It’s a growing football state and the linemen keep getting bigger and better.
With such an abundance of them, this is a difficult list to limit to 10.
Some of them you may some day see playing on Sundays.
Here are my top 10 offensive linemen entering the 2015 football season:
No. 10 Taylor Skaff, Laveen Cesar Chavez, 6-3, 290, Jr.
His ceiling is very high. He dropped weight since starting his sophomore season to become a more athletic linemen. He helped Chavez win five of six Big Man competitions this summer. Skaff is among a mix of talented linemen who look at themselves as one. If Cesar Chavez has a huge season in Division III, look no further than the line, and Skaff has potential to rise above them all with his work ethic, passion and drive to be the best.
No. 9 Corey Stephens, Saguaro, 6-3, 280, Jr.
It almost doesn’t seem fair that Saguaro’s line is this loaded, and it is mostly comprised of underclassmen. But the young big men are well-coached and well-motivated, realizing the rich history of linemen the school has produced since 2007. Stephens stands out with his great feet. Coach Jason Mohns calls Stephens “a technician” and “very athletic in space.”
No. 8 Max Wilhite, Goodyear Desert Edge, 6-4, 280, So.
He made MaxPreps’ All-American Freshman team last season. He has go
tten bigger and stronger since then, making it a scary proposition for defensive linemen trying to get around him. He not only has a big frame but the high motor of a kid who wants to make a difference at the next level. He is fast enough to get out on blocks for Desert Edge’s speedy playmakers. Watch for a huge sophomore season out of this growing beast.
No. 7 Jonathan Nathaniel, Chandler Basha, 6-5, 270, Jr.
Coaches have ramped up the interest, especially after he was named the MVP of the Northern Arizona Big Man competition this summer. That earned him a scholarship offer from NAU. Nathaniel will take special care of the state’s No.1-ranked quarterback, Ryan Kelley, with his size, tenacity and aggressiveness. Coach Gerald Todd believes Nathaniel has the potential to become the most recruited lineman in the state.
No. 6 Creston Cooledge, Surprise Valley Vista, 6-5, 280, Jr.
Mobile, fast, strong, Cooledge should come into his own this season after a solid sophomore season. The junior class may be as good as any that has come through Arizona. Cooledge is making great strides with his work ethic in the weight room. Arizona, Boise State, Stanford and San Jose State have shown strong interest in this kid whose motor never stops. He prides himself on finishing the play. He also takes pride in the classroom, carrying a 4.0 grade-point average.
No. 5 Steven Bailey, Centennial, 6-3, 285, Sr.
Bailey is almost a carbon copy of Nathe, a talented guard who can also play tackle. He could be right next to Nathe this season if Nathe is moved to fulltime center, the position ASU wants him to play. Last year, Bailey was a big part of Centennial’s successful run game that powered the Coyotes all the way to the Division II championship. Bailey is still kind of under the radar, even though he has gotten offers. He has the confidence and swagger to play Pac-12, and that could be his destination with another strong season, playing against some of the best teams.
No. 4 Thayne Jackson, G
ilbert, 6-7, 275, Sr.
Similar to Jackson in build and heart. A mountain of a man who commands the line of scrimmage with long arms, quick feet and bull-dozer mentality. He’ll remind football fans of former Scottsdale Chaparral tackle and current NFL player Taylor Lewan with his power-drive motor and ability to clear big lanes for the running game. But it his ability to pass protect that keeps quarterbacks on their feet.
No. 3 Marshal Nathe, Peoria Centennial, 6-3, 285, Sr.
Nathe’s first Pac-12 offer was enough for him to commit. He took the Arizona State offer the moment it was offered to him over the phone this spring. Nathe has tremendous balance, work ethic and a nasty streak that will carry him a long way in this game. He is part of a great line that could be the best in Arizona this season. He’ll find out right away how good he is with an Aug. 21 meeting against California powerhouse Long Beach Poly.
No. 2 Austin Jackson, Phoenix North Canyon, 6-6, 265, Jr.
He has a major-college offensive lineman physique already with very little fat on a muscular frame. Some wonder how he would be at tight end or defensive end. He is that talented. He puts in the necessary work and colleges have noticed with 12 offers already. Arizona State, Texas A&M and Oregon are among an impressive dozen. Jackson never takes a play off and has the heart of a lion. Watch for big things this season with North Canyon in a more competitive division, dropping down from I to III.
No. 1 Kayden Lyles, Scottsdale Saguaro, 6-3, 300, Jr.
He has started on varsity since the second game of his freshman year, and already has a who’s who list of major colleges offering scholarships. His athleticism sets him apart from most big guys on the line. He plays offensive guard, which is likely where he will end up in college. He will continue to pave holes for a team that last year went 14-0 in Division III and
should make the easy transition to Division II this season with a bevy of talented skill players in the mix.