Sterling Jenkins was at Heinz Field when the Baldwin senior offensive tackle noted that it was where the Fighting Highlanders wanted to finish their season, by playing for a WPIAL championship.
Surprisingly, Jenkins has less lofty goals for himself.
“My individual goal is to be first-team all-conference because I wasn’t last year, even though I was all-state,” Jenkins said. “It was really disappointing. It made sense, but I want to be able to show people this year that there’s no mishap, that it’s legit and that I’m not overhyped.”
The 6-foot-8, 310-pound Penn State recruit is the highest-ranked player in the WPIAL Class of 2015. Rivals.com ranks him the nation’s No. 69 player and No. 8 offensive tackle, and he’s the Trib’s No. 1 lineman.
Yet Jenkins wasn’t selected All-Quad West?
He’s not alone.
Hempfield’s Tony Pilato (6-7, 290) and Canon-McMillan’s Alex Paulina (6-4, 290) weren’t selected first-team all-conference, either.
That didn’t stop Pitt offering them scholarships, or taking their commitments.
“You know what happens? It starts at the younger age. They grow rapidly and their maturation process is in catch-up mode. They’re big people but they have to catch up to their growth spurt,” said Joe Butler, director of Metro Index Scouting service. “Colleges believe they can coach them up and they can get better body control. That’s what it is in college: body control, flexibility. They’re not worried about whether they’re the finished product. They want a guy with toughness who can compete.”
That explains why Jenkins, Pilato and Paulina are rated ahead of South Park’s Ryan Podgorski (6-5, 265) and Central Catholic’s Eric McAllister (6-1, 265), both first-team all-conference selections last season. Neither has the ideal height, weight or arm length BCS programs are seeking in offensive linemen, as the trend is for size over strength.
“If Eric McAllister was 6-2, 290, he could play anywhere in the country. He’s that good. He’s a man. He’d be a big-time college center. He does everything you want a center to do, but he’s short. He doesn’t have the size but he has all the tools,” Butler said. “Podgorski doesn’t look the part, but on film he plays well. He’s strictly a guard. He’s a tough guy. He moves around pretty good. He’s a legitimate 6-5 but he’s not real thick yet. That’s why people are concerned.”
I asked Butler to list the pros and cons for Jenkins, Pilato and Paulina:
Jenkins: “He looks like (former Baltimore Ravens tackle) Jonathan Ogden. What he’s got to do is he’s got to set up better in pass protection. He bends well enough. He’s got length. He’s got extension, can drive block but has to work on his pass protections. He’s got to work on lateral quickness. They’re taking him because he’s 6-8, 310 pounds. He’s not overweight. He’s built extremely well, but he’s got to work on pass protection to go against athletic defensive ends in the Big Ten.”
Pilato: “Tony Pilato is a basketball player who’s going to be a football player. He’s a 6-7, 300-pounder who runs extremely well. He can bend, has good length, good athletic ability. He’s got to upgrade his toughness but if he gets a little tougher and more physical he could be dynamite.”
Paulina: “Alex Paulina as a ninth-grader was 6-3, 280 and now is 6-4, 290. Paulina is physically mature, but he’s had injury issues. He’s got a great offensive lineman body, good, strong hands. He might actually move to center. He’s got strength in that body. He might be college-ready. The question is, can he play at 310 pounds? He’s had some injury bugs and that has to change.”
HITTING THE LINKS
The fifth part of the #TribHS countdown to kickoff series of the top 5 players at each position focuses on the offensive linemen, which includes several Division-I recruits who have something to prove, by Chris Harlan.
My Sunday column is on South Park’s Podgorski, who says he likes to “punish people.”
Here is an interview with Podgorski:
Deer Lakes has a playmaker who is hoping to come out hot, by Bill West.
Fox Chapel tennis looks to fill big void, by Dave Yohe.