Commentary

Armstead standing out at Army practice

Originally Published: January 2, 2012
By Damon Sayles | ESPN Recruiting Nation

SAN ANTONIO -- The looks from random individuals that Arik Armstead (Elk Grove, Calif./Pleasant Grove) received at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl's host hotel could tell a story. Better yet, they could tell bestsellers.

When Armstead gets up from a chair, he becomes the most imposing, intimidating person in the room. At 6-foot-8 and 290 pounds, Armstead, in the eyes of many, is a giant. It just so happens that he's a gentle giant -- that is, when he's not on the football field or the basketball court.

[+] EnlargeArmstead
Damon SaylesArik Armstead is the top-ranked player from the state of California.

Take Monday's bowl practice for the West team, for example. During a play, Armstead accidentally collided with quarterback Zeke Pike (Edgewood, Ky./Dixie Heights), who at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds isn't a small person. Armstead sent Pike to the ground, only to help him up and check on his teammate.

"It's the first day, and I'm still trying to get used to everything," Armstead said of the play. "I apologized afterward."

Come Saturday, all apologies will be off, as the West faces the East in the annual all-star game. Armstead, an uncommitted, four-star defensive lineman, plans on using his size and strength for the good of his team, and he also has intentions of putting on a show for all the college scouts who will be keeping an eye on him.

Down to five after decommit

While Armstead doesn't plan on announcing where he will play college ball during Saturday's game, he is excited about his final list of schools -- Oregon, California, Notre Dame, Texas and Auburn. Armstead has visited Oregon, Cal and Notre Dame and is looking to possibly set up visits to Texas and Auburn.

"I feel like they've been the ones recruiting me the hardest," Armstead said of the five schools. "I can see myself fitting in all those places."

Armstead committed to USC in June 2010 but decided to part ways with the Trojans in October. Armstead's older brother Armond, a senior defensive lineman for USC, was not allowed to participate in spring workouts while waiting for test results from chest pains. Despite tests coming back negative, USC chose to redshirt Armond. The decision played a role in Armstead's overall move to decommit.

Armstead said he is looking at all five of his final schools equally. Cal may have a slight lead over the others, as the Golden Bears have recruited him since his freshman year, and the trip from Elk Grove to Berkeley, Calif., isn't far. Armstead added that he has a very good relationship with defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi.

Arik Armstead
Tony Avelar for ESPNHSArik Armstead wants to play on the defensive line in college, as well as on the basketball court.

Another major advantage for the five schools involves the fact that they will allow him to play both football and basketball. When he's not clogging holes and making tackles as a defensive lineman, he's clogging holes, grabbing rebounds and blocking shots on the basketball court. Armstead said the schools on his list have built reputations for putting out professional players in both football and basketball.

However, playing basketball isn't the only deal-breaker for Armstead. He also wants to play on the defensive line, despite seeing his name listed on recruiting boards as an offensive tackle.

"A lot of people think I should play offensive line," Armstead said, while shaking his head negatively. "It's their opinion, but I feel I'll be successful at whatever I do."

No worries in San Antonio

Armstead looked back at his senior season and smiled. In addition to helping Pleasant Grove advance to the California Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship game, he also was named a first-team all-state selection as well as a second-team Sports Illustrated High School All-American.

Armstead said that while the Army game has importance, he is expecting to unwind mentally this week, primarily because of how hard he worked during the regular season. He's not going to let the recruiting process get in the way of a good time, even though he admitted to continuously thinking of pros and cons that will help him narrow his current list of schools.

"I don't let it get to me too much, especially with all the options I have," Armstead said. "I have to weigh them and see what's best for me and not what's best for others. It just has to be the best decision for me."

Armstead said enjoying the moment -- for this week -- will be the top priority. He is looking forward to playing in the Alamodome against players he will eventually see on the college level, and he is cherishing the opportunity to put on an Army game uniform, which will allow him to springboard into FBS play.

"It's a great experience just being able to play against the top competition and meet some of the top recruits," he said. "I'm having fun at the end of my high school career."

Damon Sayles covers recruiting in the Midlands for ESPN Recruiting. He can be reached at dsaylesespn@gmail.com.