Dudley E. Dawson is a reporter for Hawgs Illustrated. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Manuel fits Sam Pittman's OL mold
Arkansas offensive line coach Sam Pittman is shown prior to a game against UTEP on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman wants to sign big, wide-bodied offensive linemen and Arnaudville (La.) Beau Chene senior Devon Manuel (6-8, 300) certainly fits the bill.
Manuel has offers from Arkansas, Michigan State, Indiana, Kansas, Iowa State, Houston, Louisiana Tech, South Alabama, Tulane, McNeese State, Tulane an interest from Auburn, LSU and others.
Beau Chene coach Sal Diesi knows he has a special talent in Manuel, who did not have any offers on Jan. 28. He had a dozen just two months later.
“He is a real big kid that we run behind and especially creates some matchup problems for the other team on third- or fourth-down-and-short situations,” Diesi said. “He has really progressed nicely as he has grown into his body over the last few years. It is nice to see that.
“He is a definite Division-I prospect and is getting calls weekly from schools all over the country."
Arkansas was fortunate to get Manuel in for a junior day on March 7 before the covid-19 pandemic brought social distancing into the norm.
“He is especially excited about Arkansas and the way the coaches have recruited him,” Diesi said. “I think the one thing he is learning is that with all the attention from big schools comes big expectations and he must be as ready as he can be when he arrives on campus. That starts now and he has done great during the strange times we have been having.”
Diesi heads into this season with the full-time job and a positive outlook.
“I wouldn’t say we're rebuilding, because Devon and his class have all been playing together for three years now and I think this is going to be their year for everything to come together,” Diesi said. “We may have gone 1-9 last season, but we were in every game. I think Devon’s senior class is the strongest class we have had here in a long time.
"They have three years of experience under their belt and now it is just about consistency on every down. I think we might have that now in our program. Only time will tell, but hopefully we will get these guys all going in the right direction and rowing the same way.”
Diesi believes Manuel’s size works both for and against him.
“His size is obviously his biggest strength because there are not a lot of guys who can physically match up with him,” Diesi said. "But since there are not a lot of guys his size, it’s also bout his bend to get under them. I would like to see him get a little bit more flexible to really get down under their pads and really drive them out.
"I know that wherever he goes he is going to have great coaches who are going to develop him into the best player he can be.”
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