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January 4, 2011

5-stars Kouandjio and Clowney get after it

Keith Niebuhr
Rivals.com Football Recruiting

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Cyrus Kouandjio is a five-star offensive lineman with a frame as impressive as his offer list. But when practice began at this week's Under Armour All-American Game, he admittedly felt a little out of place.

Of course, there's a pretty good explanation for why.


Throughout his high school career, Kouandjio played right tackle. This week, he's on the left side of the line, which is no small, or simple, move to make. Especially in such a short period of time and against top-notch competition.

"When I came here, I'd never played on the left side," Kouandjio said. "So it was kind of awkward the first day (of practice). I had to work on a couple things and I finally got it down. The coaches say I got it down real quickly."

The biggest challenges that came with the switch?

"Spacing, footwork -- everything, really," Kouandjio confessed. "It was kind of weird."

A native of Hyattsville, Md., Kouandjio, the country's No. 10 overall prospect and No. 2 offensive line recruit, is among the most heralded uncommitted players remaining in the Class of 2011. And judging by his comments after Tuesday's practice, the last tuneup before Wednesday night's game in St. Petersburg, he still has a way to go before a decision about his future destination is announced.

Thus far, Kouandjio has been only to Alabama and New Mexico. He's hoping to also visit Auburn, Iowa and USC, though trip dates have not yet been set.

Is there a leader?

"I can't really say because I haven't been to all of them," Kouandjio said.

According to Kouandjio, his pick will come from the group of aforementioned programs. At this point, he doesn't feel like letting anyone else in the race, though schools such as Miami have tried to get him to change his mind.

"I've been in the recruiting process for a long time," Kouandjio said. "I'm kind of worn out. I don't want to jump back into it. I'm just going to go with the schools I have right now. I'm happy; they've all got good stuff."

More than likely, Kouandjio will have a signing day announcement.

In Lake Buena Vista, getting used to playing left tackle, a spot at which he very well could end up in college, isn't his only challenge. There's also the matter of facing defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, the country's No. 1 prospect and the person arguably having the best week of practice. The two five-star recruits have gone head to head quite a bit.

"We've pretty much went back and forth throughout the whole practice -- every single practice," Kouandjio said. "I won some, I lost some. And we both helped each other out. He's one of those guys you talk to. He's a real laid-back, cool guy. We have a good relationship. We hang out. We hung out last night so it's pretty much cool."

Facing Clowney, a physical freak and relentless pass rusher, has been difficult to say the least. But Kouandjio would like to think Clowney has a similar challenge by lining up against him.

"We've pretty much fed on each other all week.," Kouandjio said. "He teaches me some things; I teach him some things. He's more a quick guy. He brings a lot of momentum."

Keeping Clowney out of the backfield and away from the quarterback has been next to impossible for many offensive linemen this week. But Kouandjio not only has fared better than most, but on one play in particular Monday during 11-on-11 action he used perfect footwork combined with great upper-body strength to put Clowney in the dirt.

Although he remembered the play well the following day, Kouandjio didn't want to talk much about it out of respect for his friend.

"I'm not going to put (Clowney) out like that," he said.

That said, one could tell Kouandjio was pleased with the result of that memorable takedown.

When it was pointed out that he must have done something right on the play, Kouandjio smiled, then replied, "I guess."


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