Getting to know Tennessee's class of 2007: No. 24, DT Donald Langley

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Presenting No. 24 in Tennessee’s class of 2007, defensive tackle Donald Langley.

A Creative Scheme

Honk if you’ve ever heard of a football player staying in high school for a fifth year for the express purpose of improving his resume for college. Yeah, me neither. But that’s exactly what defensive tackle Donald Langley did.

Credit Langley for thinking outside of the box, because it worked. By returning to Seneca Valley High School in Germantown, Maryland as a fifth-year senior, Langley went from a middle-of-the-pack three-star prospect to a highly sought-after recruit with a diploma in one hand and over 40 scholarship offers in the other. And my, there were a lot of hyphens in that sentence, weren’t there?

Anyway, as strange as it sounds, Langley sought and received the NCAA Clearinghouse’s stamp of approval (not to be confused with its stamp of disapproval, which, unfortunately, is much more common) on his crazy scheme. The approved plan not only increased his recruiting stock but also inured to Tennessee's benefit, as it enabled him to enroll mid-term and participate in spring practice.

But I’ve gotten ahead of myself.

I'll Take One More Season for $500, Please Alex

I can’t really find any hard data, but several stories imply that Langley wasn’t quite ready for the big time after his fourth year of high school. When he decided to return for another football season, though, he applied himself to the task of improving his body, his play, his grades, and, consequently, his college prospects. On September 16, 2006, he took his first official visit to Tennessee and came away singing its praises (as well as the word to Rocky Top, I’m guessing):

It was great. It is an amazing place, and I had a blast. Tennessee was a hundred times better than I ever expected it to be. I thought I was going to see a football game and what I saw was a way of life.

The atmosphere in and around the game was louder and more intense than anything I ever imagined. I have been to games at Maryland and it is not comparable.

Okay, so he liked Tennessee, but he decided to take his other four official visits to Michigan State, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and Penn State, and by the time November rolled around, Langley had 42 offers. Still, when he committed to Tennessee on November 6,  he said that the decision had been easy. "Tennessee had the extra something the others didn’t have," he said. "Everywhere I went, I just kept comparing it to Tennessee. They have one of the biggest stadiums in the country. They even had more than 100,000 for a game like Marshall. And in Knoxville, football is king."

Wavering, for $1,000, Please

Making the decision may have been easy, but keeping the commitment proved to be a bit more difficult. Langley had always wanted to play for Penn State. In early December, due to that fondness for the Nittany Lions, the fact that his parents had always wanted him to attend PSU, and some unspecified negative recruiting, Langley was having second thoughts. Enter Tennessee assistant coach Larry Slade, who stilled the buyer’s remorse during a "long late night conversation" with Langley.  After that session, Langley re-affirmed his commitment. "I gave Tennessee my word," he later said. "I love it there."

Numbers and Honors, for $1,400

Okay, so I’ve made him out to be some 98-pound weakling prior to his final year in high school, but that’s not exactly fair. As a junior, Langley recorded 48 tackles, 32 of which were unassisted and six of which were for a loss. He also had four sacks, and, on the offensive side of the ball, 55 pancake blocks. He was named all-county, all-league, all-Journal, all-Gazette, all-metro, all-state, and all-solar-system. Just checkign to see if you’re still reading.

His senior season, Langley had 63 tackles, five sacks, and one interception. After being named a consensus All-State defensive lineman, he was invited to play in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl, also known as the Worst-Named of Many Badly-Named All-Star games.

Rivals rates Langley four stars and says that he is the nation’s 12th best defensive tackle. Scout gives him three stars and says he’s the 53rd best DT in the nation. (Hmm. Could this explain why Rivals is his favorite web site?) Tennessee’s official site says that ESPN has Langley rated as the 85th best defensive tackle in the nation, and PrepStar, which apparently recognizes the futility of all attempts to rank players simply says he’s an All-American. Woot for PrepStar.

Langley was productive as both a defensive tackle and an offensive tackle in high school. He moves his feet well and knows how to use his hands to get off blocks. His size (6’2", 292) allows him to get great pad leverage against generally taller offensive tackles and guards, and more than one article describes him as having an excellent "motor."

And confident? Uh, yeah.:

On the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl:

It went exactly how I though it would. I completely dominated. I showed them what I was all about during the one-on-one drills. I told them I was going to come over here and show them that speed kills and that is what I did. My whole mission here was to come and dominate. That is what I am doing right now. That coaches know me by first name now, so that tells you that they know who I am. I have been showing the offensive linemen why I am one of the top players in the country.

* * * * *

They’re going to see I’m legit and there are no arguments about me being one of the top defensive tackles in the country. They’re going to see how we do it in Maryland. They’re going to also see that not all defensive tackles are big guys that just stuff and clog the hole. They’re going to see how speed kills the opponent 10 out of 10 times. Speed is what my main strength is, and they’re going to see me flying to the football and how I can close on it.

On his high school career:

I had an amazing year. I just have that football moxie. When I step on the field I know the guy across from me is going to get dominated. I’ll kill you with my speed and if you stop that I’ll kill you with my bull rush.

On Tennessee’s 2007 recruiting class:

Thirty-two commits, something like that, it’s just a great feeling to know you’re one of the top three best-ever classes to come out of this school. All you can see is national championship written all over this class, really.

On what he expects from his career as a Volunteer:

Tennessee is going to get an All-American. I am going to go in there early, play early, and become an All-American. I am not cocky, but I am confident and I am going to be a freshman All-American next year. You can quote me on that.

Consider yourself quoted, Mr. Langley.

Giving Langley the benefit of the doubt and calling him confident rather than cocky, that’s a good thing, I think. While there are higher-rated defensive line prospects in Tennessee’s 2007 class, Langley is trending upward, and he is the only one that will have been in the program for nine months when the season kicks off in September. Coach Fulmer has identified Langley as one of five mid-term enrollees that has pulled away from the pack. "He doesn’t know what he’s doing yet but he’s not afraid," Fulmer said. "I like that."

Me, too. Donald Langley, welcome to Tennessee.

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