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April 3, 2012
Run on pass-protecting tackles
Here's some advice to any college football programs seeking an elite offensive tackle for their 2013 recruiting classes.
Get busy. You don't have a moment to waste.
Ten months before National Signing Day, eight of the top 10 tackles already have made verbal commitments. That represents a major change from 2012, when three of the top 10 tackles didn't pick their schools until signing day and a fourth made his choice just two days beforehand.
"It wasn't something I was planning on necessarily doing that early," said Midland (Mich.) High junior Steve Elmer, who committed to Notre Dame last fall. "I was kind of planning the whole time that as soon as it felt right and there was no question left in my mind, that I would commit, whenever that may be. It just happened to come sooner rather than later."
Two of the nation's top three tackles - Lake City (Fla.) Columbia's Laremy Tunsil and Lemont (Ill.) High's Ethan Pocic - remain uncommitted. But all the other tackles in the top 10 have made their choices. No other position has more than six of its top 10 players committed at this point.
"It does kind of surprise me," Tunsil said. "I don't see why they don't want to wait and go through the recruiting process."
A closer look at the individual situations helps explain why so many of the top tackles committed early.
Prattville (Ala.) High's Austin Golson committed to Florida State last April and Elmer picked Notre Dame five months later. In both cases, the recruit simply fell in love with a particular school and saw no need to delay his decision, though Golson has talked about visiting other schools.
"You always feel great about a place after you go on a visit," said Elmer, the nation's No. 5 offensive tackle and No. 49 overall prospect. "My measuring stick was when are you thinking about that place while you're visiting other schools consistently. That started to happen. I was thinking about Notre Dame even when I was at different campuses, just all the time.
"I just decided, you know, why keep wasting time? Let's do it."
Dallas (Texas) Lake Highlands' Kent Perkins and Celina (Texas) High's Jake Raulerson each selected Texas, which traditionally gets the majority of its verbal commitments almost a year before signing day.
Michigan's aggressive approach helps explain the rest of the early commitments.
The Wolverines already have commitments from five of the nation's top 23 tackles: Parker (Colo.) Ponderosa's Chris Fox, Wexford (Pa.) North Allegheny's Patrick Kugler, Wheaton (Ill.) St. Francis' Kyle Bosch, Peoria (Ill.) Manual's Logan Tuley-Tillman and Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech's David Dawson. Fox is ranked fourth among tackles across the nation, Kugler's seventh and Bosch is ninth.
"They had five targeted as their number," Rivals.com Midwest recruiting analyst Josh Helmholdt said. "Once one or two guys started committing, they put a bug in the ear of the other guys that slots were filling up. Once they got to five, they shut it down and told all their other offensive [tackle] recruits they were full at the position."
Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell noted that all those Michigan tackles committed within a short time span. Fox, Kugler and Dawson announced on Feb. 18 they were going to Michigan. Tuley-Tillman committed a day later. Kugler made his choice on Feb. 25.
"They were in a good position," Farrell said. "Once you get the first couple [of commitments] and you start running out of slots, you can squeeze kids. That's what squeezing is. It's not a bad thing. It's Michigan saying, 'Hey, we can't wait forever. We've got other offensive linemen knocking on the door waiting to commit. We want you, but we can't wait forever.' "
That represented an unusual situation.
Quarterbacks often might commit early because there are so few spots available at each school. Rarely does a program sign more than one or two quarterbacks in a given year. But it isn't often that offensive tackles face similar concerns this early in the process.
"If there's one position that it's hard to squeeze kids, it's offensive tackle because every team usually takes at least two or three every year," Farrell said.
Now all these early commitments have put the squeeze on any schools still hoping to sign an elite tackle.
But two of the best tackles aren't in any hurry to make a decision.
"I'm going to wait awhile," Tunsil said. "The reason why I want to wait is I just want to take my time through the process. I want to make sure I don't do anything wrong."
Tunsil, the nation's No. 3 overall recruit, pretty much has his pick of any major program in the country. Tunsil has visited Florida, Florida State and Georgia recently, but he continues to keep his options open.
Lake City Columbia coach Brian Allen, a former Florida State linebacker who played in the NFL, has advised Tunsil to take his time before making a decision.
"Some kids, they grow up wanting to go to a certain school their whole life," Allen said. "They have that in their heads, and that's where they want to go no matter what. We want him to visit and see what's out there.
"How can you make a rational decision that this is the best place for you without seeing what's actually available, what's actually out there, who the coaches are at these different programs? That's what's going to weigh on his decision, after he gets a chance to look at these schools and takes his visits."
Pocic also is still looking around.
The nation's third-ranked tackle and No. 27 overall prospect went to Alabama this week.
Pocic told TideSports.com that he also planned to visit Florida, Florida State, Auburn, Tennessee and Ohio State during his spring break. In late February, he had listed a top 10 of Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Auburn, Notre Dame, USC, Florida and Oklahoma in no particular order.
"It wouldn't surprise me if he made a decision anytime soon, but at the same time it wouldn't surprise me if we're still talking about him six months from now," Helmholdt said. "It's tough to get a good feel on the kid, he's so close to the vest."
Tunsil and Pocic are ranked high enough that they can afford to wait, even though so many of their peers have already made up their minds.