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August 12, 2012

Megargee: Current teammates, future rivals

MORE: RivalsHigh preseason rankings

Dallas (Texas) Jesuit seniors Jordan Mastrogiovanni and Jake Oliver have known each other since first grade and have played football together since fifth grade.

But they eventually will make the transition from teammates to rivals.

Oliver, a Rivals100 wide receiver, has committed to Texas. Mastrogiovanni, a three-star linebacker, plans to enroll at Oklahoma next year.

That naturally leads to some playful teasing on the practice field and on campus as they look forward to their future contributions to the Red River Rivalry.

"OU's favored in it this year and I keep telling him we'll keep it going for more years to come," Mastrogiovanni said. "The preseason rankings came out and OU's (ahead of) Texas this year. I kind of joke with him about that, but it's nothing serious."

Dallas Jesuit isn't the only team heading into the fall in this situation. In fact, the preseason RivalsHigh 100 national poll includes a number of teams in similar circumstances.

Olney (Md.) Good Counsel, ranked ninth in the RivalsHigh 100, has one player committed to Virginia Tech (five-star cornerback Kendall Fuller) and three players committed to Virginia (cornerback Kirk Garner, wide receiver Andre Levrone and quarterback Brendan Marshall).

No. 16 Miami (Fla.) Central's roster includes Miami commit Trevor Darling at offensive tackle and Florida State commit Joseph Yearby at running back.

No. 51 Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln features a Florida recruit (James Hearns) at linebacker and a Georgia commit (Reggie Davis) at receiver.

No. 61 Jacksonville (Fla.) First Coast has a linebacker corps that includes Florida commit Daniel McMillian and Florida State-bound Tyrell Lyons.

That can lead to some interesting matchups on the practice field.

For instance, Levrone's daily attempts to try to get open against Fuller not only give him the opportunity to test himself against the nation's top-ranked senior cornerback. It also gives him a chance to prepare for a potential matchup he could encounter in Virginia's most important game each of his four seasons in college.

"I want to win every rep, so of course when I'm going against him I'm trying to think," Levrone said. "He's a great cornerback. It's not like I can just line up and expect to win every rep. I take every little thing I can to think about how I'm going to beat him. I analyze it, and the next time I go, I try to use that against him.''

Levrone says he stores away that information, knowing he will have to use it down the road when he's playing for Virginia and Fuller is suiting up for the Hokies. Levrone assumes he isn't alone in that regard.

TEAMMATES TO RIVALS
A number of high school football teams across the country have teammates committed to arch-rival college programs. Here are several examples.
DALLAS (TEXAS) JESUIT
NamePos.College
Jordan MastrogiovanniLBOklahoma
J.J. GustafsonOTTexas
Jake OliverWRTexas
HUNTSVILLE (ALA.)
NamePos.College
Grant HillOGAlabama
Cameron ToneyLBAuburn
JACKSONVILLE (FLA.) FIRST COAST
NamePos.College
Tyrell LionsLBFlorida State
Daniel McMillanLBFlorida
MIAMI (FLA.) CENTRAL
NamePos.College
Trevor DarlingOTMiami
Joseph YearbyRBFlorida State
OLNEY (MD.) GOOD COUNSEL
NamePos.College
Kendall FullerCBVirginia Tech
Kirk GarnerCBVirginia
Andre LevroneWRMarshall
Brendan MarshallQBVirginia
TALLAHASSEE (FLA.) LINCOLN
NamePos.College
Reggie DavisWRGeorgia
James HearnsLBFlorida
TROTWOOD-MADISON (OHIO)
NamePos.College
Cameron BurrowsCBOhio State
Mike McCrayLBMichigan

"Kendall's a smart player," Levrone said. "I'm sure he's doing the same thing. I've never asked him, but I'm pretty sure he does it also."

It's not unusual for future college rivals to line up against each other every day in high school practice.

Just as Levrone and Fuller are preparing for their future duels during every Good Counsel practice, Dallas (Texas) Skyline wide receiver Ra'Shaad Samples and cornerback Will Barrow stage a future Big 12 matchup during their team's drills.

Samples, a four-star prospect, has committed to Oklahoma State. Barrow, a three-star recruit, is heading to Texas Tech. Skyline, the No. 2 team in the RivalsHigh 100, also has players committed to Texas A&M (DT Kerrick Huggins), Kansas State (LB Isaiah Williams), Ole Miss (QB Devante Kincade) and SMU (LB Roderick Moore).

"Right now we're trying to win a state championship -- we've got big expectations on us -- but it crosses my mind sometimes," Samples said of his potential college matchups with Barrow. "Always when I'm lining up against a DB, I'm seeing what makes them bite, what's his weakness and what's his strength."

Of course, even though Oklahoma State and Texas Tech both play in the Big 12, neither school considers the other its biggest rival.

That's what makes the situations at Dallas Jesuit and Good Counsel particularly interesting. Right now, Mastrogiovanni and Oliver want to help each other win a championship.

A year from now, they're going to play for teams that can't stand each other. The same is true of Fuller and his Virginia-bound teammates at Good Counsel.

Mastrogiovanni and Levrone indicate there isn't any subtle recruiting occurring on the practice fields. Levrone isn't trying to change Fuller's mind. Fuller didn't seriously consider Virginia and ended up choosing Virginia Tech over Clemson, which has a commitment from Good Counsel linebacker Dorian O'Daniel.

"In the early stages, I was kind of on him about it," Levrone said. "Even before I committed, I really liked Virginia. But we kind of realized he wasn't going to Virginia. It wasn't the school for him. If it wasn't for him, I wasn't going to pressure him into a situation he didn't want to be in."

Mastrogiovanni has taken the same approach with Oliver.

"I'm really sold on OU, and he's really sold on Texas," Mastrogiovanni said. "That's really kind of how it is." Jesuit's roster also includes Iowa State commit J.D. Waggoner at defensive end and Texas A&M-bound J.J. Gustafson at offensive tackle.

The fact that one high school team had players committed to Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma could have led to some good-hearted trash talking around campus this fall, but Texas A&M's move from the Big 12 to the SEC means Gustafson won't be getting four shots at Mastrogiovanni and Oliver in college.

But it's still going to lead to some mixed emotions next year for each of these recruits.

Each time Virginia Tech plays next year, does Levrone cheer for his friend or root against Virginia's biggest rival? How will Mastrogiovanni react when he's in his dorm room watching Oliver suit up for Texas?

For the moment, these players are more interested in making the most of their final seasons as teammates. Any team that has multiple Division I prospects naturally has high expectations.

Before they begin their college careers as rivals, they want to win championships together. Then they plan to make sure their college rivalry doesn't damage their own relationship.

Sure, they'll be foes one Saturday a year for the next few seasons. That won't shatter all the bonds they built as high school teammates. They'll adopt the same approach Mastrogiovanni has taken toward Oliver.

"He did what's best for him, and I did what's best for me," Mastrogiovanni said. "Our friendship has stayed the same."



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