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Whitaker hopes to follow in ex-teammates footsteps

Kevin Gorman
| Monday, July 9, 2001

Bob Whitaker has been considered by some in high school football circles to possess the potential to become Mt. Lebanon's most dominant lineman since Bob Schilken played for the Blue Devils in the early 1980s.

Whitaker, however, would be content with living up to Lebo's more recent string of Division I linemen. He has spent the past two seasons battling Justin Geisinger, Chris Hathy and Joel Yakovac every day in practice.

'It helped me a lot,' Whitaker said. 'I learned from them leadership and how to take over a game. It was a fight every practice. It was a challenge.'

Whitaker, a 6-foot-6, 305-pound right tackle, is next in line to assume the title of Mt. Lebanon's star lineman. Geisinger is at Vanderbilt, Hathy is headed to Boston College and Yakovac to Cincinnati. All three were selected to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Terrific 25 and the Big 33 Classic.

'It seems like we're in that mold right now,' said Mt. Lebanon coach Chris Haering, who credits Blue Devils offensive line coach Tom Stilley for the succession of D-I linemen. 'If it continues, you won't hear any arguments from me. We've got some kids with some size and, more important, who are passing down the work ethic. We're proud of what our guys have done.'

Whitaker could go down as the most highly recruited of the group. He already has scholarship offers from Boston College, Vanderbilt and defending BCS champion Oklahoma. Whitaker also said he's always been a fan of Michigan.

This could be a vital week for Pitt if it wants to land Whitaker. The Blue Devils are attending a five-day camp at Edinboro, and Panthers line coaches Bob Junko and Tom Freeman will get to work extensively with Whitaker. They can evaluate him in person, and try to win him over with their charms.

'If Pitt wants to get in the hunt, certainly they're right in his own backyard,' Haering said. 'But Bob's his own man. He's got some nice offers and they're going to be hard to beat.'

Whitaker said Oklahoma offered on May 23, shortly after Sooners tight ends coach Jonathan Hayes visited Mt. Lebanon. It doesn't hurt that Hayes is a South Fayette graduate who played tight end for the Steelers from 1994-96 or that Oklahoma is coming off an undefeated season and national championship.

'They do most of their recruiting in Texas and Oklahoma, but if they get a lead on a kid they think they want, they'll go after him,' Haering said of the Sooners. 'We hadn't seen them come through this area. That's big-time right there. It doesn't get any better than Oklahoma football.'

What makes Whitaker so attractive, aside from his size, is his run-blocking ability. Whitaker is powerful - he bench-presses 315 pounds - and Yakovac said Whitaker 'will latch on, get those paws on you and punish you.'

The only drawbacks are his speed (he runs the 40-yard dash in 5.5 seconds) and his academic standing (he carries a 2.25 grade-point average and scored 910 on the SAT, which is close to meeting NCAA freshman eligibility standards).

'Bob's kind of the prototype when it comes to offensive tackle,' said Haering, a history teacher who has worked with Whitaker on his studies. 'He's got tremendous feet for a big man. He gets into you and you can't shake him. He's hard to beat off the edge. That's more important than a '40' time.'

It certainly hasn't scared off the best of college football. Whitaker intends to make an unofficial visit to Oklahoma in the next few weeks.

'They're my top college right now,' Whitaker said. 'If I like it down there, I might go there. I'm going to keep all my options open, but I want to commit before the season starts.'

Perhaps Sooner rather than later.

Kevin Gorman's Recruiting2Day column appears Tuesdays in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. His e-mail address is kgorman@tribweb.com .

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