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Star-Telegram.com

Tarrant County area full of top offensive, defensive linemen

Posted Sunday, Jan. 29, 2012

By Matthew Reagan

mreagan@star-telegram.com

During the last recruiting cycle, it was the year of the wide receiver for Tarrant County and surrounding areas.

Now it's the big uglies' turn to take center stage as linemen have dominated the area recruiting scene for the class of 2012.

So much so that of the area's 15 top-rated recruits, according to Rivals.com, seven caught the eyes of college coaches playing with their hand in the dirt.

There are area linemen committed to Texas, UCLA, Texas A&M, North Carolina, Oklahoma State and TCU, just to name a few.

Of ESPNU's 100 top Texas recruits, 16 are Metroplex linemen.

"There's a ton of talent on both sides of the line," Rivals recruiting analyst Brian Perroni said. "This is a strong class across the country for linemen but especially in the state of Texas and DFW."

No one knows this more than Arlington Martin coach Bob Wager.

His defensive line included one of the nation's top-rated lineman in Devonte Fields, a Star-Telegram Elite 11 member committed to TCU who was named a 2011 AP first-team all-state and ESPN first-team all-American.

On offense, Wager boasted two FBS-bound linemen in Steven Baggett (Boise State) and Connor Trussell (North Texas).

But his team needed all the help from the big boys up front it could get, as Martin faced Euless Trinity's Hiva Lutui (AP first-team all-state with offers from Southern Cal and UCLA among others) and Polo Manukainiu (Texas A&M), as well as Southlake Carroll's James Prince (first team all-state committed to Purdue) in the playoffs alone.

Add in the district competition Martin faced in Arlington Bowie's Jessie Rogers (North Carolina) and Demonte Hood (Kansas State) and it was a full-time job figuring out how to handle things in the trenches.

"It doesn't take long to find where those guys are at," Wager said. "A stellar offensive or defensive lineman stands out even more so than a stellar skill player, and I think that was the case this year."

While Class 5A linemen dominated the ranks, perhaps the most foreboding in the area was Aledo offensive tackle Michael Wilson.

The 6-foot-6, 280-pound Oklahoma State commitment was a 2010 Associated Press all-state selection, helped Aledo to three consecutive Class 4A state titles and was the driving force, literally, behind record-breaking Aledo running back Johnathan Gray's road to the Texas high school football record book.

Wilson, who also considered Texas A&M and Texas Tech, said there was no better feeling than pancaking a defender while watching Gray fly by him.

"As an offensive line, we got together and decided we were going to lead [Gray] through that challenge and break those records."

Wilson did that and then some, handling the stout defensive lines of Stephenville, Austin Lake Travis and Manvel during Aledo's state title run this season.

He'll have a chance to continue to test his mettle against fellow area linemen as he and several others head to the Big 12 next season.

Matthew Reagan

817-390-7760

Twitter: @reaganmatthew

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