Jamie Newberg sees top defensive linemen popping up all over the state. What’s kind of interesting is what a couple of high school coaches have to say about why that’s happening.
… But today there are more in the trenches than ever. Stephenson High coach Ron Gartrell believes that he’s seeing more big men now than in years past because more are getting the opportunity to play at an earlier age. In the past few years, Pop Warner and little league football programs have lifted a weight ban in metro Atlanta counties like DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett, just to name a few. No longer are there weight limits on the different levels. It used to be that if you weighed too much, you couldn’t play. Now, everyone can play.
“Kids seem to be getting bigger and more athletic, and I think a lot of it has to do with the park rules. There used to be a weight limit, so naturally the bigger kids couldn’t play football until they reached eighth or ninth grade,” Gartrell said. “Now those kids can play at a young age and learn the game, so when they get to high school, they are further advanced than before. You don’t have to talk them into coming out and playing football for the first time.”
But that’s not the only reason for the influx of big defensive linemen.
“Coaches starting recruiting kids off the basketball court for the spread offense. We did that for defensive reasons as well,” said Grayson High football coach Mickey Conn. “There are a lot of basketball players that are great athletes that are not getting to 6-7 and 6-8. They know their basketball days are soon coming to an end. They are big and athletic and they make great defensive linemen. The media has played a part as well because much is made of being a great end or tackle. And it’s these guys that are more than just hole pluggers. They are athletic and getting in the backfield, getting sacks and getting a lot of attention.”
That should make Garner and Grantham happier.