When Nashville Christian played Jo Byrns last September, offensive coordinator Phillip Montgomery challenged the line to get 20 pancake blocks.
Offensive tackle Alex Givens went out and got 20 by himself.
“I wasn’t surprised that he dominated his position because that’s what we’ve come to expect and see from him,” Eagles coach Jeff Brothers said. “We’re not surprised when he does things like that because he’s so consistent. I’d say he’s easily one of the best I’ve ever coached.”
DANDY DOZEN: Givens holds down No. 10 spot
Givens, a 6-foot-6, 294-pound senior, overpowered the Jo Byrns linemen in a 28-12 win.
“He’s probably the biggest lineman in our district,” Red Devils coach Tom Adkins said. “In single-A, you normally don’t have the size or speed that you normally have in 5A and 6A so it creates some match-up difficulties. You keep up with where he is, that’s for sure. Givens is a whole head above everybody in the huddle.”
Givens had an offensive line grade of 95 with 88 pancake blocks as Nashville Christian (11-2) made it to the Class 1A semifinals last season.
He opened holes for a multiple offense that rushed for 3,112 yards and scored 71 touchdowns.
“I think last year was really his coming-of-age season,” said Barton Simmons, director of Scouting for 247 Sports. “He was one of those guys that gained a bunch of weight heading into his junior year. He was always really athletic and talented, but when he was able to add that bulk and strength to really push kids around we really saw his game step up to that elite level. To me, I think he’s arguably the best offensive lineman in the state.”
Givens is ranked as the state’s No. 14 prospect and 46th nationally at his position by 247 Sports.
He bulked up from 210 pounds his sophomore year to 265 his junior year.
“Just a lot of food and protein and milk,” Givens said. “It took time, but it was worth it, for sure. My dad would grill out every night in the summer, some kind of meat and vegetables and all that good stuff.”
Givens has 11 offers, but has narrowed his choices to Ole Miss and Vanderbilt.
“I think I’ll be (deciding) by the beginning of the football season,” Givens said. “I’m going to take two official visits and make my decision from there. It’s probably going to be a pretty tough decision.”
Opening the holes
Nashville Christian tailback Daniel Bituli rushed for 1,788 yards and 24 touchdowns last season and he gives Givens much of the credit.
“We ran through his side 90 percent of the time and I’d average nine yards per carry, so that just shows what a heck of a blocker he is,” Bituli said. “I couldn’t get any of those rushing yards without him, so big props to him. Every play that I ran to his side I’d see a pancake and I’m not exaggerating, I promise.”
Bituli, a 6-3, 220-pound linebacker prospect, has five offers, including Tennessee, Ole Miss and LSU.
Givens reminds Brothers of a Division II-A/AA Mr. Football winner he coached at Pope John Paul II, Golden Tate. The receiver went on to play for Notre Dame and won a Super Bowl with Seattle last season.
“As dominant as Golden was to the skill position on the field, I would say Alex is to the offensive line position,” Brothers said. “Just a dominant player and a difference-maker, and a guy that’s got a rare combination of skills and desire. There are a lot of big kids and a lot of good athletes, but I think it’s very rare to find somebody that has the same mental makeup and desire to prove every day, every rep, the way those two guys do for me.”
Brothers believes Givens’ athleticism makes him stand out among the other big linemen in the state.
“He’s a dominant blocker,” Brothers said. “Once he locks on, he’s driving guys off the field. He loves to finish plays at the ground. He doesn’t just block until the back can run through and stand and watch what happens. He blocks through the whistle.”
Brothers describes him as a devastating run blocker who also does a good job in pass protection.
He also plays tackle on defense.
Givens is a gentle giant with the kindergarten kids at school, who view him as a novelty because he’s so big. He takes out his aggression on the field.
“I love run blocking the best because you just get to kill people,” Givens said. “It’s fun. I love (the line). I don’t think I could play any other position. You don’t have much fame, but you have the most credit on the team. Without a line, you can’t do anything.”
Reach Chip Cirillo at 615-664-2194 or on Twitter @ChipCirillo.