Saturday, February 6, 2016

MARQUES EVANS IS DOING THINGS THE PRO WAY

Newbury Park defensive back Marques Evans is aiming to become the next Class of 2017 prospect to stack the scholarships now that National Signing Day for the 2016 class has wrapped up (photo by Lorenzo Reyna). 
Now that the Class of 2016 has rode off into the college football recruiting sunset, many prospects in the 2017 class are itching to see their name land on a college football program’s radar.

Newbury Park High’s Marques Evans – who hasn’t been offered a scholarship yet – is one of those ’17 players aiming to stack the offers.

One way he advertises his name to recruiters is by latching on with the Pro Way – the club team that’s led by the vision of former NFL running back Darick Holmes and features 2017 studs Keyshawn Johnson Jr. and Darnay Holmes.

Evans is seen going toe-to-toe against the dynamic receiving duo; as well as the other Ventura County, Los Angeles County and Central Valley talent that the Pro Way brings out during practices at Calabasas High. Because Evans has the ability to backpedal, press and cover against the Pro Way’s top receivers, it gets him to send this message to college coaches who are looking for a cover corner:

“If I can go against them, I can go against anybody,” Evans said. “They’re the best in the Class of 2017 and I hope I can be as good as them. Going against them each day is a blessing.”

The 6-foot-1, 180-pound cornerback finds himself watching his peers pile the pledges - plus witness his sophomore quarterback Cameron Rising already receive offers from Arizona State, Arizona, Houston and Michigan.

Evans, though, doesn’t sound impatient about his own recruiting process.

“I’m just waiting for my time,” Evans said. “Yeah, I feel like I’m a little overlooked, but it gives me motivation to work harder.”

Evans said he’s in contact with some PAC-12 schools. Saying: “I’m in contact with UCLA and Washington right now. UCLA coaches direct message me on Twitter.” Evans adds that Oregon State has shown interest.

He credits the Pro Way and the atmosphere Holmes provides during practices for helping mold Evans into the player that he is today.

“The Pro Way is honestly one of the best things to happen to me,” Evans said. “I’ve been working with Darick since I was seven. He’s like an uncle to me. He’s part of the reason why I’m here today along with the other coaches. I would highly recommend the Pro Way to any guy in Ventura County.

“They break you down and build you back up,” Evans continued. “Right now, I’m working on getting a lot more aggressive because that’s one of my weak points. Just using my arms and length to my advantage against these receivers.”

He’s not just lacing up his cleats right now to prepare for his senior year or make his recruiting push, but he finds the time to watch highlight videos of his two favorite NFL cornerbacks: Josh Norman of the Carolina Panthers and Marcus Peters of the Kansas City Chiefs.

“With Josh Norman, I find my game to be really similar to his. With Marcus Peters, he’s a man coverage dude and I see myself as a man dude,” Evans said. “And with Norman, he’s a ball hawk. He’s always around the ball and I see myself as someone who’s a ball hawk.”

During Friday night games in the 805’s south region, Evans emerged as the Panthers’ top island corner; covering and hovering over receivers and forcing opposing quarterbacks to throw the football away from his side.

With his size and overall skillset, it’s bewildering for some people to see an offer-less Evans. Yet Evans is confident that he’ll be the next Panther and Pro Way prospect to break out during the new recruiting period.


 Said Evans: “I’ve just got to stay patient. My time is going to come.”

SAN JOSE STATE BRINGING IN CENTRAL VALLEY CHRISTIAN TOWER

Blake Walker (No. 75) was one of many Central Section NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision signings on National Signing Day, as the 6-foot-8 tackle signed with San Jose State on Wednesday, Feb. 3 (photo contributed). 
In the final hour of the 2016 recruiting season, Blake Walker of Central Valley Christian (Visalia) finally became a national recruit – and ended an 11-year dry spell at his school.

The lofty offensive tackle, who wound up with late scholarship offers from San Jose State and Azusa Pacific, ended his late recruiting chase on Wednesday, Feb. 3, by signing his letter of intent with the Spartans. The stroke of his pen signified that Walker became the Cavaliers’ first NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision signing since Ryan Colburn chose Fresno State in 2005.

“I'm really excited to get the opportunity to play at SJSU. It's something I've worked hard for… for a very long time,” Walker said. “I feel very blessed to have this opportunity to play at the DI level. It really took a team effort which helped me get to where I'm at today.”

That team he’s referring to were on hand during his ceremony inside the CVC gymnasium. All of them not only witnessed the 6-foot-8, 303-pound tackle sign his life away, but said a prayer with him before joining the Spartans’ 2016 class.

Walker was known in the Central Section for using his size and tree trunk-like arms to bulldoze defensive linemen into the grass. He said the SJSU offensive line coaches were who reached out to him.

“They made me feel comfortable and excited about going to SJSU,” Walker said. “I was invited up for a game and I liked that the coaches showed us around. They (SJSU) have nice facilities and I felt good walking out on to the field for pregame.”

Walker added that he likes the fact that he’s a four hour drive away from home, that way his family can watch a home game and he won’t have to travel cross country to recharge himself after the season. Walker hopes to obtain a business degree from SJSU and dive into his family business. 

He had to overcome playing for a school that not only endured a long drought with producing an FBS signing, but also a program playing in the shadow of Tulare/Kings County kingpins El Diamante, Tulare Union, Mission Oak, Dinuba, Hanford and Lemoore.

Walker, though, is thankful he got a chance to wear the CVC colors.


Said Walker: “I enjoyed going to a small school. It was always a fun challenge to compete against schools that were much larger than us and walk away with a victory. But being from a small school you don't get a lot of recognition. The last two summers I spent a lot of time going to college football camps to get noticed. I do want to thank God for giving me this opportunity and all the coaches who helped me get better in every way possible.” 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

CHRIS PAZ IS BULLDOG BORN, BULLDOG BRED


San Joaquin Memorial (Fresno) wide receiver/linebacker Chris Paz decided that home is where his heart is, as the Panther standout took Fresno State's preferred walk-on offer and signed his letter of intent with the Bulldogs on National Signing Day (photo by Lorenzo Reyna). 
It may have been a preferred walk-on offer that got extended to him, but San Joaquin Memorial (Fresno) wide receiver/linebacker Chris Paz decided that Fresno State was his top destination all along.

Paz - who shined as a tall, physical and versatile two-way standout during his three-year varsity career and got courted by the likes of Hawaii, Cornell and Washington State – took the Bulldogs’ pledge and signed his Letter of Intent with the local university on National Signing Day, which took place on Wednesday.

For the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Paz, suiting up for the Bulldogs becomes a childhood fantasy fulfilled.

“I've always dreamed of being a Bulldog ever since I was a kid,” Paz said. “I used to go to their games all the time.”

Paz, who was born in Parlier and played through the Reedley Buccaneers’ youth football system, adds that the new coaches coming to Fresno State was a key factor in his decision. Two of those coaches will get a chance to teach Paz the college football ways: new tight ends coach Joe Bernardi and offensive coordinator Eric Keisau.

“I love the coaching staff and the new coaches they're bringing in,” Paz said. “I loved the new offensive coach Kiesau. He's very excited about me and I love the position that he wants me to play (inside slot receiver).”

Paz’s signing gave Fresno State a significant recruiting victory from its own backyard. The 3-9 Bulldogs wound up fending off a Mountain West rival that actually offered him a full-ride scholarship, an Ivy League program that recognized him for his grades and a PAC-12 powerhouse that made a run at him late. He joins another 559 star on the cross streets of Bulldog Lane and Shaw Avenue: Hanford High athlete Juwuane Hughes, who signed his LOI with the ‘Dogs on NSD.

Despite the dismal 2015-16 season and the late hiring of the new assistant coaches, Paz is enamored by Fresno State’s 2016 class.

“I love our recruiting class. We have a lot of guys who can help win us some championships,” Paz said.

Also, Paz doesn’t forget about his humble beginnings. He’s reminded that where he comes from, his community isn’t considered the biggest hotbed for talent.


“Being a kid from Parlier/Reedley, I'm truly blessed to have this opportunity,” Paz said. “Where I’m from, not many kids make it out to play division one college football. It just shows the younger guys that anything is possible with hard work and patience. It's crazy to think that my dreams have come true. No matter where you're from, follow your dreams.”


Sunday, January 31, 2016

ON THE GOLDEN STATE RECRUITING TRAIL: 805 BROTHERS TO COLLABORATE AT SAN DIEGO STATE

Buena (Ventura) linebacker Dru Mathis received a campus tour of San Diego State courtesy of his older brother and current Aztec defensive back Kendrick during the weekend of Jan. 30 and now, the younger Mathis will join his brother after committing to the Mountain West champs (photo by Lorenzo Reyna). 
Buena (Ventura) linebacker Dru Mathis had a familiar face hosting him during his official recruiting visit to San Diego State: Aztec defensive back and older brother Kendrick.

Now, the Mathis brothers will unite in the 619, as the younger Mathis ended his recruiting process and committed to the defending Mountain West champions on Sunday.

The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Mathis said his brother had an influence on his college decision.

“Kendrick being on the team played a role for me to go there. It's crazy to say we are going to play together,” Mathis said.

Kendrick – who starred at Buena High and graduated in 2012 – will be a fifth-year senior once his sibling joins the Aztecs.

Like his older brother, the Class of 2016 defender Dru Mathis earned a 3-star ranking by the national scouting outlets, but earned his accolades by thrashing the line of scrimmage against offenses. Regardless if he was lined up in a two-point stance or a three, Mathis emerged as the Bulldogs’ top pass rusher and run stuffer.

Mathis was on a lot of Mountain West teams’ recruiting board; with the likes of Fresno State, Hawaii, Nevada, San Jose State and Nevada all trying to court him.

NEW SOUTH DAKOTA COACHING STAFF SELLS CAMARILLO STAR

Before he took his official visit to the University of South Dakota during the weekend of Jan. 30, Camarillo left tackle Sean Chisholm was mostly seen as a wanted prospect for the NCAA Division II and NAIA level - as schools from those two realms extended scholarship opportunities to him.

But the new Coyote coaching staff thought otherwise, as the Football Championship Subdivision program not only offered the big 6-foot-6, 290-pound lineman, but received a verbal commitment from him on Sunday.

Chisholm said he likes the vision in place at SDU.

“The commitment to improvement that the school is giving toward the football program on and off the field - from the new weight room going in over the summer and a new locker room (was what sold me),” Chisholm said.

The Coyotes hired Bob Nielson on Dec. 15, 2015 to improve a team that went 5-6 overall last season. Nielson and his staff were another deciding factor for Chisholm.

“It may be a new coaching staff for the school, but if you do a little research they went and hired a very experienced head coach with a great surrounding staff that have a great mix of professionalism,” Chisholm said.

Chisholm was the powerful blindside protector for record-breaking Scorpion quarterback Jake Constantine, who committed to Boise State on Jan. 23. He also cleared running lanes for running back and 1,000-yard rusher Isaiah Otis, who pledged to DII Wayne State on Saturday.

And they shined on a 15-1 team that didn’t generate much interest from colleges during the season, until now.

“Playing at Camarillo is what I truly feel made me into a football player,” Chisholm said. “There was very few selfish moments on our team and in the four years I've been here, there wasn't a single person on our team who didn't put the team before them – and that is what helps shape a player’s value.”

HUMBOLDT STATE GOES TO FRESNO POWERHOUSE FOR MORE TALENT

Humboldt State’s 559 pipeline continued on Sunday, as the Lumberjacks added Bullard (Fresno) defensive back Nick Cole and athlete C-Jay Smith on Sunday.

Last year around this time, HSU lured in Edison High’s Khai Williams, Ju’Wan Murphy and Vance Sams to Eureka. Now, Cole and Smith become the latest from Fresno to verbally join the NCAA Division II powerhouse.

“Going to Humboldt on my official visit felt like I never even left home. I clicked with the team very fast and they made me feel welcome,” Smith said. “The coaches at Humboldt were amazing. They talked to me like they already knew me. I'm glad I picked Humboldt as a college I want attend for the next four to five years.”

Added Cole: “Overall, it was just an awesome campy scenery. The people are all welcoming and in one night it felt like home to me.”

The senior duo helped lead the Knights defense by swatting passes and forcing fumbles. Both combined for 10 pass deflections for the 9-3 Knights in 2015-16.

They’re now the fourth Bullard players to make a verbal pledge to a four-year university this season. Running back Charles Williams (UNLV) and center Connor Vikupitz (Air Force) are also heading to the collegiate level. Cole spoke highly of the Knights’ 2016 class.

“Without a doubt our senior class was really special with our leadership and we are all like brothers,” Cole said.  

The recruiting process was a long and grueling one for the Knight players, with an offer finally coming to them at the 11th hour of the 2016 session. But now, Cole and Smith can breathe a sigh of relief and thank the people who stuck with them.

Cole: “To be committed is great. It's just so stressful going through it but to all the young players, don't get frustrated. It's all well worth it.

“I would like to thank God. He blessed me and also thank coach (Don) Arax and the entire staff, especially coach (Yosef) Fares who is like a father figure to me,” Cole continued. “Also, I would like to thank The Brandt family. Phillip Brandt Sr., who is like my second dad and has done a lot for me, always tells me to ‘Keep my head on straight.’ I thank Rachel Brandt, my second mother. She's just a great lady and can't forget Phil Brandt Jr., who is my trainer and trains a lot of athletes in Fresno.”

Smith: “I would like to thank everyone who supported me in the long run: God for the possibilities he's given me because if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be in this situation and my coaching staff at Bullard for pushing me every day in the weight room and on the field just to make me the athlete I am today.”

LEMOORE ATHLETE HEADING TO DIVISION II POWER

Azusa Pacific University may have been late to the party with offering Lemoore athlete Jerald Campbell, but the Cougars still won over the explosive Tiger, as the senior committed to APU on Saturday.

Campbell held a reported 12 scholarship offers – 11 of them coming from the DII, DIII and NAIA field.

“Some things that convinced me that APU was the right fit was that it's close to home, the great education and (playing for) an amazing football program,” Campbell said.

Campbell – who caught passes, returned kicks and covered wide receivers for the Central Section Division II title game runner-up – said the APU coaches were honest and approachable with him.


“The coaches were very straight forward with me; telling me about the school and the football program. They would contact me weekly by checking up on me and seeing how they could get me to commit to APU,” Campbell said. “They plan on playing me on the defensive side of the ball and on special teams. It's an amazing feeling being able to commit to such an amazing school. I'm blessed with the opportunity to continue playing the game I love.”

GOLD MINE GALLERY: DOING THINGS THE PRO WAY

ALL PHOTOS BY LORENZO REYNA