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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Area linemen making big noise

Defensive linemen are an "in" thing these days, coming in all shapes and sizes and ages.

Two of USC's projected starters emerging during spring drills are returning mainstays in tractor-wide tackle Christian Tupou of Grant High School and Pleasant Grove product Armond Armstead, a 6-foot-6, 295-pound end.

Said USC coach Lane Kiffin this week to reporters: "(Defensive-line coach Ed) Orgeron came to me halfway through practice to say, 'We're not going to be a good defensive line; we're going to be a dominant, great defensive line.' "

Both have NFL futures. That also is the hope of former Florin player Kevin Basped, who had 19 1/2 sacks the last two seasons for Nevada. His 6-6, 240-pound frame, burst and desire have him projected to go as high as the fourth round in this month's NFL draft.

Desire is in the man's DNA. He made up 12 semesters worth of classwork in his senior year of high school, determined to get a scholarship, then made the dean's list throughout his Nevada tour.

In Idaho, Chase Baker of Rocklin became a starting defensive tackle for Boise State last season as a sophomore. He wasn't deterred by early knee surgeries there.

And there's the future. Juniors Vei Moala of Grant and Robert Ash of Cosumnes Oaks are in the Bay Area this weekend for the Under Armour All-American Combine. They already are major recruits.

Moala, The Bee's Defensive Player of the Year, seemingly has the largest hands on record. They are virtual scoop shovels he uses to power past or over people, not that his 6-3, 350-pound frame doesn't help.

Ash is the same height as Moala but about 100 pounds lighter. Ash is an end with terrific skills and speed, and he has been offered scholarships by Boise State, Washington, Washington State and Cal Poly, with Sacramento State, UC Davis and the rest of the Pacific-10 Conference intrigued.

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