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.