Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Rising star watch: Jonathan Lenard

Jonathan "Jay" Lenard of Rio Mesa High School in Ventura County does double duty as ball hawking safety and hard-hitting enforcer. Lenard holds five scholarship offers, including a recent pledge from Mountain West Conference runner-up Fresno State (photo contributed). 
It's been six years since Rio Mesa High School near Oxnard has ever seen a recruiting chase like this.

Class of 2016 prospect Jonathan "Jay" Lenard - who's the Spartans' most coveted recruit at five scholarship offers - has emerged as Rio Mesa's most highly wanted prospect since Jamaal Perkins (Class of 2010) wore the black and red and starred in Rio Mesa's secondary/receiving corps. Perkins ended up with Iowa State, Ole Miss, Marshall and New Mexico State offers before settling on Northern Arizona.

Fresno State of the Mountain West Conference extended its scholarship pledge to Lenard on Tuesday, April 21. Judging from what I saw, Lenard is capable of adding more scholarships.

Here's a closer look:

WHAT TO LIKE: His nose for the football is exactly what you want in your secondary. Lenard shows good eyes and excellent instincts, then he'll either snatch the football away or destroy the big play. He'll force fumbles and grab interceptions, then becomes a threat to score. He's fluid with his speed and closes fast on the ball carrier. Does an excellent job of not only shadowing a wide receiver in man or zone coverage, but has long enough arms to swat the ball away. At 6-foot-1 and 185-pounds, size shouldn't be an issue for his future collegiate home. He won't hesitate to come crashing down near the line of scrimmage and demolish a running back or quarterback. He's capable of playing in the box like a young Troy Polamalu. An aggressive player who clearly loves to pulverize opponents with his shoulder.

WHAT TO BUILD ON: I noticed he comes up too high on his tackles. While he might get away with that under the Friday night lights, he'll need to work on lowering his pad level and sinking his hips in college. I'm also interested in seeing more of his ability to fight off blockers during blitzes. He tends to place his hips in the wrong direction and can take the wrong angle pursuit. But he has enough speed to chase down people.

OVERALL: In the always talent-deep Ventura County, Lenard is - without a doubt - the most complete safety in that region. He doubles as a ball hawk and ferocious hitter; two traits I've always admired from safeties. He looks like another former Spartan star: ex-USC defensive back and NFL/CFL veteran Kevin Thomas (Class of 2005).

Tall signal callers land their first offer

Patrick O'Brien - who's a running and throwing threat at San Juan Hills High School (San Juan Capistrano) landed his first scholarship offer on Tuesday, April 21, from a prestigious Big 10 university (photo by Lorenzo J. Reyna).
Throughout most of the offseason, scout writers and people who follow recruiting felt that Patrick O'Brien was the biggest sleeper among the California quarterbacks in the Class of 2016; because he hadn't been offered a scholarship right away.

But on Tuesday, April 21, the underrated O'Brien was awarded his first scholarship pledge, and it comes from the Big 10.

Nebraska came through and offered the 6-foot-4, 220-pound O'Brien of San Juan Hills High School (San Juan Capistrano), who has caught the attention of numerous writers because of his arm strength, accuracy, ability to spread the ball around and frame.

The dual-threat quarterback has hit the 7on7 circuit with B2G (Beyond 2 Grand) and helped sling an assortment of bombs at Passing Down's So Cal regional, which led the B2G 5-Star squad to the regional championship on March 29 in Fontana. O'Brien's performance drew rave reviews from national recruiting websites scout.com (Fox Sports) and rivals.com (Yahoo!).

Last season, O'Brien combined for 25 touchdowns running and throwing and accumulated 2,733 yards for the 4-7 Stallions.


Angel Matute - who's another 6-foot-4, 220-pound field general - landed his first scholarship pledge from Arkansas State University of the Sun Belt Conference on April 20.

Matute, who plays at Rancho Cucamonga High School, is considered a dual-threat quarterback according to Rivals.

After the 2014-15 season, Matute accounted for 2,855 passing yards, 213 rushing yards, 24 touchdown passes and 8 interceptions.

Like O'Brien, Matute has put on the shorts and dri-fit to gain more exposure for himself on the 7on7 trail. Matute has been throwing the ball for Rhare Breed of the Inland Empire.

He's also received interest from Arizona, Arizona State, North Carolina State, Purdue and Texas Tech.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Merced College DB receives FCS love

Devron Davis practices a defensive back drill before a game with Merced College. Davis landed his first two scholarship offers between April 18-19 (photo contributed). 
In a span of 26 hours, Merced College defensive back Devron Davis became the recipient of some important letters: football scholarship offers from two universities.

The 6-foot-0, 210-pound Davis received a scholarship pledge from both Tennessee State (April 18 at 6 p.m.) and Northern Iowa (April 19 at 8 p.m.) of the Football Championship Subdivision, giving him his first set of offers and motivating him to grind for more.

"It feels really good. I feel very blessed and I definitely feel like I got more to prove," Davis said. "I'll always have a chip on my shoulder just to stay focused on my training."

Davis, who's a returning junior college sophomore this fall, is known at Merced College for getting physical against wide receivers; regardless if he's locking his palms into their numbers to rattle their route or disrupt a screen pass.

Last season, Davis had 33 tackles, 28 solo stops and three interceptions for the Blue Devils.

Not only has he landed the two offers, he said he's heard from Oregon State, Missouri, Utah, Baylor, Washington State, Oklahoma State, Utah State, Fresno State and Arkansas State.

Also, he's the younger cousin to former Oregon State defensive back Steven Nelson, who's now preparing for a future career in the NFL.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Martell calls the shots

Former San Diego County resident and University of Washington commit serves as Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) offensive coordinator - in football cleats

Tate Martell of Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) doesn't just torch defenses with his right arm and legs, he's the one drawing up the plays and calling the shots for the Gaels (photo credit Max Preps). 

At a young age, Tate Martell would use his spare time pulling out sheets of paper and drawing football plays on them.

Now a sophomore in high school, Martell still has stacks of plays that he carries with him  in his pocket or on a wrist band. But his coaches aren’t the ones who call the plays for Martell and the offense.

It’s the Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) signal caller picking and choosing what to run.

The 5’11” Martell - who played at Poway High School in the San Diego region during his freshman year - is unlike any high school quarterback out west. He not only leads the Bishop Gorman aerial assault, he’s the conductor of the Gaels’ football orchestra.

Martell revealed his ability to take command of an offense in front of California's best at Passing Down’s So Cal regional on March 29 in Fontana. It was Martell yelling out the schemes and adjustments to his wide receivers while lining up against some of the Golden State’s top prep players.

Martell then showed his decision making and big right arm, as he averaged between 3-4 passing touchdowns per game at the renown state 7on7 tournament while attacking the coverage lapses he saw in the defense.

Martell said he enjoys playing the role of offensive coordinator in football cleats.

“It’s fun. I have a good time with it,” Martell said. “You can call whatever you see and I can check off whenever I need to. It was actually my idea for us (Bishop Gorman) to do that. I created the whole offense myself.”

Martell - who's a Class of 2017 prospect and finished 2014-15 with 2,537 yards, 40 touchdowns and two interceptions for the 15-0 Gaels - adds that calling the offense gives him an edge with playing the cerebral game against defenses.

“It helps me with the mental part of the game. I like that a lot,” Martell said. “I have to see what defenses do. That way, I can figure out who they’re trying to cover and what coverage they’re in.”

When Martell isn’t telling his teammates what play they’ll run on the football field, he still goes home and adds more schemes to the Gorman playbook. The Gaels mainly run a zone read offense with quarterback keeper plays or an empty package that spreads out the offense with four or five wide receivers.

He’s starting to heat up on the recruiting trail just like the Vegas sun. Martell, who once committed to a football scholarship at Washington at the age of 13, currently holds five offers. USC, Arizona State and Texas Tech are among those schools in the mix to pilfer Martell. Despite de-committing from Washington, he still holds the Huskies’ scholarship pledge.

And while he’s been labeled one of the top prospects in the Class of 2017, Martell believes he can improve on the field.

“Everything I do, I just want to be efficient at,” Martell said. “I just want to be better at everything.”

(Editor's note: Martell has committed to the 2017 U.S. Army All-American game, which was announced on Sunday, April 19.)

Friday, April 17, 2015

Star wide receivers on the move

Darian Owens of Clovis West announced his decision to accept a scholarship offer from UCLA on Friday, April 17. The wide receiver and Class of 2016 prospect was highly recruited by a number of schools, which includes USC, TCU, Oklahoma and Oregon (photo by Lorenzo J. Reyna). 
Darian Owens ended his recruiting process on a sunny day at Clovis West High School on Friday, April 17, as the 4-star prospect decided to join UCLA.

The 6'2", 190 pound Owens made his oral commitment to the Bruins in front of fellow students and Golden Eagle teammates outside the schools' amphitheater during the early afternoon. The wide receiver and defensive back - who was offered a scholarship by 18 different NCAA Division I schools - narrowed down his list to UCLA, USC, Fresno State, Oregon and Oregon State before deciding on the Bruins.

Owens has been recruited heavily as a receiver. Last season he finished with 42 catches, 613 yards, an average of 14.6 yards per catch and two touchdowns for the 6-6 Golden Eagles.

Owens is the third wide receiver to commit to the Westwood campus for the Class of 2016. Michael Pittman II (Oaks Christian of Westlake Village) accepted his pledge to UCLA in Oct. 2014 and Demetric Felton (Great Oak of Temecula) committed to the Bruins in March 2015.

L.J. Reed found a new college football home on April 16, as the former UCLA commit decided to join Fresno State (photo by Lorenzo J. Reyna). 


L.J. Reed of Tokay High in Lodi - who originally pledged to UCLA in April 2014 - will instead join Fresno State after the 4-star wide receiver made the announcement on his Twitter page on April 16.

The 6'3", 225 pound Reed provides a big need for a Bulldogs team in need of wide receivers after the departure of Josh Harper (NFL Draft). Reed not only brings his size and big play capability, but a mean streak against defensive backs who try to jam him at the line of scrimmage.

Reed, who also played football and basketball at Consumnes Oaks in Elk Grove before transferring to Tokay for his senior year, caught 29 passes for 501 yards and scored four touchdowns in six games played during the 2014-15 season, as Tokay finished 7-4.

Among the other schools offering Reed a scholarship were Arizona State, Arizona, Washington and Washington State.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Images of the Cen Cal regional

I took the drive up the I-5 North for Passing Down's Cen Cal regional held on April 12 at Sacramento's Inderkum High School. Great watching the best Northern and Central California had to offer. Here's some pictures from the event (all photos by Lorenzo J. Reyna):