Only in the fickle world that is Division I college football recruiting is a 6-foot-2 lineman considered too short.
Such is the case for West Haven senior Byron Dickens, who has been described that way by schools such as UConn, Temple and Rutgers.
“That is my frustration,” West Haven coach Rich Boshea said. “They’re saying he’s a quarter-inch too short.”
Dickens has been offered by Central Connecticut State, and has received interest from Monmouth and AIC. But, for now, that’s where the recruitment ends.
“I was hoping it would come back to New Hampshire, Rhode Island, schools like that, but they’re also saying he’s too short,” Boshea said. “He’s 6-2 and three-quarters and he can grab the (basketball) rim at 310 pounds, and he won the state weight lifting tournament. Do you have seven other guys better than that just because they’re 6-5?”
Despite the doubters, Boshea believes Dickens can excel at the next level.
“I think he could be a nose guard at a Division I school,” Boshea said. Ideally, without knowing everyone’s system, I’d like him to be right up at UConn. He has a motor, he plays with a high motor. He plays angry for such a nice kid, and he’s just a powerful, powerful, powerful kid. He squats to 570, he has hip explosion, and he plays with a chip on his shoulder. He’s mad that nobody is doing anything for him. He’s trying to prove everyone wrong.”
Prior to becoming the Westies head coach last season, Boshea was the offensive line coach at West Haven under Ed McCarthy for 30 years. Boshea has seen his fair share of linemen and said Dickens ranks right up there with the best of them.
“On the offensive side, Byron knocks more people off their feet than anyone I’ve seen in our league yet,” Boshea said. “They go down, down, I mean flying.”
One wouldn’t get the impression that Dickens is a monster on the field after a conversation with him. Humble and soft-spoken, Dickens prefers to let his actions speak louder than words.
Dickens, a tackle on offense, blocks for perhaps the best running back corps in the state, which includes senior Anthony Godfrey and juniors Kyle Godfrey and Chris Chance.
“I love it,” Dickens said. “I love blocking for them.”
Other members of the offensive line include junior center Jim Lanziero, junior tackle Mekhi Geter, senior guard Bobby Hawkins and junior Mike Charlton and sophomore Gavin Moore, who rotate at the other guard position.
West Haven (3-0), ranked fifth in the Register Top 10 Poll, earned a hard-fought 27-18 victory over Xavier on Sept. 16. The Westies host unbeaten Cheshire (3-0) Friday night at 7 at Ken Strong Stadium.
“I was very happy with the play of our offensive line in that game,” Boshea said. “Xavier, like Cheshire, has a very good defensive line, they’re a very good defensive team. I thought everyone did their job that game. We really, really needed the offensive line to take charge and I thought they did a good job.”
Dickens has started since he was a sophomore. Last season, Tom Unger, the former head coach at Guilford, took over as West Haven’s offensive line coach. Since, Unger has seen considerable improvement in Dickens’ performance.
“He’s come a long way,” Unger said. “When I got him last year, his stance needed some work. He was such a big sophomore when he started two years ago he kind of got away with just being big. Now, trying to get to the next step, his stance straightened out, his steps improved. He takes a lot of pride in being an offensive lineman. I think he really loves being a D-lineman, but he’s such a great offensive lineman that I think he’s really starting to recognize how he could dominate there, too. He likes getting pancake (blocks), and moving his feet, and kind of exerting his will.”
Dickens has been described as a gym rat by Boshea. Unger is also the Westies’ weight lifting coach, and Dickens has devoted much time to the weights and conditioning, especially this past offseason.
“I worked on my speed,” Dickens said. “Running stairs after practice, running a few extra sprints.”
Unger took Dickens down to Monmouth for that school’s spring practice, while representatives from Villanova have also met with Dickens. Dickens also attended a camp at UConn.
With his work ethic and natural ability, Unger feels the sky’s the limit for Dickens.
“I think Byron has the potential to play anywhere,” Unger said. “I hope some of the bigger schools notice him. I think his upside is huge, I would love to see him get that opportunity. But whoever gets him, they’re going to get a kid who is explosive and works hard and who is going to be a great player.”