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Baldwin's Cimador takes hard road

The scouting report on Baldwin offensive tackle Kevin Cimador: A legitimate 6-foot-5 1 / 2 , 305 pounds. … Great feet, good hips, athletic. … Good run blocker, quick first step in pass-block situations.

And, if you listened to the whispers, soft .

The silence that surrounded Cimador's recruitment was deafening. Colleges passed on him despite a reputation as one of the WPIAL's top offensive line prospects, a solid senior season and a strong academic background.

“It's like a virus when it spreads,” Cimador said. “For coaches to take those comments seriously ticked me off. Just look at the film, see for yourself and make your own decision.”

Michigan State, under new coach John L. Smith, did just that. The Spartans set up an official visit and indicated that they are prepared to offer Cimador a scholarship when he tours their East Lansing campus this weekend.

“Things are sounding real good there,” said Cimador, who also is hearing from Northwestern after months of little or no interest. “It was real confusing, gut-wrenching. To drop off the radar … kind of sucked.”

Baldwin coach Don Yannessa, a coaching veteran of 38 years, warned Cimador not to panic before the Feb. 5 signing day. Yannessa knew that, eventually, someone would recognize the same traits he saw in Cimador.

“I could not believe a kid this big — who played well for us — couldn't find anybody to bite on the Division-I level,” said Yannessa, who has coached Division I linemen in Damon Denson (Michigan), Christian Hinish (Georgia Tech) and Al and Anthony Surman (Maryland) at Baldwin.

As the soft whispers spread, schools backed off. Pitt, for one, indicated that it could offer Cimador a scholarship at its summer camp, then passed on him and looked toward Ohio. To his dismay, others did the same.

“I know college football coaches,” Yannessa said. “When a kid comes out of western Pennsylvania and the University of Pittsburgh doesn't offer him when they get that kind of info from another source, that mentality permeates their staff meetings. Other schools ask, Why didn't Pitt offer him?

“All it takes is one individual to plant a seed.”

The seed quickly became a weed.

It cast a shadow over a season where, as the starting left tackle, Cimador opened holes for Quad-A leading rusher Fred Bacco and was named second-team All-Quad East. Not to mention that Cimador boats a 3.3 grade-point average, scored 1,090 on the SAT and doesn't turn 18 until August.

“I think he's a quality kid who will start two or three years for some school,” Yannessa said. “If my expertise counts for anything after 40 years coaching and playing as an offensive lineman in high school and college, the kid is a guarantee — if he's willing to put forth the effort. And I know he is.

“This kid could play on Sundays some day.”

Cimador, to his credit, isn't pointing fingers. He says he didn't send game tapes to colleges as quickly as he should have. He only sent out his highlight tape earlier this month. By then, schools such as Kent State had already handed out its allotted number of scholarships to offensive line recruits.

“I put the blame on myself; I don't think I handled the recruiting process as well as I should have,” said Cimador, who offered the following advice to Class of 2004 prospects: “When coaches want tape, get on it even if you have a million things to do. That's what they're judging you on.”

If everything goes as he hopes at Michigan State, Cimador might be the feel-good story from the Class of 2003. But his recruitment exemplifies the dangers of how rumblings and rumors can affect the future of a top prospect.

And how hard it is to overcome a soft label.

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