Lompoc, Calif. running back Lavon Coleman, OL/DL Andrew Basham from Lynnwood, Lancaster, Texas' Daeshon Hall (by way of Garfield High School in Seattle), outside lineback Caleb Tucker from Louisiana, and receiver Demorea Stringfellow and offensive lineman Poasi Moala of Rancho Verde High School in Moreno Valley, Calif. were also involved in the group announcement. More on this breaking story will be available Friday afternoon on Dawgman.com.
"It's actually been rattling around in my head since the first time I came out here," Qualls told Dawgman.com of his commitment to the Huskies. "It's just one of those things…you get a feeling where it's right, and that's where you want to be. You can get it with people…you can't explain it, but that's how you feel. And that's how it was when I first came out here. I just felt like it was an amazing place and I loved it.
"I had a final six a few weeks ago, so I basically talked to those final six - the ones I was closest too and the people I felt were really important. All those schools had a chances, so I called all those schools and let them know. I didn't want to be a person that just commits out of nowhere and surprises everybody and then everybody is mad at me; I'm kind of a people pleaser. I like to be loved by everybody."
Qualls is rated as a four-star prospect and the No. 16 defensive tackle in the country by Scout.com.
"I've been coaching football for 17 years, and I've never been around anything like it," Casa Grande High School Coach Trent Herzog said of Qualls and his ability out on the football field. "Maybe coached against one or two kids…(former Washington DL) Greyson Gunheim being one of them. He was a freak with his size. In high school he was 6-foot-6, 240 and played running back. I coached against (former USC LB) Rey Maualuga and he was another one…6-3 250 that can run and do some tremendous things. Elijah's in that boat.
He's a great kid. He'll give you everything he has. The one thing about Elijah is that he's going to play extremely hard on every play. He's going to give you maximum effort. He's never going to complain. He wants to get better. He wants to be the best. I think, from where he came from to where he's at now, he sees the writing on the wall. He pushes himself every day to get better and I think the sky is the limit for him. From where we got him 14 months ago to now? Just a huge difference. He's got a really good understanding of the game, he's a student of the game. He knows the offenses, he knows the defenses; he watches a lot of film, a lot of tape. He's a real student of the game, and you just don't see that a lot anymore. Kids don't study it much anymore. They don't watch the game as much, they don't play in the streets as much as they used to 15-20 years ago - but he does all that. He's a naturally gifted football player."
Qualls took a visit to Seattle in early March, and that's when the love affair between him and Washington took root. "I felt like it was an energy level thing," he said. "When I got here, the energy level was so far up…it was crazy. You just get excited hanging around the people here. They make you feel like you want to play football. When I got here and was hanging out with coach Sark, coach Lupoi, coach Wilcox, all those guys - I was ready to play for them that day. The vibe they give you…they are all great people. They are all great coaches, everybody knows that. But they are all really great people. The coaches are, the players are awesome guys, real fun to hang out with, and the people of Seattle - they are all amazing people. It's a beautiful place, the people are nice, it's a clean place, it's not…every place has their little bad neighborhoods, but for the most part this is an extremely nice place. I'm trying to get out of the hood; that's why I moved to Petaluma. I'm not trying to move back in it. This is the perfect place."
As much as everything seemed to fit, Qualls knew he couldn't make a decision that quickly. By the time he was ready to make it official, he had offers from everyone in the Pac-12 minus Stanford and Oregon, as well as schools like Michigan, Arkansas and Nebraska, although Michigan was the only school to tell him that they had filled up on prospects. "First of all, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience," he said. "You're only a high recruit once in your life, so I wanted to take advantage of that and get to experience new places and meet new people and check out other colleges and things like that. And the other side of that - I wanted to be as sure as possible about my decision. I didn't want there to be any doubts in my mind. I knew it was a feeling I had at the time, and I didn't want it to be one of those things where it was a feeling I had while I was there but a couple of months later I don't feel the same about the place. I wanted to make sure that's how I felt after some time, and I still do. I still love the place."
"He really, really looked into this," echoed Herzog. "It wasn't just an overnight decision. He's been up here three times now. He visited seven of the Pac-12 schools in the winter and spring: USC, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Cal. So he really did his homework."
And the more he looked at his final schools - Washington, Cal, Arizona, Oregon State, USC and Nevada - the more the Huskies kept popping up as his best fit. "Washington is an up-and-coming place," said Qualls. "They have definitely grown since four years ago when they were 0-12 or whatever. And Sark started winning. Everybody knows Washington was a powerhouse in the 90's and I think we can get back to that with the potential of this class, and the class that was signed last year and with some of the players that are already here. And the coaching staff…I think we can make it a powerhouse again - and to do that I think we need at least one more good recruiting class. I feel like if we get this recruiting class that I'm pretty sure we're going to get this year, I feel like we're going to compete for a Rose Bowl in a couple of years."
Herzog added his two cents. "(Elijah) loves coach Sarkisian," he said. "He really, really likes coach Wilcox, coach Lupoi and coach Sirmon. They are players coaches, but they are going to make him work hard and they are going to push him. I think it's a really good fit. Personality-wise it's a good fit, I think scheme-wise it's a good fit, and I think location-wise it's a good fit. One of the things is that he wanted to get out of state. He wanted to be on his own, but he didn't want to be too far. His family can get on a plane and they are an hour and 45 minutes away and they can see him play. He'll be playing in the Bay Area at least once every year and he'll be playing in California at least twice every year, so I think overall it's a good fit for him."
From the looks of it, Qualls is going to have plenty of opportunities to use his explosion and athleticism at the line of scrimmage, because UW Defensive Coordinator Justin Wilcox plans on using him in a variety of ways. "It really excites me that I'm still going to be able to use my diversity when I come up here," he said. "They are still going to move me all along the defensive line - 1, 3, 5-technique, all the things like that. They said that if I'm 270 maybe be a rush back and maybe even drop back on some stuff. I'm still going to be able to do all the things I'm doing in high school right now. They said they might even make some packages for me at running back. I still get to be the athlete I was in high school, and I don't want to lose that athleticism. A lot of people do when they get to college; they play multiple positions in high school but then just turn into that one position player. I don't want to do that."
"He's such a good athlete that he can play…in a four-man front he could play a d-tackle and in a three-man front he can play an end, or even at the nose," added Herzog. "He can play multiple positions. He really fits into this defensive scheme. With the young coaches they have and the energy they have and the knowledge they have and time and commitment they have - I think it's just a good fit. I really do. I think this program is on the up-and-up. I really do. What they are doing here, what they are doing with coach Sark coming into his fourth year and bringing the young coaches in that have the commitment…I think the sky is the limit for this program, and I think the sky is the limit for Elijah."
Qualls said he won't be an early enrollee, but that won't stop him from getting to Seattle as soon as possible. "I'm going to come up in the summer," he said. "I still have a lot to work on with my classes. I took my SAT, so that's not going to be a problem, but I just want to focus on school instead of just rushing right through it. But the day after I graduate I'm probably going to pack my bags and come right up here!"
Elijah Qualls Scout.com Profile