back," said Ken Krause, head coach at Central, in a recent telephone interview. "He's extremely fast for his size. He has a motor that just doesn't stop.

"If you run away from him he's chasing plays down from behind. He's just a guy that immediately jumps out. And he's so strong. He squatted 620 pounds… He's just a unique player. There isn't anyone like him."

Cortez may have been the cream of a very impressive crop of linemen in the state last fall, but his recruiting thus far has not been commensurate with his prep prowess. Cortez has not received a scholarship offer yet and, while he is receiving significant interest, it has not been as substantial as one might imagine.

Krause said that all of the Big Ten schools have sent recruiting mail to Cortez and most of the Mid-American Conference programs have followed suit. During the May evaluation period, Northern Illinois, Western Michigan and a barrage of Division I-AA programs have stopped by Central to ask about Cortez and his classmate Alex Stonehouse, a 6-foot-3, 300-pound offensive tackle.

"Both Alex and Corey started as freshmen," said Krause, who has spent nine seasons at Central. "They are the only two kids that ever have done that for us at Central. And they've held their own and done real well."

Stonehouse spent some time at defensive tackle last season due to injuries, but he will be a four-year starter at offensive tackle this fall. As a junior he was named second-team all-conference.

"(Stonehouse is) extremely intelligent," Krause said. "He's got a 4.1 (grade-point average). When he was a freshman he probably knew the position better than anyone else on the team. He's rare in the sense that he's like an adult physically and mentally. He's so smart. He just understands his gift of life… He just gets it."

"Alex, because of his academics, has had a lot of Ivy school interest and Army," Krause said. "Army is real impressed with him."

There are two factors holding Cortez back from being one of the top recruited players in the state. At 6-foot, he may not have the length major Division I programs look for in a defensive tackle. However, with his combination of strength, athleticism and production, slightly-less-than ideal height should not be a deal breaker.

Cortez, though, has academic concerns. His future collegiate eligibility "might be" a question mark, Krause acknowledged.

"It's an area that he's going to have to improve on," Krause said.

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