I coached Catlin Alford when he was a freshmen at Adairsville HS (GA) and it was obvious that there was something different.
We asked him to do a lot that year and he never once complained. He was pretty productive on the field, as well, where he started at Defensive End. Offensively, he played Tight End, and (in a bit of foreshadowing) he put some time in on the offensive line, too.
He has obviously put on a good bit of weight, but it doesn't appear to have hindered him, and he has maintained the one thing that has separated him all along from his peers: his feet.
Below is a detailed look at the strengths and weaknesses of one of the newest Tech commits.
Feet--has always had quick feet and they are always under his body. Takes a quick, measured first step that often creates the mismatch--working around OL and gaining leverage on DL. Is also a standout basketball player and quickness and fluidity of movement are both apparent on the court. GT will ask Alford to escape to the 2nd level and his ability to maneuver through traffic, catch and cut/cut-off LBs and continue on the the 3rd level will hinge on his having good feet.
Hands--catches everything thrown near him (TE), and basketball has helped to keep his hands soft. He will be an OL at Tech, and many will question the relevance of hands. The connection is that Alford will have to possess quick hands in order to gain good initial placement (fit) on both run blocks and pass sets.
Body Control and Athleticism--Coach Johnson and Company's scheme won't require Alford (and others) to create a new LOS or get a ton of movement on the DL, at least not on a consistent basis. What he will have to do for the majority of the offensive snaps is move...a lot. He and his line-mates will have to double team and chip, escape to 'backers at the 2nd level and DBs at the 3rd level, be agile enough to work through a crowded box, yet still be able to take a good enough cut-off angle to get to the backside pursuit defenders. He should have no problems with this at all.
Intelligence--from his freshman year on, Alford has been an exceptional student. He has been conscientious and has always seemed to understand the big picture--that every grade matters and every class counts. He has enough self-discipline to survive the rigors of academia on The Flats.
Physicality--while he is certainly a gifted athlete, Alford's mindset will have to change into that of a grunt. OL need to relish contact and Alford hasn't always been a contact seeker. He isn't one to shy away from it, and the scheme at Tech will certainly help, but he must be willing to immerse himself 100% in the sub-culture of the OL.
The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
Candor might not be appreciated here, so I'll leave it at this: Alford and teammate Vic Beasley have a chance to do something special, and they need to--Period.
Alford's ability to excel as a DL is precisely what is going to allow him to thrive as an OL in the Yellow Jacket's scheme. His skill set is perfect for what the Jackets are doing on offense, plus he has the intellect and football IQ to play at a high level. The table is set and the opportunity is there for Alford to be a very good football player for four or five years, and he will graduate from one of the finest institutions in the world.