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Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Coaches' take: Aulden Bynum

By David Ching

ATHENS, Ga. -- Ashley Henderson has heard all of the questions about whether a player from a small private school in Georgia can make the leap to playing major college football. He believes Aulden Bynum has the physical tools and the toughness to make that transition.

“People have asked me, ‘Well, because he goes to Valwood, do you think he’s going to be able to do it?’ ” said Henderson, who coached Bynum and the Valiants to a Georgia Independent School Association (GISA) state title last fall. “I said, ‘Well, I coached O-line at Valdosta for seven years and he’s as good as I ever had there.’ ”

The winningest high school football program in the country, Valdosta sent plenty of players to the college ranks -- including Malcolm Mitchell, Jay Rome and Michael Gilliard to Georgia -- while Henderson was an assistant there. So even if Bynum comes from a program that’s the little brother to the city’s featured tandem of Lowndes and Valdosta, Henderson knows by now what a college player looks like -- and Bynum fits the bill.

“He’s got a very, very high ceiling,” Henderson said. “He’s 6-foot-6 and all of it and he’s not a big, fat kid at 6-foot-6. He’s got a great frame and length, as far as wingspan, and he weighs 260 right now, but I could see him holding another 60 pounds easy and looking good with it -- not being a big fat-body.”

Of course, it will take time to prepare his body to hold that kind of weight. The good news is that Bynum already has a head start on several members of Georgia’s 2013 signing class. He enrolled early, joining the Bulldogs this month in order to participate in offseason conditioning and spring practice.

Rated by ESPN as a three-star prospect and the nation's No. 47 offensive tackle, Bynum’s story might be like that of the typical small-school lineman in that he could redshirt in order to add size and adjust to the vast difference in competition that awaits him in college.

“No matter what league you’re in -- GHSA or GISA -- you can lean on folks sometimes when you get a little tired and beat them still,” Henderson said. “And when you get to Georgia, if you lean on folks it’s fixing to be bad news. Somebody will knock you on your butt. Or they’re not even going to bother with knocking you down and they’re just going to be by you.

“So there’s a learning curve for any freshman athlete, but especially a lineman. There are not many [John] Theuses around that come in and start at a major college in the first year.”

Over the long haul, though, Henderson loves the combination of nastiness, physical tools and technical skills that Bynum brings to the table. That potential would become clear at points, when Bynum made it look like the opponent he was blocking was “on roller skates and you could tell that the kid was trying his best just to keep his cleats in the ground. It’d be one of those deals where Aulden would end up driving his man as far as the ball went.”

And get this: he might not be finished growing yet -- yet another reason that Georgia’s coaches were willing to sign a prospect with upside from the small-school division where they rarely look for talent. Once he adds that necessary weight and strength, Bynum might just become a good fit at a tackle spot for years to come.

“He’s a big athletic kid,” Henderson said. “He can move his feet well enough to pass block. I think he’s perfect for a pro-style offense because he can give you good balance in his stance and not tip off run or pass and still be dominant. I think he’s athletic enough to where as soon as he gets his strength up to where it needs to be, I think he’ll be a great addition to Georgia.”