Friday, August 22, 2003

New challenges await UC walk-on


Freshman is moved from defensive line to linebacker

By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE]
Tony Carvitti
Tony Carvitti played on the defensive line all through high school, but when University of Cincinnati football coach Rick Minter asked him last week if he wanted to play linebacker, Carvitti was willing to give it a shot.

"I was kind of scared," Carvitti said. "When coach Minter asked me I said, 'I don't know. I've never played it before so it would be kind of hard.' He said, 'Well, neither did Peter Boulware until he moved to the Baltimore Ravens.'  "

Carvitti, a freshman walk-on from Elder High School, was in no position to argue, so off he went to play linebacker in UC's scrimmage last Saturday.

"Number one, he's smart," Minter said. "Number two, he runs pretty well. We stuck him in there and by golly, he did a pretty good job."

A year ago, Carvitti was about to embark on a season in which he would set an Elder record with 27 career sacks. His team would win the Division I state championship and Carvitti would be honored by the Associated Press as Ohio's tri-defensive player of the year.

Three of the stars from that team received major college scholarship offers. Offensive lineman Tom Anevski went to Boston College. Another offensive lineman, Digger Bujnoch, and end Bill Poland both are playing at UC on scholarship.

But none of Carvitti's accomplishments in high school translated into a Division I-A scholarship because, at 6-0, 225 pounds, he's considered too small to play the defensive line on that level.

Carvitti doesn't buy it. He believes desire and intensity can overcome a lack of size and he's out to prove it at UC.

"When I play," Carvitti said, "I play with a lot of heart. You can't really factor that into anything. It's not something they can see on paper, so it doesn't really matter."

But it's something that can be recognized on the field, and that's where Carvitti is attempting to make a name for himself.

"The harder you work, the more they get impressed," he said of the UC coaches. "They tape everything out here. All the coaches get together and watch the whole day's practice and give everyone a grade. They're always watching even when you don't think they are, so you have to be on your game every day."

Carvitti has already made a favorable impression on Minter, who has taken a personal interest in him. While Mark Criner, UC's co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, works with the other linebackers, Minter focuses on Carvitti.

"Every day when we go to the inside run, I'm coaching him myself," Minter said, "because we're running my defense and I used to coach the linebackers. I'm a believer. I'm from the school that says smart guys can win."

Because of his instincts for the game and his ability to pick things up quickly, there's a very good chance that Carvitti will earn playing time this fall. Minter talks about using him on special teams, as a backup linebacker, maybe even as a pass rusher in certain situations.

Carvitti will do whatever it takes. He has been in this position before. As a freshman at Elder, he was deemed too small to be a starter. It took him until the final game of the season to crack the starting lineup, but he would not be deterred.

And he says he won't be deterred at UC.

"I just want to work hard enough to impress the coaches enough to get a scholarship," Carvitti said, "just to show everyone that I can do it, that I shouldn't have been overlooked."

He's certainly not being overlooked anymore.

"It's easy to see now watching him play how he got 27 sacks," Minter said. "That sucker's relentless. He's got some technique and some ability. It's not luck. He pass rushes against our guys and has his share of success. He's opened our eyes."

E-mail bkoch@enquirer.com




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