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Mike Farrell

Recruiting Analyst

Each year it seems that the state of Maryland produces more and more national talent, much to the pleasure of the Maryland Terrapins and lately the Penn State Nittany Lions. But the Washington, D.C. area often gets overlooked as recruitniks focus on players like Derrick Williams and A.J. Wallace. However, this year there will be no way to ignore two of the best players in the country or, as they'd prefer to be called, the D.C. Dominators.




Austin could be the nation's top defensive tackle.

Meet Marvin Austin and Arrelious Benn. Diehards already know who they are and everyone will be hearing those names quite often this recruiting year. But for Austin, arguably the nation's top defensive tackle, and Benn, arguably the nation's top wide receiver, it's more about the game than the hype.


Austin, a 6-foot-3, 299-pounder from Washington (D.C) Coolidge, burst onto the scene last May at the Elite College Combine in New Jersey. As the more than 100 college coaches assembled evaluated top rising seniors from up and down the east coast, more and more of them began asking the same question after seeing Austin.


"Who is that?"


Austin already had the body of a college football player despite not yet finishing his sophomore year of high school. He also had the perfect frame for a defensive tackle with his huge thighs, large gluteous and low base. But it was his speed that set him apart.


You see, Austin is a sprinter trapped in a 300-pound body. He runs the 55-meter dash and a leg of the 4x100 in high school and looks like a natural coming out of the blocks. His stride in the 40-yard dash is almost as perfect as you can get for a big man and his side-to-side ability in the shuttle is remarkable. His combination of size and speed is rare for a big man, the kind of physical talent that comes along only every few years.


"I've run a 6.72 in the 55," said Austin. "It's funny because I'm always going up against these little guys and they think they're gonna blow me away. I like to talk a little beforehand. I tell them they better bring their A game."


But combines are one thing, film is another.


On film is where Austin's ability really comes out. It's not just the fact that he's deceptively fast for a big man, has great feet and awesome agility, it's also about hustle. Watch Austin on film and you see a motor that won't stop, a trait as important as any physical ability when it comes to the next level and beyond.


"Marvin has a work ethic that is unmatched and he's always striving to be the best," said Coolidge assistant coach Todd Amis. "His speed for his size is rare and sort of physical freak. He's big, he's strong and he's fast."


Austin is athletic enough to play defensive end in college if he preferred, but his ability to maintain balance, read plays and get penetration make him better as a defensive tackle prospect. He has early offers from all the big boys in college football and is currently just taking it all in.




Benn's size and speed makes him a nightmare matchup.

"Miami is really the only big school that hasn't offered me that I've liked," he said. "But I have offers from Notre Dame, USC, Tennessee, Florida State, Maryland, Virginia, Virginia Tech, NC State and a ton of others."


Is there a leader?


"That's tough to say because it's so early," he said. "I'm keeping things open but I've been to Maryland and NC State and I really liked both of them. I have to see Notre Dame though, I hear it's great."


As a junior, Austin made 76 tackles and had eight sacks while facing constant double and triple teams.


Benn surfaced a bit earlier in the process thanks to a highlight tape sent to yours truly by Washington (D.C.) Dunbar head coach Craig Jeffries following his freshman year. The note about Benn was simple and attention grabbing.


"Arrelious is better at the same stage as Vernon. He's the most talented kid I've coached."


Vernon is Maryland tight end Vernon Davis, a physical freak who will likely be a top 15 pick in April's NFL Draft. Davis left a year early after a great three-year career in College Park, clearly ready to raise his level of competition. In high school, Davis was a very good athlete who excelled on offense, defense and returned kicks for Jeffries. Basically a hard act to follow.


"I came in the year after Vernon but I've talked to him," said Benn, nicknamed "Regis" since childhood. "We play alike and I wouldn't mind being compared to him at all. I hear it a lot."


Benn is nearly 6-foot-3 now (he was 6-foot-1 at the NIKE Camp in State College, Pa. last spring) and weighs 215 solid pounds. On defense it's clear he could be an All-America candidate at linebacker if he chose that path. But Benn wants the ball in his hands and, as many are learning, he usually gets what he wants.


"No one has talked about linebacker," he said. "I want to play wide receiver and I'm sure schools know that which is why they don't mention defense. I prefer to make plays on offense."


Benn has a ton of offers as well and lists Notre Dame, Southern Cal, Maryland, Miami (no offer yet), Florida and Illinois when asked about schools. He's looking for a school with a spread offense that throws the ball around.


"I want to play in a passing offense," he said. "That will be a factor for me."


Benn caught 49 passes as a junior for 1,130 yards and 16 scores. He took an unofficial visit to Notre Dame this past January and came away very impressed.


"I like it a lot and the coaches are good," he said. "It's a good academic school and coach Weis has a great offensive reputation."




Austin has specific majors in mind.

There has been some talk about the D.C. Dominators attending the same school, especially since they each list programs like Notre Dame, Southern Cal, Florida State, Tennessee and others amongst their leaders. But while wouldn't mind playing together, it won't be a factor in either decision.


"My decision will be made on what's best for me," said Benn. "It will be about the offense, the quarterback situation and the academic support at schools. I'd like to make my decision before or at the beginning of my senior year to get it out of the way."


Austin is looking for specific majors.


"It's going to be either Sports Management, Business Management or Broadcast & Communications," he said. "That and the job placement ability and grad rates will be important. For football I'd like to have my family be able to see me play and I want to win. They'd travel if I wanted to go someplace far away, but it would be easier if I were at least within driving distance."


In the past, top talent from the D.C. area has either gone under-recruited (Byron Leftwich) or simply didn't make the grade. But coaching is much stronger in the area now and kids are learning early on that without academics it doesn't matter how good you are. The result has been more impact players from the nation's capital, an area long considered a basketball-only zone, and more interest in high school football.


"There are more and more kids making it," said Dunbar head coach Craig Jeffries. "When I see something in a kid early I make sure I talk to him about academics and what he needs to do and I know other coaches are stressing it more and more than perhaps it was stressed during previous years."


For Austin and Benn, in addition to academic achievement, staying humble is important.


"I'm not going to get caught up in it all," said Austin. "I'm a hard worker and I could see kids who stopped pushing once they got all these offers. That's not me. I want to handle this process with class and the right way and keep working."


Benn is also on board.


"This whole thing can change you," he said. "But only if you let it. That's why I want to decide early if I can because I don't want to deal with all the stuff that comes during and after the season. I'm going to represent my area and school well."

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