August 14, 2008
Tomorrow's stars today.
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Player: Anthony Davis, 6’6”, 330 pounds, sophomore left tackle from Rutgers and mountain of a human being bent on swallowing, grinding to dust or otherwise industrially pulverizing everything in his path.
Hype: Physically, the template of size, strength, agility and top-heavy build Michael Lewis used to make Michael Oher a star in The Blind Side could have applied as easily to Davis. And unless you come from a background as vagabond as Oher’s, it’s hard for guys like that to fly under the radar -- Davis was the fifth-ranked incoming guard by Rivals in ‘07, the number two tackle by Scout and the No. 7 overall offensive lineman according to Phil Steele's aggregate assessment; he turned down USC, Notre Dame, Miami and Ohio State to stay close to home in Piscataway, and national columnists have called him the most important recruit in Rutgers history. The absurdly early verdict from the pro scouts also ranks him at the top.
So Far: Davis moved into the lineup at guard about a quarter of the way into the year, starting the last eight and drawing freshman All-America from the Football Writers of America, for whatever that's worth -- outside of easily observable skill guys, those honors are doled out to the most hyped players who actually make their way onto the field. In Rutgers' case, though, playing time was hardly a given, and there was plenty of credit to go around for paving the way to Ray Rice's 2,000-yard effort. The Knights were fortunate enough to have a third round draft pick at one tackle, Jeremy Zuttah, and a second team All-Big East pick on the other, Pedro Sosa, both three-year starters, which let Davis acclamate himself at guard without being "the anchor," but while still learning how to be a part of a solid line in a successful run-oriented system.
He’s No. 75 here against Cincinnati:
Get In On the Ground Floor: Davis is essentially the next Andre Smith: by this time next year, he'll be everybody's All-American and an assumed early entry into the 2010 Draft. For a highly rated player who quickly entrenches himself in the lineup as a freshman, the honors will come as long as he stays healthy. In the wider sense of public perception, all-conference teams, awards and fawning praise from magazines and announcers, etc., he's just a well-timed Gameday profile or Thursday night close-up from becoming a blue chip stock, if he's not already.
Beyond the reputation, though, Davis might be among the most valuable players in the Big East -- or at least the most critical to his team's success, which has hinged so much the last two years on the line's work on behalf of Rice, who could have made a bid for league MVP his own self as a sophomore and junior before bailing for the pros. Sosa, Zuttah and another multi-year starter, guard Mike Fladdell, leave significant holes, especially on the right side, where one of the new starters might be a true freshman, and none of Davis’ fellow up-and-comers project as the caliber of player as the guys on they're replacing. The success of the conventional, straight-ahead running game that worked to such resounding effect with Rice hinges much less on the new running backs than it does the line, and whether he’s ready or not, Davis should be judged mainly by how well he and the new guys are able to maintain that kind of continuity -- this is his line, and if he's holding court as advertised by the end of the year, maybe his team.
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Photo of Davis vis US Presswire.