Camp is just around the corner, providing a time for the enrolling freshmen to shine and make themselves available to the assorted roster openings on this team. One such true freshmen trying to make an immediate impact is Antonio Underwood, an offensive lineman from Shaker Heights, Ohio. Underwood was a spot offer and spot commitment, the news of his commitment coinciding with the additional commitment from DerJuan Gambrell. In fact, Chris Carter, Brian Bobek, and Chase Farris committed in that same two day time span as well, constituting quite the haul for the Buckeyes. But, it is Antonio Underwood that will be better known in this 12th feature of the fourth edition of this now-23 part series titled Better Know A Buckeye. His recruitment and commitment coincide, so do not expect this to be a lengthy feature.
High School: Shaker Heights High School; Shaker Heights, Ohio
His Recruitment: Perhaps I should’ve put a *SPOILER ALERT* in the preamble to warn you this would not be a lengthy feature beyond me simply warning you about it. This story unfolded pretty quickly. By March 15, 2010, Underwood didn’t have many offers. He was about in that stage that’s typical for most college football recruits in the Buckeye State, who usually start small before getting better offers in the summer before the senior year. To this point, Underwood’s only offers were MAC schools like Akron, Kent State, Miami and Toledo.
This changed on March 15th, when Underwood took an unofficial visit to Ohio State with his grandfather. Rather than recap it, I’ll let Underwood himself recite the story, via an interview with Alex at Eleven Warriors.
On Monday [ed. March 15th, 2010] I went on a unofficial visit to OSU. I got a tour of the facilities and campus. After that was finished, I talked with Coach Jim Bollman for about 20 minutes and he started to draw up on the board my chances of playing. That was the first hint I got that I was going to be offered, but I still had doubt in the back of my mind. After talking with Coach Bollman, I was sent to Coach Tressel’s office. My grandad and I talked with him for a while and that’s where he told me he wanted me to be a Buckeye. I knew from the get-go that I would accept, but not so soon. My grandad asked coach if he could talk with me alone and coach gave us time. He (grandad) said to me if Ohio State is where I really want to go that I should shake Tressel’s hand and accept. When coach arrived back in the room I shook his hand and said, ” Coach, I accept your offer to become a Buckeye”.
It’s a neat story. The Plain Dealer added more.
“It was really just crazy,” Underwood said. “It was mind blowing. The steps they took me through the whole day showing me the facilities, and then sat me down, said they wanted me to be a Buckeye, it was real exciting.
“I had a feeling it was coming. There was always that doubt in the back of my mind, though. It was a surprise for my grandfather [Harold Underwood]. He actually almost cried.”
And that’s that. Since Underwood was not well known, this was the first real mention of Antonio Underwood to anyone who follows college football recruiting. Stories and rankings about him followed, but did not precede this chain of events.
His Commitment: See above.
Where He Excels: Jim Bollman gets a lot of static from Buckeye fans. I mentioned in the Buckeye Battle Cry 2009 magazine (‘memba those?) that some of this is deserved, and some of it is (was?) ultimately outside his control. One such criticism, or latent anxiety, about Bollman from fans looking at the nuts and bolts of the offensive line is that Bollman prefers a different type of offensive line than what we see at offensive line “factories” like Wisconsin, Iowa or Alabama. That is, many offensive line coaches, certainly those who preach zone blocking (see: aforementioned schools), prefer “leanness” and footwork over size and strength. They argue that a simple and elegant zone blocking system requires lateral movement that your typical road graders cannot reliably do and that it makes implementing the run game that much more difficult. It’s more important to stretch/move the defensive line than it is to open a certain “hole”. Thus, the ideal lineman is one that has balance, great footwork and coordination, even if it’s at the expense of raw strength.1
Jim Bollman is different. Bollman prefers size and strength. Remember our buddy “Dave”? It requires that type of blocking. We still run zone plays as well, but, to reconcile both sets, Bollman prefers interior linemen that have strength and size over those that might be fleet-footed, but lean and not as strong. Bollman believes he can teach footwork and that he can teach coordination and discipline, but can’t teach frame and strength (to a point, obviously). I don’t know for sure, but I think many offensive line coaches believe the opposite. That is, they can get the frame and strength of a recruit to a certain point, but they can’t help someone who has two left feet or whose natural frame precludes him from being quick enough to execute his assignment.
So, consider Antonio Underwood your typical Bollman offensive lineman. He’s strong, very much so. Further, his wide frame makes getting beat on a pass rush a little more difficult for a defensive lineman or linebacker (another ideal property for Bollman). One interesting note about Underwood from LeCharles Bentley is that it’s rare to find a high schooler that’s more a “puncher” than a “grabber”. Grabbing is inefficient and, if your hands are in a naughty place (outside the numbers), your probability of getting penalized 15 years grows exponentially. ”Punching” is optimal and it better allows offensive linemen to deal with the increasing intricacies of opposing defenses.
Must Work On: Recall our previous discussion. There’s an interesting contrast between Antonio Underwood and Chris Carter. Both are ideal Bollman offensive linemen in mere frame alone. Both are fairly similar that way. But, Carter was praised (informally) for having the best feet the coaching staff had ever seen of a guy carrying that frame. Underwood is not quite there yet.
Consider this, then, the project for Jim Bollman and Eric Lichter as well. A lot of the training and coaching to get Underwood performing at the highest level will be on the field in practice, and in the gym and dinner table as well.
Redshirt? I think so. Barring the unforeseen, I see Underwood as a project whose promise underscores the nature of the offensive line in 2011. We’ll be top heavy in 2011, without a lot of great depth. 2012 will be an interesting year with the graduation of Brewster, Adams and Shugarts. A lot will be asked of the 2009 OL signees and important questions will be raised of the 2011 signees as well.
Highlights: Here Scouting Ohio comes to save the day!
- Make sure to read the rest of Alex’s “Catching Up” feature with Antonio Underwood. WE HERE!!!
- Underwood will wear his favorite #73 for the Buckeyes. Team photo is now available.
- Shaker Heights is the same high school as Nate Clements, who Buckeye fans from another generation may remember fondly. Clements just signed with the Cincinnati Bengals after ten years split between Buffalo and San Francisco. It also produced Adrien Clarke.
- Underwood played in the Big 33 game with Chase Farris, Doran Grant, Steve Miller Band, Devin Smith, and Nick Vannett. Tony Gerdeman summarized his performance in the demolition of Pennsyltucky as follows:
Antonio Underwood, OG Shaker Heights 6’3” 295 (Ohio State)
Underwood did a nice job in pass protection, allowing his quarterbacks plenty of time to look deep down the field. He also stayed on his run blocks long enough to allow running backs Teague and Williams to cut back into open spaces. He’s listed at 295 pounds, and he almost seems slim.
- Signing Day interview:
Offensive line prospect blessed with great leverage and power … Lake Erie League conference offensive lineman of the year … team captain and three-year starter for Coach Anthony Watkins … also played nose guard as a senior … Big 33 Game … son of Sharise Thomas
I’m going to consider Antonio Underwood better known. There’s not a lot on him available.
Let’s put him on the board.
|Class of 2011|
|Name||Position||Hometown||Better Known?||Name||Position||Hometown||Better Known?|
|Michael Bennett||DT||Centerville, OH||Bryce Haynes||LS||Cumming, GA||05.29|
|Brian Bobek||OL||Palatine, IL||Jeff Heuerman||TE||Naples, FL||02.13|
|Tommy Brown||OL||Arkon, OH||05.18||Cardale Jones||QB||Cleveland, OH|
|Chris Carter, Jr||OL||Cleveland, OH||Braxton Miller||QB||Huber Heights, OH|
|Jeremy Cash||DB||Plantation, FL||04.18||Steve Miller||DE||Swingtown, OH||07.25|
|Conner Crowell||LB||Waldorf, MD|
|Chase Farris||DL||Elyria, OH||Ryan Shazier||LB||Plantation, FL||05.10|
|DerJuan “PeeWee” Gambrell||DB||Toledo, OH||Devin Smith||WR||Massillon, OH||07.05|
|Curtis Grant||LB||Richmond, VA||Evan Spencer||WR||Vernon Hills, IL||07.20|
|Doran Grant||DB||Akron, OH||Ron Tanner||DB||Columbus, OH||03.29|
|Joel Hale||DT||Greenwood, IN||06.06||Antonio Underwood||OL||Shaker Heights, OH||08.03|
|Kenny Hayes||DE||Toledo, OH||Nick Vannett||TE||Westerville, OH||06.29|