Zone Read: Getting Closer

We are less than a week away from National Signing Day so let’s get right to some of the things that have caught my attention around the state in high school football.

Let’s Not Forget

As I scroll through my timeline leading up to NSD, it’s refreshing to be reminded of the high volume of Arizona student-athletes who will be fulfilling their goal of playing college football, regardless of what school or classification they continue their academic and gridiron career. 

For every Tyler Shough (Oregon), Matteo Mele (Washington), Kenny Churchwell (UCLA) and Jack Plummer (Purdue) there are dozens of others who will strap on the pads in the next four years for schools around the country like Rocky Mountain, Washburn and Black Hills State.

At Chandler High, the state’s most dominant program, head coach Shaun Aguano understands the importance of helping his players get to the next level, regardless of what level that may be.

“I [was] a Division III player in college,” Aguano said to Sports360AZ.com. “I work harder for those kids because the Division I kids will get theirs. I spend the same amount of time and treat every school the same.”

Aguano says, on average, he sends between 15-18 players a year to the next level.

This week a number of high-profile players also committed to play at local junior colleges, including Notre Dame Prep star running back Cole Fisher who helped the Saints reach the 5A championship game in December.

If you don’t believe said path can lead to a Division I scholarship through hard work on the field and in the classroom, meet Glendale Community College offensive tackle Manny Orona.

Here To Help

It’s interesting how life can come full circle.

After helping persuade local stars Christian Kirk, Kyle Allen and Qualen Cunningham to Texas A&M, Kevin Sumlin has taken his talents to Tucson in hopes of turning the Wildcats into consistent contenders in the Pac-12 south.

Sumlin’s ties to Arizona high schools, particularly in the Valley, could pay big dividends for the ‘Cats who have struggled to land some of the state’s elite players in the past.

Christian KirkAs it turns out, Sumlin and the UofA could get an additional boost from the former Saguaro High star Kirk, arguably one of the greatest prep players to come from the Grand Canyon State.

Asked if he would reach out to potential recruits who Sumlin was recruiting, Kirk’s answer was short and sweet.

“100 percent,” he said without hesitation to Sports360AZ.com’s Brad Cesmat during a recent in-studio sit down leading up to the NFL Combine. 

Kirk continued.

“I think he’s going to kill it for them on the recruiting trail,” he explained. “I think UofA is really lucky to have him.”

The Great Debate

Brock Purdy Nick SabanFew stories have been more captivating than the wild recruiting ride of Perry quarterback Brock Purdy who’s gone from “under the radar” and practically unnoticed to coveted by some elite programs, including defending national champ Alabama who hosted the Purdy’s last weekend.

With a second signing period now in place, is Purdy the new poster child, or simply the exception to the rule, when it comes to players waiting to commit in hopes of bigger schools showing late interest?

College recruitment is just as much a guessing game for the student-athletes and their families as it is for the schools courting them. 

I’ve been talking about Purdy, not only an exceptional player but an unbelievably likable young man, for quite some time in Zone Read. It’s easy to pull for the “underdog”, which is hard to fathom considering he rolled up over 11,000 total yards and close to 130 career touchdowns playing in the best section in the state. I’m hopeful Purdy and his family don’t get caught up in “the process” leading up to next week.

The biggest, brightest lights may not be best for everyone. There are a number of former Arizona high school prospects who can attest to it. 

Remember the Date

With the rise in population and sheer numbers in the Valley, the state has certainly caught the attention of other top programs from around the country. Arizona schools will either be traveling to or hosting some elite teams this fall.

Last year I witnessed Centennial out-muscle St. Thomas Aquinas (FL) and this summer the defending 5A state champs will host another heavyweight in Bishop Gorman (NV) on September 31st in Peoria.

The Gaels have gone 71-4 the past five seasons.