The headline is splashy all by itself. After all, it’s not every day that the state of Alabama’s top high school football prospect, and a five star offensive lineman at that, chooses the Georgia Bulldogs over the Alabama Crimson Tide.
But a closer look shows why Clay Webb’s commitment to the Red and Black is even better news than you imagined.
The eyeball test
Webb’s listed by various recruiting services around 6’3 and 295 pounds. Assuming that’s accurate he carries the weight pretty well. He has a solid lower body and will likely put on a few pounds in a college nutrition and strength program. I could see him playing in the 305-310 pound range early in his college career. Webb is an early enrollee, and those few months between January and July of 2019 could make a huge difference for him in this respect.
We’re less concerned with things like arm length with a center than with a left tackle, for instance. But Webb’s arm length is sufficient should he find himself blocking one-on-one in space.
The tale of the tape
There isn’t a lot of game footage on Webb from the last couple of seasons. His Hudl page doesn’t have anything from the last two years, for example.
But Webb’s been a frequent, impressive visitor to elite camps during that time, and there’s a good bit of footage of those performances. Here’s a mashup of some of his camp work from SB Nation Recruiting’s own Bud Elliott.
Two things stand out about Webb from this footage. One, ironically, is actually his feet. Webb’s got a quick foot set, which is critical at center. You’re looking for a guy to snap the ball and get his first two steps down as quickly as possible, whether pass setting or getting in position to run block.
The other thing I like is that he’s great at using his body to, and this is a very technical recruiting term, “fight in a phone booth.” At center you don’t have a lot of room to string guys down the line, use their momentum to carry them away from the plays, and engage in a lot of balletic jiu jitsu. You’ve got to win a man-on-man battle in a three foot by three foot box. Webb’s solid lower body mass and good, quick hip set allow him to do that against big, SEC-caliber bull rushers.
Webb is also a state champion heavyweight wrestler, and it shows. He has a wrestler’s intuitive understanding of leverage and the ability to adjust on the fly to take advantage of it. If Webb has any parts of his game that still need work, it would probably be dealing with faster, edge rushers, and stalemating bigger 3-4-type nose tackles. At this point he’s big, but not as big as he’ll need to be, and his preferred style of blocking (getting a body on defenders then sinking his hips to halt progress) doesn’t work against guys who are faster and use a lot of lateral movement/spin moves. See this Rivals Atlanta camp footage to get an idea of what I’m talking about.
Those two issues are mitigated in my mind by the fact that, at his natural position of center, Webb isn’t going to be blocking a lot of D’Andre Walker-types in space, and by the fact that I expect him to get bigger and stronger to take on those Jordan Davis-types.
There’s no such thing as a “can’t miss” prospect. But because of his athleticism and size Webb strikes me as a guy with a pretty high floor. I have a hard time imagining he won’t make an early impact. All reports are that he’s also a great student and a hard worker who takes coaching well. If he listens to Sam Pittman, history shows he’ll likely go far.
Once Webb gets in optimal physical shape, he’s got the potential to be a multi-year starter at center. With Lamont Gaillard graduating the center spot in Athens is open. Trey Hill filled in admirably as a true freshman, but is probably more natural at guard. Clay Webb has a real shot to earn playing time, and eventually even the starting nod in the middle of the Bulldog line as a true freshman much like Ben Jones and Boss Andrews did before him. Until later . . .