Recruiting Profile: Brandon Gore
by Will Stewart, TechSideline.com
TSL Extra, Issue #10

Brandon Gore, a massive offensive lineman who stands 6-6 and weighs 315 pounds, is no late bloomer. He has always been big. And from the time he was in fourth grade, he was on the radar screen of Coach Joe Trabucco of Liberty High School in Bealeton, Virginia, where Gore will be a senior this fall.

"My older brother played for Coach Trabucco as a freshman," Gore remembers, "and I was at a game, and I was at the snack bar, and he (Trabucco) came up to me and asked me if I was going to Liberty the next year. I had to tell him I was still in elementary school."

Because he's so big, and because of his quick feet -- at 17 years old, Gore runs a 5.2 40-yard dash, which he hopes to eventually squeeze down to 5.0 -- Gore counts schools such as Florida, Florida State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Georgia, Tennessee, and Ohio State among those who have offered him scholarships. But on July 23rd, he committed to play football for Virginia Tech.

At this point, Gore, who is rated the 15th best lineman in the country in SuperPrep's preseason issue, is by far the Hokies' most highly touted verbal commitment for the 2002 recruiting class (with the exception of Montavis Pitts, who has decommitted since verbaling to Tech in May).

Gore is a classic offensive lineman, a player who works hard without considering it to be work, and who loves to play smash-mouth football. He has known for a long time, perhaps since Trabucco approached him that day at the snack bar, that he was going to play college football. And he has been preparing himself for it ever since.

From Fat Kid to Football Player

Gore grew up so big, so fast, that as a ninth-grader at Liberty, his back was constantly in pain. "I was about 6-3, 320," he says. "I had back problems, so the doctor wouldn't clear me to play. He said, 'You can play, but you'll end up in a wheelchair by the end of the season.' It was just too painful for me to play. Also, I wasn't really into it, because I was a freshman. I wanted to play varsity, but as a freshman, you can't really do that."

"I had bulging disks in my back. The doctor said I had the body of an adult, and I was doing the activities of a child, and it was really a strain on my back. It's okay now, though. I haven't had any pain in my back since my sophomore year."

As big as he is, Gore has lost about 50 or 60 pounds from a high of 370 or 380 as a sophomore, when he first stepped on the field for Liberty's varsity team. By then, he had grown to "about 6-5. I started on offense and got a little bit of playing time on defense. We were 2-8, we weren't very good, but I played every game, the whole game."

But at the end of the year, Coach Trabucco delivered a message to Gore: shape up. It was time to quit messing around and start working. Gore took it to heart, and step one was getting into the weight room, working on his weight, and getting it down.

"I lost about 50 pounds (after the sophomore season). I played basketball in the winter and track and field in the spring. I went from 370 or 380, and after basketball season ended, I was 330."

With the resculpting of his body well underway, Gore worked on his game the summer before his junior year. "My sophomore year to my junior year, I improved a hundred percent. My blocking and technique got ten times better, because I went to a lot of camps in the summer. I went to UVa's camp. I worked hard on my technique."

The result was a junior year that not only saw personal success for Gore on the field, but team success as well. Liberty turned their fortunes around and went 10-2 Gore's junior year, making it to the state AA regional finals (the state final 8) before falling to Park View.

For Gore, the table was set. He and his team had had a good season. The recruiters would follow. And follow they did.

Doing What it Takes

Joe Trabucco has been the head coach at Liberty High School for eight years, and he has been coaching at the high school level for 29 years. The first thing that stands out when Trabucco talks about Gore, versus when Gore talks about himself, is one word: work.

Whereas Gore discusses his development matter-of-factly, never once talking about how hard he works, Trabucco says with admiration, "His biggest strength is that he's a hard worker. He has developed himself into what he has become. He has done everything that we've asked him to do. During the season, out of the season, he has never once stepped back and said, 'Whoa, I need to take a break.' He has done it all. I'm real proud of the kid. He plays hard, he's aggressive. I think they (Virginia Tech) got a good player."

Trabucco saw the potential in Gore early on, and decided at the end of Gore's sophomore season to give him a push and see what he was made of.

"The first time we had him (spring of Gore's freshman year), he came in about 370. He had a tough time. So we sort of just laid back and waited until (Gore's sophomore) season was over, and then spring time came, and we started to get on him to get into the weight room.

"I remember him telling me his back was sore. My assistant coach said, 'How do you want me to handle this?' I said, 'You just get on his butt. You tell him to get his ass in there, and we're going to get it done. If he doesnít want to take it, then we ain't gonna worry about him.'

"And I tell you what, he just took it. Took everything. He got himself down to 325, 330, 340 (by the end of sophomore year), and last year he played about 320. And then in the spring time, he said he wanted to get down to 280." Trabucco laughs at that. "I said, 'Well, let's get down to 300, and we'll see what happens.' I'll be darned if he didn't get down to 300. And I think right now, he's about 317."

Gore concurs. "Right now, I'm probably around 315. I'd like to be maybe ten pounds lighter. I'd like to be around 305 or 310. That would be perfect for me. The lightest I've ever been, since my freshman year, is 300. I was 300 right before school ended last year, and then I put on some weight this summer lifting. I can gain 20 pounds or lose 30 pounds in one day. It really fluctuates. One day I'll be 320, the next I'll be 305. I lost 50 pounds in two months once, just by playing basketball and watching what I was eating."

About Gore's work habits, Trabucco says, "I think he anticipates it's going to happen, he knows it's going to happen, so there's no sense talking about it. I remember him sitting in here one day this summer, and he said, 'I know you guys are going to stay on top of me.' I said, 'Well, Brandon, we sure are.' He knows that. He realizes it's going to happen, and he just goes with the flow.

"He played all last season with a stress fracture, probably starting in our fifth game," Trabucco notes, another little nugget that Gore left out during his portion of the interview. "I remember he never missed a practice. We were coming down the stretch, we were going after the district title, and we needed some big games out of him. I went up to him -- it was the first game we were going to start him both ways -- and I said to him, 'You need to turn it on tonight.' That was in the Potomac Falls game. And I thought he just played a super game. He just answered the bell, and from that game on, he played tough."

Gore talks like a born offensive lineman, and he has a true "hogs" mentality. It's him and his four buddies against the world. "The offensive line is like a family," he says "I really like that. There's no other part of the team that's as close-knit. I like knowing that we have the most pride on the team. We don't get a lot of recognition, but everyone else on the team knows that we are the reason why we win. That's the best part about it -- without us, we wouldn't have (as good) a team."

And like all offensive linemen, he sometimes wonders what it would like to carry the pill. "I guess the only thing I dislike about it (playing the line) is not getting the ball." He laughs. "I wish I could get the ball every once in a while. But it doesn't bother me. I enjoy seeing a running back run 80 yards because of a block I threw as much as I would enjoy running 80 yards myself."

Getting Attention from the Big Boys

As an AA-class school situated between Charlottesville and Washington DC, Liberty and the schools they usually play don't exactly draw a lot of recruiters. So how did Gore get so many offers from so many top-notch schools in such a short period of time?

It must be the old highlight-tape trick, right? Put together a good highlight tape, mail it out to major Division 1-A schools along with a handy-dandy data sheet that includes his 3.5 GPA and 1190 SAT, and watch the offers roll in, right?

That's a common tactic that high school players and coaches use all the time, and it works well. But Gore's story is a little more interesting.

Gore, you see, is the beneficiary of a friendship between Coach Trabucco and Coach Bill Brown at C.D. Hylton High School in Woodbridge, Virginia. Those of you who follow recruiting will instantly recognize that Hylton High School is the stomping ground of Ahmad Brooks, one of the most highly-recruited linebackers in the country. Brooks draws personal visits from the top programs in the country, including Florida State, Penn State, Florida, you name it.

And while the recruiters are at Hylton, Coach Brown has been giving them a tip: head down to Bealeton to see the big offensive lineman at Liberty High School. The result is a parade of recruiters from college football's best programs through Coach Trabucco's office, and they're there to see film of Brandon Gore.

"We got a lot of stuff (recruiters) that was coming through Hylton," Trabucco notes. "Coach Brown is a friend of mine, and he told coaches that came there that we had an offensive lineman they should go see. We donít usually get a lot of people. William and Mary comes through here, Virginia Tech, Virginia, but we don't ever get them outside people. But they came down.

Gore tells the same story. "That's how I got most of my offers (because of Brooks). That's how I got Notre Dame, Michigan, and Tennessee to see me. Florida State heard about me because I got an offer from Florida, because the Florida coaches stopped by the school. Florida State called my coach and asked if they could get a tape, and we sent them a tape. They called back two days later and offered me."

"One time Tennessee came down here," Trabucco remembers, "and sat and watched the film of Brandon, and when it was over, he said, 'If I could offer, I'd offer him now.' I remember Tech coming in, and they hadn't seen him for two years. They said, 'Did anybody offer?' and I said, 'North Carolina State offered' -- at that time, North Carolina State was the first school that had offered -- and I told Tech what Tennessee had said, and they said, 'We can offer. I can tell you that right now. I don't have to wait for approval.' That was (VT defensive backs) Coach (Lorenzo) Ward, and Coach Ward watched about ten minutes of the tape and said, 'We'll offer.'"

The Hokie coaches would have known about Gore and would have offered him anyway, but the Brooks trickle-down effect, through Trabucco and Brown's friendship, has certainly made Gore a more high-profile recruit. Trabucco and Gore probably would have circulated his tape, but with the recruiters coming down after their C.D Hylton visits, they didn't need to.

So in an odd way, even if Brooks doesn't sign with Virginia Tech, he is indirectly responsible for boosting the Hokies' recruiting ranking via his influence on Gore's visibility. It's yet another interesting story in the world of college football recruiting.

Why Virginia Tech?

Given that Gore's father is a Tech alumnus, many fans were not surprised when he committed to Virginia Tech. They figured Gore had probably been a life-long Hokie fan, and he was just following through on a long allegiance.

But that's not as strong an influence as you might think. "My dad followed them (Virginia Tech) a lot, so we followed them. But I've never been to a Virginia Tech game," he says. And Gore has never attended a Virginia Tech football camp, either. In fact, after his sophomore season, he attended UVa's football camp, and this summer, he skipped camps entirely.

But he knows how frenetic Hokie games can get. "My older brother has a lot of friends who go to Tech, so I've been there with him to visit. I was down two years ago (1999) for the Miami game, but I didn't go to the game. I was down there in the town the day of the game. It was exciting. I know what they're talking about when they say Tech games are crazy. Every car that drove by had a Tech flag or Tech decal on it."

When three Virginia Tech coaches, including Coach Beamer, stopped by Liberty High School to see him in late May, it made a big impression on Gore and put the Hokies over the top. Gore had been visited by Ward before, but when Beamer showed up with Ward and another coach in tow, it sealed the deal. "I thought, 'If they care enough to send three coaches, they must really want me to come there.' I really didn't have to think about it any more."

Gore is completely sold on the Hokies' status as a program capable of competing for the national championship. "As far as I'm concerned, I donít see an end to them being a top-tier program. With last year's recruiting class and maybe this year's recruiting class, there's no limit to what we can do in the future. If we get three of the top 5 in the state, like Brooks, or (running back Michael) Johnson, any of those guys, we're going to be ready to go for the next four or five years."

He will take his official visit to Tech this fall, probably in December, but Gore won't be taking any other visits to any other schools. "I'm not going to do anything to sway my decision. All that would do is confuse me more, and I don't want that. I'm a man of my word, and what I said the first time is what goes."

Preparing for the Next Level

But before he makes his sojourn to Tech, Gore and his teammates have a goal: win the state championship. It sounds like a lofty target, just two years removed from going 2-8, but Liberty returns about fifteen or sixteen starters from last year's state quarterfinalists Ö including the entire offensive line.

"The type of team we have, a state championship is my goal all the way. Win a state championship, do the best I can, and be in the best shape in my life when I go to Tech next fall. Be ready."

Trabucco has one more year to continue molding Gore before he departs for college. "I told him, the biggest thing for him (this coming season) is that we expect him to dominate. I know there are going to be games where it's going to be tough for him, because people are going to be gunning for him and trying to make a name for themselves against him. We don't expect him to get beat. We expect that if we need a yard, we're going over top of him."

Looking down the road, Gore appraises his abilities and talks about what he needs to improve upon.

"I'm very good at drive blocking. If someone is right in front of me, they pretty much have no chance. I hate to say it like that, but I'm very good at drive blocking. I need to work on my reach block, which is moving out, hooking people, going out and getting linebackers. I'm very good at pulling, on traps, counters, and plays like that.

"I think the best way to describe the way I play is to say that I wear people down. During the course of the game, it's hard for a 200-pound or 250-pound defensive lineman to have a 320- or 330-pound guy pounding on you the whole game. One of my strengths is, by the fourth quarter, I pretty much have my way with anybody I play against."

Those sound like bold words, but Gore knows he still has a lot of developing to do. And Trabucco knows that like most kids, Gore will learn that football at the college level takes some getting used to. "His intensity level needs to pick up," Trabucco says. "It's okay for high school, but I think it needs to get to another level. Right now, these kids are sometimes a foot shorter than him, and he's not going to see that in college. They're all men there, and they're all players. There's no slouches. If you get a scholarship, you can play. I think he'll realize that. That's where the meanness is going to come in. And he needs to work on his speed, but I'm sure that Tech will develop that much better than we did."

Once he arrives at Tech, Gore will most likely shift from guard, his current position at Liberty, to tackle. Trabucco likes him at guard, which is probably what led to an erroneous report from at least one recruiting service that Gore would remain at guard in college.

"As far as I'm concerned, I think he's a guard," says Trabucco, "but they (the Tech coaches) know more than I know. They've got time to work with people, and maybe their needs aren't the same as what we would need him for. We play a lot of defenses that play even fronts and cover up our guards, so that's why we play our big guys down at guard, and we free our tackles up. In their league, maybe they feel like they need to play bigger kids out at tackle. Whatever they decide.

"They (the Tech coaches) seem like they believe in each other, and they don't play around. They assume responsibilities, and they go. We used to go to their clinics all the time. I like them, I like the way they get along with people. I watch them coach, and I like the way they handle the kids. They're just Ö I tell you, Tech's very fortunate. They've got a great staff."

As with nearly all linemen, a redshirt is in Gore's future. "I want to, really," he says of taking a year to develop. "Tech, they're in a position where they don't need me to play right away. They can redshirt me and be okay."

Besides, the 6-6 man-mountain might not be done growing yet "I haven't measured myself in a while, but my doctors tell me from my MRI's and X-rays that I can probably grow to be 6-7 or 6-8."

Scary thought, that.

When asked for one last comment, Trabucco, whose constant prodding has helped Gore turn into a major Division 1-A prospect, sounds like a beaming father.

"We're proud of him," he says without hesitation.

 

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