Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Gilliam is starting to heat up in the 805

Max Gilliam of Thousand Oaks High School is beginning to gain NCAA Division I collegiate interest, something that hasn't happened for a Lancer quarterback since 2007 (photo by Lorenzo J. Reyna).
The last time Thousand Oaks High School had a highly coveted quarterback was in 2007, when Ryan Cloney was not only shattering Lancer football records, but getting recruited by Brigham Young and San Diego State. Max Gilliam was a 9-year-old during that year.

After an eight-year drought, Thousand Oaks High has a new quarterback luring the college coaches to the southern Ventura County school: the Class of 2016 prospect Gilliam.

The 6’2”, 191 pound Gilliam - who holds two scholarship offers from Marshall and Toledo - doubles as tall gunslinger in the pocket and galloping horse in the zone read option offense for TOHS.

Gilliam, though, wanted to enhance his game and promote his name on the recruiting trail by showing up to Passing Down’s So Cal regional on March 29 in Fontana.

Gilliam wasn’t just representing himself against some of the state‘s top recruits at Ralph Lewis Sports Park, but he was also representing his high school and community.

“It’s special especially for my high school because their aren’t too many of us out here. But our team (TOHS) is real good,” Gilliam said.

Gilliam rotated at quarterback for his club squad Elite Athletes and didn’t disappoint the spectators or his coaches. Gilliam rifled the ball deep on multiple occasions, completing passes of 35 or 40 yards as Team EA nearly clinched a spot at Passing Down’s Best of the West Tournament (April 26). Team EA wound up losing to Rize Up during the finals for their pod.

In shoulder pads, Gilliam threw for 2,920 yards, 29 touchdown passes and tossed eight interceptions during the 2014-15 season. But its his legs that proves Gilliam does more than just frustrate defenses with his right arm.

Gilliam added 625 rushing yards on 158 carries and scored 12 touchdowns in the Lancers’ Oregon Duck-like zone read option scheme, which goes without a huddle and runs at full speed.

It’s an offense that Gilliam is comfortable with.

“My athleticism has been my biggest strength ever since I was little,” Gilliam said.

Fittingly, his favorite player is a possible first round pick in April’s NFL draft: Heisman trophy winner and former Oregon star Marcus Mariota, who was known for damaging defenses as a dual-threat signal caller.

When Gilliam isn’t throwing the ball for Team EA or TOHS, he receives most of his coaching from a renown figure in quarterback development: Steve Clarkson, who’s mentored Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh Steelers), Nick Foles (St. Louis Rams) and future NFL draft picks Jameis Winston (Florida State) and Brett Hundley (UCLA).

“He’s taught me a lot. He’s probably taught me more than anyone else,” Gilliam said. “He’s been good to me. He brings things to you that you’ve never seen.”

Even though he’s put up astronomical numbers, Gilliam uses his time with Clarkson to improve himself and become better prepared for his next go round on the football field.

“Since working with Steve, I’ve seen my footwork and arm strength become a lot better. I’m still working on everything including throwing on the run,” Gilliam said.

While he’s still carving his name on the recruiting trail, Gilliam is aware that his high school hasn’t always been a production factory for college football talent.

“We just haven’t had any good players come out of here in the last couple of years, but we should have a good team,” Gilliam said.

He’ll be taking unofficial visits to Boise State, Washington, Washington State, Oregon State and Cal this upcoming spring with the hope of landing more scholarship pledges from those schools.

“I think I want to make a decision before my senior year starts. That way, I can just focus on the season,” Gilliam said.

He’s not only picking up the recruiting flag that Cloney left behind, but Gilliam is itching to have his name mentioned among the echelon of 2016 quarterbacks, which includes K.J. Costello (Stanford commit), Devin Modster (11 scholarship offers), Armani Rogers (Cal commit), Kevin Davidson (Ivy League and PAC-12 interest) and Ian Book (seven scholarship offers).

Is Gilliam a sleeper among those quarterbacks?

“Yeah I think so,” Gilliam said. “I can compete with all of them.”

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