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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL

He's mean, and that's nice for quarterbacks

Left tackle Erik Kohler of Westlake Valley Oaks Christian has developed into a skilled practitioner of 'trench warfare.'

August 27, 2009|Eric Sondheimer

At 6 feet 6, 285 pounds, Erik Kohler is big enough to knock down a door, especially when he gets a running start. So imagine what it must be like on the football field when the senior offensive tackle from Westlake Village Oaks Christian surges forward in his size 17 shoes and goes hunting for a linebacker.

"He's a mean kid in a positive sense of the word," Coach Bill Redell said. "What makes him a great offensive lineman is that he has quick feet and is very strong and is outstanding in pass protection. Those things college coaches notice, especially if you're looking for a left tackle. He can protect the blind side of a quarterback."

Kohler understands that he's on the field to "make sure your quarterback's jersey is clean by the end of the game."

Getting past Kohler will be one of the toughest tasks for a defensive end this season. His development has put him in position to be a national recruit, something he never thought possible when he went out for the football team as a freshman and felt awkward and lost at times.

"You can ask any teammate," he said. "I'd ask them every single play, 'What the heck am I doing?' "

Now, he says, "I absolutely love it. Football has changed who I am, how I act, and it has helped me mature and become the person I am today."

Earlier this week, he committed to Washington, picking the Huskies over Notre Dame.

He is a focused, determined Goliath who thrives on the intricacies and physical play that take place on almost every play.

"The mentality of an offensive lineman is really trench warfare," he said. "It's you versus the defensive lineman, and you know the lower man is going to win. You have to be mentally tough. You have to ignore pain. You have to ignore your surroundings and be focused on your job alone."

The weight room has become an important component to Kohler's success. His dedication and commitment to gaining strength and durability can be seen as he moves from station to station with sweat dripping from his face, arms and shoulders.

"Weightlifting is the key concept in all of football because every single thing that you do, if you do it right, can be transposed onto the field, and it is one of the most important factors in a season," Kohler said. "There's nothing better than a good weightlifting session."

Oaks Christian's line coach, Bob Richards, said Kohler has come to understand that wiping out a player with a block is not always the best way to succeed.

"Every block, you have a target," he said. "Erik has gotten very good at fitting the target, not just trying to maul people."

But being aggressive and dominant are what Richards teaches, and Kohler enters his final year of high school understanding his role and responsibilities in the scheme of things.

"You're always doing something physical, and it's never boring being an offensive lineman," Kohler said.

Friday: Quarterbacks.

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eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

twitter.com/latsondheimer

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Top 10 offensive linemen

*--* PLAYER SCHOOL HT., WT. CLASS COMMENT Sil Ajawara Tesoro 6-6, 315 Senior A rising college prospect Ma'Autua Brown Paramount 6-5, 305 Junior Could be best in 2010 Mike Christie Mission Viejo 6-5, 295 Senior Ready for big season Giovanni DiPoalo St. Bonaventure 6-4, 255 Senior USC commit has versatility, agility, toughness Ben Gottschalk S.O. Notre Dame 6-4, 260 Senior Athletic and makes adjustments Hroniss Grasu Crespi 6-3, 265 Senior Oregon commit doesn't make mistakes Erik Kohler Oaks Christian 6-6, 285 Senior Has athleticism, strength needed to succeed Colin Tanigawa Loyola 6-3, 290 Senior All-Serra League pick is gaining offers Chris Ward Mater Dei 6-5, 295 Senior Will be dominant blocker Wade Yandall Carson 6-4, 296 Senior Big-time college prospect *--*

* An expanded list is available at www.latimes.com/preps.

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