Kentucky’s best offensive centers…

Interior offensive linemen are the grunts of a football team. They do all the hard work and never hear their names called unless they really screw the pooch. At the end of the day, the best thing one can say about an interior offensive linemen’s performance is I completely forgot he was even out there. While being among the least appreciated, the center is still one of the most important positions on a football field to have both adequately and appropriately manned. Centers work in conjunction with the guards to keep the QB from getting hit and open holes for the RBs. The center is the offensive line’s leader and often amongst the smartest members of a football team. Centers make the line calls and blocking adjustments, pre-snap, where they aren’t just asked to adjust scheme in accordance with a defense’s alignment, but are routinely charged with blocking a behemoth nose tackle in odd fronts or double team up to the linebacker in even fronts. If uncovered in pass protection, the center has to keep his head on a swivel and help on any defender who comes free, or intercept rushers unaccounted for, while still being asked to have the power to move what amounts to a D-line’s largest player. In addition to being powerful, the center must also be quick enough to scoop a gap defender. These next six (6) listed centers are, in the opinion of KPGFootball, the finest Kentucky has to offer in his respective graduating class. We believe these to be the finest offensive centers in Kentucky…

The Seniors…

Carter Black, 6-3 and 295 pounds, Covington Catholic High School; 

Carter Black, largely owing to the scheme in which he has been deployed in high school, is one of the finest inside in pass protection while still being a hard-charging, down-hiller in the run game. Last year, in captaining the offensive line, Carter’s charges paved the way for 3,191 rushing yards, 3,137 passing yards, and 679 points scored, over the course of capping off a 15-0 record and a Class 5A State Football Championship for the Colonels. Recognition is hard to come by for this particular position as many reporters have not the foggiest idea how to gauge a good versus bad offensive center and just select the big ones. While certainly being a big one, this cornerstone of one of the more balanced attacks anywhere within the Commonwealth was selected to the All-Northern KY, first team, at year’s end. We believe Carter Black may be the very best offensive center in the class of 2019.

Carter Black 2017 highlights

Shawn Woods, 5-10 and 255 pounds, Franklin-Simpson High School;

There is not a team in all of Kentucky who pounds the ground and runs the football any more down hill or effectively than the Class 4A State Football Champions from Franklin, Kentucky. I think the Wildcat players come out of the womb running the Wing T offense. It’s become, for the Wildcats, a science. In 2017, in finishing 12-3 and winning the school’s second football State Championship in its history, the Wildcats gained 5,117 yards from scrimmage in 15 games for a little over 341 games a contest. While they only threw the ball for 898 yards on the year, or close to 60 yards a game, the QB had time to find receivers on the intermittent occasions as such an offensive strategy was employed. Where the QB throws sparingly, less than 6 throws per outing, and can still toss 14 TDs and be intercepted only 4 times, that indicates that on those 6 times the pass was utilized, the QB certainly wasn’t very rushed to get the pass on its way. Watch this guy’s highlight film! It is ridiculous. He blocks defenders all the way to the locker room.

Shawn Woods 2017 highlights

The Juniors…

Ethan Wolford, 6-2 and 285 pounds, Belfry High School;

Elite football centers do more than snap the ball to the quarterback. They are powerful run blockers, they are excellent pass blockers, they read defensive alignments, anticipate defensive play calls, and yell out line adjustments. They remain on the same page with the quarterback, making the same pre-snap assessments. In other words, the center is the quarterback along the offensive front and has a high football IQ. They have powerful lower bodies and can remain anchored against the bull rush. Centers typically, at the D-I and NFL level, are between 6-2 and 6-4 and have the upper body strength to take on the massive nose guards deployed right in front of them. Centers have to have quick feet, excellent balance, and enough speed to get to the second level of the defense and block would-be tacklers beyond the line of scrimmage. All of this is according to Nick Mangold of the NFL’s New York Jets, but what would he know?

Ethan Wolford, was selected, in 2017, to our AFI-KPG Sophomore All-State Football Team and followed that up by being selected to the National Undergraduate Combine’s All-American Team. Ethan is an accomplished high school wrestler who has demonstrated good upper body strength to go along with a powerful core and base, exhibited both on the football field and wrestling mat. Ethan is smart, maintaining a 3.0 GPA, and a real leader. Ethan is an accomplished run blocker and excellent in pass protection, something on which he has worked diligently in the offseason camp/combine circuit as they don’t throw the ball much on Pond Creek. Ethan has demonstrated an ability to read defensive alignments and anticipate play calls. Last year, Ethan captained an offensive front which cleared the path for two, one-thousand yard rushers, in the same backfield, together with a running back who broke  the Kentucky record for yards per attempt, and a team which gained nearly 5,000 yards rushing in 13 games. Haywood’s Hogs may be the very best line in Kentucky and Big E (Ethan) is Boss Hog. We believe this may be Kentucky’s best center in any class.

Ethan Wolford’s Highlights

Dane Jackson, 6-1 and 265 pounds, Madison Southern High School;

Who knows for sure how tall Dane Jackson really is and I, for one, don’t really care. 247Sports has him listed at 5-11, 255 pounds and that is probably an old number. When he made the AFI-KPG Sophomore All-State Football team at center, we had him at 6-1, 265 pounds. At any height and any weight he is destroying whomever is across from him and isn’t that the real test? Brian Jackson, Dane and Drake’s father, also played college football as a FB for Purdue, and is one of the nicest men I have ever met. The niceness doesn’t extend to the gridiron where the Jackson men have proven thick, strong, and able to get after it. Dane has proven himself an able Jackson man in regard to possessing those traits.

Madison Southern is a Class 5A, District 6, high school who had the misfortune, last season, of drawing a Covington Catholic team in the State Championship game which no-one, outside of Louisville Trinity, was going to much challenge. The Eagles run game, behind Dane, and his o-line cohorts, gained 3,407 yards rushing from scrimmage and boasted two 1,000 plus yard ground gainers in the same backfield. Carter Smith gained 1,442 yards from scrimmage and quarterback, Landen Stacy, threw in his 1,023 rushing yards just for good measure.

Dane, like his brother Drake before him, has the versatility to play numerous positions along the offensive front and has been most deployed at both center and guard. We believe he will settle at the next level along the interior offensive front, most likely as a center (like his brother). Dane, who reports a bench press of 315 pounds, a squat of 450, and a power clean of 265 pounds, fires off with low pad level and plays with exceptional balance and runs his feet through the whistle. I like to say offensive line play is about technique over physique. My exact phrase is technique trumps physique when physique has no technique. Dane is mobile, strong, aggressive, and smart, with good arm length, permitting him to gain separation. Though not as tall as other players, Dane is a technician and may well be the best pure offensive lineman in the 5A classification in 2018.

Dane Jackson Highlights

The Sophomores…

William Long, 5-10 and 260 pounds, Hopkinsville High School;

I am really unsure there is much debate about who is the best offensive center in Kentucky in the Class of 2021. If there is, this next season should settle all questions. The reigning Kentucky Powerlifting State Champion and the holder of 4 American Powerlifting League Kentucky records is the strongest player in Kentucky’s 2021 class. William has a 370 pound bench press, 525 pound back squat, 515 pound deadlift, 260 pound power clean, and his 255 pound hang clean. William Long made both the AFI-KPG, freshman, All-State football team a year ago and has been selected for the National Underclassman Combine All-American game for this December in Daytona Beach, Florida.  

William, a 3.5 GPA student with a really high football IQ, is the type of captain of the offensive front in whom you can repose a lot of trust to get the linemen in blocking and protection situations which permit the offense to succeed. As a freshman in 2017, William logged a whopping 49 quarters of varsity football playing time along the HHS offensive front. As national football prospects, William Long is one of only two players, younger than a junior in high school, to ever be selected to the Blue-Grey, All-American Combine’s Red Zone Elite for top national prospects. This prospect can be summed up best by a former NFL player, who now is a high school head coach in middle Tennessee.

Justin Geisinger, formerly with the Tennessee Titans and now the head football coach at Pope John Paul II High School and one of the lead evaluators at this past summer’s Blue-Grey combine said this about William Long...This combine was stacked with Division 1, FBS and FCS level talent. In spite of William’s being the youngest lineman, class-wise, at the combine, Long’s performance really stood out to me. Long demonstrated ability to compete against upper classmen who are, themselves, future division one college players. Suffice it to say, William, from what I saw, did more than merely hold his own. Everyone always notices his incredible strength, but what I love about William’s play most is his footwork. As a blocker, Long is a “finisher” and I was impressed with both his first and second step. When you look at his body of work [at this summer’s combine] overall, taking his combine results, which were among the best in his position group, together with his drill and one on one work and the stuff he did while working directly with me, Long was, definitely…one of the top 2-3 linemen (offense or defense) at the entire combine. We thought we would mention this combine, held in Tennessee, had college prospects competing from all over the southeast. Just saying…

William Long highlights

Braden Ferguson, 6-1 and 225 pounds, Lexington Bryan Station High School;

Last year’s All-State freshman football team selection committee was very impressed with Braden Ferguson who played on a team which struggled but the struggle was, in no way, attributable to his play at center. Braden, who’s father played in college for the Kentucky Wildcats, plays with superior pad level and, once he locks on, he maintains consistent contact through the whistle. Braden played Class 6A football at the same school which produced one of the best centers in the history of football in Dermontti Dawson.

One of the first things you look for in a center, at the High School level, is whether he fires off the line of scrimmage while simultaneously snapping the ball. Braden snaps and steps at the same time and locks on either the nose or inside technique guy. Even more importantly Ferguson, after getting into the defender’s chest, keeps running his feet until the whistle blows or he pancakes him. Braden has a good, quick, and violent hand punch and keeps his elbows nice and tight throughout the block with his hands tucked inside the shoulder pads on the breast plate and away from the area where holds are commonly flagged. He snaps both under center and in the shotgun and his shotgun snap arrives on the money and on pulse, giving the QB an opportunity and, more importantly, the time to scan downfield without having to work too hard to handle the snap.

Braden Ferguson Highlights

There it is folks, KPGFootball’s cream of the offensive center crop in Kentucky’s sophomore, junior, and senior classes. This should get the debate rolling around the Commonwealth as high school teams are on the brink of kicking off their seasons all over the Bluegrass. We all be excited to see how it all fleshes out and hope you will continue to read the site and enjoy it with us.

Reporting for KPGFootball, this is Fletcher Long reminding all of you ballers out there to PLAY THROUGH THE WHISTLE.

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