Commentary

Kouandjio gets a grip on his college future

Updated: April 3, 2009, 7:39 AM ET
By Mike Loveday | ESPNRISE.com

The first impression DeMatha's Ari Kouandjio leaves on college coaches has nothing to do with his 6-foot-4, 300-pound frame. It is his handshake.

Arie_Kouandjio_DeMatha
Mike LovedayKouandjio recently picked up an offer from Michigan.
"We went to the Maryland basketball game a few weeks ago when they played Duke. Ari shook [the Maryland football coaches'] hands, and they said, 'He freaking broke my hand,'" DeMatha head coach Bill McGregor said. "They were laughing, but they said, 'Tell him not to do that every time.'"

Kouandjio's other impression, his junior game film, is earning him serious college interest.

The junior is up to 15 official scholarship offers, including Maryland, Penn State, Kansas State, Iowa, Boston College, Michigan, Rutgers and UConn.

"He's just totally gone off the charts right now," McGregor said of Kouandjio's recruiting. "He has good upper-body strength. He'll pass the eyeball test in a second. He has good size, good feet and good toughness. He played exceptionally well for us the entire year. I don't think he could have played any better than he did. I expect even more things out of him as a senior."

Kouandjio became a starter on the Stags' offensive line after their 42-21 loss to Good Counsel on Oct. 2, 2008.

McGregor decided the team needed to shake things up after the loss, and Kouandjio took over the guard spot.

"He just hadn't played much [before starting]. He just had to get his feet wet. He had to understand how fast he needed to go, how hard he needed to go, and things like that," McGregor said. "All of a sudden, I think, what happened is the light went on. He really started to understand what it took to be successful."

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Kouandjio's move to guard, along with other McGregor moves, helped lead DeMatha to its sixth straight Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship -- a 34-7 win over Good Counsel.

Kouandjio has been at DeMatha for three years, and according to McGregor, there was never a doubt whether he was going to be an impact football player.

"You knew from Day One," McGregor said. "You watch him [in] the weight room work[ing] out. You're around him and talk to him and [you know] football is important to him, academics are important to him. He's a good kid -- no maintenance, no problems. He's just a good boy."

Now if Kouandjio's handshake is any indication of his strength, opponents and probably a few college coaches have been put on alert.

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Mike Loveday covers high school sports for ESPNRISE.com. Mike can be reached at Michael.Loveday@espn.com