It would be one thing if Petaluma (Calif.) Casa Grande High football star Elijah Qualls was just a big, two-way starting lineman. He still might stand out for his athleticism and quickness, but he probably wouldn't qualify as one of the more unique top prospects in years.
However, Qualls is unique because of the position he plays: The rising senior is a 6-foot-1, 285-pound running back who can steamroll entire defenses or skip his way around them on a downfield run. As a junior, Qualls rushed for 1,139 yards and 14 touchdowns, and also showed offensive versatility by grabbing another touchdown on a reception out of the backfield and throwing for a score as well.
As one might expect, Qualls has received plenty of attention from West Coast colleges, though most seem to be mum about whether they would allow him to continue running the ball. Yet, in a recent interview with ESPN, Qualls confirmed that a number of schools actually are recruiting him as a running back.
Qualls, who was among the standouts at the Rivals100 Challenge, clearly has the strength to play offensively at the next level even if he is more likely to pan out as a defensive lineman, as Rivals.com's Adam Gorney made clear.
"[Qualls] has a burst of power that when he uses every time and kind of gets control of people, he can be unstoppable," Gorney said. "There's obviously a lot of discussion about where he'll play at the next level, but I think he's most likely to end up at defensive tackle because of his size. Once he gets more work at the position, once he drills more, once he gets more comfortable playing that position alone I think he can really excel at the next level."
Considering the fact that the soon-to-be senior has narrowed his list of potential college destinations down to six schools, five of which are in the Pac-12, there seems to be a very good chance that he will be toting a football in a major game on national TV in the not too distant future, possibly even at one of his early favorites, USC or Washington.
And even if Qualls does eventually become a defensive end or tackle, the rest of the world still has a year ahead to enjoy him running with the football and absolutely dumptrucking potential tacklers, as he made clear to ESPN.
"It's not every day you see a 280-pound running back. I'm really blessed."