When Western defensive end Kevin Oliver puts his hand down on the line of scrimmage and looks up, he’s eyeing the backfield.
No matter what it takes, he’s getting past the offensive line.
In the same district yet at a school about 15 miles southwest in Weston, Cypress Bay’ Jacob Lichtenstein has the same goal.
They play for schools that missed the playoffs last year after going 5-5 in a district that includes defending Class 8A state champion Flanagan.
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But the two seniors -- both three-star prospects according to 247sports -- have developed their game over the past three years to the point that they’re receiving attention from some of the top college football programs in the country.
“They’re both great football players, great competitors,” Western football coach Adam Ratkevich said. ”Lichtenstein was a little bit more well-known. Kevin has kind of come out of nowhere. Before spring, not many people knew about him. Those are two tremendous football players and from my understanding, he’s very similar to Kevin from the grind aspect. He’s a great kid that just works. Those are a pleasure to coach.”
Their style of play is similar, almost mirror images of each other.
They use a combination of brute strength and finesse to power past opposing offensive lineman, shedding blocks on their way to the backfield or pushing the offensive lineman backward and collapsing the pocket.
They envelope opposing quarterbacks with ease and can stonewall running backs if given enough time to make a play.
Oliver, a 6-4, 255-pound defensive end, has five offers on the table highlighted by the SEC’s Texas A&M, a school that has produced NFL defensive lineman such as Ray Childress and Johnny Jolly. The Aggies also have one of the top lineman in college football in junior Myles Garrett.
Oliver said he has worked on improving his timing off the snap, hoping to get a better initial push off an opposing offensive lineman.
“I definitely see some improvement in my pass rush,” Oliver said. “I’ve worked on my hips and my flexibility to make coming around the edges a little bit easier now.”
Lichtenstein (6-5, 248) committed to Southern Cal in mid-August.
While Lichtenstein has dominated on the field, he said his focus is on his senior year.
“I have to lead by example,” Lichtenstein said. “It is all about positive reinforcement.”
Oliver and Lichtenstein will play against each other at the high school level one more time on Sept. 30, and with Oliver also playing tight end for Western, a head-on opportunity to see which lineman reigns supreme could be a possibility.
“They’re going to get to bang at each other a little bit,” Ratkevich said.