Scout: Desert Mountain's Allen top QB in 2014
By Matt Swartz
It’s a quarterback-centric game now; just ask the Cardinals. So when recruiting site Scout.com updated its “Scout 300” last week, a change at the top of the quarterback rankings was newsworthy.
The new No. 1 quarterback in the country, according to Scout: Scottsdale Desert Mountain’s Kyle Allen, who has moved up to five-star status and is ranked 21st among all prospects nationally (just one spot behind Chandler Hamilton offensive tackle Casey Tucker, the state’s top-ranked recruit and a USC commit).
Allen had previously been ranked third among quarterbacks, but according to Scout West Region analyst Greg Biggins, a strong performance at the Oakland Nike combine was enough to push Allen to the top.
“Just to see him in person kind of validated everything that you saw on film,” said Biggins, who pointed out that highlight tapes are often slightly sped up to exaggerate pass speed and therefore aren’t always accurate indicators of a quarterback’s arm strength and ability.
“Really well put together, athletic body, throws the ball down the field, consistent. And all the intangibles. He’s a front-of-the-line guy, meaning he doesn’t just sit in the back – he wants to be the leader in the front. He’s the guy all the receivers want to jump in front of each other to play with him.
“From a physical standpoint, he has every tool you could want ... and on film you can see he can manage the game. ... He’s got a mature body and he can still add weight. He was 6-2 last year and now about 6-2½, maybe 6-3 He could end up 6-4. He can drive the ball through wind and through conditions. Because of that, he’s definitely a high-upside guy. Any system he could fit in really well.”
As for what system that might be, Allen has offers from at least 15 major programs, including Arizona, Arizona State, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, UCLA and Wisconsin. Biggins said that while Allen has official visits coming up to both A&M and Oklahoma State, he believes the recruitment will come down to a couple of Pac-12 schools.
“Just a gut feeling, I could see it coming it down to ASU and UCLA," he said. "ASU needs a guy desperately after they had a guy (quarterback recruit Joshua Dobbs) decommit the week of Signing Day – don’t ever want to go two years without taking a quarterback. And UCLA and (offensive coordinator) Noel Mazzone was one of the first to offer him, and he’s got a good relationship with Mazzone’s son, Taylor, who’s on the staff there.”
Biggins cautioned, though, that it’s still early, both in the recruitment process and in the rankings process. While Allen made his move up with a strong performance at a camp in Oakland, it’s worth noting that the former top-ranked quarterback, Keller Chryst of Palo Alto, Calif., who is now No. 2 and ranked 51st overall, wasn’t in attendance at that event.
Still, Biggins said analysts compare Allen favorable to last year’s top quarterback, USC signee Max Browne of Sammamish, Wash., who ended up eighth overall nationally.
“Kyle actually has better physical tools across the board than Max does, all across the board," Biggins said. "(But) will we see a guy later on and say, ‘Wow?’ The guy who was No. 1, Keller Chryst, we bumped Kyle ahead of him without even seeing Keller, which wasn’t really fair to Keller. Will we see him in person and bump him back ahead? Obviously it is possible.”
Beyond Allen’s ascension in the rankings, Scout’s rankings update also demonstrated the depth of prep talent in Arizona this season. There are two in-state five-star recruits (Tucker and Allen, both of whom are in the top 25 overall), six in the top 100 and nine in the top 160. For context, last year’s class featured only UCLA signee Priest Willis of Tempe Marcos de Niza among the five-stars (at No. 41 overall) and included only four Arizona recruits in the top 200.
Biggins said this is among the best years in memory for in-state talent.
“I’ve been doing this for 18 years, and it does seem like the best I’ve ever seen," he said. "Just using my eyes, the eyeball test, there’s 10 guys in Arizona and I think you could match those up with 10 guys from any other state. I think you’ve got nine guys in the top 160. It’s a deep year.
“Four of the top five receivers in the whole West region (are from Arizona). Doing this a long time, it’s the best I’ve seen it in one year.”
Anecdotal evidence of that depth: While Tucker is the state’s highest-ranked recruit, Phoenix Mountain Pointe guard Natrell Curtis (No. 160 overall) beat him out for offensive line MVP honors at a camp this week in Chandler.
And though Tucker and Allen headline the in-state class, Biggins said Mountain Pointe wide receiver Jalen Brown might end up ranked higher than either of them. Brown is currently ranked 41st overall and eighth among receivers.
“I’m a huge Jalen Brown fan,” Biggins said. “I was standing five feet away from him when he caught a fade and then landed on his shoulder (and injured it at a Las Vegas event). I think that happened in the first few minutes of 7-on-7s. ...
“He looks like he’s grown about an inch, he’s got a great football IQ. If he had been able to compete in that Vegas event, he’d have been a top-three player there. I definitely think he’s a five-star talent. ... I think he’s got a great chance to move up. I think Kyle, even though he’s the No. 2 guy in state, I think we all feel Jalen is probably 1A or 1B in the state (with Tucker).”
With as much high-end local talent as there’s been in years, Arizona and Arizona State would seem likely to benefit – if they can keep the talent in the state. The question is whether they can do that.
Among the four- and five-star recruits in last year’s class, only linebacker Chans Cox, who signed with ASU, didn’t head out of state. Arizona has already made strides to that end, landing an early commitment from Tucson Salpointe receiver Cameron Denson, ranked 66th overall.
“They’re definitely trying hard on all those guys,” Biggins said of the two in-state schools. “It’s just – I kind of said it last year, because last year was a really good year for in-state talent and they lost pretty much all except Chans Cox. ... In Arizona, a kid doesn’t grow up dreaming about going to ASU and UA. They seem to want to go to the more prominent schools.
“(But) the coaches are doing work – they were the first offers for all those guys. Especially ASU has made a huge push to get those guys up on campus. I think a Kyle Allen could really be the guy who could rally some kids. ... Nobody wants to go (to a local school) and be the only one.
“It’s kind of a cliché, but you want to build up a fence.”
Fortunately for ASU and Arizona, there’s plenty of time before Signing Day, and according to Biggins, none of the uncommitted top recruits is known to be leaning elsewhere.
“I think they’re all pretty open," he said. "I don’t think any of them are close to making a decision. I do feel like (ASU) is definitely in the running for all of them. I’m sure Arizona is involved, too, I’m just hearing more about ASU right now.”
And that might be the case with one of the committed players, as well.
“Casey Tucker, there’s been talk that he might open (his recruitment) back up this week,” Biggins said of the USC commit, “and he’s a guy the in-state schools would definitely like to get on.”