Should Arik Armstead be a five-star prospect?
Perhaps more than any major recruit in the 2012 recruiting class, the analysis is all over the board on Armstead, who told Rivals.com last weekend at the Fullcourt Press Easter Classic basketball tournament in Las Vegas that he uses rankings for motivation.
"I guess it kind of motivates me when people don't think that highly of me," the Elk Grove (Calif.) Pleasant Grove defensive end said. "It motivates me to get better and when people do think very highly of me, it also motivates me to prove that they're right."
Armstead's place in the initial 2012 Rivals.com rankings will be determined next month, but he was not among the first 12 five-star prospects unveiled recently. The opinion on the 6-foot-8, 280-pound Armstead, who committed to USC in June as a defensive end and plans to play both football and basketball for the Trojans, is mixed.
Various recruiting analysts have said Armstead was unimpressive during limited reps last spring at the Palo Alto NIKE Camp. He attended but did not participate in the Los Angeles NIKE Camp a few weeks back.
In Las Vegas, Armstead said he was undecided on whether he'd work out in Palo Alto later this spring and would have to look at his basketball schedule first. His junior season highlight tape is one of the nation's best but against elite national competition, it's still difficult to determine where Armstead stands.
"I'm pretty confident, in looking at the other guys, that I'm up there," Armstead said. "There are a lot of talented people out there but I'm pretty confident in myself."
What also might be concerning some evaluators is that Armstead plays both offensive and defensive line in high school, and that they're undecided on where he projects in college and beyond.
Sitting in the Bishop Gorman gymnasium prior to Compton Magic's afternoon game last Saturday, Armstead emphasized that he's going to be a defensive end for the Trojans, similar to his brother, Armond Armstead, a senior defensive end. That's his passion and that's where USC wants him.
"Initially, everyone asked me where I wanted to play and I told them I want to play defense," Armstead said. "Everybody knows I want to play defense and SC recruited me to play defense and wants me to come in and play defense. Coach (Ed Orgeron) wants to develop me like my brother.
"I'm definitely looking forward to it. They're both fun but I'm more passionate about defense. It's more exciting and I can make more plays."
Not only is Armstead one of the best players at two positions in football, he plans to play basketball at USC as well. According to Armstead, he has gotten the blessing of football coach Lane Kiffin and basketball coach Kevin O'Neill.
All the heavy hitters recruited Armstead with Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Miami, Michigan, Notre Dame, Tennessee and pretty much the entire Pac-10 chasing him. But it was the combination of sports at USC, plus his brother playing there, and the football team's history of putting players in the NFL that sold Armstead on the Trojans early on.
"With me being so good at football, people just think basketball is my hobby but I've been playing basketball longer and basketball is my first love," Armstead said. "I've been working really hard at it since I was really little. Basketball and football have helped me become better at each sport. Playing basketball helps me at football and playing football has helped me at basketball.
"… I talked to coach O'Neill and coach Kiffin and they're both excited about it so that's what I'm going to do. It's going to be tough. I have to make sure I'm real strong academically and I stay stable there, and also working out the schedules where it helps both sides. It's going to be a challenge but I'm up for it.
"It was a main factor in my decision. I committed right after I went to their basketball camp and coach (O'Neill) said I could come to SC and play a lot. That really solidified what I wanted to do."
Armstead will have ample opportunities before signing day to prove he's worthy of five-star status by Rivals.com. For someone who has already achieved so much, it is one of the last hurdles before being considered a truly elite player.