Tim Settle was a fixture on the summer camp circuit and so was his omnipresent smile.
But put the big defensive tackle – one of the nation’s top prospects for 2015 -- on the football field and you will see somebody who is all business.
“I just love to play football,” said Settle, a junior standout at Stonewall Jackson High School in Manassas, Va. His school and hometown are located just outside the nation’s capital, just west of Washington, D.C.
The 6-3 ½, 304-pound Settle is rated as the nation’s No. 9 prospect overall, No. 3 defensive tackle and No. 1 player in Virginia for 2015, according to 247Sports.com.
He has schools from all over the country after him. He boasts offers from a long list of top college programs, including Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Georgia Tech, Miami (Fla.), North Carolina, N.C. State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, South Carolina, Tennessee, UCLA, USC, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin.
Settle was asked why he thinks top programs are already all over him.
“It’s all about being mentally focused,” he said. “I know people like my size. But I do a good job of reading the play and getting there. I feel like I am a big guy who can really move.”
Settle was one of the top performers at the Nike Camp at Ohio State back in June. He more than held his own against top senior linemen from the region. The whole time, though, Settle just smiled and smiled like he was a kid in a candy store.
“He brings a great attitude to practice,” said Stonewall Jackson coach Mike Dougherty. “He’s working and he’s trying to get everybody around him to work with him. At the end of the day, he just turned 16 and he is starting to take some real strides with his leadership and his craft.
Tim Settle at Nike Camp this past June
“When all that matches his ability and talent … he’s already unblockable now. I can’t imagine what it will be like when it all comes together.”
Ryan Bartow, a national recruiting analyst for 247Sports.com, saw Settle just within the last few weeks and came away impressed.
“He is an absolute monster,” Bartow said. “He has ideal size. He is thick and readymade. He can already take on double- and triple-teams but also defeat them. He has advanced power. He is one of the nation’s elite defensive tackles.”
A Steady Progression
According to Dougherty, he and his coaching staff had an inclination Settle was going to special when they brought him up to the varsity as a freshman late in the 2011 season.
“We left him on the freshman team,” Dougherty said. “Then, at the end of the season, we brought him up to the varsity for the last two or three games. In his first three or four plays, he had two sacks. It was late in the game, but it was still against varsity players. He was about 250 or 260 then.
“But just watching the film of those two plays, I was like, ‘This kid has got something.’ A lot of people would agree with that now.”
Settle came back last year as a sophomore and enjoyed a breakout season as Stonewall Jackson went 9-2. He earned first-team all-district and all-region honors. He collected 72 tackles, 25 tackles-for-loss, five pass break-ups and three sacks.
“I think it’s the combination of his size and speed that sets him apart,” Dougherty said. “His ability to get off the ball is unmatched – at least in our area. We call it a twitch. He just has that twitch when the ball moves. He’s already a step past you or has you on your heels.
“When you combine that with 305 pounds with a 5.1-second 40 time and explosiveness to boot, that’s what the colleges see and that’s what we saw from his ninth grade year. You don’t see that too often.”
Settle’s junior season has gotten off to somewhat of a rocky start with Stonewall Jackson at 1-2. In those three games, Settle has 15 tackles, five tackles-for-loss, three strips and two fumble recoveries.
His biggest adjustment has come from learning how to start and play the whole game both ways at offensive guard and defensive tackle.
“I am playing both sides of the football this year,” he admitted. “It is kind of hard because I have to adjust to it. By playing on offense, I’m in the game like 125 out of 135 plays. In terms of conditioning and me getting tired, that tells me I have to work harder in practice.
“I work hard to get into the backfield to try and make plays. It’s really rare that they run it to my side. The team we played last week kind of teased us. They would line up heavy to the other side and then ran to my side. I’m the kind of player who will jam the hole up so you can’t make a move.”
Dougherty said it is natural for players new to playing both ways to struggle a bit at first.
“Tim, like a lot of his teammates, is still learning what kind of practice and preparation you need to be able to play both ways for 150 plays in a varsity game,” the coach said. “Last year, he played one side of the ball and conditioning was never an issue. He’s having to deal with being 20 pounds heavier and stronger and us relying on him to play both sides of the ball.”
Settle said he hopes thinks start to work better for his team, beginning with this Friday’s game at Woodbridge.
“I feel like we’re coming together as a team,” he said. “We are making some changes and hopefully they work. We’ve had some guys injured, including our quarterback. He should be coming back strong, though.”
Settle admits, however, he is not producing up to his own lofty standards.0
“I am not playing like I did last year,” he said. “I’m still getting used to playing on both sides of the ball. I’m not as excited as I was last year. When I made a tackle, I’d be all happy. I’m going to make that change. I don’t have that same excitement I had last year.
“I am going to get back on my high horse and hype my team up. I’m going to go crazy like I did last year. We have seven more games to play, and I’m gonna eat.”
Although Settle is repping on offense, Dougherty says his star player will write his ticket on defense.
“I think defense is where he’s going to end up,” Dougherty said. “Typically, they look at all the big guys and send the most athletic ones over to defense anyway. He has the arms to play offense. He has the balance and the posture you need.
“But I think he is a future A-gap guy who can control two gaps and drive that center into the backfield on every play. We use him everywhere up front. We use him at the ends and in the middle just to vary how teams play him. But I think he will end up in the middle (in college).”
Settle added, “Defense is definitely where I want to play in college.”
Plenty Of Options
Although the college football season is only three weeks old, Settle has already attended a couple of marquee games. In the opening weekend, he was at the BYU-Virginia game at Charlottesville. Then, on Sept. 7, he joined his friend defensive end Da’Shawn Hand – a top-five 2014 prospect from rival Woodbridge – on a trip to Ann Arbor for the Notre Dame-Michigan game.
He also plans to attend the Clemson-Virginia game later this season. Some of the schools mentioned most prominently for Settle include Virginia, Michigan, Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Clemson.
“I don’t really have a top five,” Settle said. “These are the schools who really stand out and are showing me the most love.”
Here were his thoughts on several of those top choices:
* On Virginia – “I love the atmosphere there. I love it up there. It is also close. On a good day, you can get there in about an hour-and-a-half.”
* On Michigan – “It was cool. Da’Shawn was on his official visit so they showed him some love. They showed me some love, too.”
* On Alabama – “I love Alabama. I’ve been there one time. The way they treated me there was great. I know if I went to Alabama, I’d have to get down to business.”
* On Oklahoma – “I’m going to get out to Oklahoma. I have a coach who I grew up with. He just recently moved to Oklahoma. I’m going to go out there and stay there for a week and check that school out.”
* On Ohio State – “Ohio State, I like the school a lot. When I was up there for the camp, I did not get to see the whole campus. I did get to see the football facilities. I want to check out their campus.”
* On North Carolina – “I love North Carolina. Every time I go up there, I love it. The first time I went up there, I didn’t like it as well. It was a junior day and there wasn’t that much individual attention. But North Carolina was my first offer, though.”
* On Clemson -- “There are a lot of things I like about Clemson. Their coaches are always checking on me to see how I’m doing.”
Click here for video highlights of Settle in action from his sophomore season.
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