The ranking of Arik Armstead has been debated ad nauseam for months but the Elk Grove (Calif.) Pleasant Grove standout has done a commendable job staying away from those discussions and focusing on the game.
On Thursday during a ceremony at his high school, Armstead was presented with his U.S. Army All-American Bowl jersey, a game he said he has dreamed about playing in for years.
Article Continues Below
It will also be another opportunity for the 6-foot-8, 285-pound prospect to shine on the national stage and prove himself as arguably a five-star recruit.
"It's an excellent honor," Armstead said. "This is the game I've dreamed of playing in since I was a freshman in high school and it was a goal I had to make the game. That I'm achieving my goal is really humbling and really an honor.
"It should be really fun to play against some really good competition, meet new players and get some relationships going with players from across the country so it should be a great experience.
"With rankings and all that I don't look too much into it. I just worry about myself and getting better every day. That's the way I'll know I'm prepared for the next level and the next level after that hopefully. I just work hard every day and continue to get better."
Rivals.com rates Armstead, a four-star prospect, as the fourth-best strong-side defensive end and No. 26 prospect in the class.
He's fourth in the California state rankings behind Monrovia defensive tackle Ellis McCarthy, Sacramento Grant safety Shaq Thompson and Atwater Buhach defensive tackle Aziz Shittu, all five-star recruits and U.S. Army All-American selections.
There would be a good possibility that Armstead would be ranked even higher - probably a five-star - if he chose to play offensive tackle but the Pleasant Grove standout and USC commit said he's set on playing defensive end in college and in the Army Bowl.
A week's worth of work in San Antonio during the Army Bowl week could prove his legitimacy as a top-flight defensive lineman.
"I want to play defense and I've talked to them about playing defensive end and defensive tackle," Armstead said. "That's what I'm going to play in the game.
"I think going down there and playing against some of the best O-linemen in the country is going to get me a lot better going into college. It's going to give me a chance to play against some better players."
The debate over Armstead's position has been an intriguing one and his recruitment isn't humdrum, either. Committed to USC since June 2010, Armstead said he is sticking with his pledge to the Trojans but he has two other official visits set up and the opportunity to take others.
Armstead will visit Notre Dame later this month when it hosts USC and then will go to Alabama in early November for its showdown against LSU. An official trip to USC is planned for its city rivalry against UCLA on Nov. 26.
The four-star prospect is keeping the option open to take other visits but he's finding it problematic trying to schedule around his high school obligations.
"I'm just taking in some more information and getting to know the coaches better," Armstead said. "I don't necessarily have an order or anything like that. This will give me a good chance to get out and see the campuses and make a better decision."
As for his commitment to USC, Armstead said it still sticks. But taking other visits at least keeps open the possibility of looking elsewhere.
"I'm committed to SC and I love the coaches down there and it's a really good fit for me but I'm going to take my trips and listen to other coaches and get out and see some stuff for myself," Armstead said.
Whether it's about USC, his future position or his ranking, the intrigue continues with Armstead, one of the nation's best players who sure knows how to keep things exciting.