July 31, 2008

Rouse makes his decision

HARRISONBURG - Despite the group of Division I-AA scholarship offers in his possession, James Rouse decided to wait a little longer for what he really wanted.

Once he got it, he didn't hesitate.

The Harrisonburg High School senior defensive end accepted the first Division I-A scholarship offer he received, verbally committing to play at Marshall University this week.

"It was real important to get the I-A offer," Rouse said, "because that's as high as you can get, you know. I was really looking forward to that."

Rouse, 17, had scholarship offers from I-AA James Madison, Liberty, and Richmond, but did not commit early. Instead, his patience paid off

Rouse said he took his first visit to the Huntington, W. Va., school on Monday, and was impressed with the campus and the athletic facilities. He called Thundering Herd coach Mark Snyder on Tuesday with his decision.

"I went and saw the football stadium and talked to all the coaches and everything," he said, "and I really liked it there, so I decided that's where I wanted to go to school. .... The coaches are really nice, and I have a chance to play earlier than later. Like, if I do what I'm supposed to do, I can play when I'm a freshman when I go there."

The Thundering Herd went 3-9 last season, posting a 3-5 mark in Conference USA. The team currently has two local players on its roster in junior defensive end John Jacobs (Broadway) and sophomore punter Cody Ochoa (Turner Ashby).

"I think it's a great choice for James," Harrisonburg coach Tim Sarver said. "I think James - like all kids - I think he dreams of playing at that Division I level, and this a golden opportunity to do that. Marshall University is a class outfit. I mean, they were a great football powerhouse for years and years. The last couple of years they've been down. They think James can help them, and I think they're getting one of the best kids that we've ever had come through the program."

The 6-foot-5 inch, 210-pound Rouse intrigued recruiters with his blend of size and speed. At a Nike Combine in Baltimore the spring of his sophomore year, he ran the 40-yad dash in 4.66 seconds. He has been clocked as low as 4.63 seconds, an especially fleet time for a defensive lineman.

In his first year as a starter last year - only his third year of organized football, period - Rouse earned second-team all-Massanutten District honors after tallying 30 solo tackles and four sacks. He stepped his game up in the playoffs, posting nine tackles and 1 1/2 sacks in the Streaks' 14-7 Region III playoff win over Spotswood. He also pressured SHS quarterback Trey Jarrels into a game-clinching incompletion.

The recruiting Web site Rivals.com lists Rouse as a two-star recruit, and said that he also received interest from Virginia, Virginia Tech and Purdue. Rouse said that for the most part, he enjoyed the recruiting process.

"At the beginning it was real [cool], just like, getting letters and stuff and making that little box and putting them in and everything, you know?" Rouse said. "Then, towards the end, when you start getting phone calls and stuff and then people want you to visit down at their campus and everything and you have to go to these one-day camps, it gets a little overwhelming."

Rouse and classmate Alex Owah - a tailback who has verbally committed to the University of Virginia - give the Blue Streaks a pair of future Division I players this season.

"Yeah, that was great to just get it over with now," Rouse said of his recruitment, "so I don't have to keep thinking about it during football season and everything. It's already set in stone."

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