The 2014 high school football crop is a class act

The 2014 high school football crop is a class act


The 2014 high school football crop is a class act


Phoenix Mountain Pointe junior lineman Natrell Curtis emptied his duffel bag filled with college letters onto a table in coach Norris Vaughan’s office.

“That’s just today,” Curtis said.

Curtis, who was up to 17 college football offers entering last week, is among nine players in Arizona ranked among the top 250 in the nation for the class of 2014 by either or

Scout has six Arizona players among the top 100 in the nation: Chandler Hamilton offensive tackle Casey Tucker (No. 20), Mountain Pointe receiver Jalen Brown (49), Scottsdale Desert Mountain receiver Mark Andrews (62), Tucson Salpointe Catholic receiver Cameron Denson (67), Desert Mountain quarterback Kyle Allen (71) and Scottsdale Chaparral cornerback/receiver Tyler Whiley (99).

Rivals has eight Arizonans in the top 250: Brown (57), Denson (67), Tucker (71) Hamilton defensive end Qualen Cunningham (80), Andrews (87), Allen (136), Curtis (143) and Tucson Sabino offensive tackle Andrew Mike (178).

“Arizona is definitely a state gathering more talent every year,” said Mike Farrell, national recruiting analyst for Rivals. “This is a rare year. Three offensive linemen in the top 250 is impressive.”

This is basically the club season for high school football underclassmen. They travel for 7-on-7 passing tournaments. They engage in invitation-only camps and combines.

Saturday, more than 200 players from various Western states came to Hamilton to compete in the first stop of the inaugural Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour. It was an invitation-only camp where the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Allen had a chance to show that he is much better than the 136th-ranked player in the country in the 2014 class.

Many of the Arizona players were going to leave right afterwards for Los Angeles to compete in a Nike combine on Sunday.

Allen said the Rivals camp isn’t so much to gain more scholarship offers. College coaches have seen his sophomore and junior film to get a good gauge. But it is a chance to show where he stacks up with some of the nation’s other top prospects.

Allen has 14 offers, including West Virginia, Mississippi and Texas A&M in the same week recently.

He got on the recruiting map last year when he attended an Elite 11 camp in Texas and stood out.

“They’re really looking for competition out there,” Allen said. “They just want you to compete.”

Allen says he notices the rankings, but downplays the importance, but, in the end, it drives him more in workouts.

“Not all of them are going to come to games, see you in person,” he said. “They can’t see every high school player. They do their best. Everybody wants rankings. But it doesn’t matter.

“I’ve competed against lots of the kids on there. I feel like I do as good or better than them. But some kids are ranked higher. But it’s just what they think. It doesn’t really matter.”

This 2014 class in Arizona motivates Curtis, who has the same personal trainer as Hamilton’s Cunningham, who has 11 offers.

They are good friends when they’re not lined up against each other, which they were twice last season, including the Division I championship game that Hamilton won.

Curtis, who likes to joke, says, “Write that I’m going to put Qualen in the dirt.”

Actually, Curtis has utmost respect for the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Cunningham, calling him the toughest player he ever had to go up against.

“I want to be No. 1; I’m going to do whatever it takes,” Curtis said of what is considered arguably the best overall class for football recruits in state history. “I’m blessed just be a part of it. We all are.”

Andrews, a big, fast, powerful receiver at 6-foot-6, 225 pounds who was azcentral sports Big School Player of the Year in 2012, is familiar with the talent spreading throughout the state in his class.

“It’s definitely something that motivates you to be the best,” he said. “Every day, you’re working to outwork those kids, because you know they’re working, as well.”

The receiving crop is particularly strong in Arizona for 2014. But the state is loaded with linemen.

And the quarterback position has been elevated the past two years with Allen following the likes of Phoenix Brophy Prep’s Tyler Bruggman from the 2013 class, and Chandler Basha’s Zach Werlinger (6-2, 185) Scottsdale Saguaro’s Luke Rubenzer, Glendale Deer Valley’s Devon Palomino and Phoenix Sunnyslope’s Michael Humphrey (6-7, 190) strong in Allen’s class.

Hamilton’s 2014 class alone may be the best in its storied career with not only Tucker and Cunningham, but linebacker Santana Sterling, receiver Israel Simpson and safety Juwan Jones among those who likely will land scholarships to big colleges.

“This class has always been like a powerhouse around the nation,” Cunningham said. “It’s not just us. I definitely saw this coming. But it’s all expecations now. We have to do what we have to do to win.”

A couple of years ago, Hamilton produced two major college offensive tackles — Christian Westerman and Tyler Johnstone. Westerman was the five-star who signed with Auburn, but since transferred to Arizona State and has yet to live up to the hype he received in high school.

Johnstone had two fewer stars, but, after a redshirt year, last season at Oregon, he was named to The Sporting News’ Freshman All-American team.

Whether this 2014 high school class becomes the best in Arizona history may not be determined for another four or five years, as they lay their legacy in college and where they project in the NFL draft.

“The stars are good, but they still have to go out there and play,” Hamilton coach Steve Belles said. “It’s not the end-all. It doesn’t mean this is the best player ever. This is where it was with this team, this class.”

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