Overview: Compared to many of fellow class of 2011 offensive linemen, Underwood's recruitment did not get off to a blistering start. While many of the other lineman labeled as sure-fire Division I prospects received scholarship offers early and often from major programs, Underwood only saw several Mid-American Conference offers come his way during the early parts of the offseason.
Things changed in a hurry, however, as Underwood received an offer that seemingly came out of left field that changed (and finished) his recruitment. On an unofficial visit to Columbus in mid-March to visit Ohio State, Underwood sat down with head coach Jim Tressel who offered Underwood on the spot. The future college guard committed to the Buckeyes without hesitation, thus ending his recruitment abruptly. He is the type of powerful, aggressive interior lineman that should thrive in the run-centric Big Ten.
Strengths: Antonio is everything a coach could want in an offensive lineman. He's a big, strong, smart, powerful, physical and most importantly, tough. His tremendous upper body strength and his ability to deliver a blow with his punch is what I noticed immediately when studying his film. It's rare to find a high school offensive lineman that's not a "grabber" but a "puncher". The ability to punch is critical at the collegiate level because of the many stunts and twist run by college defensive lineman. A lineman has to be capable of engaging one defender then immediately engage another and grabbing isn't how you get it done.
His base and ability to bend his knees are phenomenal. Although he is bigger than his opponents, he still plays with leverage and not weight. He explodes of the ball with bad intentions and really looks to dominate his opponents. Antonio has very good football instincts and an understanding of the game.
Areas for Improvement: I would like to see Underwood get leaner. Antonio is a naturally "heavy-footed" athlete and at times looks like he's running in sand. If he were leaner, there would be less mass his muscles would be forced to move, thus making his movement more efficient. Managing his weight and body fat ratio will be critical for him as he continues to progress. A 295 to 300-pound Antonio Underwood will be much more effective than a 310-pound Underwood at the collegiate level. He is also a shy kid that will have to learn how to deal with living in a fishbowl. The day he accepted his scholarship from The Ohio State University everybody suddenly began paying close attention to him and everything he does will be under a microscope.
Bentley's Projection: I'm excited to see Underwood play this year for one reason. Will he become the most dominant player on the field every week or will his OSU scholarship get in the way? Antonio plays hungry and I am curious to see if his hunger is to be the best or only to be good enough to get a scholarship.
A kid at his age with this type of ability should have very large goals in mind. I've seen some good film of the best offensive linemen in the state and Antonio Underwood is the most college ready of everybody. Offensive line is the most difficult position to earn a starting nod as a true freshman. Considering Ohio State's lack of depth and Underwood's ability, at this time next year he should be training to be a starter.
LeCharles Bentley is a former NFL Pro-Bowl offensive lineman with the New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns. He is one of only seven offensive linemen in the history of NFL to earn Pro-Bowl berths at multiple positions. LeCharles attended The Ohio State University and garnered consensus All-American honors, Big Ten offensive lineman of the year honors and The Dave Rimington Trophy presented to the nation's top center annually. His high school career at Cleveland St. Ignatius was coupled with an Ohio State Championship and a host of individual honors.
Currently LeCharles owns and operates The L. Bentley O-line Academy while his Bentley Report serves as the nation's only offensive line evaluation service to many prominent universities. He also serves as a guest columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and color analyst and commentator for various television networks. His radio shows can be heard on ESPN 1540am on Monday's at 4 pm EST.
To read more from LeCharles visit www.o-lineworld.com, the premier information and networking hub for offensive linemen and coaches throughout the world.