football

Armstead passionate about position

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ELK GROVE, Calif. - With about four minutes left and Pleasant Grove holding a comfortable lead, four-star Arik Armstead came to the sidelines and removed vast amounts of tape around his wrists signifying he was done for the night.
It was time to rest for Armstead, the 6-foot-8, 295-pound prospect who was on the field for almost every play splitting his time at offensive tackle and defensive end.
And herein lies the intriguing situation: Armstead, who's committed to USC, plans to play defensive end for the Trojans although many people - including Pleasant Grove coach Joe Cattolico - believe his brightest future is on the offensive line.
"I think he's born to play that spot," Cattolico said.
"You don't get 6-foot-8, 295-pound kids who can move like that. At the level I think he's going to end up at which is the professional level those are the guys they're looking for because they have to get somebody to protect the million-dollar quarterback. I think that's where he ends up playing but he's pretty good on the other side of the field, too."
It was difficult to judge Armstead's ability at defensive end in Pleasant Grove's 35-6 win Saturday night because Elk Grove Monterey Trail ran a veer offense and Armstead had few chances to blitz the quarterback.
Monterey Trail mainly ran away from Armstead's side, or up the middle, and he finished with about three tackles. Armstead seemed much more useful when the Pleasant Grove coaches moved him to nose guard where he could stuff the run.
On the rare occasions when Monterey Trail threw the ball, Armstead regularly muscled his way into the backfield and pressured the quarterback. He had no problem jostling smaller players out of the way but didn't get many chances to do so.
"They run that veer offense and we pretty much just had to sit there and read what they were trying to do," Armstead said.
"I'm more passionate about defense. Coach (Ed Orgeron) down at USC says I'm a great defensive lineman so I'm ready to go play under him."
Cattolico said: "We tried to move him around a little kind of by feel and kind of keep them from getting a beat on him as far as where he was going to line up."
Armstead, rated third at strong-side defensive end, fourth in the California state rankings and No. 23 in the 2012 class by Rivals.com, was a threat on defense.
But he absolutely dominated on offense and that's why this debate continues: Should Armstead follow his heart and stick with defense or follow what others say about his brightest future and possibly learn to love even more playing offensive tackle?
Not only was Armstead great at manhandling any defensive lineman who dared try to blitz the quarterback from his side but he has the agility even at his massive size to run down the field and throw opponents out of the way.
Armstead is so technically sound and unmovable that he would arguably be one of the top offensive linemen in the 2012 class if that was his projected position in college.
It cannot be forgotten, either, that Armstead is just warming back up to football after a busy summer playing AAU basketball. The four-star was neither overly pleased nor unhappy about his season-opening performance but said his game should improve by playing more.
"I can always play better," Armstead said. "I'm really hard on myself. I think I played OK but it was the first game of the season. I'll get more in my mode and then play better later in the year."
It is destined to be an interesting year for Armstead and not only because the debate about which position best suits him will rage on.
The Elk Grove standout who has been committed to USC since June 2010 and who has a brother, Armond, playing for the Trojans is planning to take some official visits.
The number of trips is undetermined but Armstead said eight schools are being considered. Arkansas, Arizona, Notre Dame, Alabama, Nevada and USC are on the list.
He's now unsure about Miami because of the imbroglio surrounding that program and Armstead couldn't remember the eighth team. It might be Cal since he's had lots of involvement with that coaching staff but he didn't name the Golden Bears.
As the season progresses, lots of people will be watching Armstead's every move in recruiting and especially on the field.
Whether he's better served on offense or defense could be a question left unanswered until he ends up on a college campus.
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