He's a former hockey player turned offensive tackle. If things work out for David Knevel he will soon take his gridiron game to the states.
Knevel, 6-feet-8 and 274 pounds, is one of the top high school football players in Canada. He drew loads of attention at last weekend's Under Armour combine in Tampa, Fla. The common theme when talking to people who have watched Knevel is that he has a chance to become a very good offensive tackle prospect.
"There's no question that he's one of the best I have seen all [combine] season," said George Hegamin, offensive line coach for the Under Armour combines. "David is athletic enough to cover up just how raw he is. Right now he has no idea what he's doing. He just gets in front of people with his athleticism. I think this kid has a chance to be a really good one."
Knevel is relatively new to the game. Not surprisingly given where he grew up, hockey was always his sport of preference. He played football, but it was nothing serious. That is until recently. Knevel and his twin brother, Michael, headed south to Bradenton and spent time at the IMG Academy last summer and for their spring break in March.
"IMG was really cool and the best training I have ever gotten," Knevel said. "I grew up playing hockey, but it got expensive to keep buying equipment the bigger I got. I guess I just outgrew the sport, but I still love it. Now it's football, and I am dead serious about going full blast with this."
Knevel is from Branford, Ontario, and he attends Pauline Johnson C.V.S. Last season was his first playing high school football and his head coach, Ken Chisholm, has seen Knevel show rapid improvement in every aspect.
"David's football future is very bright," Chisholm said via email. "He has been able to grasp any offensive line systems and concepts effortlessly. We never have to tell him anything twice. The rest is all upside. His size, wing span, intelligence, athleticism, game knowledge, coachability, intensity and leadership are all outstanding. He also plays basketball and moves really well. His feet are excellent for a tall man.
"David has always shown a passion for football, and it is increasing with his body filling out through his weight training and with the attention he's receiving at camps and combines."
Knevel is also part of an all-star team, Team Ontario West. They are coached by Ilyas Zylstra. Like Chisholm, Zylstra is excited for Knevel and his future as a football player.
"There is a huge upside with David no matter which way you look at it," Zylstra said. "He's big and athletic and it's rare to see kids that big are that mobile and athletic. He's not one of those big, fat guys. He has the body type of a power forward in basketball where he can put on the extra weight in muscle and still do what he needs to do on the football field. Coaches at the next level are going to be very excited to work with him because there is so much potential there just waiting to get out."
The coaches at IMG see it, too. Tom Nutten, a former offensive lineman for the Buffalo Bills and St. Louis Rams, worked with Knevel in Bradenton.
"His sheer size speaks for itself," Nutten said. "He has balance and is very coordinated for his size. It's striking because kids half his size don't have his coordination. For me, as a coach, it's exciting to have the opportunity to have a great impact on someone like this. But I want to remain cautious because it was a week without pads.
"He has so much potential. David needs commitment and sacrifice. He seems like a high character kid who's smart, funny, and he has the support from home which is so important. He works very hard, asks the right questions and listens well. He shows respect. All these things add up. He could be something very interesting down the line."
Knevel is at a very important time of his football career. He understands what needs to be done to get better. Knevel plans on hitting the weights hard, camping this summer at schools such as Iowa and Notre Dame, and going back down to IMG. In fact, he could very well stay in Florida this summer and transfer to a high school in the Bradenton area.
"We are thinking of moving down here," Knevel said. "But I just don't know yet. If I did, I think I would be a junior this fall, but I have to see how everything transfers over because things are different in Canada. But right now I am really enjoying football. I like the violence out there and I believe I have improved a lot. I love coming to camps and going up against guys with skill. That's a different level for me. I know I have a lot of work to do, and football is the game I want to pursue. I want to use it to get a great education and play college football. I have to get in the weight room and get much stronger. I need to learn the position and the sport. I am determined."
Mark Miller, Knevel's father, understands that these next few months are very important for his son's future in this game.
"David loves football," Miller said. "He wants to play with the best. That means Division 1 football in the United States. He knows that he has the desire and natural ability. This summer after playing for the Team Ontario All-Stars he has plans to train at IMG to get stronger and quicker. After that he will consider what do next. It is possible next year that he may move to the United States to play football."
Hegamin, who played on the offensive line at NC State and won a Super Bowl ring with the Dallas Cowboys, believes coming to America is the biggest key to the future development of Knevel.
"I'm going to tell you that his chance gets a lot better if he comes to America," Hegamin said. "David needs full-throttle tutoring. He is a natural athlete that can be a textbook left tackle. I talked with David and his parents a lot and they seem very committed. He also needs to get a lot stronger. David needs a coach to understand what David is and what he can really become. He needs to be thrown in the fire and coached up at the same time. This kid has a chance to be unstoppable."
Theus trims list
Earlier this week, ESPNU Watch List member John Theus (Jacksonville, Fla./The Bolles School) narrowed his school list to six -- Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Notre Dame and Texas.
"It was hard because everyone was coming after me," Theus said. "All the schools that offered me are good and they all have something unique about them. Then you build relationships with all those coaches. So it's hard to say no to people. Getting to a top six was challenging and to be honest, my original plan was to get it to five but I just couldn't do it."
Many feel Georgia is the team to beat considering his brother, Nathan, is about to start his college football career there. But Theus insists he will make the decision that best suits him.
"Everyone thinks I am going to Georgia because of my brother," Theus said. "Of course I would love to play with him, but we told each other a while ago that we would each makes decisions that were best for us. But I can say that I think the coaching staff there is great. They are football coaches and good guys. I am up there a lot because of my brother, and I love the players, the atmosphere, the school and campus."
Three other SEC schools are vying for this 6-6, 300-pound offensive tackle prospect.
"Alabama seems like they are always winning," Theus said. "I went there for the Florida game last year and loved the atmosphere. I want to get back up there for sure. I like what they do at Alabama. I also Skyped with Coach [Nick] Saban for about an hour during the spring. That was really, really cool."
Theus has not yet seen Arkansas.
"I think a lot of people were surprised that Arkansas made my list," Theus said. "I first got interested in them when Nathan took an official there. He loved it and said I had to see it. Plus, we have a really good friend there. I love the coaches and they are an up-and-coming program.
"I love the coaches at Florida, especially coach [Will] Muschamp and coach [Charlie] Weis. I really believe that they are going to do a lot of good things. There's a lot of pro experience on that staff, and I love their teaching and coaching approach."
Theus also plans on checking out Notre Dame and Texas for the very first time.
"I am visiting Notre Dame in June," Theus said. "I stay in touch with those coaches a lot. This is Notre Dame, a school with so much prestige. The academics are great, and there's so much tradition.
"I have known [offensive line coach] Stacy Searels at Texas for a while now and first met him while he was at Georgia. Texas is just a very successful program and I have a lot of respect for them, especially Coach [Mack] Brown."
The original Theus plan was to commit at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January. Now that's up in the air.
"If I know where I will go then I will commit and not hold back," Theus said. "It could be as early as July, depending on visits. I plan on seeing Texas and Notre Dame. I want to camp at Georgia and Florida, and I will visit or camp at Alabama. I am not sure on an Arkansas visit, and I may have to wait and take an official visit this fall. The most important thing to me is the coaches. They will be my mentors. The players and atmosphere will be big as well."
Clowney all set; another star in the making for Carroll?
Jadeveon Clowney (Rock Hill, S.C./South Pointe) is now fully qualified and all set for the University of South Carolina. Many were concerned that the nation's top prospect in the class of 2011 wouldn't qualify academically. But Clowney received word on Tuesday that he's all set.
"Like I told everyone Clowney is ready to go," said Bobby Carroll, his coach at South Pointe. "He did the work and now he will report to South Carolina in early July. He's ready to go."
Carroll is now the head coach at York High School just down the road. He's excited about his program, his team, and one rising junior in particular. Rominique Mobley moved from Charlotte, N.C., to York last year but had to sit out the season. He suited up this spring and Carroll insists he has a great prospect in the class of 2013 with Mobley. Mobley, 6-3 and 200 pounds, plays safety.
"He's a Clowney clone," Carroll said. "This kid has a chance to be a great one. He's obviously not quite as big as Clowney, but he has many of the same skills. Rominique is an athlete that can run and boy can he thump you. He could be a safety or outside linebacker."
Big Cat Weekend is a big success again for champs
It has been a big recruiting week for Auburn, highlighted by its "Big Cat Weekend" and a handful of pledges to the 2012 recruiting class. So far, the Tigers have picked up commitments from cornerback Joshua Holsey (Fairburn, Ga./Creekside), offensive tackle Shane Callahan (Parker, Colo./Chaparral], defensive tackle Darius Philon (Prichard, Ala./Vigor) and athlete Ricardo Louis (North Miami Beach, Fla.).
It was also expected that wide receiver Ja'Quay Williams (Tyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek) was going to commit to the Tigers this past weekend. The Saturday announcement was canceled because it was a holiday weekend and Williams was hoping to announce earlier this week. Instead, he traveled with his family to Pennsylvania to see family. No word yet on when Williams will make his decision.
LSU offers massive OT
Derek Edinburgh (New Orleans/Edna Karr) grew up dreaming of playing for LSU. He may be able to fulfill that dream. The Tigers offered the 6-8, 320-pound offensive tackle this past weekend. Before he makes his decision Edinburgh wants to camp at Alabama, Florida and Mississippi State. Those three schools have not offered but teams such as Arizona, Texas Tech, Vanderbilt, Minnesota, Arkansas, Utah, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Pitt, Kansas State, Louisiana Tech and Tulane all have. In the end, though, the Tigers will be tough to beat.
Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.