June 05, 2012

At 6-foot-7 and 285 pounds, Lemont (Ill.) High senior Ethan Pocic might be best known for his run-blocking abilities. The No. 3 offensive lineman in the class of 2013, according to Rivals.com, the Chicago native will be LSU's top-rated player at the position after committing to the Tigers last Tuesday.

"Pretty much, ground and pound's my style," the 17-year-old Pocic said. Spoken like a true lineman, the four-star offensive tackle said he enjoys, "just hittin' people."

After boasting the NCAA's 22nd-ranked rushing attack in 2011, LSU locked up a verbal commitment from the blue-chipper, bolstering an offensive line that amassed 2,836 rushing yards last season. It was precisely the Tigers' concentration on the ground game -- and their offensive line, in particular -- which initially put LSU's offer a step above those of other SEC powerhouses, including Alabama, Auburn, and Florida. "They run the ball so much -- it was a perfect fit for me," said Pocic.

Another factor might have helped to seal the deal. During the recruiting process, Pocic and his family felt a natural connection with LSU coach Les Miles. Despite the Mad Hatter's fame, Miles "seemed very down to earth," according to Gary Pocic, Ethan's father. "He talked to myself, and my wife, and Ethan like we'd been friends for years," Gary said.

After his visit, Ethan immediately knew he belonged with the Tigers. His decision also reinforced something else: He wanted to make the most of his senior season at Lemont.

Ethan still has one year left before he moves to Baton Rouge, La. That means one more shot at a state championship, something the Indians came tantalizingly close to in 2011. Pocic anchored a rushing attack that racked up 3,086 rushing yards and made a state Class 6A semifinal run. Lemont lost a 34-31 double overtime thriller to Richwoods (Ill.) High, a result they'll look to avenge this time around.

And according to Lemont head coach Eric Michaelsen, Pocic's footwork could make him even more valuable in the trenches in 2012: "Sometimes you get big kids that aren't able to the things athletically that he's able to do," Michaelsen said. "Even the [Lemont] basketball coaches were after him -- that's how good an athlete he is."

Michaelsen, who also heads up the offensive line, first recognized Pocic's potential after watching him flatten defenders as a sophomore. "When you see him driving somebody 10 yards downfield, that's when you say, 'Hey, we got something special," Michaelsen said. Pocic's talents even earned him enough respect to be elected team captain as a junior, a rarity in Lemont's well-established program.

While his physical attributes are clearly impressive, Pocic is also willing to assist his team in other ways. "He cares enough to help out the younger kids with their technique -- the kids that aren't as talented as he is," Michaelsen said. Michaelsen cites that kind of confidence and leadership as traits that will help distinguish him at the next level.

There's one other element that could help Pocic: He has a Division-I football blueprint to follow. Graham Pocic, Ethan's older brother, is a two-year starter on the offensive line at Illinois. He used to mentor his younger sibling -- sort of. "Me and my buddies used to pick on him," Graham, 22, said.

According to their father, the two have been wrestling since they were kids. The brotherly shenanigans continue even now, as gargantuan linemen who collectively weigh close to 600 pounds. This spring, following some trash talk, the two went at it on the living room floor.

"They'll just start jaw-jacking, and then a little knock, or light shove," Gary said. "Then one thing will lead to another, and before you know it, you've got the floor joists pounding."

Besides the roughhousing, however, Graham helped Ethan with his football proficiency. He demonstrated blocking techniques and other football skills, a mentorship that has benefited Ethan since he was a fourth grader.

"He's a goofy kid, but he's gotten tougher as he's gotten older," Graham said. "You won't find a harder worker at the high school level."

A first team-all state selection, Pocic is a highly touted prospect. He has dreams of becoming an SEC stalwart, starring in the nation's undisputed power conference. His large frame even provides him with significant upside and room to bulk up when he arrives in Baton Rouge.

That last part should be easy -- Ethan likes Cajun food.

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