Las Vegas Sun

October 16, 2021

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Record number of locals headed to college gridiron

Eight from state champion Gorman lead the way on national signing day

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Sam Morris

The Bishop Gorman High football team is expected to have eight sign national letters of intent to play college football. They included, from left, Geoffrey Gibson (Cal), Evan Palelei (Navy), Alex Turner (Stanford), Taylor Spencer (UNLV), Victor Belen (Samford), Tim Gulley (uncommitted), Jalen Grimble (a junior with multiple offers) and Xavier Grimble (USC). Not pictured are Tim Wilkinson (Northern Arizona) and Ian Bobak (UNLV).

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A look at the local bumper crop on signing day '10

Ray Brewer and Ryan Greene take a look at the 24-member group of local high school football prospects who will ink letters of intent on Wednesday. Who will live up to their enormous potential? Who are the sleepers? Does this bumper crop mean more large classes will come in the next few years?

2010 recruits expected to sign Wednesday

  • Austin Anderson, QB, Arbor View High, Southern Utah
  • Kyle Anderson, LB, Silverado High, UNLV
  • Austin Anderson, QB, Arbor View High, Southern Utah
  • Scott Arn, P, Green Valley High, Richmond
  • Victor Belen, RB, Bishop Gorman High, Samford
  • Tyrone Blake, S, Palo Verde High, Southern Utah
  • Ian Bobak, DE, Bishop Gorman High, UNLV
  • Jordan Butler, WR, Cheyenne, South Dakota
  • Andre Clay, RB, Clark High, Southern Utah
  • Tyler Gaston, DL, Rancho High, UNLV
  • Geoffrey Gibson, OL, Bishop Gorman High, Cal
  • Daniel Godkin, DE, Palo Verde High, Navy
  • Xavier Grimble, TE, Bishop Gorman High, USC
  • Cameron Jefferson, OL, Desert Oasis High, UNLV
  • Xavian Johnson, ATH, Cheyenne High, Weber State
  • Nolan Kohorst, K, Green Valley High, UNLV
  • Trey McElhaney, DE, Las Vegas High, UNLV
  • Elijah Mitchell, DB, Desert Oasis High, Princeton
  • Anthony Norris, WR, Liberty High, Southern Utah
  • Evan Palelei, LB, Bishop Gorman High, Navy
  • Taylor Spencer, WR, Bishop Gorman High, UNLV
  • Desmond Tautofi, DL, Calvary Chapel, UNLV
  • Alex Turner, DL, Bishop Gorman, Stanford
  • Jordan Turner, DL, Canyon Springs, Prairie View AM
  • Eric Tuiloma, DB, Desert Pines High, UNLV
  • Demarlo Virgil, DB, Arbor View High, New Mexico Military Institute
  • Evan Weinstock, WR, Del Sol High, Brown
  • Garic Wharton, WR, Valley High, Arizona
  • Tim Wilkinson, DT, Bishop Gorman High, Northern Arizona

Mike Smith and Jarrell Harrison once were part of the same football program at Palo Verde High.

But one Saturday afternoon last fall, they were rivals on the opposite side of the field.

Smith, an offensive lineman for Nebraska, and Harrison, a safety for Missouri, lined up against each other when the two colleges met in a Big 12 Conference game.

Sitting hundreds of miles away in Las Vegas with a smile on his face was Darwin Rost, Palo Verde's longtime coach.

"I told myself I was going to call whoever won first," Rost said.

The two Palo Verde graduates lead a large contingent of locals who are playing at the next level. It's a group that will grow by roughly two dozen athletes today on national signing day.

Led by state champion Bishop Gorman sending eight to the next level, including three signing with Pacific-10 Conference schools, the group of 20-plus athletes has eight who will sign with UNLV.

Gorman coach Tony Sanchez said it's unusual for one high school to have multiple players move on to the college ranks. "If you have one kid, that is a pretty special thing," he said.

Gorman's Xavier Grimble, who is rated as the nation's top tight end by and is a top-20 overall recruit by several services, will sign with USC. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Grimble was a Parade All-American and played in the Under Armour All-American game.

Teammates Alex Turner (Stanford) and Geoff Gibson (Cal) are Gorman's other two Pacific-10 Conference commits. Turner, a defensive end, and Gibson an offensive lineman, could very likely match up against each other in one of the football's biggest rivalries — The Big Game.

"Of course it will be weird playing against each other on different teams, especially if it is that game," Gibson said. "That is one of the biggest rivalries in college football. But we haven't really talked about it. Right now, our goal is getting our bodies ready for college. We're both pretty excited (to sign)."

Gorman's other commits are wide receiver Taylor Spencer and defensive end Ian Bobak to UNLV, linebacker Evan Palelei to Navy, running back Victor Belen to Samford and defensive tackle Tim Wilkinson to Northern Arizona.

Samford, outside Birmingham, Ala., and Northern Arizona are Football Championship Subdivision, formerly Division I-AA, schools. Of the 25 locals expected to sign, nine are headed to subdivision schools.

Southern Utah in Cedar City, Utah, has commitments from four locals — quarterback Austin Anderson of Arbor View High, safety Tyrone Blake of Palo Verde, running back Andre Clay of Clark and wide receiver Anthony Norris of Liberty.

The long list of locals finding a spot at the next level is refreshing for the area's veteran coaches. Coaches like Rost, who have been around since the 1980s, remember the days when only a handful of players advanced.

This year's signing-day class is a record for Las Vegas, which has seen its population grow to more than 2 million. The area has gone from 10 to 12 high schools to more than 30.

"It exploded a bit around 10 years ago when the population spurted," said Rost, who is also the president of the Southern Nevada Football Coaches Association.

Rost estimates he was in communication with coaches from 45 colleges this year — up from about 15 schools when he was at Eldorado in the 1980s.

Las Vegas will never receive as much respect on the recruiting trail as powers Texas or Florida, but it continues to produces quality Division I players.

Desert Pines coach Paul Bennett, who moved to Las Vegas in 1998 after coaching several years in Western Pennsylvania, is one of several who feel Southern Nevada is becoming a must-stop for recruiters.

"I have talked to a lot of coaches who have stopped by here, and everyone is seeing (Las Vegas) as a gold mine," Bennett said. "If they can grab one or two kids out of the schools where football isn't high-end (like Desert Pines), that is doing some justice."

UNLV is also expected to receive letters from Green Valley High kicker Nolan Kohorst, Desert Pines defensive back Eric Tuiloma, Arbor View High linebacker Kyle Anderson, Desert Oasis offensive lineman Cameron Jefferson and Rancho defensive lineman Tyler Gaston. Desmond Tautofi, who was ruled ineligible after transferring from Hawaii to 2A Calvary Chapel in August, will also sign with UNLV.

Palo Verde's Daniel Godkin will sign with Navy, joining Gorman's Palelei to become the fifth local at the military academy. Also, two players — Del Sol defensive back Evan Weinstock (Brown) and Desert Oasis safety Elijah Mitchell (Princeton) — will play for Ivy League schools.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected].

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