Friday, February 5, 2010

Already-enrolled Pace hopes to make smooth transition

Who needs National Signing Day anyway?

Not Avon Lake offensive lineman and top recruit Christian Pace.

Pace has been enrolled at The University of Michigan for about a month now. The 6-foot-4 recruit graduated high school early so that he could get accustomed to college life and the demanding workouts that are required of Michigan players.

"I won’t be trying to learn all these new things all at once I’ll be here for awhile," he said.

Pace knew he was making a tough choice by enrolling early, likely missing out on prom and graduation with his class, but he had bigger fish to fry.

"I made sure that Christian understood that when he made this choice that he understood that he’d miss some of that stuff," said Avon Lake coach Dave Dlugosz, who has had his share of Division I recruits over the years. "He said, ‘Yea, I’m going to miss my friends and everything, but I’m ready to take that next step. I’m ready to go on to the next level now.’"

Pace is also taking on the bigger challenge of making a position change. A right tackle in high school, Pace’s lack of length — for a Big Ten lineman — made him better suited to be a center. But he’s taking the challenge in stride.

"It’s going to be an interesting transition with snapping and everything, but I’ll play wherever they want me to," Pace said. "The center makes all the line calls and reads the defense and gives the O-line all the calls it needs but other than that, I’m basically coming in fresh to the position."

The transition may be easier than it sounds though. Pace was the unquestioned leader of the line in his senior year and has the ability to see the whole field as a play develops.

"He finishes blocks really well, he’s also an intelligent football player," Dlugosz said.

"Christian understands concepts, when you tell him ‘we’re running this blocking scheme,’ he will be able to visualize who everybody is supposed to block and how he fits into that scheme. So he ends up being like a coach on the field. He understands those things really well."

Dlugosz isn’t alone in that opinion, either.

"I’ve had coaches tell me that (Pace’s highlight tape) is the best they’ve ever seen, bar none, coaches throughout the country," he said.

Rivals had Pace listed as the No. 5 center recruit in the country. has him at No. 11. He also received offers from Colorado, Indiana, Louisville, Michigan State, Northwestern and could have even joined teammate Dan Schneider at Pittsburgh.

But in the end, he chose the Wolverines from as many as 25 scholarship offers.
Pace said he was impressed with the whole coaching staff for the Wolverines, namely line coach Greg Frey. His final three choices were Northwestern, Stanford and Michigan, which reflected Pace’s desire to get a top-notch education.

Michigan coach Rich Rodrgiguez likes what Pace brings to the table.

"Christian’s very athletic, a hard-nosed kid, and he played at a good program," Rodriguez said on Wednesday.

Of course, being from Northeast Ohio, which is known to some as "Columbus North," Pace has taken some good-natured ribbing from friends and even his coaches for his choice of college, which is the biggest rival to The Ohio State University.

But Pace didn’t grow up as much of a Buckeye fan. He liked the Oklahoma Sooners.
"No real reason, I just liked them," Pace said. "I would pull for Ohio State in games, but now, well — not anymore."

By playing college football, Pace is carrying on a family tradition and a Shoremen tradition. Pace’s older brother, Ian played at Fordham University and is now a graduate assistant on the coaching staff of Bowling Green State University.

"He helped me so much," Pace said. "He just instilled in me the hard work characteristic."

Pace is the third Shoreman to play in the Big Ten in the last 5 years. Before him were Trey Stross (Iowa) and Andrew Means (Indiana).

"I’m honored that I got the opportunity to represent Avon Lake at the next level. It’s great because it draws attention to Avon Lake and it’s good for upcoming players," Pace said. "Our past teams that Trey and Andrew were on were really solid teams that played in two state championship games and that really drew attention to our program, and the more I can help getting Avon Lake noticed is good."

Courtesy of Colin Wilson

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