For most of the participants at the recent Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge, the event offered a rare opportunity to play alongside other elite Division I prospects.
But it wasn't an unusual situation for cornerback Kendall Fuller and linebacker Dorian O'Daniel, teammates at Olney (Md.) Good Counsel. As the headline performers on arguably the nation's most star-studded high school defense, Fuller and O'Daniel will line up with other Division I recruits each day in practice this fall.
Good Counsel has four linebackers and four defensive backs with Division I offers. That group includes one five-star player (Fuller) and two four-star recruits (O'Daniel and cornerback Kirk Garner). Good Counsel's defense features two of the nation's top 40 overall 2013 prospects in Fuller (No. 3) and O'Daniel (No. 40).
"Honestly, it's just a blessing," O'Daniel said. "When you substitute, there's no lack of talent. Everyone's just as equal. It's really just a sigh of relief, with everyone around you [so talented]. It's iron sharpening iron."
These iron men have devastated opposing offenses.
Each of the last two seasons, Good Counsel has allowed seven points or less in seven of its 12 games. The Falcons recorded four shutouts in their last six games and yielded a total of seven points over their final four games in 2011 to go 12-0 and finish sixth in the RivalsHigh 100 national rankings.
Good Counsel's nationally televised season opener Aug. 24 against Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman will give fans an early look at one of the nation's best high school defenses. ACC fans should pay particular attention.
These future conference rivals are capitalizing on their opportunity to practice with Division-I talent every day in high school. Consider that last year Fuller got to spend each day measuring himself against against Stefon Diggs, a five-star wide receiver who signed with Maryland. Garner noted that he has learned plenty from playing in the same secondary as Fuller. Those four linebackers continue to compete with one another for playing time.
By the time they all get to college, they'll be better for the experience.
"All of us are competitors," Fuller said. "When you're a competitor, it's just going to make you better going against each other in practice."
That kind of depth should prevent Good Counsel from leaning too heavily on O'Daniel, who also will play tailback on offense. Because Good Counsel runs a 4-3 defense, it won't have to play all four of its star linebackers at the same time.
The secondary includes arguably the nation's top cornerback tandem in Fuller and Garner, who also could play safety. The projected starting safeties are two-star prospect C.J. Jones and 2014 recruit Kobie Walker. Jones has picked up an offer from Virginia, while Walker already has offers from Hawaii, N.C. State and Wisconsin.
GOOD COUNSEL, GREAT DEFENSE
Olney (Md.) Good Counsel has four linebackers and four defensive backs with FBS offers. Here's a rundown of each of them. Overall rankings are in parentheses.
The buzz: Walker, the lone 2014 prospect on this list, already has offers from Hawaii, N.C. State and Wisconsin.
* - Rivals.com hasn't rated the 2014 prospects yet.
"I just look at it as I'm playing with my boys," Garner said. "I don't look at it like I'm playing with superstars. These are the guys I hang out with outside the field. I'm always with them, doing stuff and competing. I know what these guys can do."
More star power is on the way.
Not only does Good Counsel have the luxury of four linebackers with FBS offers, it also has young defensive backs with plenty of promise. Roger Richardson just finished his freshman year at Good Counsel, but the 2015 prospect already is being heralded as the school's next great cornerback.
All that depth prevents anyone from relaxing.
"The best assistant coach you've got is that bench," Good Counsel coach Bob Milloy said. "You've got good players, and they know if they don't give 100 percent, somebody else might be playing. That's the best coach you've got. We're fortunate to have some talented players in the second group who are going to be pushing the first group."
In a lineup full of stars, Fuller shines the brightest.
Fuller's older brothers include current Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller and receiver Corey Fuller as well as former Hokies cornerback Vince Fuller. Kyle Fuller earned second-team all-ACC honors and recorded 14 1/2 tackles for loss last season, while Vince Fuller has played in the NFL for parts of seven seasons. Kyle is ahead of where all his brothers were at similar stages of their careers.
He heads into his senior year as the No. 1 cornerback and No. 3 overall prospect in his class. The last defensive back to finish a recruiting season ranked as high as third was former Fairburn (Ga.) Creekside star Eric Berry, who signed with Tennessee in 2007 and won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top collegiate defensive back in 2009.
Fuller is the third five-star prospect to come through Good Counsel in the last five years. Outside linebacker Jelani Jenkins signed with Florida as the nation's No. 10 overall prospect in 2009, while Diggs was the No. 8 overall recruit in the 2012 class. The presence of all that elite talent assures that just about every potential college player on Good Counsel's roster gets noticed.
"Good Counsel has been a stop for pretty much every major program in the country, so they start to discover guys that normally wouldn't get that attention had it not been for all those five-star and four-star kids," Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said. "I can't say if anyone does this specifically, but sometimes kids get offers at certain schools to try to get a pipeline going. You'll take a lesser kid to try to get some of the better kids down the line. It happens all over the place. If you've got kids you're equally high on from Good Counsel and a school that doesn't produce D-1 kids every year, you're going to offer the Good Counsel kid because he might be friends with the next four- or five-star out there.
"It's political. It's strategic. But it's also [about] talent. There's no doubt this is a talented football team. It's no coincidence these kids are better because of the kids they go against in practice every day."
Other former Good Counsel standouts playing featured roles for major conference programs include Michigan cornerback Blake Countess and Georgia Tech cornerback Louis Young. Countess made six starts as a true freshman last season, while Young started 12 games for the Yellow Jackets.
"There's not a big bust factor the last five years with Good Counsel," Farrell said. "Jenkins was starting at Florida. Countess was a starting at Michigan. The [Good Counsel] kids who have gone on to Virginia have contributed. Diggs is going to be a freshman starter at Maryland. They do not produce busts. There are some programs out there that have a tremendous reputation for putting out kids who just bust."
Good Counsel players to sign with FBS programs this year included Diggs, Rivals250 running back Wes Brown (Maryland), four-star defensive end Ryan Watson (Purdue), three-star offensive tackle Mike Madaras (Maryland) and three-star defensive end Roderick Chungong (Georgia Tech).
This defense should help Good Counsel continue to make an impact in the college ranks. Consider how much of a Good Counsel presence there could be in the ACC alone in future seasons.
Maryland signed three Good Counsel players last year. Clemson already has a commitment from O'Daniel and continues to pursue Fuller, whose family already has quite the history at Virginia Tech. Georgia Tech's roster this year will include a couple of former Good Counsel defenders.
"I don't get a chance to watch them," Milloy said. "I'm always coaching or scouting or playing, so I don't get to see them that much, but it's really great to turn on the TV and see one of your kids playing."
Milloy shouldn't feel too upset that he rarely gets to see his former players' college games. If he wants to see major college talent in action this fall, all he has to do is walk to his own practice field each day.