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LA North: Perseverance paying off for Arbuckle

4/30/2011

LOS ANGELES -- What would the game of football be, regardless of the level, without one of those good ol' fashioned quarterback controversies?

Rest assured, Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure's Nick Arbuckle desires a starter's role, similar to most of his peers. However, it appears as if the 2012 prospect is destined to begin his senior season as the backup to teammate Marc Evans.

It's a quandary, there's no doubt about it. But for those who actually think Arbuckle is completely content with his current situation, think again.

Suppose that best explains why he was diligently working toward improving at the recent National Underclassmen Combine in Pasadena. Arbuckle performed so well, in fact, the 6-foot, 200-pound signal caller took home MVP honors for his position.

“It doesn't matter where I'm at, it can be a combine or at my high school, my goal is to get on the field and separate myself from the other quarterbacks,'' Arbuckle said. “Taking advantage of an opportunity when you have one has always been important to me.''

When given the chance to step to the forefront during the NUC Combine at Pasadena High, Arbuckle did not hesitate. He rose to the challenge. He thrived.

In the early morning session, players such as Troy Rose (Harbor City, Calif./Narbonne), Jordan Thiel (Simi Valley, Calif./Simi Valley) and Mitchell Shelby (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian) were considered as the main attractions during timed drills.

Arbuckle managed to hold his own.

Shortly thereafter, the strength testing portion of the combine started up and all eyes were on Brandon Carter (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Rancho Cucamonga), Orion Awa-DuBose (Oxnard, Calif./Rio Mesa) and Ryan McDaniel (Torrance, Calif./North Torrance).

Still, Arbuckle proved to be no slouch.

It was more of the same in the afternoon as Arbuckle displayed the uncanny knack for making most of the required throws during the 7-on-7 scrimmage.

“Arbuckle is a good looking recruit with plenty of ability,'' said David Schuman, President and CEO of the National Underclassmen Combine. “He has good footwork and good accuracy. He's a kid who has a bunch of tools that will help him get to the next level.''

Arbuckle has been in contact with several colleges, most notably Miami (Ohio), Northern Arizona and Ohio University. He has no official offers though.

Matters haven't been helped by the fact his counterpart, Evans, has been receiving plenty of recruiting attention. Arkansas and Boise State have expressed interest in him, both going so far as to call St. Bonventure coach Todd Therrien earlier this week.

It's also worth mentioning that Pac-10 Conference programs such as Arizona, Cal, Oregon State and UCLA have been keeping tabs on Evans. Notre Dame is in the mix as well. In the same boat as Arbuckle, Evans has no scholarship offers just yet.

“We're fortunate enough to have a pair of good quarterbacks here, because honestly, a lot of teams don't have one reliable option on the roster,'' Therrien said. “Each kid knows his role and we like that there's a competition. That kind of stuff always brings out the best in atheltes. I wouldn't be surprised to see Nick push Marc. Nick is capable of big things.''

Arbuckle, a two-year contributor over at St. Bonaventure, is capable of big things indeed. He proved as much again last season, occasionally filling in for Evans.

In seven games, Arbuckle completed more than 77 percent of his passes (21-for-27). He also averaged a more than respectable 4.3 yards per carry and scored three touchdowns on the ground for the Seraphs, a traditional Southern California powerhouse.

If given the opportunity, should Evans struggle or suffer an injury, chances are that Arbuckle could step in without missing a beat in the not so distant future.

Whether that happens, or not, remains to be seen.

One thing is certain: He's ready, willing and able.

“All I need is a shot to show everyone what I can do,'' Arbuckle said. “I'm confident that I can get the job done, but I've always been that way. I know the time will come for me to get some recognition. I know my name is going to get out there, eventually.''

Arbuckle can consider this step one.

SAMPLINGS FROM SAN DIEGO

Once things wrapped up out in Pasadena, the crew from the National Underclassmen Combine headed South for last weekend's event at Eastlake High in San Diego.

As expected, the turnout was good. And by most accounts, 2012 prospects such as Jeremiah Kolone (Fallbrook, Calif./Fallbrook Union), Lemando Zapanta (San Diego, Calif./Mira Mesa) and Rochon Taylor (San Diego, Calif./Francis Parker) were the headliners.

There's plenty to like with regards to Kolone. For one, at 6 feet 3 and nearly 300 pounds, he possesses the size most schools covet when searching for an offensive lineman. Moreover, Kolone moves his feet well and rarely, if ever, backs down from a challenge.

Kolone is receiving interest from a few programs within the Big Sky and Mountain West Conferences. Teams in the WAC have recently contacted him as well.

Zapanta has a fair amount of upside. At first glance, the 5-10, 175-plus pound defensive back appears a tad bit undersized and better suited for cornerback instead of his listed position, safety. The perception, however, changes once the ball is snapped.

Flying around the secondary with reckless abandon is the first thing that tends to stand out with regards to Zapanta's zest for the game. Equally important, he understands when to take the necessary gamble and when not to. Zapanta could be on the verge of coming into his own.

Taylor has flown underneath the radar thus far. All of that, however, could be changing, sooner rather than later. Once word spreads about him consistently finishing the 40-yard dash in the sub 4.5 range, scouts figure to keep a watchful eye on the 5-foot-8 running back.

Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.