August 4, 2008

Iowa getting a special player in Davis

Tony Lombardi has had nearly twenty Division I recruits in his years as a high school coach, but perhaps none with the same type of potential as Keenan Davis. On the day that his star wide receiver verbally committed to the Iowa Hawkeyes, we caught up with Lombardi, who has also coached at the college level, to talk about Davis' potential and much more.

Q: How much have you seen Keenan grow as a player over the last two years?

LOMBARDI: When I met him when I first came to Wash., he was going to be a sophomore and I felt he was certainly an extremely talented young man, but I was genuinely concerned with his readiness to play at the varsity level. He wasn't very strong, but clearly you could see there was a ton of talent there. So we just played him on offense as a receiver because I just didn't think he could handle the pounding yet (of playing both ways).

It turned out he did a great job and had a great year. He made some great plays and everyone starting noticing him off that sophomore year, so that is how all of this kind of started. But he still wasn't a complete ball player yet. Not that that's expected as a sophomore, but he wasn't ready yet. Then in that off-season, he just really spent a great deal of time in the weight room, put on some weight, and participated in track a little bit to get faster. That helped prepare him for this last year and I felt he was more ready physically to be an impact player. So obviously I let him play defense as well and he was super. In fact, he's probably every bit as good of a defender as he is an offensive player.

Now, in this off-season, he was even more committed to track and it really paid off. Basically, when we started working with him he was a 168-pound kid and he's now a 200-pound kid and he's taken almost four tenths of a second off his forty-yard dash time since his sophomore year. He's put on 30 pounds and gotten faster, so that's a good combination.

I think as much publicity as he's received and all of that good stuff, I think he's going to be even better than even what his billing is, if that makes any sense.

Q: I know you have had a number of Division I players in your years of coaching in Illinois, but you have said Keenan is one of the best, is that right?

LOMBARDI: Yeah. It's maybe not a fair comparison because a lot of my kids right now who started at the next level are defensive linemen and things like that, so they aren't quite as much of a media darling as other positions. But Keenan is a skill guy and he's by far the best skill guy that I've ever even come close to coaching. I've had Freddie Barnes, who had 1,000 yards for Bowling Green. He played quarterback for me at Homewood-Flossmoor High School. So I've had some good players and Keenan is one of the best.

Having been a college coach for 16 years at the Division I level, I understand how hard it is to play at that level and even my best of players I'd tell them you're going to redshirt and it's going to take you a while to learn the speed of the game. But Keenan, I think, has a legitimate shot to play early, right away. I've never had a kid that I felt was physically capable of doing that before. I think he's capable of being a Division I player a year from now.


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