Alex Norman: 2012 Texas Recruiting Spotlight

Texas commit Alex Norman looks like a different person after losing more than 50 pounds since his freshman year (Photo courtesy of Under Armour).

Vitals

Name: Alex Norman

Position: Defensive tackle

Height: 6-3

Weight: 280

Speed: N/A

High School: Dallas Bishop Dunne

Rating (Rivals): Three out of five (5.7)

Offers

  • Texas (committed 2/12/2011)

Overview/recruitment

Every year, there's a at least one player who emerges out of obscurity to receive an early Texas offer. In the 2012 class, one of those players was Alex Norman, the Dallas-area defensive tackle who reshaped his body over the course of his high school career to earn his Texas offer.

A lifelong Longhorn fan who was drawing heavy interest from Oklahoma in the days before his commitment, the grandson of former Dallas Cowboy tight end Pettis Norman began his high school career as a 6-1, 330-pounder who was a non-factor on the field because of his weight.

Despite Norman's desire to eventually play college football at Texas, he was far from seriously registering on the recruiting radar due to his conditioning. A fateful conversation with his grandfather changed the direction of his life and put Norman in a position to unlock his physical potential:

His weight was out of proportion. So we talked about the discipline of eating. Then I told him he had to get himself into good shape and train hard. He had to develop quickness. So I took them through those steps. He got on the program himself, lost all that weight and the skills just began to come out.

Norman had a similar conversation with his coach, changed his diet and his work habits, and has now lost more than 50 pounds since his freshman year, emerging as one of the top defensive tackle prospects in the state and earn an invitation to the Under Armour All-American game.

An attendee of the first Texas Junior Day, Norman was also one of the first commitments of the 2012 class.

Norman on why he committed early ($):

The facilities, the way I feel on the field when I'm there. When I went to the camp, I went to the practice fields and the main field. It just felt good. My family went there, they said they loved it. The academics are top notch, the football program, everything is top notch.

Instant analysis following his commitment:

One of the most exciting aspects of recruiting season is just how quickly an unknown can go from not being on the radar to an integral piece of a recruiting class. Such a stories is that of Bishop Dunne DT Alex Norman. In basically three days, Norman went from a prospect no Texas fan had heard about to a Longhorn commit and the linchpin of future recruiting efforts not only at the defensive tackle position, but also along the entire line.

The involvement between Norman and Texas runs much deeper than merely three days, however. The Longhorn coaching staff was aware of Norman even when he was a 330-pound freshman. Norman's mother attended Texas, so selling Norman on the program was never going to be difficult. The Longhorns have a lot of Cowboy connections with Jackson Jeffcoat on the roster and Tre' Newton will around the program -- both of them are progeny of former Cowboys and Norman is, too, as his grandfather, Pettis Norman, was a tight end for Dallas.

Thought to be a lock before coming to Austin, it was a surprise that Norman came down on Saturday. It was much less of a surprise that he decided to commit, with his pledge breaking in the evening.

The second defensive commit of the class, Norman is an extremely important get for the 2012 Texas class. First, Norman is at a need position at defensive tackle, a need magnified by Malcolm Brown looking like a Texas A&M lean. Second, Texas only needs one or two more defensive tackles at this point, meaning the coaching staff can afford to be patient with Brown, Javonte Magee and take more time evaluating the second tier of Paul Boyette, Zorell Ezell, and Anthony Smith.

Scouting Report

Alex Norman (senior highlights) (via 247SportsStudio)

ESPN evaluation ($):

It seems with Norman that when you go against this kid you better have a good pre-game meal and you better buckle your chin strap good and tight because he is going to bring all he has and is going to battle you. He has good size and while his listed weight may not be eye-popping he looks on film to have a fairly thick lower body and he should be able to add some more size with time in a college weight program. Overall though, he seems to have good size for play in the trenches. He is an explosive kid that is capable of quickly getting off on the snap of the ball. He is a very physical player at the point of attack. He quickly explodes out of his stance with good pad level. He displays the ability to consistently shoot his hands, get under a blocker's pads, generate good power from his lower body, win the leverage battle, and stand up and knock back blockers. He is quick and violent when engaging a blocker and flashes the ability to quickly shed. He moves well laterally in a short-area and at times can quickly side-step and avoid blockers to get penetration. His range is somewhat limited and he is at his best between the tackles, but he does show good hustle for a big man and will work to get to the ball. He can be tough against the run. As a pass rusher he can get some initial push with a bull rush and displays the ability to work to half-a-man and be able to come off and get some pressure. It does seem though his strength will be playing the run. Norman is an easy kid to like. He plays hard and is physical.

Alex Norman Highlights (via 247SportsStudio)

Instant scouting report:

When Norman surfaced on the radar, the question wasn't about whether he was willing to commit -- that was clear. The question was about whether he was good enough. Unfortunately, Norman was also under the radar of the recruiting services, so no film was available when news broke of his invite on Wednesday. Even though both Rivals and 247 scrambled to get over to Bishop Dunne and pick up his film, it wasn't until Friday that his film finally surfaced online.

During those 48 hours in between, recruitniks desperate to decide whether or not Norman was worthy of an offer had to scour to interwebs for any film on Norman. Unfortunately, the only film available ended up being highlights from Norman's teammates in 2009. Fortunately, Norman played both ways for that team, as did each of the three prospects with highlights.

On the downside, it's difficult to properly evaluate a player based on highlights for other prospects. In the plays available, Norman looked overweight, slow, and lacked a high-level motor, clearly taking plays off. Playing both ways, it's easy to take some plays off and not particularly surprising. The biggest concern though was his physical conditioning and overall movement -- kid looked heavy on his feet and only rarely flashed. A lot of times, Norman didn't come off the ball hard and gave up ground easily at times on both sides of the ball by not having a strong enough base. Most of the aforementioned flashes came on the offensive side of the ball, where he was consistently able to dominate opponents in the running game.

Flash forward to Friday. After the services stopped by Dunne, a couple things became apparent. The first was that Norman was 330 pounds as a freshman. Then 300 as a sophomore. Now, the first-team All-State TAPPS selection is a svelte 275 pounds and the difference is apparent. This gem from the drunken nomad sums it up:

Basically he's a Benjamin Button version of Taylor Bible.

In fact, Dunne's coach is confident enough about Dunne's overall athleticism that he speculated Norman could play defensive end in college. While that's certainly a stretch unless Norman continues to lose weight, it is conceivable that he could play some five tech (3-4 DE).

As for concerns about Norman gaining back that weight again, two words: Bennie Wylie. Still not convinced? Gipsy again:

I'm not buying that a kid that works that hard at that young of an age to get a scholarship is going to stop working hard when NFL millions are within reach. Hell, he might work harder. And yes, the NFL is a real possibility if you look at his bloodlines. His Grandfather is former Cowboy Tight End Pettis Norman. Davey O'Brien will come along later to tell us who that is. To further the point, this kid has seen the fruits of his labor materialize in the form of attention from programs like Texas and OU. Hell, if he picked OU, it might be to enjoy the vomit and sardine shakes that Jerry Shmidt offers to make him thrice daily. This isn't going to be the Oprah weight fluctuation scenario, but if the kid is Oprah, his version of Gayle will be Benny Wylie.

The second revelation was his film.

Wow. After transforming his body, Norman transformed himself into a player. Quick of the ball and with an advanced ability to time snap counts to improve his ability to beat opposing offensive linemen, Norman also showed some understanding of technique and pad level. If there's a criticism, it's that Norman can be a drag-down tackler at times, raising questions about his ability to really sink his hips and show off that natural flexibility. All in all, though, it's a minor concern.

The good news is that he makes a serious punch from his thick lower body and with his hands. Combine that with his explosiveness and that's a seriously dangerous combination for opposing linemen. At the college level. As a sophomore, Norman didn't even look close to a guy like Quincy Russell in terms of athleticism. Now? Now Norman looks every bit on Rusell's level.

His competition level is coming up a lot and it's not the highest, but the key point is that Norman's athleticism and ability to move so much better than he was able to when carrying more weight completely outweighs concerns about competition because those attributes aren't impacted by competition. Magnified by poor competition, perhaps, but there none the less.

Despite playing both ways at Bishop Dunne, it's remarkable just how explosive Norman looked in his final two years in high school, especially compared to his early film. Defensively, Norman showed an ability to come hard off the ball with low pad level and explosiveness, often overwhelming opposing interior linemen almost instantly.

It remains to be seen how well Norman will be able to hold up at the point of attack and will surely need to get stronger in college, as with most defensive linemen. Early in his career, he may be at this best in pass-rushing situations where he can simply pin his ears back and go after the quarterback. To do so effectively in college, he'll have to improve his technique, as he is still relatively raw in that area, especially compared to someone like Desmond Jackson, who entered college with a go-to swim move that is extremely difficult to stop.

Since Norman blew up so many plays so quickly, it's hard to get a feel for his lateral quickness and pursuit ability based on film, though the evaluation from ESPN seems to indicate that even if those areas aren't particularly strengths for Norman, they are at least not weaknesses.

Unfortunately, Norman suffered a fractured foot that kept him from practicing or playing in the Under Armour game, which would have been an important evaluation tool to measure him against the type of athletes that he didn't have a chance to go against in high school.

In terms of his rankings, there's some discrepancy in how the services see the Bishop Dunne tackle. Rivals has him as a three-star prospect, as does Scout, while 247Sports and ESPN give him four, with the latter ranking him as a top-10 defensive tackle in the country and top-100 national prospect. As usual, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle, where concerns about Norman's transition to college seek an equilibrium with the significant amount of talent he flashed.

Of the four defensive tackles in the class, Norman has more long-term upside than Paul Boyette and Brandon Moore because of his quickness advantage over those two, but less than star prospect Malcom Brown. However, since Norman will likely need to some to adjust to the jump in competition, he's probably the least likely of the four to contribute early.

Whatever happens with Norman at Texas, it's clear from his ability to reshape his body in high school that he is already successful and has put himself in a position to lead a much healthier and productive life than the one he was headed towards as a 330-pound freshman.

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