Qualls to be 'Recruiter of the Year?'

Elijah Qualls (FoxSportsNEXT.com)

Back in the end of June, Elijah Qualls was flying. He was the ringleader of a group of 2013 Husky commits that made a simultaneous pledge during UW's Rising Stars camp. The 6-2, 285-pound athlete's outgoing personality lent itself naturally to the recruiting process. But once he got back to Casa Grande, it was all business trying to get his high school team a championship.

"We ended up making it to the second round of the playoffs," Qualls told Dawgman.com Thursday night. "We lost to Concord. I felt like we should have blown them out, but just like the whole college football season, crazy things happened. That's why we played the games."

Qualls is a big athlete that has done plenty of damage on both sides of the ball - but first and foremost he's a team player, even if it means his own personal aspirations running the ball take a back seat for a while. "Not nearly as much, actually," he said when asked about playing running back as a senior. "That was my decision because we lost a lot of decent players, so my coach asked me if I wouldn't mind playing o-line. Of course me wanting to win, I said of course not. So I ended up playing o-line. If we ever started killing people, they'd switch me out and put a different center in so I get a few carries. But I didn't get the ball nearly as much, but playing o-line was pretty fun. I played line six years before I played running back, so it was like bringing back some old memories. But it was pretty cool."

Defense was a different story. "Ah, man…it was so irritating this season," Qualls said. "Being the target is a hassle…double and triple teams on every play and if you get past that you've got the running back coming after you. It sucks when people scheme offenses around you. Actually I ended up with more tackles this season than I had last season. I had more sacks, more fumbles, a couple blocked punts - things like that. I ended up doing better, but it was way more annoying."

So now that he's done playing football at the high school level, what's next for Qualls? "For right now school…definitely school," he said. "That's my main focus right now. Chemistry is kind of kicking my butt, so that's my main focus right now. It doesn't matter how many scholarships I have; if I don't have the grades I don't go. So Chemistry is my number one priority now. But I definitely get a workout whenever I can. Me and a couple of my sophomore o-linemen go out after school when we get our work done and rep some one-on-ones, do some drills to keep our football skills intact."

Even during his own season, Qualls had an eye fixed on what was happening at Washington. "We had some high, high points. Started out the season not too bad; our only losses were to the No. 2 teams in the nation, so I felt like we started out great. Then we end up beating Stanford, a great upset. We were kind of inconsistent. I feel like we definitely have potential to be a really great team, but they weren't consistent every game in bringing their 'A' game. Definitely easier said than done, but part of being one of the top teams in the nation is being consistent, so that's something we…Washington, the team that's up there right now and also me…we all need to work on it."

With school on the front burner, recruiting is not as important to Qualls. "Not right now," he said. "I was, but then I got more into school. I will again after December 22nd. I'm trying to steal Recruiter of the Year from Tosh (Lupoi).

"In terms of recruiting I still keep in contact with coaches just to let them know that I'm still here, not trying to ignore them," he said. "I definitely don't want to burn any bridges. So I stay in contact with them, send them a message here and there and answer their phone calls when I can. I'm not as into it as much as I was, but I'm still in and out of it."

Nebraska, Arizona, Washington State, Washington, California, UCLA and Oregon State are all schools Qualls mentioned as programs still staying in touch. "Definitely Arizona and Washington," he added when asked about official visits. "Those are definitely two that I want to go to. Maybe Nebraska. Oregon State too, they are an option. Not really UCLA, I can go down there any time." All are recruiting Qualls as a big athlete, with leanings toward defensive line.

There were no in-home visits for Qualls this week, but a couple schools stopped by Casa Grande. "Washington State came by and Washington."

Lupoi was the coach that visited Qualls. "He made sure he came down here personally," Qualls said. "We set up a game plan; we didn't really talk about football. It was more about me and my academics. He was just checking up on me like he always does, making sure I'm good. He's looking after me, he cares about me."

And his commitment to Washington? "It's still pretty solid," Qualls said. "My visits are more of one - getting to experience other places because I'll probably never get a chance to visit those places again. And two - all the places I am going to visit, all the coaches have constantly been on me, been here for me even after I committed. Those schools definitely care about me, so my visits are more a chance for them because they've always been telling me they want to show me what they have…so I feel like I at least owe them that opportunity, that chance to show me what they have to offer."

Just because Qualls is thinking about official visits to other schools, the prospects that committed to UW with him in June aren't far from his mind. "Me and all those guys are really close," he said. "I text Troy (Williams), Caleb (Tucker), Demorea (Stringfellow), Daeshon (Hall)…all those guys - I text them almost every day. They text me, I text them to see how they are doing. During the season we talk to each other, see how we did that week, talk a little mess, talk about doing better - things like that. We're all close. We're all good friends."

But Recruiter of the Year? It's going to take something pretty extraordinary to unseat Lupoi - known by many as the top recruiting assistant coach in the country. Qualls knows he's got his work cut out for him. "It's alright," he said with a laugh. I've had my work cut out for me all my life. I'm not going to stop working."

What's his message to recruits when he talks to them? "When I went up to Washington to watch the game against SC, there were some players there who I had conversations with," he said. "I didn't try and push them or anything, just wanted to get their thoughts on Washington. And for the ones that did tell me they had some interest, I definitely made sure I have their contacts when I do get back to this recruiting thing to keep that bug in their ear. Just like the Washington coaches told me, and I completely agree - we don't want anyone there that doesn't want to be there. That's what's going to determine if you play. If you want to be somewhere and you want to be there, then you're going to play your heart out. If not, then you're not going to play to your full potential.

"I don't want to try and force them to come with us just because they are good players. If they don't want to be there and don't feel like it's going to be right for them - by all means go to the right school. I picked Washington over all the other schools because I feel they are the right place, and I feel like that's what everyone else should do."

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