When Kevin Whitley was first introduced to Brenton Cox two summers ago, he figured there had to be a catch.

Cox was transferring to Stockbridge High School outside Atlanta and made the rounds at the school with his mom, Tasha. Whitley is the Stockbridge football coach, and Cox sure looked like a football player.

But he couldn’t quite believe that a player like that would just drop into his lap.

“Normally, when they look like him, they can’t play,” Whitley said. “(I thought) there’s no way this kid is coming.”

Cox did come, and yes, the 2018 Ohio State commitment can play.

“He’s one of the elite defensive linemen in the country,” Bucknuts.com recruiting analyst Bill Kurelic said. “He’s a five-star defensive end who has all the physical tools you look for in that position.”

Heading into Friday’s second-round state playoff game, Stockbridge is 12-0 and the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Cox is one of the main reasons.

Asked whether he could highlight a particular play or game of Cox’s, Whitley replied, “That’s pretty much every game. When he’s on the field, he’s going to do something that nobody else on the team can do. I can’t really pick one play. When he’s on, he’s on.”

Cox isn’t always on, and consistency is the part of his game that Whitley harps on.

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“What makes the great ones great is they do it every play, every practice,” Whitley said. “Once he does that, he’s going to be a great, great player. He controls his own destiny. He has been blessed with all the physical tools. He’s smart. He works hard. He just has to put it all together.”

This season, Cox’s stats aren’t as dazzling as one might expect. He has four sacks and six tackles for loss. Cox has missed three games because of illness or injury, and Stockbridge has routed most of its opponents.

“In that situation, usually your starters don’t play the whole game, and obviously schools are going to run away from a great player,” Kurelic said. “If he plays defensive end, it’s a lot easier to do that than if he was a middle linebacker or safety.”

With a player of Cox’s ability, recruiting is never really over until he signs on the dotted line, especially for a prospect from the South. Whitley said he gets about 15 calls a week from Power Five coaches asking how strong Cox’s commitment is and hoping for an opening.

Cox took a visit to Alabama recently, and that caused some angst among Buckeyes fans worried about the Crimson Tide swooping in. But Whitley said that Cox took that visit to Tuscaloosa because Alabama was playing Arkansas, and Cox has a friend who plays for the Razorbacks.

“That was his reasoning, according to him and his mom, and I have no reason to doubt them,” Whitley said.

He estimated that Cox’s chances of signing with Ohio State was “95 to 98 percent. I haven’t had any conversations that would lead me to believe it was anything other than Ohio State.”

Kurelic agrees.

“Georgia has continued to work on him, and so has Alabama,” he said. “But there’s a not a lot of confidence from the Alabama side that they’ll be able to flip him. In fact, I was told by a source close to Brenton that he’s not planning to make any official visits to any other schools. I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t stick to Ohio State.”

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

@brdispatch

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