By Joe Davidson
It's wheels up for Arik Armstead as he headed back today from his last recruiting trip, his mind full of possibilities.
Does he become a Cal Bear? An Auburn Tiger? An Oregon Duck? A Notre Dame Fighting Irish? The ministry instead?
Armstead, the All-American lineman from Pleasant Grove High School, visited Auburn over the weekend with brother Armond and father Guss. They checked out basketball practice - Armstead wants to play both sports in college - visited the football facilities and talked as a family about the academic structure, the chance to multi-task as an athlete.
Where to go?
Armstead's father said his team "will get home and pray on it" and make a decision by Monday morning. Armstead said he would ideally like to start attending classes as early as Tuesday. He said Sunday that he is enrolled at Cal, Notre Dame and Auburn, and that should provide all the proof needed on just how tight this three-school race is.
How can Armstead be enrolled into three schools at once? Enrolling before committing has become something of the norm for blue-chip recruits who graduate from high school at mid year. Keep in mind that nothing becomes binding until an athlete actually attends a class.
Ideally built to play offensive tackle at 6-foot-8 and 290 pounds, Armstead said he prefers to play on the defensive line, either tackle or end (much like Armond did at USC). Auburn offers a chance to compete in the muscle-bound Southeastern Conference, home of the last six BCS champions and eight total since its inception in 1998.
Notre Dame is unique for tradition and athletics. Cal has Armstead intrigued because of its academic standing, its new football stadium, the proximity to his Elk Grove roots and because scores of friends are headed there, including Grant star Shaq Thompson.
What's more, the Armstead brothers would like to play together. Armond was a two-year starter at USC before sitting out this past fall with a medical condition. He has medically been cleared and the family said he was never in any danger.
Arik gave a verbal commitment to USC following his sophomore season but opened his options in the fall and accepted recruiting trips to Alabama, Notre Dame, Oregon and Cal. It's ironic to note that USC coach Lane Kiffin is in the Sacramento region today to make a home visit to Whitney tight end Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, a longtime pal of Armstead (they attended Jesuit as freshmen and played football and basketball there).
On Sunday night, Armond visited with Notre Dame football coaches. He also has a great deal of mutual interest with Auburn, though the brothers insist each will make their own decision independent of the other.
All told, Armstead is the most heavily recruited linemen in Sacramento-area history. Others of note from the lines include Gordon King of Bella Vista and Stanford, a first-round pick of the New York Giants in 1978, Reggie Rogers of Norte Del Rio and Washington and a first-round pick of the Detroit Lions in 1987, Jason Fisk of Davis and Stanford and a second-round pick in 1995 and Vei Moala of Grant from last season (now at Cal).
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