6-10 tackle not typical big lineman

By: Bob Holt
Published: Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Dan Skipper signed with Arkansas in February.
Photo by The Denver Post
Dan Skipper signed with Arkansas in February.

FAYETTEVILLE - Offensive linemen Austin Beck, Brey Cook and Chris Stringer were Arkansas’ tallest players last season at 6-7. Now the trio is looking up at freshman Dan Skipper.

"Dan will be the tallest guy I've coached," said Arkansas offensive line coach Sam Pittman, who is going into his 28th season, including 21 on the college level. "I've coached guys before that were 6-8, but I think he's every bit of 6-10."

Skipper, an offensive tackle from Ralston Valley High School in Arvada, Colo., 7 miles northwest of Denver, is listed at 6-10 on Arkansas’ roster. That makes him the tallest Razorback in at least the past several years, surpassing Matt Hall (6-9) and Brett Shockley (6-8), who also were tackles.

“The thing about Dan is, he’s a big-time athlete who just happens to be tall,” Pittman said. ‘We’re not concerned about his pad level at all. He’s got great hip flexibility.”

Skipper At a Glance

CLASS Freshman

HEIGHT/WEIGHT 6-10, 310 pounds

POSITION Offensive tackle

HOMETOWN Arvada, Colo.

HIGH SCHOOL Ralston Valley

NOTEWORTHY Committed to Tennessee last summer, but reopened his recruiting after the coaching staff was fired - including Arkansas offensive lineman coach Sam Pittman and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. Also took visits to Ohio State, Michigan and Ole Miss. ... Will be the tallest player on Arkansas’ roster. ... Also played baseball in high school (pitcher and first baseman). ... Rated the No. 32 offensive tackle in the country by Scout.com. ... Student body president at Ralston Valley.

Ralston Valley Coach Matt Loyd said Skipper has unusual flexibility for a player his height.

“From the start of a play, the guy next to him at guard is not quite 6-feet tall, and those two guys next to each other, in a three-point stance, you can’t tell which guy is the 6-10 guy, because he bends that well,” Loyd told The Denver Post last season. “That’s what the Division I coaches saw.

“And we have him do so many things. He’s not going to just drive block or down block - he’s going to pull across the football, pull outside on screen passes.”

Loyd said it was “just an eclipse” whenever Skipper blocked a linebacker.

Skipper said he’s played tackle for as long as he can remember and never felt his height made it tougher to block effectively.

“We ran a Wing-T in high school, so everything we did was all about pad level,” Skipper said. “I’ve grown up with a run emphasis and a pad level emphasis. That’s how I’ve always played football.”

Skipper said he has “no idea” if he’ll grow to be any taller, but he’s gotten heavier since arriving at Arkansas in late May. He’s about 310 pounds now after playing at 295 last season.

Skipper noted the added weight in a June 13 Twitter post.

“Just sat down and broke a chair,” he tweeted. “I guess this weight gain thing is working!”

Pittman said Skipper has been conscious about adding weight the right way.

“If you looked at him, you wouldn’t think he’s 310 pounds, which leads you to believe he’s going to be a lot bigger than that,” Pittman said. “I’m sure he can carry 330, 335 at least.

“Then after that, I don’t know how big he’ll get. It’ll just be something where he’ll continue to be an athlete and be able to move and be quick and agile.”

Skipper said he’s not sure about his ideal weight.

“I’d like to keep getting my weight up, but we’ll see how my body takes it,” he said. “I’m trying to eat right and just make sure I’m healthy and can compete.”

Skipper signed with Arkansas after getting more than 20 scholarship offers - including ones from Ohio State, Michigan, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Missouri, Vanderbilt, Boise State and Arizona State - and figures to compete for playing time this season. He was rated the nation’s No. 32 tackle last year by Scout.com.

“I’m not going to speculate,” Skipper said. “I’m just going to keep working my tail off and see what happens.”

“He’ll have to go out there in August, and we’ll have to see how fast he picks up the offense and what our need factor is and all those things,” Pittman said. “Certainly we recruited him thinking he’d have an opportunity to play his first year.”

Skipper committed to Tennessee last summer and expected to play for Pittman with the Volunteers. Then Derek Dooley was fired as Tennessee’s coach and Dooley’s assistants also were let go.

“The writing was on the wall a little bit, but when it happened, I wasn’t quite sure what to do,” Skipper said. “That just kind of threw the whole recruiting process open again.”

Skipper, who took his official visit to Tennessee in September, visited Michigan in December and Arkansas, Ohio State and Ole Miss in January. He said it was a fun time, but hectic.

“I never had recruited a guy to two different schools,” Pittman said. “We certainly didn’t recruit against Tennessee, we recruited to Arkansas and let him know about this school.”

It helped the Razorbacks that new Coach Bret Bielema hired Pittman and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney from Tennessee, but Skipper said there were other factors that worked in Arkansas’ favor.

“I think that being able to see the academic support staff that they had, that was probably the most surprising part of any visit that I’ve been on thus far,” Skipper told The Denver Post in January. “All of the people there had played a college sport, and were retained by this new staff. For that to happen, you’ve got to be doing something right.

“There’s a reason those people are there. It’s the Southeastern Conference. There’s basically unlimited budgets and if [Bielema] wanted a new academic support staff, he would’ve gone out and got one. Obviously, that was something that he thought was in good enough shape to keep.”

Skipper said Arkansas had more overall pluses when he added up the pros and cons at each school he visited.

“Coach Pittman and Coach Chaney definitely opened the door for Arkansas to recruit me,” he said. “That led me to visit Arkansas, and once I came here and met Coach B, I just felt at home. That sealed it for me to come here.”

Skipper was involved in student government throughout his high school career and was the student body president at Ralston Valley as a senior. He contributed more than 100 hours of community service, sang in a 22-member choir and was in the National Honor Society for academic achievement.

“I’ve always been involved,” Skipper said. “Leadership groups have come naturally to me. That’s one thing my parents instilled in me, service to the community.

“Football is something I’ve always done for fun, and of course I love it, but I like to do other things and help serve people.”

Pittman said Skipper is confident with an outgoing personality, but modest.

“He may have been the highest-recruited linemen we had last year when it was said and done, but it didn’t go to his head,” Pittman said. “He’s humble and he knows he has a lot of work to do.”

Sports, Pages 13 on 07/23/2013