By Tim Pickwell
Choices. Torrey Pines High School senior Jacob Alsadek had the luxury of more than a dozen. He visited Cal, Vanderbilt, Boise State, Colorado, Stanford, UCLA and others. He agonized for weeks over which school, coach and football program was the best fit.
And, then, after choosing to orally commit and accept a full-ride, Division I scholarship offer to play Pac 12 football at the University of Arizona, the biggest (6’ 7”, 332 lbs.) offensive line prospect in America (according to ESPN.com) could be forgiven if he put his size 16 custom-made football cleats up on the couch and relaxed for awhile.
Instead, under the watchful eye of a personal trainer, RSF’s Alsadek finds himself each day sweating and pounding the stairs at San Elijo State Beach with some Falcon teammates. Alsadek, 17, is not resting on his laurels, and is not cutting back on this football regimen.
“I’m actually working out even harder now since I accepted the offer,” said Alsadek. It’s [head] coach [Rich] Rodriguez’s first year at Arizona, and he’s building a program. They told me that I have a chance to compete for a starting spot.”
Media relations for the University of Arizona said that NCAA rules prevented them from commenting on any high school recruits until after signing day in February 2013. But, several recruiting websites, including ESPN.com, Scout.com and Arizonascout.com, noted Alsadek’s commitment to the university. Arizona has commitments from 23 players, and Alsadek was partly motivated to make the move because they had only two open recruiting slots left. “They are bringing in a great recruiting class,” said Jacob, “and I wanted to be a part of it.”
The astonishingly strong high school student can bench press 360 pounds, squat 475 pounds, and run the 40-yard dash in around 5.5 seconds. And, yet, he is still raw, having played only three seasons.
Jacob and his family moved to Rancho Santa Fe when he was in the fifth grade. Jacob attended Rancho Santa Fe Middle School before moving on to Torrey Pines. As a fifth grader, Jacob was too large to play Pop Warner football (which has a 165-pound upper weight limit). His freshman season at Torrey Pines was the first time he put on pads.
Falcon Head Coach Scott Ashby immediately saw the potential.
“Jacob is exactly what you want in a football player,” says Ashby. “He has great feet, and moves very well. He is a very hard worker, and has an incredible inner drive. He is a great representation of Torrey Pines High School.”
After his one season of freshman football, Alsadek started on the varsity offensive line as a sophomore.
Continuity in the Torrey Pines program has also been helpful for Jacob.
“I’ve had one line coach, Josh Mihalenic, the whole time. It has been nice.”
Mihalenic was also the line coach when 6’ 1” 310-pound Daniel Murray (Torrey Pines, Class of 2010) earned a Division I scholarship to the University of Cincinnati.
“Jacob has been a pleasure to coach,” says Mihalenic. “He has realized the importance of working hard not only on the field or in the weight room, but studying video of himself and his opponents. He constantly is asking me to watch video with him and then when we are at practice to watch and see if he is doing what he wants to work on. His passion for what he is doing has made it easy to help him accomplish his goals.”
College scouts started visiting the Torrey Pines campus after Jacob’s freshman season. Dozens have come through Coach Ashby’s office the past three years to assess the young man. Ashby has phoned college coaches to discuss Jacob’s talents, while Jacob’s parents, Sophia and Louay, have taken him on recruiting visits or to college football camps. Despite it all, earlier this year Jacob felt he wasn’t getting any traction. He had one scholarship offer. He had a great recruiting visit at Boise State, but head coach Chris Peterson told him, the problem is that “we’re a passing team, and your high school is a running team.”
Boise State had 20 minutes of highlight videos of Jacob pancake blocking defensive lineman.
Peterson told Jacob, “we don’t have much video of you pass blocking.”
The colleges weren’t sure if the young player had the tools to back-pedal into blind-side pass protection.
At this point, some resources from the Torrey Pines Football Program came into play. Personal trainer Tommy Moring was introduced to the Torrey Pines football program last season when Coach Ashby brought him in to assist with weight training. Jacob credits Moring with “changing my whole mentality, and approach to what I do.” Ed Stansbury, a former UCLA and NFL fullback, runs Next Level Sports. Stansbury had previously been a speed coach for the Falcons, and he works with a number of players, including former Falcon lineman Murray. Conditioned by Moring, Jacob worked with Stansbury to put together a 5-minute Youtube “agility video.” The silent film shows the enormous young man skipping, hopping, moving laterally, jumping, and basically dancing his way around cones and pylons simulating the lateral movement and skills needed to pass block at the Division I level.
“When coaches are looking at game film,” Stansbury explains, “they can see size and some technique. But, now many college coaches are taking things a step further. They want to see conditioning, work ethic, training, footwork, agility. There are so many different things that they are looking for that they can’t see in just a game film. That’s why we put the agility video together for Jacob.”
Alsadek credits the video with helping resolve doubts that college scouts were having about his mobility. After the video was posted, the offers started to flow in. Alsadek took nine formal and informal recruiting visits. “It came down to Colorado, Kansas State, Arizona State, Vanderbilt and Arizona,” he said. “Arizona was close to home. Coach Rodriguez has a good resume. It felt like family when I visited. Everyone was real close.”
Alsadek has some unfinished business before he gets to Tucson: his senior football season. Of the Falcons, he says, “We’re putting in a lot of hard work. We’re hungry for a championship.”