Bishop Gorman boasts roster of stars


There might not be a better place to catch a football game than at Bishop Gorman High School (Las Vegas). And it's not just because of Fertitta Field, the school's new $11-million stadium, although that doesn't hurt.

The Gaels players make Friday nights a can't-miss experience.

"It's kind of scary to think that in three years when you look back on this team at how many Division I kids might be on it," said first-year coach Tony Sanchez, who predicts there could be as many as 14 top recruits on his team three seasons from now.

Seven players in the senior class have either committed to or are being recruited by Division I schools, including Scouts Inc.'s No. 1 tight end Xavier Grimble, who has committed to USC.

"We're one of the biggest senior classes to come out in terms of the size and the weight and D-I scholarships," Grimble said.

The Gaels are a young team, even with the presence of the strong senior class, which is one of the reasons for Sanchez's optimism.

"We have three sophomores starting on the offensive line," said the coach of the 8-0 Gaels. "We've got a freshman starting quarterback and a freshman slot receiver. We've got a junior fullback and a sophomore tailback, so we're young but we're explosive."

So far this season, the team is averaging 10 yards a carry on 219 carries. And the defense isn't lacking, either, allowing just 37 points and holding four teams scoreless through eight games.

"Our defensive front is absolutely incredible," Sanchez said. "We've got five guys on the front that have offers. We've got seven possible Division I football players in it, so obviously it's talented, but they've done just a tremendous job. And in the secondary, it's really coming along.

"Our strength really is our front, our offensive line and our defensive front seven."

Of the five players with offers, four are seniors: defensive end Alex Turner has committed to Stanford; linebacker Evan Palelei had committed to Stanford but has reopened his recruitment; defensive tackle Ian Bobak has offers from UNLV, Nevada and Fresno State along with others; and tackle Tim Wilkinson, who averages 5.7 tackles a game, is narrowing down his top schools. Grimble's cousin, junior defensive end Jalen Grimble -- a member of the ESPNU 150 Watch List -- is getting looks from schools like USC, UCLA and LSU. Juniors Jordan Welte (linebacker) and Evan Zeger (safety) are also starting to get looks from Division I programs.

Sanchez doesn't let the roster define his team. He knows that talent alone doesn't win championships, and he makes sure his team knows that, too.

"He works us hard," said offensive tackle Geoffrey Gibson, who is committed to Cal. "He's fair to everybody, no matter who you are -- from a starter to a freshman, he treats us all the same and he expects nothing but the best from us."

Sanchez wants to help his players develop, so he and his assistants call out players who aren't doing a technique the right way or who are going easy on a drill.

"Practice is a dogfight every day," said Grimble, the No. 28 overall player in the ESPNU 150. "You know, everybody is competing. That's all he talks about, competing and focus. So everybody, we have to come to practice and maybe Monday might be a little banged up, but you know what, you've got to get through it and get through the day. And I think that's going to really carry me through the next level."

The players say their new coach has brought much-needed discipline to the team, which Sanchez says starts with practice.

"I think when you challenge young men that they look for that," he said. "That they want leadership, they want to be led, they want to be pushed in a direction. Our kids have responded, taken it by the reins and just run with it."

Working with a new coach is old hat to the Gaels' seniors; this is their third coach in four years at Bishop Gorman. The players have worked together to learn the new system and coaching style.

"It's just transition, a change of pace," Grimble said. "You have to learn a new offense, have to learn new rules. I mean, it's kind of hard because you kind of get adapted to one guy and then the next thing you know you have to change and get adapted to a new guy. You've got to kind of learn them and it's a little bit hard.

"We just come together and we buy into the situation because if you don't buy in it's not going to work. We as seniors, we want to win a state championship, and if we don't buy into his situation, it won't work at all. We have to have some form of unity on the team."

In 2007, Bishop Gorman won the Nevada 4A State Championship. Most of the seniors were on that team, and they use that title as motivation with their younger teammates.

"They definitely remember the grind and they talk about the little things that they went through," Sanchez said about his senior players.

Grimble wears his championship ring on Fridays to remind himself what it takes to win a state title.

"You've got to put in those extra hours and you've got to do things that other teams aren't really doing and you've got to do things that you aren't really used to," he said. "You've got to push yourself through the hard pain and everything and just get through it and good things will come out of it."

That work ethic is appealing to top college coaches, who have taken note of Bishop Gorman. In the past few years, the University of Oklahoma has heavily scouted out the Gaels' roster for prospects, and the Sooners' current roster includes three former Gaels: DE Justin Chaisson, RB DeMarco Murray and LB Ryan Reynolds.

That's not the only connection between Bishop Gorman and OU. Oklahoma graduate assistant coach David White used to coach the Gaels. "Everybody was kind of expecting me to go to Oklahoma," Grimble said. "But you know, I didn't really know, I've always like USC."

Gibson, Grimble and Turner will become Pac-10 rivals next season. It will be a tough transition for the close-knit senior class; the bond between the players was something Sanchez picked up on right away.

"The thing that has just been incredible to me to see and refreshing is that we truly have a bunch of kids who put the team above themselves," the coach said. "They really want to win for their teammates, for their school.

"There are some nights when people want to cover Xavier Grimble up so the ball goes elsewhere. He never worries about it. We've got so much talent and nobody's pointing to themselves because they're all pointing to the team."

The Bishop Gorman players know that it's a long season -- 15 games if they make it into the playoffs and to the state championship. So they are putting in the work at practice and in the weight room, and the seniors are working with the younger players -- all part of their new coach's program.

And that makes for some great football come Friday night.

Julie Turner is a recruiting editor for ESPN.com.