March 28, 2011

Coach: Pack found the right Mann at defensive end

Most FBS prospects have been perfecting their craft for a long time on the gridiron, and normally most of their experience comes at a certain position. Although it's not unusual for prep players to grow into a new position after starting college, or to make a switch at some point during their career, it is common that the player has experienced a few seasons at the position he projects to start at in college.

Dave Mann, who transferred to Lithonia (Ga.) High as a rising-senior, may not have the most playing experience at defensive end, but he was able to make a quick impression on recruiters and his new teammates despite switching his main position at this new school. At Our Lady of Mercy High, the 6-4, 230-pound Mann was mostly a running back, while dabbling at defensive end. When he got to Lithonia, though, he settled in at defensive end in no time and immediately made his mark.

"He was at a small, private school the year before so we only had him for a year," Lithonia coach Marcus Jelks said. "He fit in very quickly. He started training with us this summer and when we went to camp, he fit right in.

"When we got him, he was kind of raw. He didn't have a lot of skills perfected, it didn't seem like he had a lot of coaching. But in this one year, he has gotten so much better. By game five, he pretty much had it down-pat, as far as his moves and everything. He improved most on his moves from the defensive end position. He perfected his rip, spin and swim moves and he's probably best at the swim."

Mann led the team with eight sacks, in addition to totaling around 55 tackles, 12 of which were behind the line of scrimmage, forcing one fumble, causing one fumble and snaring an interception. According to Jelks, he gave Lithonia exactly what they needed.

"On our team, he did pretty much everything," the coach said. "He was on all of the special teams, he primarily played defensive end for us but we stood him up a little bit and he played a little bit of an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. We also played him on offense at tight end a little bit. We primarily used him to block, but he did well. We didn't really throw to him but he did a good job of moving people out of the way for us.

"The impact he made on our defense, though, was tremendous. We already had a couple of pieces, but getting that other defensive end was keep. He came in and did a great job of playing there for us."

Jelks contends that concentrating on defense helped the star quickly pick up the smallest details of playing defensive end rather quickly. Mann is a quick learner that is just going to continue improving as he matures and receives college coaching, according to his high school coach.

"The thing that I like best about Dave is he is a very fast learner," Jelks said. "He is the type of kid that you only have to tell something once and he grasps it. He's a tall kid with good speed and good strength for his size. He has tremendous upside, he is going to be much better than he is right now. He's really just a great football player, he's going to continue to get better year-by-year."

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