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March 22, 2012
Quality mix of inside linemen for 2013
Darius James, Harker Heights
6'5", 319 lbs.; committed to Texas
Ishmael Wilson, Dallas Bishop Dunne
6'6", 275 lbs.; committed to Texas A&M
Caleb Benenoch, Katy Seven Lakes
6'6", 321 lbs.; committed to Michigan State
Austin Davis, Mansfield
6'5", 295 lbs.; committed to Duke
Ja'Braylin Thomas, Weimar
6'6", 320 lbs.
Patrick Morris, Denton Guyer
6'3", 288 lbs.
Baylen Brown, San Antonio O'Connor
6'4", 280 lbs.
Rami Hammad, Irving
6'4", 290 lbs.
Freddie Johnson, Temple
6'2", 298 lbs.; committed to SMU
Andrew Tercek, San Antonio East Central
Offensive tackles are fulcrums in both the running and passing game and as such are generally prized more than interior linemen. However, one bad snap or a blitzer shooting the guard/center gap can remind people in a hurry about the importance of good interior line play. The state of Texas' 2013 class seems to have more than its share of quality interior prospects this year and the interesting thing is that the top tier guys are taller than most such prospects out there. Usually, interior guys need to be shorter so that they can play with leverage against defensive tackles and nose tackles. However, taller guys also have longer arms and a bigger frame which means that they can pass protect better and also carry more weight without being overweight. Not only that, there are a number of prospects who play center in high schools and don't have to be converted from another position.
James is the rarest of breeds: a bona fide blue chipper who actually plays center. Not only is he 6 foot 5 and 320 pounds, he also pulls from the center position like a guard and can block people on the move and stay on his feet. In fact, for a guy his size, he's surprisingly mobile and keeps moving and stays after people. He comes off the ball relatively low for a guy with his height, gets his hands up quickly after the snap, manages to lock up opponents and control them. He can come off the ball quickly enough that he doesn't have a problem getting to linebackers at the second level. Overall, he's as good of a pure center prospect to come out in years.
Wilson is tall and can play either inside or outside. He's got great footwork and is physical in the run game. He's also a guy that is very aggressive and stays with defenders and literally runs them off of the field. He needs to get stronger but that should come with better nutrition as well as a big time weight program.
Benenoch is a monster who moves well laterally for a 6 foot 6, 320 pound guy. He's at home in pass protection against outside rushers and he can reach ends on his outside shoulder in the running game. He keeps his feet moving and is capable of just mashing people if he stays with you long enough. He makes good use of his hands and gets them up quickly. The only real knock on him is the fact that he plays very tall and needs to improve his hip and knee flexibility.
Davis also plays center at the high school level. He lacks the size of some of the other guys on the list but plays lower and really comes off the ball quickly. He gets into people and just steamrolls them because he wins first contact with quickness and then gets his hands inside on people. He also runs well, gets to the second level fast, and keeps his head on a swivel on downfield blocks.
Thomas plays at the 2A level and as a result he's used to dominating a lower level of competition without being overly physical. He's got all of the raw tools: height to put on weight, long arms, and better feet than what you would expect from a guy with his size. He also needs to work on his flexibility (particularly his hips and knees) as he's a guy that plays tall and can get away with that at a lower level. In addition, like James, he actually plays center and doesn't have to be projected there from another position.
Morris has played both guard and tackle in high school and has a mean streak. He's technically sound with good hands and doesn't overleverage himself. Due to his height, many schools project him as a center and he's worked on snapping the ball. He's very representative of the next tier of prospects who are typically 6 foot 3 or shorter and play at 280 to 300 pounds.