As discussed last week in our recruiting open comment thread, Dalton offensive lineman Watts Dantzler committed to Georgia on Father's Day in honor of his dad, late Georgia letterman Danny Dantzler. Dantzler's commitment was not a surprise, as he's spent as much time in Athens over the past 6 months as some students who are actually enrolled there.
But there seems to exist a difference of opinion regarding what Dantzler's commitment means for the red and black. Chip Towers noted in his AJC recruiting blog that a lot of Bulldog fans seem pretty underwhelmed with Dantzler, based largely on a snippet of film from the recent Mark Richt Camp in Athens. Towers came about as close to hopping to the kid's defense as he could without having the always brilliant and polite AJC commenters ask if young Watts ever refers to him as "Uncle Chippy." I think however that Towers is onto something, because you shouldn't evaluate a recruit based on inordinately low levels of information. You should only ruthlessly judge 17 year old kids after you have too much information.
Background and Accolades
Dantzler is the 31st ranked player in the state of Georgia according to Rivals, which is surprisingly low given his extensive offer list. He claims tenders from Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, Miami, Notre Dame and Stanford among others. As I've noted in this space before, I am a big believer in the power of the offer list. When that many quality programs see fit to offer a scholarship to a player, it's a good sign that he not only has potential, but that he's considered a low risk proposition. It means that a lot of coaches with limited offers to give were not able to find a reason not to offer the guy. Dantzler, specifically, seems like a safe bet because he's the son of a college football player, has a 3.7 GPA and great size. You can teach technique, especially to a guy who's already an honor student. But you can't teach 6'8, 330 pounds. Speaking of physique issues . . .
On The Hoof
Dantzler was identified early by college recruiters as a top target. As he's said during his recruitment, his late father realized when Watts was a freshman in high school that he would probably be a pretty big deal eventually. That's partially owing to the fact that Dantzler is, well, big. At 6'8 and 330 pounds, the kid is the type of massive exomorph born to play offensive line, subdue oxen and knock down barred castle gates when somebody forgot to bring the battering ram. Given the scarcity of oxen and castle gates in northwest Georgia, he's been reduced to playing football. Observe:
As you can see, Dantzler has broad shoulders, big calves and a big waist. A lot of casual recruiting junkies don't realize that all behemoths are simply not created equal. There are a variety of ways to be 6'8 and 330 pounds, some of which are not terribly helpful on a football field. Everyone who's watched enough high school football is familiar with the 350 pound kid who's soggy around the middle and got pressed into playing football just because he was big. That kid is usually not quick enough or strong enough or motivated enough to be terribly good at the game.
No, when you're looking for offensive linemen you want guys like Dantzler with big lower bodies that will give them leverage and a low center of gravity. Those broad shoulders imply that Dantzler should be able to put on some upper body muscle, which every SEC offensive lineman needs plenty of. Lower body bulk helps you withstand bull rushes from guys like Justin Houston, who are strong enough to run right through a lineman who doesn't have a good base. Upper body muscle helps in directing defenders a lineman has locked onto, and also is useful for redirecting pass rushers (the "push" move you often see left tackles perform). His arms are not as long as you'd like for a tackle (more on that in a moment), and he looks a little "doughey." That's a delicate way of saying the kid could stand to lose a few pounds of the wrong kind of weight. Watts has the look of a young man who works hard in the weightroom, but likes to follow his weightroom sessions with the occasional Chili's Bigmouth Burger. Coach Van Halanger and new Team Nutritionist Rex Bradberry should be able to help him with that.
Tale of the Tape
As I alluded to earlier, Dawg Post posted some fairly unflattering video of Dantzler getting beat at the Mark Richt Camp (courtesy of Dean Legge's youtube account):
Dantzler does look a bit slow in this clip, never moreso than at the 2:43 mark when sublimely named Norcross defensive end Silverberry Mouhon gives him an arm slap then cruises around the end essentially untouched. This tape is perhaps a bit misleading for a few reasons. One, Mouhan is more like a 4-3 outside linebacker than a defensive end. He's going to be quicker than most offensive tackles. Plus Dantzler was not the only guy he got the jump on, even in this short clip. Finally, since the rushers are working to a stationary cone they have a bit of an advantage. It's a lot harder to get to a moving quarterback. Oh, and it's literally 15 seconds of tape. That's too little information to form an opinion.
Since these posts are about having too much information, I'd rather evaluate Dantzler based on game film, which we just happen to have available. Take a look:
A few thoughts, in no particular order:
- This clip goes a long way toward refuting the notion that Dantzler is slow-footed. In fact, I had to rewind several times to make sure he wasn't jumping offsides, because he was firing out so far ahead of his linemates. He also pulls down the line fairly quickly on one play. He has a good first step as well, which is more a matter of technique.
- He shows good football awareness by pushing defenders out of the hole rather than just backwards. A good example occurs at the 1:37 mark when he blocks the first defender on a screen pass, then cleans up the second defender as well.
- He doesn't just fall on smaller guys, he blocks them to the next level. That's a good habit to develop in high school.He does stop moving his feet at the second level a couple of times, though I imagine Coach Searels will calmly and quietly explain to him why this is not proper form.
- He has pretty good pad level for a guy that tall. I mean, the kid is truly massive compared to his competition, so the fact that he engages shorter defenders on their level better than 50% of the time is fairly impressive.
The Road Ahead
While Dantzler isn't slow-footed, I don't know if he's got the feet to play blindside tackle in the SEC
(for Georgia this may mean for the foreseeable future that he actually plays left tackle, given that Aaron Murray is a left handed quarterback)[Don't know what I was thinking. What can I say? My buddy Damon and I had a long night]. He looks just a little stiff in pass protection, which is not what you want behind your quarterback. But he has the potential to be a massive, road grading guard. Dantzler will need to spend a year or so eating right and hitting the weightroom, but in that regard he's not unlike 90% of true freshman linemen. In the long run, given his bloodlines, intelligence and raw athletic ability Dantzler has the potential to be an All-SEC caliber player. Dantzler also reportedly has already bonded well with his fellow offensive line recruits David Andrews of Wesleyan and Hunter Long of Memphis's Briarcrest Christian, which is a good sign. I'm hoping those guys help form a cohesive unit down the road. We have an offensive line depth chart that has grown top-heavy with juniors and seniors, so picking up likely the best instate player at that position of need is the thing to do. A nice pickup for this class. Until later . . .