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Sunday, March 17, 2013
Sunshine State OT names leader

By Derek Tyson

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Former Michigan offensive lineman commit Denzel Ward (Bradenton, Fla./IMG Academies) was one of the standout linemen at Saturday's Orlando NFTC.

The 6-foot-8, 307-pound tackle prospect, who has offers from Ohio State, Florida, Oklahoma and Arizona State among others, said his comfort level with one coaching staff in particular has brought that program to the top of his list.

Ward said the work put in with him by the Florida coaching staff, specifically head coach Will Muschamp, offensive line coach Tim Davis and wide receivers coach Joker Phillips, has given Florida a big boost.

"It's just the relationship I've built with the coaching staff there and the relationship I have with the other recruits," he said. "I just really like the direction they are going. I like how the depth chart is looking for O-linemen."

Along with Florida, Ward said Oklahoma, Michigan, ASU, Texas A&M, UCLA and now Alabama are schools that stand out.

"I like Alabama," he said. "They have, basically, a dynasty for O-linemen."

Ward recently transferred from a high school in Chicago to IMG Academies, hoping the facilities and training he will receive at IMG will help further his football career. Ward said he has enjoyed his experience so far.

"It's been like a college like setting, so it's helped me prepare for college, so when I get to college it will help me fly through it," he said. "I've been here for just about two months now and I've already gained 12 pounds from working out."

Ward has also received some coaching tips from former college players who are now preparing at IMG for the NFL draft in April.

"I talk to Luke Joekel and Barrett Jones and they really help me with some of the tips they give me," he said. "They just tell me to finish through every play. They've been a big help."

As for upcoming plans, Ward said there is only one school that he expects to see in the near future.

"I'll probably get up to Florida sometime over the spring -- especially because they are so close," he said. "I want to go up there to see a practice if I can."

Ward said he plans to take all of his visits in the fall before making a final decision. His last visit is to Florida, for the Gators' November game against archrival Florida State, after which he'll likely take a few weeks and then make a choice.