By John Davis, Oxford Citizen
For Alex Givens, choosing Ole Miss felt like he was extending his family from his Nashville home to Oxford.
The 6-foot-6, 293-pound Givens became the most recent verbal pledge for the 2015 signing class, choosing the Rebels over Vanderbilt Thursday morning at a ceremony held at his high school, Nashville Christian.
Two days earlier Memphis University School’s Drew Richmond gave the Rebels a much-needed verbal pledge at offensive tackle, and Givens only upped the bounty with his commitment.
“Ole Miss accepted my family from the get-go,” Givens said. “They accepted my mom’s friends, my coaches, my friends, they just had a really good mentality with that. Also, I liked Ole Miss’ academic center. I feel strongly about theirs and that helped a lot, too.”
In the end, Givens said the only other school really in play to get his signature in February was Vanderbilt. Tennessee, Ohio State, Nebraska and Miami also showed a lot of interest, but Givens eliminated them from consideration as his recruitment continued.
Givens said that he loved all the coaches at Ole Miss, including his new line coach, Matt Luke.
“I feel like Coach Luke is a guy I can talk to about anything and somebody who will always be there for me,” Givens said. “I have a lot of trust in him.”
Jeff Brothers, Givens’ coach at Nashville Christian, said his standout tackle is a real finisher.
“He is a unique talent, given his length and his size and just the way his body is put together,” Brothers said. “He is an offensive tackle for the ages, really. He is a devastating blocker and more than just what you see on the film is what he does everyday at practice. It’s what he does in the weight room, the film room. He finishes everything, and he plays the way he practices if you can believe it. By the time we get to Friday night, it’s the fifth time that week that we see that from him.”
Givens said it was all about the bend, and that he did like to finish blocks.
“That’s just how I play,” he said adding that, if possible, he would like to play right away at Ole Miss. “Playing right away doesn’t always happen, so I’m going to work as hard as I can. If I get redshirted, that’s fine with me. Either way is fine with me, but if I get a chance to get in there and play right away and help Ole Miss, that would be great.”
Some offensive linemen look like they are stuck in sand before they can get started, but not Givens, who was a quarterback in middle school, Brothers said.
“He’s also been a basketball player all of his life, so he moves very, very well for someone his size, or someone half his size,” said Brothers, who added his tackle reminded of a professional wrestler because of his lean build.
“He is a tremendous athlete. He loves to get out in space and block second-level defenders. At the same time, when he goes up against a guy inside that requires some physical confrontation, he is a dominant blocker at the point of attack. He does have long arms, big hands and a really strong lower body. Once he locks on, he is pretty hard to beat.”
Despite his immense size, 88 pancake blocks in 2013, and 36 more already this season, Givens was only rated as a three-star prospect by recruiting analysts. Nashville Christian is a Class 1A school and Brothers felt that had something to do with where he was ranked.
“We’re a small school and we’ve kind of just come on to the scene the last couple of years, and we don’t have a track record for a lot of big-time signees,” Brothers said. “But if he is at a different school with a little more tradition of college prospects, then he would be a five-star guy all the way. I don’t like the star system anyway because it doesn’t take that kind of thing into affect. We’ve traveled to Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Ohio State, Tennessee and when we walk into those practices, he is no different looking than the guys that have been starting there in terms of his physical appearance and style of play.”
Givens is rated as the No. 23 overall prospect in the state of Tennessee for 2015. He is also the Rebels’ 11th verbal pledge for the class.