January 30, 2008

Borton's Blog: O'Neill seeking some giant adidas

The question had to be asked, in garnering biographical information on Grand Haven's big Dan O'Neill. Yet the 6-8, 300-pound road grader reacted to it like he'd been asked if he feared an impending bout with anorexia.

Who is your favorite Michigan athlete?

The mock shock at the other end of the phone line jumped through immediately.

"Is that even a question?" he retorted. "I want to step into the enormous shoes of the great Jake Long."

Well, that's like asking Rich Rodriguez to step into the shoes of the last West Virginia coaching import to Michigan, but O'Neill said it with both awe and deep respect. He knows that getting fitted for Longboats is a daunting task for anyone.

He doesn't mind taking it slowly.

"Everybody starts from scratch," O'Neill noted. "If they're needing me to come in and start right away, I'll definitely do it. My goal is to redshirt a year, get adjusted to the college tempo, bulk up a little bit, get stronger, get faster, and learn the offense. That's my goal. That's what I want to do."

Eventually, he wants to do to college defensive ends and linebackers what he did to their prep counterparts. That's plenty, according to Grand Haven coach Mike Farley.

"He's just so dominating," Farley said. "He's a dominating pass blocker. He's just so big, and he moves his feet, and he's great with his hands, in hand-to-hand combat. He hasn't given up a sack in the two years here.

"And boy, when you ask him to run block and he down blocks on a down lineman or on a linebacker, he absolutely caves those kids in. Probably the scariest thing is when we have him pull. He pulls around and wraps through and comes out on a linebacker - it's devastating. He does so many things well, for a 6-8, 300-pound kid."

Rivals.com's No. 10 prep offensive tackle in the country has kept his eyes on Ann Arbor for a long time, since he was six years old and posing for pictures in a Tshimanga Biakabutuka jersey.

A coaching staff change at Michigan diverted his path to the same degree a 180-pound defensive lineman would.

"He's been true to Michigan for almost one year," Farley said. "He verbally committed on national signing day last year, and he's never wavered. He's been a big fan of Michigan for a long time, and when he verbally committed, he said he was a Michigan Man. He never wavered one bit."

Now the waiting is nearly over, and O'Neill is marking the days on his calendar.

"I can't even put into words how excited I am," he said. "I've got a countdown on the days until signing day. Every day that it's getting closer, I'm getting more and more excited and finding out more and more about the program. It's only making me more excited."

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