In ordinary prep football seasons during recent years, seeing four high-profile Division I college recruits come out of San Luis Obispo County as a whole has been unusual.
Arroyo Grande High has four on one team this year.
Three Eagles are ranked by Rivals.com among California’s preseason top 100 recruits: defensive back Seth Jacobs (ranked No. 38), quarterback Brent VanderVeen (55th) and offensive lineman Garrett Weinreich (90th). And the lone senior of the quartet who isn’t on that list, placekicker Garrett Owens, is ranked by former UCLA standout and special-teams talent evaluator Chris Sailer as the seventh-best player at his position for this class, nationwide.
“It’s a complete anomaly to have this kind of interest in kids this early,” Arroyo Grande coach Tom Goossen said. “We’ve had kids sign (letters of intent), but generally (their interest picks up) after the season is over.
“These are all hard-working kids,” Goossen said. “Certainly, they have talent and there’s no denying that, but they all put in a tremendous amount of work in the offseason.”
VanderVeen, who’s rated as the ninth- and 15th-best dual-threat signal-caller in the country by Rivals and MaxPreps.com, respectively, gave a nonbinding verbal commitment to Oregon State this summer. He also had scholarship offers from Arkansas and Oklahoma State before the Cowboys filled their vacancy with another recruit, therefore prompting VanderVeen to opt for the Beavers.
VanderVeen’s early announcement “definitely” took some weight off his shoulders, he said. He said he might still use official recruiting visits following the season based on advice others have given him about taking advantage of such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Recruits are allowed to make a total of five official visits to schools before National Signing Day, which is Feb. 1.
A year ago, the 6-foot-5 VanderVeen completed 52 percent of his passes for 1,402 yards and 11 touchdowns with five interceptions and also rushed for 581 yards and six touchdowns on 100 carries. He took over the starting job full-time midway through last year from Jacobs, who had been splitting snaps with him during the nonleague stretch.
The switch primarily to defense has also served Jacobs well. So far, he had scholarship offers from every Pac-12 school except Stanford, USC and Utah, as well as offers from Arkansas and Northwestern, among numerous additional non-BCS programs.
“I feel fortunate to be able to be in this situation, and I’ve been pushed by my teammates to be able to get to this spot,” Jacobs said. “As of now, I’m just trying to have a great senior season.”
Jacobs, who reportedly has 4.55-second speed in the 40-yard dash at 6-2, 205 pounds, had 106 tackles, four sacks and three interceptions returned for 77 yards and a TD as a junior. He’s rated by Rivals as the 24th-best outside linebacker prospect in the country, while Scout.com has him slotted as the No. 23 safety. After last season he was chosen to the all-state juniors third team by Cal-Hi Sports.
Jacobs said he hasn’t narrowed down his list of possible destinations yet, and that he’s planning on waiting until signing day to announce his decision, after using all of his visits.
Meanwhile, Weinreich, a 6-6, 290-pound right tackle, holds offers from Arizona, Colorado, Oregon State and Washington State, in addition to San Diego State, San Jose State and SMU.
Last year, Weinreich was a key part of a unit that produced 328.6 yards of total offense per game. Then in June, he placed third at the CIF State Track and Field Championships in the shot put with a toss of 59 feet, 5.5 inches . The two top finishers were both seniors. He’s rated by Rivals as the 36th-best guard prospect nationally, and as the No. 91 tackle by Scout.
Owens verbally committed to Air Force last week. He also had an offer from Cal Poly and likely stood to pick up more from the Bowl Subdivision ranks as the season progressed.
Also a key contributor at receiver, defensive back and punt returner, Owens has been on the Eagles’ varsity squad since his freshman year, as has Jacobs.
As a junior, he made 11 field goals, including a 52-yarder in the Western Division title game, a 35-10 loss to nationally ranked Serra in Gardena.
His 63 touchbacks were the most in the state and third-most in the nation, according to MaxPreps. He then became the first local prep football player in recent memory to earn All-America honors, as he was awarded second-team distinction among juniors across the country by ESPN RISE.
But despite all the attention coming their way, each of the four players in the limelight reiterated they’re focused on the here-and-now.
“I put all that behind me since (practice started),” Weinreich said. “We’re starting the season right now and we need to take care of business.”
Added VanderVeen: “We haven’t really focused on ‘those four guys’ (likely to play at the Division I level). It’s been the whole team. Everyone is pushing each other to get better as a team.”
Numerous other returning starters are also back for the Eagles this year.
“They’ve benefited from having quality kids around them,” Goossen said. “Even if some of these (other) kids aren’t getting D-1 looks and offers, they have D-1 work ethic, so I think they push one another, and that’s been beneficial to the whole crew.”
And even with all the individual talent on his roster, Goossen is the first to point out that in such a team game, it doesn’t guarantee anything as the program looks to win its first league championship in seven seasons.
“I’ve always said that if anybody thinks they’re that darn good, go out there by yourself and see how well you do,” Goossen said.
“No one does a thing in this sport without everybody else doing their job. That’s kind of the beauty of it.
“In baseball, you can have a pitcher who can dominate with a great game. In basketball, you can have a player who’s a stud and can carry a team on his shoulders by scoring a ton of points. It doesn’t work that way in football.”