Los Angeles, Calif. – What goes into the making of the nation’s top football prospect? In the case of Elk Grove (Calif.) Pleasant Grove lineman Arik Armstead, the answer is not a simple one.
California prospect Arik Armstead is the No. 1 player in The247 for the class of 2012.
When 247Sports releases The247 - its initial rankings for the 2012 class - on Wednesday, Armstead will be listed as the No. 1 prospect in America. But even among the fraternity of No. 1 prospects, Armstead is unique.
Armstead is the top offensive tackle in the country, but he likely won’t play offensive tackle on the next level; he wants to play defensive line.
Armstead won’t get much experience playing defensive line this spring at camps or combines because he’ll be too busy playing basketball.
Armstead missed the Los Angeles Nike Camp on Sunday because he was playing in an AAU basketball game across town. His 20 points helped his team to an overtime victory. That’s just the kind of athlete that Armstead is - no matter the position.
At 6 feet 8 and 285 pounds, Armstead has natural strength and athleticism. At offensive tackle, Armstead shows the feet of – well – a basketball player. He also shows the mean streak and finisher’s mentality of a defensive lineman. Considering his plan is to play exclusively defensive line in college, that makes sense as well.
As good as Armstead is though, he is far from reaching his incredibly high ceiling. How could he? He hasn’t even focused in on one sport yet, much less one position.
“I feel it’s a great honor [to be named the nation’s top player],” Armstead said before his basketball game on Sunday. “I don’t really try to worry about rankings too much, but for you to have me that high is a great honor. Now I’m going to take it with me and now I’ve got to keep working and get better to hold that spot.”
With a talented national class, Armstead will certainly have plenty of competition for that top spot. However, he isn’t focused on the other names gunning for him - though he knows the target is there.
“For me it’s more of a personal competition,” he said. “I know some of the guys that are good and I talk to them a little bit, but no vendettas or anything. Personally, I just work out and focus on what I have to do to get better.
“[The target on my back] motivates me and that’s been motivating me for a while. I always know people know who I am and are looking to do something against me, so I know I always have to play hard and be competitive and have a killer instinct.”
Talking to Armstead, it’s hard to imagine the killer instinct is actually there. You can see his ferocious play and toughness on film, but he is soft-spoken, and well-spoken, in person.
Armstead's older brother may be able to take credit for helping develop Arik's toughness.
Armond Armstead was a highly touted high school prospect in the class of 2008 who signed with USC. Armond’s senior season in 2011 will likely be his third season as a starter for the Trojans.
Arik credits much of his success to his older brother, both on and off the field.
“My brother has definitely helped me a lot,” he said. “Going through the process, I got to watch everything he did, watch all his games, watch him be recruited and watch him in college, too. I’ve watched most of his games, so my brother has definitely helped me in my football career.”
Following in his older brother’s footsteps, Arik is a USC commit and has been for some time; he committed to the Trojans during his sophomore year. Arik also plans on following in his brother’s footsteps by playing on the defensive line in college.
Despite his offensive talents, USC has been happy to oblige Arik's preference to play defense.
“SC wants me to play defense, and I’ve been doing stuff with Coach (Ed) Orgeron and watching film and everything," Armstead said. "I feel like I’m going to be an excellent college defensive lineman.
“They’ll have me maybe doing something like my brother. He’s bounced around a lot playing D-end and D-tackle. I’m going to play strongside defensive end, so they want me to come in my freshman year and be a pass rush specialist, too.”
Armstead is firm in his pledge to the Trojans, but he is also interested in seeing some other schools nationally.
“I plan on taking some visits next year just to get out and see some other places,” he said. “It’s not final yet, but I was thinking about Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Miami and SC of course. I’ve talked to (Nick) Saban before, I’ve talked to (Gene) Chizik before, Coach Brennan Carroll at Miami, definitely have talked with my brother’s coaches at SC and at Florida with Coach Bryant Young.
"I’ve built relationships with a lot of them, so I just want to get out and see. I’m only a high school senior once, so I feel like I need to get out and see what else is out there.”