Austin Anderson HS
NR: 59 SR: 51 Star Rating: ***
An Inside Texas conversation with Anderson OL coach Gary Watson on Charlie Tanner:
IT: What are Charlie's strengths as a football player?
Watson: No. 1, right off the bat, I've coached 31 years, he is the best linemen I've coached. I've coached primarily offensive and defensive linemen my whole career. The strong points are, first of all, just work habits. He's one of the first kids to get on the field, the last kid to leave, 'Can I do anything else', 'Coach, what should I do, should I lift more, should I run more', he asks about nutrition, 'What should I eat, what should I drink?' We made an off the shoulder comment a couple of years ago about soft drinks, and I don't think he's had a soft drink since. He's completely focused on his career and how he can be a better football player. As far as just pure football, what separates him from another big lineman-type kid is his feet. He has unbelievable agility. He blew everybody away on his quickness in his shuttle run, his vertical leap is phenomenal for a kid his size. We matched him last year on the shuttle run against our wide receiver who's going to Vanderbilt, another D-I kid, and they were stride for stride. This kid could not shake Charlie off, Charlie was as quick as this little 5-9, 160-pound wideout who is one of the best shake-and-bake kids in the whole district, so that separates him from the big blocky kid that I've coached a thousand times before. Super feet, super quickness, then his intelligence of the game. He studies the game, he loves the game. We talk Xs and Os all the time, talking about angles, how to fit a block, how to finish a block, pass blocking techniques. It just separates him from your typical high school kid. Most high school kids can't think past lunch. This kid has a plan, he has goals and... then his toughness. He played both ways a lot against 5A competition -- Westlake with 22 starters, Hays with 22 starters, Bowie -- and it's tough on a big kid, a 285-pound kid, to play both ways in that Texas heat. Never backed down from it. If you asked him to go, he'd go, so he had enough agility and footwork to play defensive end, which is the toughest position on the field defensively, and then the strength and the power to be a dominating lineman. I think he recorded 74 pancakes, and that's in a 10-game season. That's unheard of. We're going to miss him tremendously. He's a cut above; he is just a one-in-a-million type kid. I've never coached anything like him before.
IT: What did the Texas coaches tell you that they like about Charlie?
Watson: What won coach McWhorter over, in football, the films don't lie. This kid is talented but the fact that he's a state-qualifying wrestler, a state-qualifying power lifter, so that means he'll go the extra mile, so he has the strength and the agility... wrestling was probably one of the best things Charlie ever did because you learn how to use your hands, you learn leverage, you learn quickness and just toughness, too. Wrestling is a grueling sport and the mental toughness aspect of it helped him tremendously and then obviously power lifting, he just lives in the weight room, that's how he got to the point he is now strength-wise, so they like that, they like the power lifting and the wrestling and what blew them away was his vertical and his agility run.
IT: What are the areas of his game that Charlie needs to improve upon to be successful at the next level?
Watson: They want him to play center, and he's never played center, he's never snapped the ball, so he's been working since January when he came back from the holidays on the shotgun snap and the regular snap from center that he'll need to work on. He'll have to work on... in high school in many cases he went against smaller, weaker kids because he was a dominant guy. In college, obviously that's not going to happen. He's going to go against these animals that are just as big and strong as he is, so he'll have to work on that. The beauty about Charlie is, they tell him to do it and it's one time and he'll break his back to get it done, so that's really gonna help him throughout his career at Texas.
IT: Is Charlie a leader, and if so, how does he lead?
Watson: He was a unanimous team captain. When we voted for team captain, every single person across the board, no one even flinched. He leads in the way you want him to lead. Verbally but he's not a real outspoken kid but he would make himself... it was tough for a kid like him, who's not a real outspoken kid, to step up and lead verbally, but the big thing was on the practice field and the game field. He busted his rear end every single snap, every practice, every game, every play in the game, and the kids feed off of that. They see that he's our star, he's our best athlete we've got on the field and if he busts his rear end in practice and in games, obviously they want to as well.
IT: What did Charlie mean to your football program?
Watson: I hate to say cliches and get all mushy here, but he meant everything to this team. He was the heart and soul, period. Like I said, 31 years I've coached athletes that have gone on and played in the NFL that didn't mean as much to a team because he was the heart and soul of our team. Everybody turned to him for everything. He led the prayer -- he's a very devout Christian -- he led the prayers before every game and after every game. He's the last Boy Scout. It's very rare to have an 18-year-old senior that can still maintain that type of on-the-field and off-the-field ethics that he has, so he was the heart and soul of our team not just because he was a tremendous athlete but because of leading the prayer and talking to the kids in that vein. He is just a cut above.
IT: You mentioned that he played both OL and defensive end. That's a pretty impressive combo...
Watson: That's very rare for a 6-4, 285 guy because it's the hardest position. You talk to any coach that has coached two days in their life, it's the hardest position on the field because you got blocks, you've got to take on the big tackles and big tight ends, you've got pulling guards kicking you out, then you've got a fullback four yards away that's trying to chop you in two, so you have to take on blocks from every possible angle, from being kicked out to being hooked, to have the little running backs on your ankles cutting you in two, and you still have to be quick enough to contain a quarterback. At defensive tackle you're going to be blocked by a guard or a tackle. At defensive end, the blocks are coming from every possible angle, you've still got to be quick enough to be able to contain, rush and pressure a quarterback and still take on every block in the world and then even at times he can possibly drop into coverage. For a big kid like him, that says a lot.
IT: Texas must really like his intelligence if they're putting him at center...
Watson: No question. I talked to coach McWhorter, and their center is the backbone of their offensive line. He has to break the huddle, in most cases he calls the snaps himself, he IDs the MIKE backer and once he IDs the MIKE backer -- course you may have sophisticated level of D-I football, those fronts continue to change and shift and slide around from five in the box to six in the box to seven in the box to eight in the box, he makes his call, he has to decide who I'm going to block and once he makes his call everything else revolves around that, they all make their decision off what he's going to do. They just lost a three-year starter out there who is a super kid who was not real big either -- 6-2, 280 I believe -- but the reason he started at that small size because the kid was so smart, he was so football intelligent he could make all these calls and everything spins off of him, so they've got to be impressed with Charlie. Because he loves the game, he studies the game; he loves to talk football.
IT: Is there a defining moment for you that exemplifies Charlie's ability as a football player?
Watson: On a play this year, we're playing against a good solid team, Bowie, which is one of the best teams in town, he's covered at the line of scrimmage with a five-technique, he pancakes his guy, that's not easy to begin with, and on the same play and rubs off that block and just annihilates that kid, stays on his feet. Gets back upfield and pancakes a linebacker three yards downfield. A double pancake on a single play just defines what this kid is all about.
IT: Is there anything you'd like to add about Charlie that we didn't already cover?
Watson: I've coached thousands of high school players. He's like a Boy Scout off the field and just a tremendous player on the practice field and on the game field. We're going to miss him tremendously and I don't think I'll ever coach another kid like him. I'd be surprised if I did.
Note from Clendon: Will photographed Tanner about the time of his commitment last May and then again in January and I'm not sure if it comes across above, but he bulked up substantially in those eight months. Coach Watson mentioned above that Tanner played DE for the Trojans, and when you see Charlie in person, that is the body type you see. Very lean, but a legit 280. I had a chance to have a casual conversation with Charlie while waiting to interview his coach. Not really an interview per se but just a conversation, which I didn't record or take copious notes on. He's another of the 'Yes, sir. No, sir' kids along with Roy Miller, Aaron Lewis and Jerrell Wilkerson, among others. His faith is also important to him, just as with Lewis, which is one of the reasons the two hit it off and decided to room together on the Forty Acres. Tanner told me that he will work out with the team all summer, starting just after he graduates from Anderson (NCAA rules allow true freshmen to begin working out with the team once they graduate), but that he is already in the midst of learning the offense and working on his transition to center. Aside from that, he said, his spring plans include working out. "They want me at about 280-285 coming in and I'm there right now. I gotta keep working out, solid up, get real strong and get in the best position I can for two-a-days."
UT's Signing Day bio: A versatile three-sport letterman who also competed in powerlifting as a prepster
three-year letterman on the offensive line and at defensive end
earned All-District honors as a sophomore, junior and senior
a second-team 5A All-State offensive lineman selection
recorded 74 pancakes as a senior
first-team 16-5A All-District and second-team All-Central Texas offensive tackle in 2004
named to the third team on the 2004 Dave Campbell Super Team
was the Anderson Trojans Offensive Player of the Year and team captain
unanimous 16-5A All-District selection as a junior
tabbed honorable mention All-Central Texas that year
also named to the Best of the Best by the Austin American-Statesman
was the Trojans' Co-Offensive Player of the Year and team captain in 2003
first-team 16-5A All-District as a sophomore
a two-year letterman in wrestling
reached the state quarterfinals in the heavyweight, 275-pound class
also competed in track all four years in the shot put and discus
participated in powerlifting as a freshman
a prep honor roll student who was tabbed Academic All-District three times
helped with kids ministry at his church from junior high school through high school
made two mission trips to Mexico during spring break of his freshman and sophomore years
enjoys video games and music
both of his parents received graduate degrees in business administration from UT
born June 3, 1986, in Austin.
"I chose Texas because of their great winning tradition and family atmosphere, and it's close to home. I've lived in Austin all my life and my dream has been to play at UT. When they offered, I knew I wanted to be there, so I committed the next day."
*Photos by Will Gallagher/Inside Texas*
NEXT UP: JERRELL WILKERSON