Cy Maughmer knows he's "a fish out of water." Apache Junction isn't known as a hotbed for big boys who have a football future in college, but Maughmer's size (6-foot-2, 290 pounds), speed and agility have Division I schools calling.
Cy Maughmer knows he's "a fish out of water."
Apache Junction isn't known as a hotbed for big boys who have a football future in college, but Maughmer's size (6-foot-2, 290 pounds), speed and agility have Division I schools calling.
"I'd like to see more of him, believe me, but a kid like that could be a once-every-10-15-year type of kid," said Apache Junction coach Rich Milligan, who has his first blue-chip lineman prospect in 25 years.
That may be the case at Apache Junction, but in the East Valley's football pond, there are more and more big fish emerging.
While Texas and California dominate skill-position players in high school and college, Arizona is moving up the charts in developing next-level linemen.
According to Rivals.com and Scout.com rankings, six of the top eight high school prospects in Arizona were linemen in 2007. That fell to two out of the top 10 in 2008 but rebounded with four of the top five in 2009 and seven of the top 25 for the class of 2010.
"It might be the most undervalued, underappreciated place in the country," Rivals.com national editor Jeremy Crabtree said. "It used to be for Pac-10 schools only but now other programs in the Mountain West, Big Ten, Big 12 come and recruit the territory.
"In five years I wouldn't be shocked if it's a top-10 city in the country for those kids."
Kids from the usual schools fill these lists - Scottsdale Saguaro, Scottsdale Chaparral, Chandler Hamilton, Peoria Centennial. But more and more are coming from places like Apache Junction (Maughmer),Phoenix Mountain Pointe (Alex Lewis), Tempe Corona del Sol (Todd Peat) andChandler (William Poehls).
Maughmer and Poehls (6-foot-8, 310 pounds) are mobile maulers, but they're not all huge, one-trick linemen anymore.
"The day of the old huge horse is gone," Saguaro coach John Sanders said.
A big part of that is the latest craze of spread offenses, where an offense uses three or four wide receivers, and linemen need to be athletic enough to block guys who aren't lined up directly across from them.
Today, it's all about the 260-pound guard/tackle with good technique who can block his man, shed that block, pull and run downfield to block someone else. And, as Scottsdale Chaparral coach Charlie Ragle noted, there are, "a lot more 230-pound kids walking in high school hallways who can gain weight and develop than there are 300-pound kids with quick feet."
An obvious reason behind this (figurative) growth of high-quality front men is the population boom of the past decade, which brought hundreds of thousands of new families into the East Valley. The sheer volume of this influx affected every area, from Tempe to Queen Creek, and especially Chandler and Gilbert.
Crabtree said Arizona and the Las Vegas area are the nation's fastest-growing hotbeds for college-caliber linemen in the past decade, but lately Arizona isn't churning out defensive backs and skill-position players at the same rate. History and sheer numbers put Texas and California ahead of everyone else when it comes to speed and skill, and that's not likely to change.
What has changed, according to coaches, is the quality and commitment of East Valley coaches to develop and train their players, the rise of sports-centric performance training and fitness centers and (for better or worse) the decline of two- and three-sport athletes.
Projecting a lineman's success at the next level is the most difficult part of college recruiting because it revolves around 16-, 17- and 18-year-old kids reaching their physical and mental potential, whether it's gaining weight, changing their physique or enhancing their agility at the next level.
By and large, skill-position kids already have blazing speed by the time they leave high school.
"A lot more kids worry about what they eat now," said former De La Salle High (Calif.) player and current St. Mary's coach Eddy Zubey, a former graduate assistant at Arizona State who helped recruit linemen. "I never cared about that in high school. ... They're not as big and they don't have to be anymore, so schools are looking at them as long as they have the height and frame to potentially put some more weight on. They might not have it yet, but they'll need to be athletic while blitzing (defensive backs and linebackers) are running around them."
That's also where the year-round push for specialization and offseason camps comes into play.
Sanders knows his time at Saguaro is abnormal. Since he took over in 2007, the Sabercats are about to make it a dozen offensive/defensive linemen sent to Division I schools, including a couple more in the pipeline for the next year or two.
Thanks to punishing workout regimens and a rapidly developing history of success when it comes to sending kids to college football, the Sabercats have joined Chaparral, Hamilton and Centennial in building a reputation for college-ready athletes in the trenches.
"Lot of (colleges) come (to Arizona) for big kids, and they'll stay close to home to get that 4.4 (40-yard dash) skill kid, but everyone covets the big lineman who can run because you can't get enough of them," Sanders said. "That's why everyone and their dog comes looking for these kids, why (USC) coach Pete Carroll was here five times looking at Corey Adams."
With the spread-style offense becoming everyone's passing fancy, plus spring and summer camps, college camps, athletic training centers and an increase of one-sport "tunnel vision," football training has become year-round.
While the population boom has slowed, it was massive enough that plenty more kids are coming up through the East Valley ranks. High school and college teams have had all kinds of success with the spread offense, and it's likely to only grow more popular locally and nationally.
With it will come more big, athletic superfreaks on the line of scrimmage.
"We're seeing it everywhere so the style has transformed the lineman position everywhere," Crabtree said. "Any time you get athletic guys who are big bodies, coaches will find them. I don't think this passing style on the high school level will go away. We've seen it work."