Monday, December 24, 2012

All-stars of the Cal State game

Saturday's scene at Visalia's Mineral King Bowl looked like the high school all-star game version of the mud bowl.

The rain-soaked contest was won by the South 19-14, but along with the mud and rain, the other scene was 11 players total sticking out on both sides. Two happen to be uncommitted running backs from the Central Valley.

Here's a look at who shined the brightest at the Cal State game in the rain and mud:


The quarterback duo of Narbonne-Harbor City's Troy Williams (Washington commit) and 6-foot-7 behemoth Kelly Hilinski created fits for the North defense. Both quarterbacks kept the North on their heels with their athleticism on roll out plays. Hilinski, who holds five offers including Arkansas, was tough to bring down when he took off running.

Despite giving up some huge run plays, the South defense saw a punishing performance out of UCLA commit Kenneth Clark, who ate up ball carriers in the middle or forced plays to go outside. The 6-foot-2, 285-pound defensive tackle can be a demon in the PAC-12 if he improves his overall technique, but he can make some game-changing plays.

Washington State commit Gerald Wicks of Long Beach Poly made the most spectacular plays of the night. Wicks had two returns of 40+ yards.


One underrated running back and one overlooked back was the story here.

Beginning first with the underrated running back. Sunnyside-Fresno's Errian Wingfield received a late invite and may have helped his recruiting cause. Wingfield scored the longest touchdown of the night for the North, when he blew through the open hole on the left side for the 80-yard score. Before the game, Wingfield landed his first offer from New Mexico State.

The overlooked back was Stockdale-Bakersfield's Deon "D.J" Martin. Despite having a star-crossed career that including a suspension that claimed half of his junior year, Martin provided some punishing runs for the North and became one of the top workhorses. Martin also made the play of the night, when three different fumbles from a bothced snap eventually landed into the hands of Martin, who would score on a 25-yard touchdown for North's first score. The former Cal commit, who didn't qualify academically with the Golden Bears, still has Arizona State, Fresno State and Vanderbilt on the offer front.

The man paving the way was Nevada commit Chad Specht. The massive 6-foot-6, 295-pound man child from Clovis West was the key behind North's running success. Defensively, Stanford commit Kevin Palma (Mission Oak-Tulare) showed off his closing speed in the mud by sealing some outside plays. Fresno State commit Justin Holmes (Edison-Fresno) displayed his reaction skills and hauled in one interception.

Two late additions that helped their cause on the recruiting trail was Liberty-Bakerfield wide receiver Kenny Davis and Edison-Fresno safety Ronnie Manning. Davis provided energy on offense with his playmaking ability, while Manning was a helping hand as a run stopper.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Granite Bay Gold

Photo courtesy of Max Preps
A euphoria is likely still present in Granite Bay, following the Grizzlies' dream season of winning the state Division-I championship.

A team that began the year on a 1-3 start will enter 2013 with a 12-game winning streak. The state D-I champs will also bring back three key players from the title run who could get a bevy of interest from the college ranks soon, especially when junior day rolls around.

Here's three players to look out for from Granite Bay:


The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Ellison was the most dynamic player the Grizzlies had during their title run. Ellison combined for 19 touchdowns through running, receiving and returns.

Ellison (photo) has a freakish explosion once he gets the ball in his hands. He's deadly in the fly sweep with his 4.4 40-yard dash time and 3.8 shuttle run. One of his strengths is his ability to turn the corner, then take off. However, he'll also juke and run around defenders and break more long runs. His vision is another strong trait for him. His ability to hit the perimeters hard makes him valuable in wheel routes or screen passes to the sidelines.

He'll need to polish his ability to hold on to the football properly. He did get caught swinging the ball away from him while running instead of keeping it close to his chest. His film also didn't show him running between the tackles, so that will make me wonder if he can handle a 25-30 carry night next season with some runs going inside.

Still, Granite Bay should have one of the more explosive players in the state coming back next season.



Bussey is another junior capable of making explosive plays. He'll show off soft wide receiver-like hands then explode through any open hole for the defensive touchdown.

He'll need some added muscle with his 160-pound frame. He also stands at 5-foot-10, so there's no telling if this cornerback will continue to grow. But Bussey intercepted four passes for the state champs and more off-season work could land him some offers either as a corner or safety.



Smith will be one to keep an eye on for not only next season, but the year after. He's already off and running on the recruiting trail as BYU and UCLA have shown early interest.

He's a big kid at 6-foot-3, 220-pounds. From his outside linebacker spot, Smith showed off a tremendous nose for the football and was seldom caught out-of-position. He helped fill holes versus the run.

As of now, he seems more like a run-stuffer. He's got two years, though, to polish his coverage ability and pass rush. He's got good size and speed to help generate some early looks.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

On lockdown: Underrated 2013 Cornerbacks

Photo by Chris Martinez of DB Nation
The recruiting game is picking up steam and for most schools around this time of year, they're searching for some last minute gifts to help fulfill their needs.

For teams looking to stock up on shutdown cornerbacks or playmakers, there's eight prospects that could become a potential prized gift in the secondary.

Here's a look at some underrated 2013 defensive backs that have the potential to make someone happy in the secondary this holiday season and when the fall comes around:


It's perplexing to me how Broussard (photo) only sits on one offer from Azusa Pacific. He has begun to generate more interest from the likes of Oregon State and Eastern Washington, but all this guy has done is become one of the main cornerstones of a Clovis High defense that's been the best in the Central Section for two straight years.

The 6-foot-tall, 180-pound cornerback was the Cougars' top shutdown man. His long arms and instincts earned him the swat down artist title. He's also unafraid of exploding into a wide receiver in a jump ball sequence.

His hands, instincts and long arms make him a valuable  lock down guy. He still needs to refine his press coverage since he played mainly in a zone scheme, but he's got a lot of attributes that should generate more interest from a number of schools.



Montgomery is a tall corner at roughly 6-foot-2. Size like that has become popular among teams seeking a cornerback, since they have enough size to match up with a tall, possession-type wide receiver.

Montgomery's hands are wide receiver soft and mainly excels in a zone coverage. He does show good closing instincts on angle pursuits and tackles. However, he hasn't shown a lot in press coverage and his tackling ability isn't the strongest, since he tends to come up too high or resort to try and arm tackle a guy.

His size, arms and hands, however, has earned him four offers from San Diego State, Hawaii, Colorado State and Arizona. He can be effective for a team that prefers a zone scheme over man-to-man, like a 4-2-5 look or 3-3-5.



Awuzie is currently sitting on five offers, but after watching his athleticism and versatility, he clearly should have more.

The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Silicon Valley star is a do-everything type for Oak Grove. He'll line up at wide receiver, take hand-offs, grab returns, block punts/field goals and finally, bring his versatility to the defensive side of the football, which earned him the title of top defensive player at Passing Down's 2012 Best-Of-The-West State Finals.

Awuzie is athletic enough to line up either at safety or cornerback. His 4.3 40-yard dash speed is what makes him a dangerous chess piece for the Oak Grove defense. They've moved him around to disrupt screens and outside runs, plus his blazing speed and jumping ability will make him very effective against the deep ball.

He'll likely need some bulk, plus decide where to play. In the end, his physical skills has made him one of the more underrated defensive backs in the 2013 California class. He'll also be on display at Saturday's Cal State Game at Visalia's Mineral King Bowl.



Like Awuzie, Mitchell is another cover man armed with five offers and a 4.3 40-yard dash.

And, like Awuzie, he could use more love on the recruiting trail.

The 5-foot-10, 165-pound Mitchell is a physical player who can deliver some viscous pops especially versus the bubble screen pass. He doesn't rely on a wrap-and-roll tackling technique, his film shows a player who prefers running through a ball carrier and making the big hit.

He has the speed to blanket a receiver in man-to-man coverage. He's still not a complete cornerback because of his size, bulk, and some flaws in his angle pursuits. However, Mitchell is an aggressive player who can probably build off of his Boise State, Army, Wyoming, Colorado State and New Mexico State offers.



Hawkins brings plenty of speed and instincts and holds three offers (Idaho, Eastern Michigan and North Dakota). Like most of the guys on this list, he too is an aggressive player who goes for the big hit over the wrap-and-roll tackle.

His size at 5-foot-10, 170-pounds is a drawback. Same with his bulk. He does, however, have excellent instincts for the football and can step up in run support. He'll also need to refine his press ability, but he's also going to be on display at the Cal State game and potentially grab more looks.



For all the talk at Lompoc about running back Lavon Coleman (Washington commit) and 2014 defensive line/tight end prospect Ainuu Taua (PAC-12, Mountain West and Southeastern Conference offers), it was Arellano who sneaked away with the Los Padres League Most Valuable Player honor for the Braves.

The 5-foot-10, 170-pound Arellano was another do-everything type on the football field. His head coach Andrew Jones has described Arellano as one of his favorite players because of his willingness to play multiple positions. Arellano scored six touchdowns rushing, five receiving and added one touchdown pass on offense too. His defensive play, however, is what could lead to his permanent home at the next level.

Arellano Grabbed 44 total tackles from his cornerback spot. He was also an active blitzer with three sacks from the secondary. He snatched up six interceptions for a fast and physical Braves defense, with two of those picks against Serra-Gardena.

It will be interesting to see where Arellano lines up at in the college ranks. His versatility makes him a hidden gem in the 805.


Though he may be considered small at 5-foot-10, 177-pounds, Gonzalez's speed and jumping ability make him worth a look.

Gonzalez, who also doubled at wide receiver for Redlands East Valley, has soft hands and once he sees daylight with the football in his hands, forget it. His 4.41 40-yard-dash time makes few people catch up to him when he's returning the ball for a touchdown. He uses that same speed to close in quick on passes, even the ones away from him. His nose for the football is another strength. What turned my head, though, was his jumping ability for a guy his height. His best vertical jump is 37".

Right now, Gonzalez has Air Force and Navy on the table. Maybe he can grab a few more late offers. His next defense can potentially get a fast and athletic cover man.



Just know this, when Terry touches the football, regardless if its on offense or defense, he'll either take it inside his opponents' red zone or score.

The 5-foot-10, 150-pound Terry was one of the more dynamic players down in the Inland Empire and a threat to take it in for six each time he touched the football. The WR/DB was one of the faster players for West Valley and got an invite to the Oregon camp this past summer.

Terry's bulk and size is likely one reason why the interest hasn't been there on the scholarship front. Make no mistake, though, his hustle, speed and explosive playmaking ability can make him a steal for someone.


Monday, December 17, 2012

State Junior College champs getting Fresno State love

Nine days ago, Bakersfield College tight end Mike Dunn and quarterback Brian Burrell were celebrating a state junior college football championship.

Today, both might be doing a different kind of celebration - one that involves wearing Fresno State gear.

Both centerpieces to the Renegades' title run will travel North on Highway 99 and join the Bulldogs, as the duo verbally committed to Fresno State on Monday.

The move to bring in Dunn is excellent for the Bulldog offense. Current tight end Marcel Jensen is a senior. While Dunn isn't 6-foot-7 or an athletic 260-pounds like Jensen, Dunn has some physical attributes that his next team should love.

Dunn already has excellent tight end size at 6-foot-4, 240-pounds. His get-off from the line once the ball is snapped is an explosive one. His primary route looks like an out route. He did, however, line up out at wide receiver and create mismatches with opposing defensive backs. 

Last items on Dunn, he's an aggressive run-blocker and has enough hops to grab the jump ball versus any opposing defensive back.

As for Burrell, he'll bring a dual-threat dimension at quarterback for the Bulldogs. He combined for 36 touchdowns running and throwing for the Renegades and had four games of three or more touchdown passes.

He's a tough runner that's tough to bring down. The drawback, though, is that he does tend to run upright when he took off. He's also not the most polished quarterback when it comes to field vision and reading defenses.

In the end, however, Burrell is a guy who can be used in a variety of ways at his next stop. Maybe with his 6-foot-4, 210-pound frame, he too can like up with Dunn out wide.



Thursday, December 13, 2012

Back on the trail

photo courtesy of
It has certainly been awhile. I can explain, I've been hitting the ground running with getting caught up with the basketball scene as well as monitor what goes on in the wrestling mat.

In the end, though, football is like my wife. I can never leave her!

That being said, there's been some recruiting news going on. Let's see what's out there:

Over at Fresno City, two physical bruisers are moving on to the next level. Beginning with Kyle Staples (Bullard-Fresno), the 6-foot-1, 225-pound linebacker is as physical as they come. He may not wow too many people athletically, but he's got a nose for the football and his aggressive nature helped set the tone for an always physical Ram defense. Staples will now suit up for Football Championship Subdivision school South Dakota.

The other Ram just may become a possible steal for Fresno State and the Mountain West, defensive tackle Ioane Sagapolu. If anyone saw a Fresno City game this season on defense, you probably saw big No. 99 eating up space and making a mockery out of offensive lines. His size (6-foot-1, 290-pounds) may make him imposing, but his explosion off the line, his power, his motor and finally, his hand technique is what makes him intimidating. He was clearly the Rams' most complete defensive lineman. Sagapolu and fellow Fresno State commit Ryan Steele (Kingsburg) could become a nasty 1-2 combo for Fresno State's 3-4 look. Both bring much needed size to the three man scheme, but both also bring a motor that can make Bulldog fans watch the front line more closely.

Gerard Wicks of Long Beach Poly landed a recent Fresno State offer. He's still committed to Washington State, but I feel Wicks is deserving of more offers. He's a typical Long Beach Poly guy who brings versatility and lots of speed to the table. Wicks only has four offers and helped get the Jackrabbits to play for a state championship after a dreadful 1-3 start.

Down in Hemet, a guy I've done lots of ink on, Lorenzo Terry of West Valley, is sounding like he's College of the Sequoias bound in Visalia. If Terry does become a Giant, he could blow people away with his speed, elusiveness and versatility. He was a threat to score anytime he touched the football regardless if it was on offense, defense or returns. If he moves over to defensive back, he'll go to a unit that's sent players to the SEC, Big XII and have gotten interest from the PAC-12 and BYU. He'll need added muscle but he's got the potential to grow on the field.

It's going to be interesting to see what happens to Clovis North's Christian Rossi. The quarterback owns two Central Section Championships under former NFL player and Clovis North Head Coach Cory Hall. However, Rossi endured a knee injury in the state playoff game last Friday versus Long Beach Poly, but reports have stated there was no ligament damage. Rossi showed a stunning mobility to his game during his senior year, since he was more of a pocket guy last season. He'll fit more in a pro style attack with his play action ability, but he's also a baseball star at Clovis North and has generated plenty of interest there.

Finally, the anticipation seems to be mounting among scouts and college programs who want to know where Central-Fresno's L.J. Moore (photo) will end up. The talented defensive back had home visits with Oregon State and has picked up interest from Oklahoma, where fellow teammate Hatari Byrd is going. Maybe, Moore makes his decision before Christmas.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Trae day

Contributed photo
For the last couple of seasons, Birmingham-Lake Balboa quarterback Trae Smith has quietly put together some nice seasons and back-to-back playoff runs for a Patriot team that was once a combined 5-16 before he became an upperclassman.

His production has gotten some recognition in the Los Angeles City Section. But was it enough for him to get noticed in the No. 1 area for the California recruiting scene?

Smith's on-field play should get a four-year school at any level some intrigue. There's a number of dual-threat quarterbacks that shined in California this past year, such as Narbonne-Harbor City quarterback and Washington commit Troy Williams. Other dual-threats like Edison-Fresno's Khari McGee have gotten plenty of publicity and Clovis North's Christian Rossi has also sneaked up on some schools and scouts with his athleticism. But Smith may be one of the more underrated dual-threats in the state.

He's hurt his opponents with his arm and legs. He's shown to be very dangerous on roll out passes. He'll be an effective play-action, pro-style quarterback with his ability to sell the run then roll out to strike down the field. His senior year saw an increase in numbers with 18 touchdowns and just five interceptions.

An area of concern is his ability to stay in the pocket. Most of his throws were when he got to the outside. This will raise questions of whether or not he can consistently stay in the middle.  His accuracy is also a concern, since his last two seasons saw his percentage barely around 50 percent.

However, in the end, Smith's play brought new energy for a Birmingham program that appeared to be on hard times before he took the reigns at quarterback. His level of play and attitude brought new momentum to the Patriots. He had eight games with two touchdown passes or more. So far, Division-II Fort Lewis College of Colorado has shown the most interest. Smith also sounds like a positive young man who doesn't get too down on himself.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Defensive line undersized, but Ram tough

Photo courtesy of
Most followers of the state junior college football scene know how physical Fresno City plays on defense.

But while all the buzz may go towards the hard-hitting Ram secondary with three potential Football Bowl Subdivision and Division-I prospects, an overlooked but blue collar unit has been the four Rams up front.

This unit may have surrendered 224 rushing yards in the 31-17 bowl loss to Butte College on Saturday, but this same unit didn't give up a single 100-yard rusher, which was something San Francisco City College didn't do in its loss to the Roadrunners.

All season long, these guys have dealt with size and athleticism issues, but have done enough to produce three All-Central Valley Conference players in the 2012 season.

Here's a closer look at some potential space eaters and pass rushers for the next level:


At 6-foot-1 and 240-pounds, Childs (photo) is one of the smaller defensive linemen for Fresno City. But, he has a Tasmanian Devil-like motor to his game and is either around the football, or around the quarterback. Childs led the Rams with nine sacks this past year. He forced two fumbles and recovered three of them. Also, he was tops among defensive linemen with 49 tackles, including 14.5 for a loss.

His size unfortunately will turn a few schools away. But someone in the FCS or mid-major ranks looking for a hard-nosed pass rusher and blue collar worker can certainly use him.



The 6-foot-3, 245-pound Ferguson plays opposite of Childs and he's just as feisty up front. While Ferguson may not be as athletically gifted as Childs, he's a hustle player who won't stop trying.

Ferguson, who runs a 4.9 40-yard dash, does have an explosive get-off once the ball moves. He's won a lot of one-on-one blocking match ups with his power and push. He may not overwhelm opponents with his size or athleticism, but he's a space eater who was second among defensive linemen in tackles with 30, recovered three fumbles and had five stops behind the line of scrimmage. A school in need of run stoppers can use a guy like Ferguson.



The 6-foot-1, 295-pound Sagapolu may have been the best of the bunch for the Rams. His size already makes him look like a legit 3-4 nose tackle. But, its his skill set that should put people on notice.

Sagapolu has a freakish explosion for a guy his size and shoots gaps with ease. His power and hand technique also makes matters worse for anyone trying to block him. Much like Childs and Ferguson, Sagapolu is another hustle lineman. However, what perhaps separates Sagapolu from his other linemen mates is that he's often taken on two blockers and still blows past them with his power and desire.

He does tend to come off too high, but overshadows that flaw with his power. He has enough size and skill to be a lineman that occupies space. He can become a strong challenger for a nose tackle spot for his next team or a one technique tackle in the four man front, much like he was with the Rams.



Tarrent plays the three technique for the Rams and showed off his pass rushing ability versus Modesto College, where he had a two sack game in the 52-42 victory.

He brings good size inside at 6-foot-3 and 255-pounds. For right now, he may not wow people with his athleticism, but he's shown to be a guy who can put on his hard hat, bring his sledgehammer and go straight to work. He's another space eater who can improve as a pass rusher by next season.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

New Manning emerging at Edison-Fresno?

Contributed photo
In the late 1990's, Ricky Manning was all the buzz at Fresno's Edison High School before winding up at UCLA then the NFL.

Now, could cousin Ronnie Manning become the next root that grows on the Manning family tree?

The 2013 safety/running back prospect has been someone I've kept my eyes on in the last two years, despite moving from place to place. Ronnie Manning has had an interesting back story: He's gone from Clovis West, to Clovis North, to now Edison and playing for new head coach and older cousin Ricky.

However, all that moving around hasn't seem to put a damper on Ronnie Manning. He's gathered interest from the likes of Cal Poly of the Football Championship Subdivision to Arizona of the PAC-12.

And, all that relocating has landed him a better opportunity at showing his true skill set on the football field, which has now made him one of the more underrated prospects in the Central Section.

Manning (5-foot-11, 185-pounds) has lots of athleticism with his 4.5 40-yard dash time and a vertical jump of 33.5". On the football field, he's an excellent tackler who hasn't been spotted losing a ball carrier from his grasp. Manning relies on wrapping his arms then rolling his opponent to the ground. But while he's shown to be a sure tackler, he's also a deadly hitter.

In fact, in the Tigers' secondary, Fresno State commit Justin Holmes is the ball-hawk, but Manning has been the sledgehammer with his viscous pops. His reaction and closing speed are pluses for him as a safety.

He does tend to bite on plays especially against the play action. But after playing the reserve role at Clovis North and Clovis West, he's taken full advantage of his new opportunity to become an impact player for the Tigers.

The safety class in the Central Valley has been pretty deep, beginning with Oklahoma commit Hatari Byrd of Central, Manning's teammate Holmes of Edison and another hard-nosed hitter in Sunnyside-Fresno's Eric Wingfield. But Manning has quietly emerged as a top safety and an under-the-radar prospect in his region. He could be the next Tiger to continue Edison's lineage of college football talent.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Bringing the "Payne" in the SEC

Photo courtesy of Lee Central Coast Newspapers
Cameron Artis-Payne is about to get used to saying "War Eagle."

The explosive and powerful Allan Hancock College-Santa Maria running back received a late push from Auburn during the season. After his visit on Nov. 4 to the Southeastern Conference school, the late offer by the Tigers paid off - as Cameron Artis-Payne will now head to Auburn and join its 2013 recruiting class.

Artis-Payne turned down the likes of New Mexico, Utah State, Washington and Utah. He became one of the more sought-after running backs on the junior college scene due to his monster 2012 season. The 5-foot-11, 210-pound Artis-Payne is leading the state in rushing yards per game (204.2) and in rushing touchdowns with 23. He has 1,838 rushing yards this season, which includes four games of 206-yards or more and a 351-yard performance versus Pasadena College on Oct. 20.

Artis-Payne should fit nicely at the SEC school. Auburn has always been a running back factory with names ranging from Bo Jackson, Stephen Davis, Ronnie Brown, all the way to Carnell "Cadillac" Williams. Artis-Payne's running style involves a combination of brute force and breakaway speed with a 4.47 40-yard dash time, something Auburn's offense should love.

Artis-Payne becomes the second running back on the Central Coast to commit to a Bowl Championship Series (BCS) school. Lompoc High School's Lavon Coleman committed to Washington before his senior season.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Class of 2014 quarterbacks deep in the Central Valley

Photo by Lorenzo J. Reyna
If there are some who say the Central Valley 2013 class wasn't too heavy on top-tier quarterback talent, then those same people might reconsider for the 2014 class.

At least three are drawing interest from Boise State. One is playing with a bunch of Division-I prospects already in West Fresno. Another one is a dual-threat quarterback playing the same position and in the same city that produced Tennessee's Tyler Bray and finally, the headliner could be a guy that finally puts the city of Dinuba on the map.

The 2014 quarterback class is talent-rich in the Central Section. Here's a look:


I heard the hype surrounding McMaryion (photo) following his performances at the National Underclassmen Combine and other summer camps, and all I heard was how this 6-foot-2 incoming junior had a rocket launcher with his right arm and talent written all over him.

Upon further review and after watching him play this season, he's better than the early predictions indicated. Now, you may be looking at the most highly-recruited Central Valley quarterback this off-season.

The size is already there. But its his decision-making and composure that makes him a special kind of quarterback at the high school level. He's got the kind of composure where, if two or three defenders surround him on a blitz, he'll still sit in the pocket, unleash a spiral and see a 20 to 60-yard completion. His zip and field vision got him to throw 34 touchdown passes during the regular season and throw zero interceptions. That's right, zero picks.

I've never seen a junior quarterback more prepared for the next level. More progression in the Central Section Division-III playoffs coming up and the off-season camps could get the PAC-12 or other BCS schools after this Dinuba stud, who also carries a 4.25 grade point average. He'll need some bulk since he's roughly 175-pounds. So far, the Big East, Mountain West and Conference USA are already taking notice.



After a very strong first varsity season as a sophomore that saw 18 touchdown passes, seven interceptions and a completion percentage of 67.6 percent in 2011, the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Young was emerging as the talk of Hanford, and also drew some Cody Kessler (USC) comparisons by some local sports personalities who follow the Central Section. 

His junior year, however, has left me wondering how good Young really is and if he's really worth the hype.

His Bullpups team took a drastic step backwards this past year, going from a 9-3 campaign in 2011 to a 1-9 disaster in 2012. Young's completion percentage dipped to 57.5 percent. He was also limited to eight touchdown passes with a younger Bullpup supporting cast. His worst outing was on the night where he could have had his coming out party - a 44-3 disaster versus Central's stacked secondary where he tossed four interceptions and was held to 59-yards passing.

However, Young has done something to keep some Football Bowl Subdivision schools intrigued. He did take an unofficial visit to Boise State a week ago.

Young is a talented quarterback with great potential. There's no denying that. He does have a zip to his throws and he can scramble. He's also a deadly runner who can fool defenses on quarterback keeper runs. However, his decision-making and ability to read defenses must improve in order for him to be heavily recruited.



Seems like every year, and after producing Tyler Bray, the Vikings will pump out one legit college football prospect, especially for the Division-I level.

Defensive tackle Ryan Steele was the latest K Town product, as he committed to Fresno State. Brandon looks to be next in line.

The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Steele emerged on the scene as part of a quarterback rotation during his sophomore season with Austin Bray in 2011. Bray was the pocket passer, but Steele kept defenses on their heels and sometimes, on their back with his bruising running style.

Brandon Steele has become one of the better dual-threat quarterbacks in the Central Valley with his ability to make the short throws and his mobility. He seems like one of the few quarterbacks at the high school level who's not afraid of contact. He's gotten the Vikings seeking a fourth straight Central Section title with the playoffs looming and this time, its at the D-II level.

If Steele continues to polish his accuracy and running style, he could become the next Steele at the Division-I level, since Ryan will be at Fresno State and Garrett Steele is currently at Cal Poly.



The 6-foot-tall, 188-pound Dragt could emerge as a dark horse 2014 prospect in the Valley, despite being on a Cavaliers team that went 2-8 and 0-4 in their own league (Central Sequoia League).

Dragt has a good play-fake and can be effective in the play action throws. He has a deep ball and can even get out of the pocket and run. He also looks unafraid of burying his shoulder pads into defenders.

He'll need to polish his zip, though, since he doesn't always throw the most consistent football. Though he's mobile and strong like a fullback with the football in his hands, Dragt does tend to stop his feet after making contact. Another area that needs tweaking is his decision making on his passes. Dragt made some dangerous throws where two to three defenders were near his intended receiver. His decision making and film study need to come into play here if he's going to sneak up on people in the Central Section next season. In the end, he does have enough tools to become the most sought after CVC quarterback since former Fresno State Bulldog Ryan Colburn.



Moore hasn't been asked to throw the football much, since he's in the realm of 11-19 passing attempts per game in 2012.

Still though, Moore has done enough with his quarterback game to get nearly 20 schools from Nebraska, to UCLA, to Boise State interested.

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Moore was active in the off-season with polishing his throwing and mobility. He led his seven-on-seven team into a deep run at the Best-of-the-West Regional at Passing Down, which earned him recognition. Along with his zip, he's a deadly runner with two 100-yard games this season for a Frontier team that went undefeated in the rugged Southwest Yosemite League.

Decision-making will need an improvement since he's been caught making bad reads on passing plays. The potential is there for him to become the most highly-recruited quarterback in Kern County, especially with helping lead the Titans past the likes of Kern County heavyweights Liberty-Bakersfield and last season's Division-I Valley champion Bakersfield this season. Plus, he's also worked with Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez and renown quarterback guru Steve Calhoun.



How it works for the Drillers is whoever is the fastest runner or best all-around athlete, that guy usually plays quarterback in Bakersfield's option-approach.

Rufus has taken the reigns and hasn't disappointed at BHS thanks to his elusive running and breakaway speed.  He'll need to polish his ability to sit comfortably in the pocket and throw all day if he wants a bevy of offers on the scholarship front. But he's got the skills to thrive for someone's pistol or triple option attack at the next level.



The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Jimenez is another deadly running quarterback when he's on his game.

He runs the Pistol offense to near perfection on numerous occasions for the Grizzlies. His throwing ability will probably need some touching up once the season ends. Right now, he's an effective short yardage quarterback who does have a solid zip and quick decision making.

But for any defense that gets caught out-of-position after Jimenez takes the snap, just know you'll probably see a 20+ yard gain.



Gatewood hasn't really been asked to take over a game with his arm, since the Cougars rely heavily on the running attack.

However, that doesn't mean they haven't found ways to utilize the 6-foot-5, 180-pound junior and Redwood-Visalia transfer.

Gatewood is athletically gifted enough to hit the perimeters and hurt a defense with his legs. His size, though, plus athleticism could make him an intriguing prospect for someone in the 2014 class. He'll just need to show schools he can beat a team with his arm and accuracy, since he's barely past the 60 percent completion mark. But he took over for R.J Hartmann and now has the Cougars at 9-1 and the No. 1 seed in the Central Section D-I playoffs.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

On the recruiting tip

A few notes regarding some commits and potential future commits:

--Down in the Southern Section, St. Bonaventure-Ventura running back Zach Green is giving the PAC-12 a sign of things to come. The 5-foot-10, 210-pound Arizona commit blew past Oaks Christian with 28 carries, 250-yards and four touchdowns in the 30-21 victory, which included 16 unanswered points from the Seraphs in the fourth quarter.

--Staying in the South region, Mission Viejo quarterback Ian Fieber may have thrown two interceptions versus a stout El Toro squad, but the 6-foot-tall, 185-pound junior wound up getting the better of Utah quarterback commit Conner Manning. Fieber went 20-of-30 for 273-yards and three touchdown passes, while his counterpart had his worst evening of his high school career with six interceptions. Mission Viejo completed an unbeaten 10-0 record with a 49-7 trouncing of El Toro.

--Sty Hairston of Banning will have a senior year he'll remember for a lifetime, since he completes his last high school season as the state's leading rusher. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Hairston, who actually lined up at quarterback for the Broncos, finished his regular season with 361-yards on 30 carries and seven touchdowns, as his Bronco team held off Rim of the World-Lake Arrowhead 49-41 on Friday. Hairston finishes the season with four 300-yard running games.

--On the defensive side of the football in the Southern section, looks like Lompoc could be the first Santa Barbara County CIF Bowl representative soon, if they continue its streak of dominance. The Braves routed cross town rival Cabrillo 66-0 behind 435 total yards of rushing, including 116-yards on eight carries from Taylor Cornejo and 112 in the first half from Washington commit Lavon Coleman. However, the Braves' defense made this one-sided game happen, as they were led by the energetic play of 6-foot-1, 270-pound defensive end Ainuu Taua. The younger sibling of former Nevada star running back Vai Taua finished was part of a Braves' defense that finished with 11 stops of no gain or a loss of yards. The 2014 prospect has three offers from the PAC-12 ranks and is beginning to gain heavy interest from Boise State.

--Going up north to the Central section, junior Nick Wilson of Central East-Fresno is beginning to garner interest from Boise State. His Thursday night performance saw nine carries, 114-yards and an 80-yard touchdown run in the Grizzlies' 49-0 rout over Clovis East. He's beginning to show he's next in line in a Grizzlies' backfield that's produced Brendon Bigelow (Cal) and current Fresno City College running back Rob Johnson (PAC-12 and Mountain West offers).

--Tulare Union produced one high-octane workhorse running back in Xavier Stephens, who's now at Nevada. Lucky for the Redskins, their next best running back they'll have for the next three varsity seasons. Freshman Romello Harris took the rock that Stephens left behind and showed what he can do with it, as he finished the year with three straight 100-yard games and 905 total yards on the year rushing. The 5-foot-9, 180-pound freshman averaged over five yards a carry and scored 13 touchdowns for the Redskins, who ended the year going undefeated in the city of Tulare with victories over Mission Oak (27-14) and Tulare Western on Thursday (54-21). Harris' breakout night had to have been the 204-yard evening against Stanford OLB commit Kevin Palma and the Mission Oak Hawks on Oct. 26.

--Sunnyside-Fresno's Wingfield twins continued their stamp on their successful Wildcat football career. Errian had three touchdowns, including a 67 and 56-yard run versus Reedley High on Friday. The 5-foot-7 senior finished with 158-yards on 12 carries in the 38-6 rout. Twin brother Eric, a 5-foot-10, 190-pound safety, helped energize a stout Wildcat defense with nine tackles, one fumble recovery and a forced fumble. Eric finishes the season with nine forced fumbles from his safety spot. He was even allowed to call his own blitzes and plays with the rest of Sunnyside's defense. Both players now say interest from the FCS ranks (Sacramento State, South Dakota) and from San Jose State have emerged. Errian has also heard from Arizona and Utah of the PAC-12.

--Finally, on his senior night and against his biggest rival in Selma, Kingsburg defensive tackle Ryan Steele announced where he was going to play his college football at -- he'll travel up Highway 99 and play for Fresno State. The 6-foot-2, 280-pound Steele should fit very nicely for a Bulldog defense in need of size and depth in their 3-4 scheme. Steele's bulk helps aid this front unit, but his motor and mean streak makes him a complete hire for the new-look Bulldog defense.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

An emerging big man in the state capitol

Contributed photo
When teams have gone against Burbank-Sacramento's defense, not one has been able to break the 30-point mark.

Maybe its the massive size that the Titans (9-0) have in the front four. Or maybe, its the presence of imposing 6-foot-3, 275-pound Feaumoengalu (Ngalu) Tapa.

The 2014 prospect is carving out a name for himself up in the Sac-Joaquin Section. While his first name seems to be a mouthful, he's been a handful for opposing offenses.

After watching him on film, Tapa has a defensive line motor that four-year schools should love. He may not be the fastest player on the field, but he won't stop moving his legs until the whistle blows after what I saw.

What I also got was a powerful defensive player with a push. He'll look as if he's drive blocking an offensive tackle, when the offensive guy should be driving him. His brute force on the outside helps clog the perimeters. Yet, Tapa isn't just a space eater at defensive end, he's emerging as a legit run-stopping and pass rushing force for Burbank.

He already has four games of 12 tackles or more. His better games were against traditional Sacramento-area powerhouses Grant and Del Oro-Loomis, especially with getting six sacks total in those contests. In nine games, he's reached 15 sacks and he's forced two fumbles.

He'll need to get better about using different hand techniques instead of relying on strength and power in the future. He also tends to bite on plays and can over pursue. However, Tapa has been playing at a level that should get someone convinced, especially with his size and motor.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Marquee matchups centrally located

Photo by Lorenzo J. Reyna
It seems like its been awhile since I've done this, but with two huge games in the high school scene in my backyard and one down in the Central Coast, I couldn't resist.

Time to highlight two marquee games that will have league and state bowl game implications for both the high school and junior college scene:

High School


The Broncos have been rolling and they recently took down a Central-Fresno team that many thought was the Central Section's No.1 squad in their 50-7 onslaught. Clovis North, however, will have to contend with a dangerous Cougars team who's never lost to Clovis North in their program history. On top of that, Clovis has also claimed quality victories against some of the Central Section's best in Edison, Centennial-Bakersfield, Central-Fresno and Stockdale-Bakersfield.

PROSPECT WATCH FOR CLOVIS NORTH: There's size, speed and pure nastiness across the board and it begins on the lines. Junior offensive tackle Kyle Riddering (6-foot-6, 220-pounds) has the potential to be the most athletically gifted lineman to ever come out of the young Clovis North football program. Versatile lineman Isaiah Duran (6-foot-1, 245-pounds) helps set the tone on both lines with his power and mean streak. Massive sophomore Jacob Daniel (6-foot-5, 300-pounds) is a potential match up nightmare for offensive linemen and running backs picking up the rush on pass plays, because of Daniel's imposing size and physical nature. Tall and strong Josh Lovingood (6-foot-5, 250-pounds) doubles as a road clearer on offense and space eater at defensive end. He's up to three offers with Fresno State his latest one. In the skill areas, quarterback Christian Rossi showed an even faster mobility in him against Central, as he avoided several late blitzes the Grizzlies threw at him. San Diego State commit David Wells brings a valuable security blanket and red zone target at 6-foot-5, 215-pounds. The Bronco running game is the heart and soul of the offense with gritty senior Carson Guzman (5-foot-8, 175-pounds) and versatile sophomore Bolu Olurunfunmi (5-foot-11, 190-pounds) punishing and running around defenders. On defense, outside linebacker Hayden Haupt (photo) is emerging as a rising pass-rusher with his explosive first step and closing pursuits. The secondary also has a capable playmaker in senior Mark Rassamni at safety, who has a good nose for the football.

PROSPECT WATCH FOR CLOVIS: The Cougars have the potential to turn this into a low-scoring affair with the defense they have. The speed they bring can force lots of turnovers. Senior Adrian Salas is a do-everything type who has nine touchdowns running and receiving, plus 5.3 tackles per game at his safety spot. Some of the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Salas' highlights include an interception against Edison-Fresno's highly-touted quarterback Khari McGee and 12 tackles in the 15-12 upset at Central-Fresno. Up front, rugged 6-foot-3, 245-pound Nick Nevills could have a physical confrontation with Clovis North's Duran. Nevills has a quick explosion off the line once the ball moves and brings powerful force when dealing with blockers. He's leading the Cougars with five sacks so far this season. Cornerback C.J Broussard (6-feet, 180-pounds) remains Clovis' top lockdown guy with his arms and an improved ability to jam receivers at the line. Safety Jason Black, who's drawn heavy interest from the Mountain West, is a threat to take one back on interceptions. The three-year varsity letterman has also blocked a field goal this season.

Junior College


The Pirates have been one of the best surprises in the junior college football scene and are one of four teams not only undefeated, but having their sights set on a state championship. Looking to play spoiler, though, is a Bulldog team at Righetti High School's football stadium with one of the most dangerous running backs in the J.C scene.

PROSPECT WATCH FOR VENTURA: Ebahn Feathers hasn't been spectacular, but he's done enough to help key the Pirates' success. The former Fresno State commit has 16 touchdowns through the air and three more rushing. His completion percentage, though, will have to improve since its at 56.6 percent. But in the end, his play has made the Pirates move very quick offensively. Emerging freshman Dylan McDaniel is a dangerous speed demon and the Pirates' best deep threat. He's very deadly after the catch and can also break tackles. On defense, cornerback Drek Reid is the team's top playmaker with four picks. Even at 5-foot-10, Reid has a wide receiver vertical jump and is a ferocious hitter who's drawn interest from the Mountain West and PAC-12.

PROSPECT WATCH FOR ALLAN HANCOCK: The Bulldogs have been known for pounding the ball with the running attack, but Cameron Artis-Payne just may be the best to ever come out of AHC's backfield. His most recent outing saw 32 carries, four touchdowns and 351-yards versus traditional state power Pasadena College. The 5-foot-11, 210-pound Payne is a bruiser and outside threat, plus he's up to four offers including Washington and Utah. Wide receiver Nicko Shellow is a tall, physical and speedy threat who has three 100-yard games this season. He does tend to extend the ball dangerously away from his body after a catch. The 6-foot-3, 238-pound freshman, however, is still freakishly athletic and strong.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Versatile Vinson

It doesn't matter if he lines up at wide receiver or if he'll return kicks, either Merced College wants to get the football to Tyrell Vinson, or opponents hope he doesn't touch the football.

Its because Vinson has emerged as one of the more dangerous wide receiver/return man combinations in the state junior college football season.

Despite Merced being 2-6 overall, the Blue Devils has seen a spark in the offense with the 6-feet, 185-pound Vinson getting the ball in his hands. In the last two games, Vinson caught six passes for 202 yards and a touchdown versus Chabot College, then followed that performance up with his nine catch, 164-yard day versus Reedley College this past Saturday.

On returns, Vinson averages 25.5 yards per kick, so one reason for Merced's offensive success also stems from the field positioning Vinson puts his team in. On the year, he has 43 receptions, 796-yards, five touchdowns and an average of 18.5 yards per catch and 408 return yards.

His speed is one explanation for his big-play ability. He has an explosive get-off from the line and the last thing any defense needs is to see him in a one-on-one matchup, because Vinson will win that battle with his speed and hands.

I was also impressed with how gritty he is. He has a running back-like ability with the football as he's shown to break tackles and keep his legs pumping for the end zone, even with two defenders latched on to him. He seems unafraid to go across the middle, so he also has a possession ability to his game.

Vinson told me that so far, East Carolina and Fresno State are two schools who have shown interest. While he's not the tallest wide receiver and has trouble fighting double coverage when the ball's thrown his way, Vinson is still a big-play waiting to happen - regardless if he's on offense or special teams.


Driven by horsepower

Photo by Lorenzo J. Reyna
No one in the California prep football scene seems to be making a bigger statement than a school that had their first varsity football season just four seasons ago.

All Clovis North (8-0 overall) has done is win the Central Section Division-II championship in 2011, then rout three different powerhouses this year in Buhach Colony-Atwater (ended 23-game regular season win streak), Frontier-Bakersfield and back on Thursday, a deep and loaded Central-Fresno squad with a 50-7 score.

Looking at the Broncos for the first time since the Fresno State football camp, this team isn't just fast, they're physical and young. They not only overwhelm their opponents with their speed, but also their physical nature under head coach and former NFL safety Cory Hall.

Hall's team is now getting noticed in the high school football scene. The same is the case for his hard-hitting defense that's not only full of young talent, but looks ahead of their peers.

Along with some notable defenders, I came up with five players total to keep an eye out for on the recruiting trail for Clovis North:


With his hard nosed running style at 5-foot-11, 192-pounds, Olurunfunmi brings a change-of-pace option in the Clovis North backfield. But against Central's talented defense, the sophomore showed an elusive side to him, as he often made cuts to the left then had the Grizzlies running from behind. He scored three touchdowns in the Thursday game on just nine carries and 64 yards. As a sophomore, he has the potential to become the most complete running back ever produced at Clovis North. He could be the top running back in the 2015 class for the Central Section.



While Olurunfunmi and senior Carson Guzman punish the trenches in the running attack, Riddering is one of two key linemen that helps spring them loose. Riddering is a 6-foot-6, 220-pound tackle with some smooth feet and an improved run block from his sophomore season. He'll need to bulk up after the season, but his athleticism has given pass rushers fits this season.


While Riddering brings the most size and athleticism, Duran brings the mean streak on both Bronco lines. He's a fierce competitor with a motor that stops after the fourth quarter. The 6-foot-1, 245-pound Duran blows defensive linemen off the ball in the run game with his low pad level and upper body strength. On defense, he's creating a push that can make running lanes congested and life miserable for quarterbacks looking to throw. Duran is also a star wrestler at Clovis North, so that should explain his ability to stay low and push people around. He's a fierce run-stuffer and could be a valuable nose tackle in the 3-4 real soon, or a 3-technique defensive tackle in a four man front.



Daniel already looks like he can play college football, since he's 6-foot-5, 300-pounds. Funny thing is, he plays like he can be at the collegiate level with his size and power. The massive Daniel occupies plenty of space for the Bronco defense. He helped collapsed the pocket in his last game versus Central. He and Duran provide a deadly 1-2 punch on the interior line for the Broncos.


While Duran and Daniel bring the muscle up front for the Bronco defense, Haupt (No. 30 in the photo) brings the heat from his outside spot. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Haupt has a viscous first step and with his closing speed, he's in front of a quarterback in just 1-2 seconds, which was evident against Central as he came in untouched on at least three different occasions. Haupt will obviously need bulk, but he's a good-sized linebacker for a sophomore and he could become the fastest linebacker in the Central Section soon. One reason for that is Haupt does speed training with former NFL and Sacramento State wide receiver Elon Paige during the off-season.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

East heading the Ivy leagues

Contributed photo
One of the more underrated prospects in the Central Valley and California was good enough to get noticed by the Ivy Leagues - and now Buchanan-Clovis versatile weapon Billy East is Yale bound.

East, a 5-foot-10, 190-pound running back/wide receiver held four different offers including Cornell, Northern Arizona and Eastern Washington. But the Bears star will look to carry the ball for the Yale Bulldogs.

East is used in a variety of ways for Buchanan. Through seven games, he has nine combined touchdowns running and receiving. He had a 24 carry, 206-yard and four touchdown outing in a 28-14 victory over Porterville on Sept. 7, then had four receptions for 100 yards and a score versus a loaded Central-Fresno defense. Including punt and kickoff returns, East has a combined 1,164 yards from scrimmage.

Yale should love his breakaway speed and vision with the football in his hand. Bulldog fans may also be surprised how gritty East is, since he's also shown a determined running style where he won't go down on first contact.

East was practically a hidden gem in the Central Section. Maybe now, with his Yale commitment, East will get recognized as a potential future game breaker for the Ivy Leagues.


Monday, October 15, 2012

The JUCO scene: week eight

Photo courtesy of Lee Central Coast Newspapers
Here's what stood out on the junior college level from Saturday:

--Much like how his late uncle Junior Seau terrorized opposing ball carriers, Ian Seau is doing his part at striking fear into quarterbacks at Grossmont College. Seau, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound versatile demon rusher collected three more sacks and tallied 11 tackles in the 26-23 victory over Golden West College. Seau also forced a fumble and recovered one. The former Kansas State commit returned to his home region because of the stories of him not liking being far away from home. Now, with 16.5 sacks through seven games, maybe a stateside four-year institution, especially Big East bound and nearby San Diego State can try and pursue him. He'll fit perfectly for a 3-4 as an outside linebacker.

--Though his team lost, Allan Hancock College-Santa Maria running back Cameron Artis-Payne has put together a dazzling year. The 5-foot-11, 210-pound running back is becoming one of the most highly coveted prospects to ever come out of the 805 junior college, thanks to 135 carries, 1,116 yards, an average of 8.3 yards per carry, 14 rushing touchdowns and, in all six games for the Bulldogs, his lowest rushing output was 125-yards versus Cerritos College on Saturday in the 55-25 defeat. Artis-Payne (photo) combines as a north-south grinder and a breakaway threat to go the distance with his 4.5 40-yard dash speed. His combination of burst, vision, power and determined running makes him one of the top running backs in the state J.C scene. He's also getting the attention of Utah and Washington now of the PAC-12.

--Another running back starting to get attention is Kristoffer Olugbode of San Francisco City College. He's another speed demon on the field, but his power and inside running has improved as the year progresses on for the 6-0 defending state champions. His most recent outing saw an average of 4.4 yards per carry on 28 carries, 124-yards and two touchdowns. His last game was a 31-carry, 216-yard and five touchdown game against previous unbeaten American River College. Kind of skeptic how a guy from state power Bellarmine Prep in San Jose, who drew the interest of Washington and a slew of PAC-12 schools would still end up at the J.C level. Maybe Olugbode got lost in the shuffle for the always deep Bells' backfield. But nonetheless, the Rams have an electrifying and productive runner.

--For quarterbacks, Diablo Valley College's Quinn Kaehler is breaking out as a pocket-passer. The tall 6-foot-4, 205-pound signal caller has had just one game where he's thrown two touchdowns only. All the other games? He's reaching three to five, including the five he tossed as the Vikings lit up Reedley College 49-21 on Saturday. Kaehler was even picking apart a Tiger defense that's been good about creating turnovers and rushing the passer. Kaehler threw for 441 yards in the Saturday win and currently has 2,813 yards, a 61.4 percent completion percentage, 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions. His cannon, quick-release and vision are making him a potential top prospect in the state junior college scene now.

--Finally, is there perhaps a more rejuvenated Ebahn Feathers down at Ventura College? The former top recruit for Fresno State, who had a very decorated prep career at Washington Union-Fresno but had an awkward throwing motion, plus struggles with learning the playbook has still remained the starter for 7-0 Ventura. His season so far has 1,534 passing yards, 16 touchdowns, three rushing touchdowns, six interceptions and some Offensive Player of the Week recognition earlier this season. On Saturday, he threw 289-yards and four touchdowns as the Pirates won a shootout with College of the Canyons 44-37 on Saturday.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Vercher's big night

Photo courtesy of
In the 2011 season with Fresno City College, safety Donnell Vercher recorded three interceptions.

He's added four picks now to his resume - all in one game that occurred on Saturday.

The former Clovis High star had a monster night in a defensive battle with Sierra College at Rocklin, CA. Vercher, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound safety hauled in an astonishing four interceptions against the traditional Northern California powerhouse in the 23-16 win.

His huge night versus the Wolverines may look as if it was a breakout night, but if you ask me, this animal in the Rams' secondary has been making huge defensive plays even before the junior college scene.

While at Clovis High School, Vercher had linebacker-like instincts and was a wicked hitter in the Cougar secondary. His eyes and ability to lower the boom made him one of the more feared safeties in the Central Section. If anything though, his four interception evening goes to show where his ball skills are now at.

Along with being a rough hitter for the Rams, Vercher's hands has made him the Rams' top defensive playmaker. He leads the way with five picks in 2012 and now has eight in his junior college career.

But he still has the nasty shoulder hit. He recently buried his right shoulder pad into one Reedley College wide receiver, which got the wideout to fly towards the track.

He once drew the interest of Oregon State and hometown Fresno State before landing at Fresno City College. But more big plays, like the ones he got versus Sierra, could regenerate some interest again for this emerging safety star in the state J.C scene.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

For Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Davis

contributed photo
While Kenny Davis may be one of the smallest players on a rather massive-looking Liberty-Bakersfield squad, he's their biggest threat on offense when they need to air it out.

The 5-foot-8, 190-pound wide receiver is a machine when he gets the football. With his routes, hands and big-play potential, it's almost like looking at Carolina's Steve Smith.

While Davis may not be putting up Smith-like numbers on the prep scene at Liberty (he's yet to have a 100-yard outing), his production and on-field traits still makes him one of the more dangerous wide receivers in the Central Section.

In fact, Davis has actually had more receptions or his best production against two of the better defenses in the state - Central-Fresno and inner-city rival Bakersfield High.

 Davis went toe-to-toe with highly-touted cornerback L.J Moore of Central. While held to 65 yards receiving, he still hauled in eight receptions and caught one deep ball versus the ridiculously talented Moore. The following week versus traditional Kern County powerhouse Tehachapi, Davis shook some Warrior defenders for seven catches, 95-yards and two touchdowns in the 45-7 rout back on Sept. 7.

Most recently, in certainly the biggest stunner of the 2012 season, Davis was held to three receptions - but he averaged 24.3 yards per catch against the loaded Driller secondary in the 28-17 shocker last Friday.

Davis has an explosive get-off from the line that gets him lots of separation, even against a press coverage. His feet are smooth when he's running routes. Speaking of the route-running aspect, Davis' speed on that end has to make him one of the faster players in the Central Valley.

He also hasn't been caught slowing his feet down, even when he doesn't have the football. Sometimes, after running downfield and helping throw a block, Davis will then reach a second level and bury his body into the next defender, so he can free up more running space. He's a run-blocker to watch out for too for run-heavy Liberty.

Maybe, his small stature is a drawback. But this Patriot can make big-time plays. He can be a dangerous threat in the play-action and has enough speed to be used on reverses or special team returns.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Bond...Devante Bond

Photo courtesy of
 He's not shaken or stirred, or a guy that will bust out a golden gun.

No, this Bond is all about wreaking a different kind of havoc on the football field at Sierra College.

The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Devante Bond has been a demon in both a three-point stance or when he doesn't place his hand on the turf to get set. The versatile defensive linemen and outside linebacker is a threat to record two sacks a game - because he has four games where he reaches that sack total.

He's got a freakish explosion off the line and a rugged tackling ability. His speed off the edge makes it hard for opposing offensive tackles to adjust their hips and pad level right away. He's gotten the attention of three Mountain West schools and one from the PAC-12 on the recruiting front.

His versatility is perfect for an exotic 3-4 defense looking for a pass rush. Even 4-3 looks can use him versus up-tempo, pass-first offenses. He does get caught over-pursuing, and sometimes stretches out his hand like he's trying to arm tackle.

He's a hustle player, though, who won't give up on a play. His size, versatility, pass-rushing skills and instincts makes him one of the more highly coveted junior college linebackers in California. His speed and hustle should make a defense at the four-year level want him. He's one of the easiest players to spot on the field when you watch a Sierra game, because he's usually one of the first defenders right in front of a ball carrier.

On a "Frontier" to stardom?

Photo courtesy of
Jordan Nichols brings a bruising attitude - no matter where he lines up.

As a tight end, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound junior will use his brute strength to power through any defensive linemen who dares to try and touch his Frontier Titan ball carriers. When he's not blocking, Nichols looks for an opening, or contact when he runs routes at tight end.

As a linebacker, Nichols (No. 44 in the photo) looks for two things: someone to hit, or where the football is flying towards.

The Kern County 2014 prospect is beginning to make a name for himself, especially on a team where his quarterback Evan Moore and fellow two-way fullback/linebacker Triton Douglas has generated the interest of the Big 10, PAC-12, Big East and Southeastern Conference (SEC).

Nichols looks to be next in line at the Bakersfield area high school. Offensively, his route running is smooth for a prospect at 220-pounds, but its his power and determination that makes him an intriguing tight end prospect. The Titans will use him in a three-point stance or at the slot receiver position.

On defense, he's the type who can set an aggressive mindset. He'll deliver the nasty highlight reel hit where he'll bury his shoulder pad and make a ball carrier feel the grass. He's shown strong instincts at locating the football and making the tackle.

He does tend to resort to wrestling a runner down. Though he has good eyes to see where the ball is, he does tend to bite on plays and has to chase down players. His angle pursuits will need refinement as the year progresses and for his senior season. He's also not much of a pass-rusher, but his coverage skills makes him very effective versus the pass. Nichols will play the football like he's a safety. He'll patrol his territory, then use his tight end hands to haul in interceptions. He's even a threat to take picks back to the end zone with his determined running, proven by his game against West Bakersfield this year.

In the end, this Titan is on his own Frontier to get noticed. More development between now, the summer months and his senior year could keep colleges coming back to Frontier High School for him.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

State's leading rusher a late bloomer

If Shadow Hills-Indio running back James Toland would've put up the numbers he has now back in his sophomore and junior seasons, he would've been one of the more highly-recruited running backs in the country, not just California.

Still, though, with a ridiculous 1,516 rushing yards through just five games, an average of 10.3 yards per carry and 23 touchdowns, people down in the Southern Section and different colleges are starting to take notice.

Toland's set back from his junior year were injuries, including a high ankle sprain in the beginning of the 2011 year. He seems to be running like he has no real ailments, with the 303.2 total rushing yards per game he's averaging. His best game was a 490-yard, seven touchdown evening in the 50-47 loss to Banning High on Sept. 21.

The 6-foot, 185-pound senior has a number of intangibles that makes him the top rusher in the state right now, plus eighth in the nation statistically according to Max Preps.

For one, he's a deadly cut back runner who can zig-zag through holes. He has an outside burst towards the sidelines that can get 3-4 defenders running from behind. His vision can explain how he's able to run around different defenders when trying to find an open hole. His final strong trait is he'll hit a second gear when sprinting with the football.

I won't lie, though, even being the state's top rusher does have flaws. He seems to be inconsistent at running with a low pad level, as I caught him running upright when hitting a hole. He's not the most powerful runner, as he tends to rely more on his ability to juke out defenders or his outside speed. Lastly, he also tends to hold the ball dangerously away from his body, which can lead to fumbles. Ironically, he's lost the rock once this year.

In the end though, it's hard to overlook the state's leading rusher with the numbers and on-field skills he possesses. His production has made him one of the better late bloomers in the California recruiting scene. He can fit a fast-pace, run-oriented offense such as a pistol or triple option. Maybe be a change-of-pace back in a pro style scheme that's heavy on the ground game. This late bloomer is exploding.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A "Diablo" at throwing the ball

Up north at Pleasant Hill, Quinn Kaehler is one Diablo Valley College player sticking his fork into opposing defenses.

This Diablo Valley signal-caller is putting up strong numbers through five games on the junior college scene. Even at 2-3, the Vikings could easily be 5-0 with how close their contests were. Kaehler has been on his game in all five outings, even against state title threat San Francisco City College.

In the week one opener, the Vikings nearly dethroned the state champion from 2011, behind 459 passing yards and four touchdowns from Kaehler in the 48-41 loss. The following week, Kaehler went off on Santa Rosa with 36-of-51 passing for 401 yards and four more touchdowns despite the 28-26 loss.

His Viking team is currently on a two-game win streak, and Kaehler is one of the driving forces behind the turnaround at Diablo Valley. He had a season-best 479 yards and five touchdowns in the 44-20 rout over Chabot College, then followed that with 269 yards, a 74.3 completion percentage and two more touchdown tosses.

At 6-foot-4, 220-pounds, Kaehler already has the look of a college football quarterback. One reason behind his 19 touchdown throws through five games is how quick his release is. Not only does Kaehler do an excellent job at releasing the ball rapidly, his ability to quickly locate his target is a plus from a vision standpoint.

His zip, tall frame and composure when dealing with a heavy rush are strengths. Kaehler looks calm in the pocket and won't hesitate to fire away even with one guy ready to bury him. I will say, his footwork isn't the most polished. He hasn't been the most fluid at planting his feet properly.

Kaehler, though, does have mobility in him, proven by his reported 4.67 40-yard dash time. The sophomore has two strong defenses forthcoming in Monterey Peninsula (Oct. 6), then Reedley College (Oct. 12). If he continues to fire away, he could be on pace for a 40 touchdown season.

After evaluating him, he looks better fit for a spread offense at his next college stop with his quick release and vision.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Nate "King" Cole

Photo courtesy of max preps
It's a Cole world down in Orange County.

But we're not talking about the rapper J. Cole, we've begun to discover a football talent at quarterback down in the Southern California region - Aliso Niguel quarterback Nathan "Nate" Cole.

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Cole may already impress people down in the O.C with his college football-like stature already. But its the on field stuff that's getting me influenced.

For one, he's got a excellent zip to his throws. His field vision and accuracy also scored major points. His senior year right now is also probably going to get different colleges to make a move.

This season, Cole has thrown 27 touchdown passes in just six games, along with a 70.7 completion percentage. He had six in a 42-12 win over Coronado High back on Sept. 15. His most recent outing advanced his prep game even further - with 37-of-48 passing for 491 yards and seven touchdowns in the 50-41 victory over Woodbridge-Irvine. He only has four interceptions, and that was all in one game - the 84-20 loss to undefeated Mission Viejo. He still tossed three touchdowns and 302 passing yards that game.

He's got the arm, size and vision to make someone glad at the next level. A couple of flaws to think of are his mobility, since he looked slow running around while being chased. His release is also a gray area. Most quarterbacks usually take just three seconds or less to release a throw. Cole, on average, didn't release the ball until 4-5 seconds while watching his film. This will raise questions on whether or not he can adjust his throws while facing heavy pressure, where he's forced to make a quick pass right away.

In the end, Cole is emerging as a late-blooming talent in California. More progress can make it a different kind of Cole world down in Southern California on Friday nights.


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Prospect watch from week five

Here's how some under-the-radar defenders fared under the lights this past weekend:


Stats: 15 tackles, 12 solo stops and three sacks in 48-13 victory over Millikan-Long Beach

Overview: The versatile 6-foot-2, 225-pound Faaiu is a physical tackler who had his best pass rushing night on Friday over Millikan. He's got a relentless motor who could thrive in someone's 3-4 at the next level.


Stats: Four solo tackles, one sack, one punt block good for the safety in 43-6 victory over Sierra Pacific-Hanford.

Overview: The 6-foot-3, 230-pound junior defensive tackle is an emerging star for a vastly improved Eagles squad that once won a combined two games in the last two seasons. Fernberg is a rugged defender with powerful hands and a high motor for the 4-2 Eagles.


Stats: 19 total tackles and one interception in 23-0 loss to San Joaquin Memorial-Fresno

Overview: Wingfield continues to play the safety spot like a linebacker, but snatched up one pick for the Wildcats despite the loss. He's a hard-nosed player who doesn't back down. Looks like a guy who can play up to the line of scrimmage at safety once he hits the college level.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Prospect watch: Hawks, Pioneers, Beavers and Rams

Contributed photo
Two marquee games this weekend under the lights have the following: a strong case for a CIF Bowl appearance, and a strong case for a state Junior College Bowl bid.

We're reaching the half-way point and this is where we really start finding out if teams and prospects hit a second gear, stay neutral, or run out of gas.

Here's one prep game in California to highlight:


The Hawks are now in the driver seat in the Division-III So Cal rankings. A school that has only had four years of varsity existence has now emerged as the best team in the city of Tulare. As for the Pioneers, this game can really determine how elite they are, especially after falling to inner-city rival El Diamante last Friday.

PROSPECT WATCH FOR MISSION OAK: Quarterback Corbin Quinnonez (photo) continues to impress with his delivery and even his legs. The 6-foot-4, rocket-armed passer is a threat to get a combined five to six touchdowns throwing and running each game. Another lethal threat is 2014 prospect Elijah Porchia, an electrifying game-breaker and return man. Tight end/outside linebacker Kevin Palma continues to draw intrigue from the likes of the PAC-12 and Mountain West. An interesting match up will be seeing Palma covering the speed the Pioneers have on their offense.

PROSPECT WATCH FOR MT. WHITNEY: Tucker Mendonca may turn peeople away with his size (only 5-foot-8, 155-pounds). But make no mistake, he has zip and he can run. He has 1,001 yards in the no-huddle spread offense attack and 247 rushing yards for the Pioneers. He also has a combined 11 touchdowns. Darius Armstead is putting together a great season. The 5-foot-9 senior is yet to have a game where he falls below 115 receiving yards. His feet, soft hands, straight-line speed and production is making him an under-the-radar prospect on the recruiting scene. One player on defense to look for is junior safety Abel Tavarez. The 5-foot-10 safety has a mean streak and his hits energize the Pioneers. He plays the safety spot like an outside linebacker and he'll blow up ball carriers. Tavarez versus Palma and Porchia on offense should be an entertaining one. Adam Franco is another top defensive back for Mount Whitney. The 6-foot-1 senior has a team-high three interceptions for 66 yards and one fumble recovery. Sophomore Demarea Joyce is also an emerging star in the Pioneer's aggressive secondary, with two interceptions and 13 total tackles, including seven in an upset over Sanger.

Junior College Football


Last year's state bowl champion San Francisco City goes toe-to-toe with a school now having aspirations for hoisting the state title. A huge statement game for the undefeated Beavers.

PROSPECT WATCH FOR THE RAMS: In the thrilling 35-31 comeback victory over Fresno City where they were down 28-0, SFCC got a big-time performance from Kristoffer Olugbode in the backfield. The former Bellarmine Prep-San Jose weapon is fast and elusive, but has also improved his power and determination. He's a threat to go the distance and his big plays breathed new life to a Rams team that was nearly embarrassed by Fresno City. He finished with 134 yards rushing and one touchdown on Saturday. Paving the way on offense is guard Ahongalu Fusimalohi (6-foot-3, 315-pounds). He's one nasty run blocker who won't pop you just once, he'll try to drive you to the ground. He's shown excellent hands and vision when picking up blitzes. He also seldom gets bull-rushed. He's usually the one bull-rushing the defensive linemen. Defensively, former quarterback Broughan Jantz (6-foot-2, 205-pounds) is starting to emerge with three interceptions, including two last Saturday.

PROSPECT WATCH FOR THE BEAVERS: Former Washington State and Fresno State commit Devontae Butler-Booker is starting to burst back as a productive running back. The now 6-foot, 200-pound Booker still has his blazing speed thanks to his 4.38 40-yard dash time. He has, however, begun to show some power and balance when running the rock. Helping him in the backfield is Antonio Bumpers (6-foot, 200-pounds), who's more of a power runner but has shown to run around defenders. He's averaging 4.7 yards per game. Former Colorado State commit Zane Petty leads the defense with a team-high four interceptions. Petty also has 26 solo tackles.