Ranking the Top 10 Offensive Tackle Recruits in the 2011 Class
Of all the position groups I've rated so far in the 2011 recruiting class, offensive tackle is definitely one of the strongest and deepest.
Scout and Rivals will be stingy in handing out five stars, but don't be misled. There are easily seven or eight foundational talents at the tackle position in the 2011 class, players on which an entire offense can be built.
Some have already been locked up by top programs, but others remain on the market.
Judging by their measurables (the most basic and essential parts of a good tackle are his height, weight and arm length), their offers and whatever video I could find, here are 2011's 10 best "anchors."
No. 10: Watts Dantzler
Watts Dantzler is a mammoth 6'7", 310-lb tackle prospect out of Dalton, Georgia.
That build is a bit on the heavy side, but Dantzler's ability to engage tacklers and ride them down the line of scrimmage indicates to me he's not wanting for athleticism. He stays low and keeps his back straight out of the snap, rarely losing a one-on-one in run blocking.
With improvement in pass protection, I could see him becoming a great NFL-caliber tackle prospect with that kind of build.
His ability to get out to the second level on a downhill run is, for now, ideal for the right tackle position on a power-running team.
He's Georgia's top priority at the tackle position and is also considering Tennessee, Alabama, Auburn and Vanderbilt.
No. 9: Kiaro Holts
At 6'4", 270-lbs, Holts appears under the ideal height and weight for an NFL-caliber prospect.
Given time, he should be able to get up into the 300-lb range you see more from the tackles with elite measurables.
The Indianapolis-area prospect is one we'll have to evaluate based more on intangibles than on physical evidence, since video is scarce.
Holts, speaking about himself via Scout, had this to say: “I finish my blocks and I have great footwork. I’m a hard-nosed player. I want to improve my speed. I think that would really help my pulling and reacting quicker.”
He holds offers from Florida and USC, two elite schools when it come to offensive line offers. Ohio State, Michigan and most of the rest of the Big Ten are also chasing the Warren Central athlete.
He also claims to be able to bench 305 pounds and squat 435. For the record, that's almost three of me.
As long as he can pack on the weight and not lose his foot speed, he should be able to get up to an elite weight. If not, I think a move to interior lineman might be in the cards.
His Scout page indicates he wants to get the hell out of Indianapolis, planning a big spring break with a lot of visits.
With that in mind, I like USC's chances of robbing the Midwestern cradle, particularly with Ed Orgeron rumored to be on the job.
No. 8: Brandon Shell
Another strong prospect out of South Carolina, Brandon Shell is a 6'6", 300-lb tackle out of Charleston who looks as game-ready on film as any of the players on this list.
His film on ESPN's page shows how smoothly he rides the defensive end out of the play in pass protection and how he brings the heat in run-blocking. (He's at the right tackle position, wearing no. 75.)
Shell visited South Carolina unofficially right before their recent spring scrimmage, and also visited Clemson for a game last year.
He's tabbed as South Carolina's top lineman in a breakout year for the Palmetto State.
Out-of-state schools like Florida, Michigan, LSU, Alabama and Southern Cal will try to woo him away from the Gamecocks and Tigers, though that may be difficult to do—those are two up-and-coming recruiting programs who are starting to tighten the grip in-state.
With a good showing at camps, he could contend for a fifth star, but I'm not getting a national-recruiting vibe from his camp—no one wrote articles on "adjusting to the spotlight" about Seantrel Henderson.
I think he'll settle for four stars and a trip or two out of state before committing to either an in-state program or a Florida/Georgia.
No. 7: Brey Cook
Fresh off a state championship win, Springdale, Arkansas OT Brey Cook was already getting asked who his leaders were and what he was going to do to improve in the offseason.
Oklahoma and Arkansas are all over him, with Auburn and Alabama bringing up the rear.
Those are elite offers for the 6'7", 298-lb tackle, who wears a humble and respectful disposition off the field.
He's already reached NFL-ideal height and weight, but mentioned that his footwork could use some fine-tuning.
Once he synthesizes every aspect of the game, his elite size should put him in the running for a fifth-star, particularly if Oklahoma and Arkansas draw out his recruitment.
No. 6: Matt Hegarty
How crazy is it that Aztec, New Mexico tackle Matt Hegarty also plays baseball and runs track?
So crazy it just might work. The 6'5", 265-lb prospect has the frame to get up to 300+ pounds, with the footwork to reach second-level blocks and beat ends to the spot in pass protection.
Size issues make him an automatic redshirt, but he has the long arms NFL scouts love in a tackle.
He will likely end up as Texas' third OT commitment. The Longhorns are one of the few teams that can afford the wait while he adds size.
I think he'll grab a fifth star from the recruiting sites that preach long-term athleticism and upside over immediate impactability (ESPN has been known to do this). But he's a project. Think Ian Silberman, not Seantrel Henderson.
Great film of Hegarty (jersey No. 56, at the left tackle position) is up on ESPN's site.
No. 5: Tyler Moore - Nebraska
Nebraska fans are hailing Clearwater, Florida prospect Tyler Moore as the next great Nebraska tackle, with good reason.
Prior to committing to the Huskers in October, Moore had grabbed offers from Miami, Florida, Ohio State and Tennessee, and was about to light up the West Coast before Nebraska opened the pipeline.
At 6'6", 290-lbs, Moore is maybe ten pounds away from the ideal weight for a tackle, not bad for a kid in his junior year of high school.
You have to love the way he pops defensive lineman almost effortlessly—the "it" factor for a lineman.
He also plays with a mean streak in run-blocking, shoving defenders out of the play even after the whistle has blown.
He posted a 5.07 in the forty, a very strong number for a lineman of his size.
I think if he was still uncommitted, he'd be pushing for that fifth star—Rivals and Scout love a fighter. As is, Huskers fans can rest assured he's a five-star tackle couched in four-star hype. Even in a deep year for linemen, Moore shines.
No. 4: La'El Collins - LSU
Collins is easily the best second-level blocker in this class.
Video of him getting out on linebackers and safeties in Redemptorist High School's running game must have made LSU's coaches cheer in the film room.
Holding ground on a defensive end is important, but when you can get a player of Collins' size (6'5", 285 lbs) matched up on a linebacker, the tackle won't be losing that battle.
Probably the quickest and most athletic tackle in the class, meaning LSU's running game should improve vastly. The Tigers are getting a great one here.
Nos. 2 & 3: Garrett Greenlea and Christian Westerman - Texas
The greatest one-two punch you might ever see recruited at the tackle position, Texas landed top in-state tackle in Garrett Greenlea, then jumped into Arizona and grabbed an absolute beast in Christian Westerman.
Greenlea's recruitment was just catching fire when he committed to Texas in February. Michigan, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Nebraska and North Carolina got offers in, but were too late to overcome the awesome power of the Mack.
Westerman shocked every nerd in the Nerd Recruitoverse when he committed to Texas last week. His was shaping up to be one of those prolonged recruitments that play out between USC, Florida and Texas, but the Trojans lost ground when Pete Carroll left, and Westerman couldn't deny the feeling of home he got from the Texas program.
Both prospects will be anchors at the tackle spot for as long as Texas can keep them around. Greenlea has a few inches on Westerman, so he could end up the better left tackle prospect if that size also provides him with longer arms.
But Westerman has serious moves in pass protection. Watch him keep his balance while throwing back bull-rushers in the clip below.
It will be interesting to see how Texas copes with the wealth at the tackle spot that these two athletes provide. Verbals like this are what more national championship tries are built on.
No. 1: Cyrus Kouandjio
Cyrus Kouandjio is the pancake king of the class.
His film is loaded with clips showing how he almost can't help but own defensive tackles and ends in run blocking.
He has killer instinct as a lineman, finishing his blocks after the whistle and never giving an inch in run support. When he engages with a defender, he keeps his hands inside and doesn't let go.
It helps that his high school, Dematha HS in Hyattsville, Maryland, has been a talent factory for some time. His teammate Jordan Ifill committed to Pitt last year, while running back Marcus Coker was an Iowa commit. Sound coaching looks to the name of the game in Hyattsville.
All the elements are in place for Kouandjio to be 2011's most coveted tackle prospect. The team that lands him is getting a four-year starter and, with the way the NFL draft keeps shaking out, a top-five draft pick in 2014/15(?).
His older brother Arie committed to Alabama in last year's recruiting class. Tide fans are confident that's an ace in the hole, but I'm predicting that his recruitment lasts until the final whistle blows, so to speak.
Should be a fun one to watch.