University of Toledo freshman running back Kareem Hunt, right, follows the blocking of Greg Mancz, left, and Zac Kerin as he scores a touchdown during practice at the Glass Bowl.
Two of the better offensive linemen in the Mid-American Conference had just three scholarship offers.
“I don’t laugh at it,” Zac Kerin, the conference’s best center in 2012, said. “I’m kind of happy because it has provided a good source of motivation to prove everybody wrong, that they should have been looking.”
Kerin flipped his commitment from one side of the I-75 rivalry to the other after University of Toledo coach Matt Campbell changed jobs. No other coach showed more than cursory interest.
Greg Mancz didn’t receive a second offer — from Ohio University — until weeks before signing day.
So how did so many schools undervalue the 13 feet and 600 pounds that anchor arguably the MAC’s best line? That answer will come in a bit. But first, looking ahead to the next level, it appears people have stopped overlooking UT’s twin boulders.
Campbell, whose practices are frequently attended by NFL scouts, is of the opinion Kerin in May and Mancz the following year will join UT’s extensive list of linemen to play in the pros. There are four of them currently in NFL camps: Phil Manley (Atlanta), A.J. Lindeman (Chicago), Kevin Kowalski (Dallas), and John Greco (Cleveland). Two other former Rockets linemen, Nick Kaczur and Andy McCollum, are not far removed from successful NFL careers.
“Jeez, I’d have to think so,” Campbell said of Kerin’s and Mancz’s chances to join the others.
Campbell said Kerin, who is on watch lists for three national awards, reminds him in style of play of former Bowling Green State University center Kory Lichtensteiger. Lichtensteiger, whom Campbell mentored as the offensive line coach with the Falcons, is in his sixth NFL season and third with the Washington Redskins.
Campbell said Mancz, with two more seasons to mature before he attempts a professional career, could prove to be the better prospect of the two.
Kerin and Mancz have much in common, beginning with body type. They’re both 6-5 and 300 pounds. Academic All-MAC selections, Kerin carries a 3.6 grade-point average, and Mancz a 3.4. Each will be a three-year starter this season, and each has played center, guard, and tackle in his career — showing versatility NFL scouts covet. Gone for each of them is their long hair after they donated to Locks of Love in the spring to honor Ashlee Barrett, the then-fiancee of former Rocket defensive lineman Ben Pike. Kerin and Mancz were groomsmen this summer in the wedding.
Another bond: Both were lightly recruited.
Campbell found Kerin, of Olentangy Delaware, at an Ohio State camp after Kerin’s junior season. He had played exclusively on the defensive line at that point and gained two inches and 25 pounds over that offseason.
Even though his teams at Cincinnati Anderson played in two state title games while he was there, Mancz flew under the radar. Campbell found him and liked what he saw. Mancz, a third team All-MAC selection in 2012, said coming to UT “was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
“They fit the mold of what we look for athletically, how they move, their size, all those things. It’s great,” offensive line coach Tom Manning said. “But they fit really well with what we’re talking about in character and toughness and all the things that are required to be a really successful offensive lineman.”