Palm Beach Gardens protector


PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- It's just another morning for Watch List offensive lineman Avery Young (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla./Palm Beach Gardens). Virginia Tech assistant coach Charlie Wiles is talking to the 6-foot-6, 270-pounder and next up are Florida assistant coaches Charlie Weis and Aubrey Hill.

"It's a little crazy but at the same time it's a lot of fun," Young said. "Right now I'm just trying to stay neutral and take in everything."

And everyone seems to want in on the future left tackle.

"I think I've had every coach in the world come through here," Palm Beach Gardens coach Chris Davis said. "It's rare to have a player that can attract this much attention, but Avery is one."

The state of Florida is known for its athletes -- especially wide receivers and cornerbacks -- but the state's top offensive line prospects rarely get the same attention.

"It's funny because when you think of offensive linemen, Florida just isn't going to be the first state that comes to mind," Miami Herald recruiting writer Larry Blustein said. "But take a program like Ohio State -- where guys like Orlando Pace and Nick Mangold came from -- and who's their starting center? Michael Brewster from Edgewater High School. And he's been starting since he got on campus."

However, there's been steady growth from 2005, when Florida had 34 offensive line prospects commit to FBS schools. Last season the state had 48 offensive line prospects sign with FBS schools.

In the Class of 2012, Young and John Theus (Jacksonville, Fla./Bolles), Jessamen Dunker (Boynton Beach, Fla./Boynton Beach), Ty Darlington (Apopka, Fla./Apopka) and Evan Goodman (Lakeland, Fla./Lakeland) are considered among the best offensive line prospects nationally.

"It's good to see the big guys finally getting some credit," Young said. "It's usually about the athletes -- the speed guys -- but none of that would be possible without us."

Young's list of interested suitors includes Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia, Auburn, Alabama and several other top programs.

Davis has seen a similar scenario play out before as he was an assistant at Lakeland (Fla.) High when Michael and Maurkice Pouncey were being recruited.

He feels Young has the opportunity to be as good as the twin brothers who would become NFL first-round draft choices.

"Avery has tremendous potential and much like the twins he gets after it on the field," Davis said. "And then off the field he's just a great young man. He's very smart, he's very funny, he's got a terrific personality."

Although he comes across as a very fun guy with a winning smile, Young says things get very serious when he's being challenged.

"Last year we were playing a team [when] once we got into overtime they were talking about how they were going to run me in the ground," Young said. "They kept talking and, when it came time to play, I took the action to them."

His demeanor is much of the reason Davis leans on Young as the captain on his team -- a role Young has embraced.

"One thing I enjoy doing is working with my younger teammates and hopefully setting an example of how to do things on and off the field," Young said. "I want to see my teammates raise their level because if we're all playing to our best it gives us the best chance to win."

Young tends not to talk much about his recruitment. He's interested in the top SEC schools -- Florida, Georgia, Auburn, Alabama, LSU -- and also likes Oklahoma.

He went to Florida for its Orange and Blue spring game and says he'll take all five official visits. His decision would most likely happen after his senior season and could go all the way up to national signing day.

Young says his summer plans aren't set in stone and most of his time will be spent with his team. He hopes to make a couple of unofficial visits but doesn't have any particular schools targeted for those visits.

"We'll see what happens and if I can take a look at a couple of campuses I will," he said.

As for his status as one of the nation's top offensive linemen and coveted prospect, Young doesn't read a lot of his press clippings and just wants to focus on his team and finding the right program for his future.

"I always like to stay humble and grounded about the whole process and recruiting," Young said. "I just want to go to a school where I can enjoy myself for the next four or five years. A place that has strong academics and a place where the coaches and teammates have a strong bond. You don't want to be in a place where things are great for one year and bad every year after that."

Corey Long has been covering high school football and recruiting in the Sunshine State since 1995. He can be reached at coreyespn@gmail.com.