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PREP FOOTBALL '97: ORANGE LEAGUE

Don't Stand in Front of Scott Vandygrift

Western lineman opens holes for running backs and protects quarterbacks.

September 09, 1997|DAN ARRITT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

ANAHEIM — Scott Vandygrift attends a high school named Western, where he goes by the name Big Country. He earned the title the first day he stepped on campus, and he's been answering to it ever since.

"I was told I looked a lot like Big Country, the NBA player [Bryant Reeves], and it kind of stuck with me," Vandygrift said. "It was cool, no one knew my real name my freshman year."

There's certainly nothing anonymous about the sturdy offensive tackle, but he definitely is big.

At 6 feet 6, 290 pounds, Vandygrift is expected to be one of the county's top offensive linemen this season, and it's a role he's still getting used to.

"I was getting hyped a lot going into this season, I was getting talked about a lot," Vandygrift said. "There's a lot of pressure, I feel like everybody is looking at me to produce to a certain level."

When you have his size--and he's still growing--and run the 40-yard dash in 5.0 seconds and bench close to 300 pounds, you tend to attract a certain amount of attention and generate high expectations. For some observers, his success is guaranteed.

"He's going to be one of the top linemen in the league, no doubt about it," Magnolia Coach Bill Friedrich said.

Vandygrift has already attracted the attention of Division I schools such as UCLA, Nebraska, Colorado and Arizona State, each known for recruiting and producing outstanding linemen.

Over the summer he worked out at a UCLA camp, weightlifting, running, and adding another inch to his expanding frame.

Despite his physique and skills, Vandygrift said the expectations he's saddled with seem too high at times. His relationship with second-year Coach Toby Howell is not ideal, but he has learned a lot from the former defensive end.

"We have a professional relationship, an understanding that he is my coach and I am a player," Vandygrift said. "He's an excellent technique coach, but he could learn a few things about motivation."

Vandygrift said he has gleaned a lot from Howell, who isn't afraid to line up across from him during practice and show Vandygrift some moves.

"He taught me everything on pass blocking, such as how to get around as a big guy," Vandygrift said. "He shows me what his moves were, and what I should do. He's a real physical teacher, he shows you, he doesn't just tell you."

Howell admits Vandygrift has been in his "doghouse" before, such as the first day of workouts two weeks ago. But Howell has never had a lineman with Vandygrift's ability, so the expectations are high.

"He has all the tools, the size, the feet are good. He just needs to get the desire to be the best he wants to be," Howell said. "I've never had a tackle with his ability, so I expect a lot more."

Vandygrift is not your typical oversized tackle, who will bowl over the man in front to make a hole in the defense. Howell has several trap-and-counter plays that enable Vandygrift to pull and get a running start at the defenders.

Vandygrift's favorite play is called a tackle trap, where he takes aim at the defensive tackle on the opposite side, usually earning a "de-cleater" for knocking the defender off his feet.

Friedrich is well aware of Western's success running these plays, and he has got a 6-foot-3, 280-pound defensive tackle in Jonathan Parson to try to stop Vandygrift.

"I look forward to the first time that kid pulls toward Parson," Friedrich said.

Vandygrift, who wants to play baseball this year after throwing the shotput and discus last spring, is looking forward to a nonleague schedule that includes consecutive games against Rancho Alamitos and Los Alamitos.

"I'm just looking forward to opening holes and protecting the quarterback," he said. "I haven't given up a sack either, and that's one streak I want to keep."

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