March 16, 2009

From the Sideline: OL Rio Mares

This is the second installment of a series that takes an in-depth look at the members of the 2009 recruiting class through the eyes of the men that know their game the best - their high school coaches. First up, Cibola High School's Ralph Chavez discusses offensive lineman Rio Mares.

Just to start off with, how would you describe Rio as a player - and in particular how was his senior year?

Cibola coach Ralph Chavez: God gave Rio a body to play football. He's got a 6-foot-5, 310 frame, but he looks like he is about 240. For a kid that size, he has great athletic ability and great feet for a kid of that size. I just really feel like his best football is ahead of him. So many times a kid that big, especially in New Mexico because he doesn't play against kids his size, there is so much expected of them. They are supposed to be the toughest guy in the school. They are supposed to be dominating play after play. I think at times we expect them to be men when they are only a kid. When Rio matures, he is going to be a great football player because he has all the tools and the skills to be a great college football player. He was a very, very good high school player, but I think once he gets to college and concentrates on one sport and gets in the weight room year round, potentially it is unlimited what he can be.

I know a lot of the Tulane coaches have connections in New Mexico from previous coaching stops, but were you surprised Rio decided to leave New Mexico and head for New Orleans?

Chavez: I was a little surprised, but I have been doing this 30 years now. I've watched different people recruit. I've had a couple of kids that played in the NFL, so we have had them all here at one time or another. We've had the Nebraskas and the Michigans and all of them here. But I was really impressed with how Tulane recruited him. They were relentless. They came to see him play basketball. They came to see him in spring practice. I think they did a great job.

I knew Dan Dodd when he was at the University of New Mexico. I told him, "Dan, I am not blowing smoke up your ass here. You guys did a great job." I told Mark Hutson, "I don't mean this in a bad way, but you guys sure are around here quite a bit. He said, "That's our job." I was very impressed. They basically came in and stole him away. When he went on his trip, he came back and said that he wanted to commit. I said, "Rio, I will never tell you where to go to school. But don't commit when you get off the plane from somewhere because you will go visit somewhere else tomorrow and feel the same way. Take a week and if you still feel that way then that is your choice." He was a high school kid that probably has never been out of New Mexico and then he goes to New Orleans and sees the finer things. He waited a while and said he liked the coaching staff and the school, so he went ahead and committed. I was just really impressed with the job they did recruiting. I think that is the name of the business at the college level. Obviously, for selfish reasons I would have liked to see him stay here so we could see him play weekly. But as a coach you always want what is best for your kids.

You already touched on this briefly, but in regards to his weight, you said he came in at 290, it appears he has added a lot of muscle already. Where do you kind of see his frame headed?

Chavez: Actually his junior year he was 350. He trimmed down to about 310 for his senior year. Then he had a shoulder injury that hurt him a little bit. But at 310 he was a lot more mobile. Like I said he looks like he is 250. Once he gets to college I think he will get to 340 or 350 but have a lot more muscle.

I know Rivals.com had him as the No. 1 player in New Mexico. Was that surprising to you?

Chavez: I don't know how familiar everyone is with New Mexico football, but we only have maybe three or four Division I players out of the state every year. We very seldom have kids this big. He is a huge kid. He was definitely the No. 1 prospect.

As far as what Rio needs to work on entering college, what do you feel he needs to work on?

Chavez: I think he needs to improve his strength even more. He played basketball and ran track, so he wasn't in the weight room as much as he will be with one sport. And I think it will be an adjustment playing against people his size. He has never had to do that. I wouldn't call it a question mark, but that is the one thing I am anxious to see how he handles. The average sized kid around here is 240 or 260. That is going to be the biggest adjustment I believe.


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