Even places like USC, UCLA, Cal, Stanford and outside of California in Texas, Oklahoma State, or even SEC country, its realistically hard to ignore the running game.
And upon further review, I managed to dig deep in the Golden State and discover that there are a number of playmakers in the backfield that's being slept on.
We'll start with region, and begin first with the Northern part of the state:
AVANTE YARBER, CHRISTIAN BROTHERS-SACRAMENTO
He went from enduring a rough junior year with a fractured ankle, to making life rough and breaking ankles at the Passing Down Best-of-the-West state finals back in May.
Yarber showed some shiftiness and an outside burst very reminiscent of Fresno State's Robbie Rouse or even Barry Sanders. Looking at his film though also showed his strength and power even at 5-foot-7, which is nearly ideal to Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew.
As a small back, he has the advantage of hiding behind a big offensive linemen, then suddenly appearing and taking off. And when he takes off, he'll show his 4.51 40-yard dash speed. He also shows that same speed and vision when returning kicks and catching out of the backfield, so he is very versatile
His size may be the biggest drawback, since not too many teams will take a chance on a 5-foot-7 runner. He also hasn't been seen much as a blocker when picking up blitzes, so that right now probably won't make him the complete package. Yet, if MJD can explode in the NFL with his small stature, if Robbie Rouse can pull off back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons for Fresno State, and if Barry Sanders can make it to Canton, then there should be a place for this 5-foot-7 spark plug in Yarber.
One other thing, Yarber sounds very articulate when he speaks. He's also receiving Ivy League letters, so his grades are real high. Good behavior and smarts to go along with his explosive running style.
MORE ON YARBER: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z26oyOkNzQU
|Photo courtesy of scout.com|
It says on Champman's Scout.com profile that he's yet to receive an offer.
I would like to think that its a computer glitch or misprint, because what I saw was another explosive talent at running back.
There have been some rumblings though that Champman turned out to be lost in a shuffle of running backs over at Bellarmine in San Jose. The Bells' top three running backs were all seniors and they combined for 3,589 yards and 47 touchdowns.
He does, however, look as if he's ready to pick up the flag for the often run-heavy Bells of Silicon Valley judging by his film. Like Yarber, he's another versatile threat with a tremendous burst through the open hole through carrying the rock and returning the ball. His vision and ability to cut back or bounce outside are other pluses. One other thing, when he sees daylight, I didn't see anyone catching up to him.
Champman (photo) can probably correct two things: preventing himself from running upright and keeping himself lower, and also hold the ball closer to his shoulder pads. His carrying ability tends to show the football away from his body, a very dangerous trait that can lead to fumbles at the next level.
In the end though, the explosive and even powerful 6-foot, 177 pound back could finally lead the running back shuffle, instead of getting lost in it. A huge senior year could land him at a place where the running game is something the program can still believe in. Maybe hometown San Jose State can make a push.
MORE ON CHAMPMAN: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHMS6RFTrmI
ISAIAH SAUNDERS, PLEASANT GROVE-ELK GROVE
Mark Jenkins took the bulk of the carries for the Eagles and the end result was 1,785 yards, 34 touchdowns, and a 12-2 season.
However, Saunders was also a part of that 12-2 campaign, and one-half of that dynamic running game the Eagles have in the Sacramento region.
The 5-foot-11, 210 pound boulder Saunders finished second in rushing with 625 yards and 13 touchdowns for Pleasant Grove. This time, in his senior year, he could become the lead back. He has camped out at UCLA, Washington, Sacramento State, Tulane and Weber State, so he has generated interest.
He's still awaiting his first offer, but the younger brother of former explosive Fresno State wide receiver Jalen Saunders (Oklahoma) has impressed people with his combination of speed, vision, power, even cut-back ability so far. Increased numbers could see increased demand on the scholarship front.
MORE ON SAUNDERS: http://hscalifornia.scout.com/2/1181115.html