April 15, 2010

Strong safety proves his worth in camp circuit

Sometimes aggressiveness and physicality can be a detriment.

For Chris Tavarez, his rough playing style earns rewards on the field as an intimidating outside linebacker at the high school level.

But colleges aren't looking at the 5-foot-11, 200-pounder to be that physical presence in the middle. Instead they want him to make plays with his legs in the secondary.

"I'm getting recruited as a strong safety but I've played linebacker in school because my coach knows that I'm a pretty angry person the football field," Tavarez said. "I think I'm better in open space and with my speed and athleticism, but I play linebacker right now for the team's benefit."

That's why the offseason is so crucial for Tavarez since it provides a rare opportunity to prove his worth in coverage skills.

At the recent MVP Camp at Georgia Tech, he displayed his one-on-one chops by shutting down receivers consistently, and was named an "elite performer" by the litany of coaches on hand at the downtown Atlanta campus.

More outings like that will surely turn Tavarez's under-the-radar recruitment into high-profile news. In the meantime, his early advocates are getting a chance to make their case, and Tulane is among them.

Along with Duke and Harvard, Tulane has jumped on the Atlanta-area defender and made an early impression, fitting his criteria for a university nearly flawlessly.

"My first priority is academics, both me and my parents are big academics people," Tavarez said. "I can't come home with a C. The second piece is to go to a school where no matter how the football season goes, the school doesn't completely change. If we have a bad year or a bad game I don't want a school that just goes completely dead.

"I want a school where, when the football season is over, I can still have fun. I hang on campus and do my academics and go support the other teams and just be a part of the community. I want a place that feels like home."

Talks with Green Wave receivers coach Thomas Woods and defensive coordinator Steve Stanard have helped sway the physical defender toward New Orleans.

Tulane preaches its family atmosphere, top-notch academics and campus community well before its football atmosphere, something that hasn't escaped Tavarez.

It's the reason he's planning a visit this summer and hopes to make an official visit this fall. However, with schools like Auburn, Tennessee, Virginia Tech and Vanderbilt all pondering offers there's still a much left to unfold.

In the meantime, Tulane's offer is one worth a long look, according to Tavarez.

"They just gave me a great outlook on Tulane and said it's everything I'm looking for in a school," Tavarez said. "It pretty much has what I'm looking for. I'm always telling them how much I'm interested in Tulane in the recruiting process.

"The thing I like about Tulane is you always hear positive things about Tulane players. I know the coaching staff respects the kids and is still very strict. I want it to be a second home and talking with coach Woods, I really get that feeling."

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