High School Sports

Arroyo Grande’s Alexander to play collegiately for Cornell

Arroyo Grande High senior receiver and defensive back John Alexander has verbally committed to play football at Cornell, Eagles coach Tom Goossen said Wednesday.

“It’s a great opportunity for him,” Goossen said. “He’s an excellent student. It’s a perfect fit there for him, both academically and athletically.”

Also on Wednesday, Cornell, an Ivy League program in Ithaca, N.Y., that plays in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA), hired Kent Austin as its head coach to replace Jim Knowles, who left earlier this month to become the defensive coordinator at Duke. The past two years, Austin was the offensive coordinator at Mississippi.

Over the past two seasons, the 6-foot-2, 173-pound Alexander — who has maintained a grade-point average of about 4.5 — caught a combined 29 passes for 537 yards and two touchdowns, and made 52 total tackles. He blocked eight kicks over those seasons, as well.

This past year alone, as Arroyo Grande went 7-4, advancing to the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division playoffs, Alexander intercepted three passes, earning Tribune all-San Luis Obispo County second-team honors at defensive back.In the Eagles’ regular-season finale, a 25-21 loss to PAC 7 champion Righetti, he returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown.

“He’s such a good athlete, I’m not really sure where they’re going to use him,” Goossen said. “They know he has the ability to play receiver or D.B. They’re excited to get someone of John’s caliber there.”

This past weekend, Mission Prep star Kevin Laird, who used to be a classmate of Alexander when the two attended St. Patrick’s School in Arroyo Grande, also committed to Cornell.

The Big Red has also expressed interest in Nipomo running back Eric Penningroth of late. Cornell’s tight ends coach and special teams coordinator, Travis Burkett, a 1998 San Luis Obispo High grad, starred for the Tigers before going on to play collegiately at St. Mary’s.

The NCAA’s National Letter of Intent Signing Day is Feb. 3.