Big fish in any pond

Friday, February 9, 2007

Miles Stroter was at one time being looked at by some of the nation's premier Division I-A football programs before signing with Division I-AA Southeast Missouri State on Wednesday.

It is not clear how many of those major universities actually offered Stroter a scholarship -- although an internet report said Illinois offered him one last February -- but his high school coach is certain of one thing: Southeast got itself a steal in the massive offensive lineman from Chicago.

"They got an unusual kid in an unusual situation," said Lonnie Williams, the football coach at King High School. "They got themselves a tremendous football player and a great kid."

Of the 29 signings Southeast announced on Wednesday -- the first day of the national letter of intent period -- probably none was more intriguing than Stroter, who is listed as standing 6 feet, 6 inches and weighing 360 pounds.

At one time, Stroter was ranked by ESPN.com as the nation's 16th-best offensive guard. Following his junior season, he was being recruited by the likes of Notre Dame, Miami, Michigan, Iowa and Illinois, among others.

Williams, while not saying exactly which Division I-A schools Stroter could have signed with, said there were plenty opportunities for him to play at a major program.

According to Williams, Stroter became somewhat disenchanted with the entire big-time recruiting process.

"He had a lot of offers, but they wanted him to commit to them real early. He didn't want to do that, so then they go recruit other players," Williams said. "He had opportunities, but these guys [the bigger programs] have timelines.

"He was also being recruited by some schools that had coaching changes. He decided he didn't want to mess with all that. He kind of got fed up with the whole situation."

Added Williams: "It's not the first time I've had guys go to mid-level schools. Sometimes it's better to be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a big pond."

Noted recruiting expect Tom Lemming, in a May 16, 2006 recruiting article, wrote of Stroter: "This guy is a load ... a straight-ahead blocker, a great run blocker with tremendous girth ... wide base and is really tough to come after.

"He also got a 29 on his ACT, which is a benefit. Illinois has the lead for him over Notre Dame, Miami, Iowa and Michigan."

Stroter's stock apparently began to drop a bit during the summer prior to his senior season, when he attended various camps at which major programs do much of their evaluations.

That is perhaps reflected in the Rivals.com listing of the top 30 high school seniors in Illinois that was updated late last month. Stroter was not included.

Southeast coach Tony Samuel said he doesn't really know how all the recruiting rankings are determined.

All Samuel knows is that he's happy Stroter will be playing for the Redhawks.

"He's a giant, a big, strong kid, and he's only 17 years old. He has a lot of work to do, but he's a hard worker," Samuel said. "He has real potential. He was a good get for us."

Williams feels the same way, and he's happy Stroter landed at Southeast.

"I'm very pleased, and so is Miles," Williams said. "He really liked the school and the coaching staff. I think they have a great coaching staff."

"I told Miles that kids can play on all levels and be recognized. If you can play, they'll find you."

Asked if he believes Stroter will have a chance to play for the Redhawks as a freshman, Williams laughed.

"I definitely think he will," Williams said. "Who's going to stop him?"

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