Elite-level quickness off the ball sets OU legacy Justin Manning apart from his peers.
Step 1: Punch air.
Step 2: Rubberneck.
Step 3: Watch your running back/quarterback get planted by No. 55.
Rinse, repeat. This was the tragic story for more than a handful of interior linemen attempting to block 2013 Dallas (TX) Kimball star Justin Manning. After a while, opponents probably counted a play as successful if they were able to even get their hands on the elusive three-technique prospect, currently listed at 6'3, 275 pounds.
Elusive isn't a word that gets thrown around much with interior defensive linemen. Neither is flexibility. The consensus four-star prospect has both and it allows him to slice gaps to wreak havoc in the backfield, all made possible by signature quickness of the ball that ranks as among the best to come out of the state of Texas in recent years.
Just as running backs use their hip flexibility to slide-cut in the open field to present the smallest possible tackling surface for defenders, Manning does the same coming off the ball, using a strong swim move to strike away any hands that happen to find his body and then giving his opponent nothing but a turned shoulder to block heading toward the quarterback or running back.
It's questionable whether Manning will ever be a strong two-gap player, but the point is rather that defensive tackles with his skillset of being able to consistently disrupt anything and everything happen in the offensive backfield are extraordinarily rare. The concern of any defensive tackle with strong quickness is that unnecessary and excessive weight gain due to injury or general laziness can quickly rob such a player of that hard-to-find attribute. In such a case, Manning could perhaps reinvent himself by sliding over to play zero or one technique, but there isn't where his upside resides.
An OU legacy -- his older brother is former Sooner defensive tackle DeMarcus Granger -- it seems as if it is only a matter of time before the younger brother follows in the footsteps of his elder sibling and pledges to Oklahoma. If or when he does get there, Manning has the potential to have an even more successful career.
For more on OU football, visit Oklahoma blog Crimson And Cream Machine.
Justin Manning - Class of 2013 - DL - Kimball High School (via tagteamsportz)