New Columbus coach breaks down some of his high-profile recruits
Dave Dunn had to wait a bit longer to see Elijah Roberts on the field than he did with most of his other players at Miami Columbus. Roberts was a key component of the Explorers’ track and field state championship, so he only got out on the field for the last week and a half of spring practices.
Dunn already lofty expectations for Roberts, who was previously committed to the Miami Hurricanes and had a reputation as one of the best defensive linemen in South Florida. Somehow, the three-star defensive end exceeded what Dunn expected from Roberts based on what he saw on film.
“More often than not you get him in person, you’re like, ‘You know, he needs to work on this,’” said Dunn, who is in his first year as Columbus’ coach. “He’s one of the few rare cases of my career that he was better in person than he was on film.”
There are a few major reasons. The first is just his sheer athleticism, which Dunn appreciated even more once he saw him run the floor on the basketball court in gym class throughout the spring. The other is his sheer size. Roberts is near 270 pounds — he measured in at 6-foot-3 and 267 pounds at The Opening Miami regional in February — after he played the 2018 season at a listed weight of 250 pounds, and he hasn’t sacrificed any of his quickness. He has the size to potentially develop into a defensive tackle once he arrives in Coral Gables or the agility to be a physically imposing defensive end.
It’s why Roberts’ oral commitment to Miami on Saturday was one of the most important pledges the Hurricanes have landed so far in the Class of 2020. Although he’s only a three-star prospect in the 247Sports.com composite rankings, Roberts holds a four-star grade in 247Sports’ own rankings and the ESPN.com rankings. He has a chance to be the best defensive lineman in Miami-Dade County by the time his senior season wraps up.
“He’s definitely an elite-level talent that belongs at a place like Miami,” Dunn said. “We couldn’t block him. He’s big, strong and athletic. ... He’s just scratching the surface of his overall ability — he’s just going to keep getting bigger and stronger.”
As good as he was for the Explorers as a junior who helped them reach the Class 8A championship, Roberts has impressed Dunn with what he has done in the offseason.
Before Dunn began working on the field as Columbus’ first-year coach, he began working as a gym teacher for the second semester, and his class happened to be loaded with football, basketball and baseball players. It was there Dunn got his first glimpses of just what Roberts could be.
“That was probably surprising more than anything,” Dunn said. “I had to yank them off the court. I had to blow the whistle like, ‘Hey, you’re going to be late for your next class,’ so I got an extensive amount of time to watch him on the basketball court and see how well he moves.”
Then there were those brief glimpses he actually got of Roberts on the field.
Time working with the defensive lineman was limited, but Dunn quickly learned it was going to be tough to block Roberts regularly. The only solution sometimes was to move Roberts to tight end.
“He’s not bad. He’ll claim that he’s going to be Rob Gronkowski, but he’s good enough to play there, no question,” Dunn said with a laugh. He would be a true inline blocking tight end for us. Obviously, all he wants to talk about is how good his hands are.
“People say, When’d you look the best? I said, ‘When we put Elijah at tight end. Not only is he blocking for us, now we don’t have to block him.’”