Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Rising star watch: James Williams

Photo courtesy of ESPN Recruiting Nation
Time to head down to Burbank and talk about what former University of Oregon wide receiver James Finley called "a big-time sleeper."

And after breaking down James Williams' film, I agree with Finley.

In a region known for being one of the top hot beds for recruiting in California, it's hard to imagine a prospect going undetected.

Here's a closer look at Williams:

WHAT TO LIKE: Good athleticism is where we'll begin. Williams has an explosive second gear when he runs. He's hurdled over defenders on his way to the end zone. A shifty runner that can make defenders miss. Shows determination with his running and won't stop his legs. Shows good vision and balance when carrying the ball. Has versatility and can return kicks. Also used as a deep threat wide receiver and can haul down the 40-50 yard grab.

WHAT TO BUILD ON: Needs to be consistent with exploding through a hole. Sometimes he looked hesitant when locating an opening.Though he's got an impressive second gear, his current 40-yard dash time according to his Hudl account (4.85) needs to get lower. He might get caught from behind too often at the next level. Can also add muscle to his 177-pound frame.

OVERALL: Williams is an overachiever and ultra productive weapon for Burbank. Definitely looks like one of the best kept secrets in Southern California. Improved work ethic, a strong camp/tournament season and a monster senior year could make this under the radar talent noticed.

STATS: From junior season - 1,503 yards, 29 total touchdowns (22 rushing, five receiving, two kick returns), Averaged 9.0 yards per game. Had 24 catches, 491 yards, five touchdowns. As a sophomore,  had 131 carries, 1,461 yards, averaged 10.0 yards per game, scored 17 touchdowns.



Thursday, February 20, 2014

Rising star watch: Willie Fairman

Contributed photo
Roosevelt-Fresno has become a place where not one, but two college football prospects roam the practice fields.

We've highlighted tight end Ricky McCoy plenty of times on Cali Gold Mine, including this recent scouting report. Now it's time to talk about the Rough Riders' most versatile weapon - 2015 athlete Willie Fairman.

WHAT TO LIKE: At running back, Fairman explodes through holes like a torpedo leaving a submarine. Has a second gear when he runs the football and once he sees an open field, he'll rarely get caught from behind. Shows a cutback ability that can leave defenders out of position. Elusive and adds a spin move to his ball carrying ability. At wide receiver, he runs his routes at full speed and can burn zone coverages. Can drag defenders with him and does a good job of keeping his legs moving after contact is made. Defensively, he's a ball hawk that shows good eyes with spotting the football, then making a play on it. Has soft hands to grab the interception. Also can out-jump receivers for the pick. A threat to score six points every time he touches the football.

WHAT TO BUILD ON: Though he's shown to be a determined runner, need to see if he can run defenders over. At 155-pounds, he'll need to add muscle. Can also use a consistent stiff arm while running.

OVERALL: Fairman is a Marshall Faulk-type back for Roosevelt, thanks to his versatility as a running back and wide receiver. He's instinctive on defense at safety and is Roosevelt's top defensive playmaker too. He's in the shadow of West Fresno recruiting hot beds Edison, Central and Bullard. Make no mistake, though, Fairman is one of the most explosive and versatile players in the Central Section. With no word of any scholarship offers yet, Fairman is a big-time sleeper right now in the Fresno region.

STATS: 1,054 rushing yards, 1,044 receiving, 2,688 all-purpose, 28 touchdowns, 56 tackles (5.6 per game) and seven interceptions.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Rising star watch: Demetrius Ferguson

Photo by Lorenzo J. Reyna/The Reedley Exponent
St. Mary's of Stockton has been a solid hotbed for college football talent in the 209. Demetrius Ferguson has the potential to add to the lineage.

The 2015 wide receiver has plenty to like. Here's a closer look:

WHAT TO LIKE: Ferguson (far right of photo) has soft hands and makes catches low to the ground or by extending his hands further away from his body. Shows good concentration and control of his grabs. He's slippery and shows a running back-like elusiveness. He's a speedster that can turn the bubble screen into a 40 or 50 yard gain with the speed he has. An effective deep threat as well. Can also break tackles.

WHAT TO BUILD ON: Ferguson doesn't look like a prototypical wide receiver at 6-feet, 160-pounds. Though he looks like a blazer on film, he can still refine his speed. Also need to see his consistency with fighting off jams at the line of scrimmage.

OVERALL: Ferguson only caught 30 passes last season, but averaged 17.6 yards per catch. A strong offseason in the camp/tournament scene, plus St. Mary's giving him the football more could mean the scholarship offers beginning to pile up for him. He's teamed with Stockton-based Diverse Sports, which is run by former Oakland Raider/Arizona Cardinal Al Smith and legendary Raiders defensive back George Atkinson.

More on Ferguson:

Rising star watch: Caleb Kelly

Photo by Lorenzo J. Reyna/The Reedley Exponent
Time to start looking at who's coming up in 2016. We'll start in Fresno County for one of the most versatile sophomores in the Central Section last year: Caleb Kelly of Clovis West.

Though the Golden Eagles have fallen on hard times (three straight sub .500 seasons after winning 2010 section title), Kelly's play and overall intangibles could offer some future hope for this once proud program. Here's a closer look:

WHAT TO LIKE: Kelly (in green shirt of photo) looks like a grown man with his 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame. On defense, he's got excellent instincts and angle pursuits to the football. He has long arms and uses them to either wrap up and roll a ball carrier, or force the fumble. Has pass rushing skills with attacking the gaps at full speed or from chasing down a quarterback. Has the size to be used as an outside linebacker/defensive end. On offense, he's reliable in the red zone thanks to his stature. Can make the tough grabs at tight end against as many as three defenders. A nasty run blocker that drives defenders five yards back or to the ground. Also has played running back and is tough to bring down between the trenches.

WHAT TO BUILD ON: Still will need added bulk down the road. Defensively, he tends to stop his feet after contact is made. Needs to be consistent about keeping his feet moving to finish the tackle. On offense, it's continuing to polish his speed and routes.

OVERALL: Kelly's future is bright after a strong varsity debut last year. He's also spent time with former Sacramento State wide receiver Elon Paige and has teamed with renown high school defensive back coach Tony Perry in Fresno. He could be a headliner for the Central Section 2016 class thanks to his size and versatility.

More on Kelly:

Thursday, February 6, 2014

National Signing Day: CGM's thoughts

Another National Signing Day period is in the books. This is the day that, too me, officially kicks off the upcoming football season because teams now know what their future players are.

Some NSD thoughts:

- A pipeline has been created between Oklahoma and the West Fresno region. Last year, Hatari Byrd and L.J. Moore were Central-Fresno stars that became Sooners. This year, Michiah Quick becomes the latest Grizzly to be Norman bound. Oklahoma reeled in a last minute big fish today with snatching one of the most dynamic players in Central Section history. Quick is a touchdown threat on offense, defense and special teams and can be used in a variety of ways. Don't be surprised if Oklahoma comes back to the Central Valley next year for Central's 2015 DB's or some of Edison's upcoming senior class.

- Speaking of Central and Edison, the West Fresno schools struck big once again with a combined 11 football signings on Feb. 5. Looking ahead, Central's upcoming class is expected to be headlined by athlete Savion Simms, defensive back Dehlon Preston and safety/cornerback Jovonte Page. Edison already has three 2015 prospects with early offers: A.J. Greeley (Quarterback/DB, Arizona State), Tyler Horton (ATH, San Jose State) and Vance Sams (linebacker, Eastern Washington). Running back Khai Williams, Xavier Hamilton (LB) and Hunter Swearingen (QB) have the potential to land some offers with a huge spring and senior season.

- At the junior college level, Fresno City College continues to produce NCAA Division I talent. Seven Rams signed a Letter of Intent during this NSD period. Two of the most intriguing prospects to me are defensive end Thomas Coronado (Eastern Illinois) and LB Nate Palomino (Cal Poly). Coronado is a high-energy end who wears people down and gets to the quarterback. I've followed Palomino since he was a senior at Clovis High. All he does is show a nose for the football and wreak havoc. Palomino might become the best LB prospect for Cal Poly since former Mustang Chris Gocong, who ended up in the NFL.

- It's a double edged sword for me when I look at Fresno State's recruiting class. Yes, landing one local kid (Clovis North OL/TE Kyle Riddering) does look perplexing for a team that's won back-to-back Mountain West titles. However, the Bulldogs landing a big time LB in Berkeley's Michael Lazarus (held four Bowl Championship Series offers) and hard nosed JUCO DB Corey Ferguson of Fullerton College (former Cincinnati commit) convinces me to let Fresno State slide.

- If I were to choose an "under the radar" guy to watch in the 2014 class, it's Sacramento State commit Ivan Espiritu. He comes from Reedley High, which hasn't been known to be a huge factory for Division I football programs. In fact, RHS hasn't had a NCAA Division I football signing since 1987, when QB Mike Richmond chose Utah after being recruited by then-Utes head coach Jim Fassel. But, Espiritu worked his way up to catch the Hornets' attention. He's played all five line positions and was known for driving defensive linemen 10 yards back or to the turf. Espiritu is a high motor guy and, even better for him, his CFB offensive line coach is Bill Laveroni, who coached former Pro Bowlers Walter Jones and Steve Hutchinson while with the Seattle Seahawks. Hornet fans and alums should love Espiritu's aggression and versatility.

- Arizona State is getting a trio of animals on defense. They are: safety Jordan Thomas (Inderkum-Sacramento), LB D.J. Calhoun (El Cerrito) and DL Tashon Smallwood (Central-Fresno). Thomas gives the Sun Devils a hard-hitting box safety that can blow up screens and running plays. Calhoun is a freakishly quick linebacker that also plays the pass like a free safety. Smallwood is an offensive line coach's nightmare with his explosive first step and pass rush skills.

- Finally, not a bad start for Steve Sarkisian's first USC recruiting class. The biggest prospects for the Trojans were DB Adoree Jackson (Serra-Gardena, listed as a five-star prospect according to, safety Juju Smith (Long Beach Poly) and Damien Mama (OL, St. John Bosco-Bellflower). Smith and Mama were also listed as five stars by scout. I also like the move to lure in QB Jalen Greene (Serra-Gardena). Greene gives USC a rare dual-threat quarterback. Sarkisian, however, recruited a highly-touted dual-threat once before in Troy Williams (2012, Narbonne-Harbor City) and developed Keith Price while at Washington.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

National Signing Day: The Central Valley

Photo by Lorenzo Reyna/MidValley Publishing
The 2014 National Signing Day period has wrapped up for the Central Valley and more players between Fresno and Bakersfield have found their official home.

As I predicted on my twitter page, more than 25 signed a Letter of Intent.

If I'm missing anyone, please let me know. Here's who's officially on board from the 559 to the 661:


Marcus McMaryion, QB, Oregon State (photo)


Ivan Espiritu, OL/DL, Sacramento State


Rolan Milligan, DB/KR, UAB
Trey Mitchell, QB, Texas A&M-Kingsville (currently attending for spring semester) 


Tashon Smallwood, DL/FB, Arizona State
Nick Wilson, RB, Arizona
Shariff Williams, NT, Arizona
Devon Brewer, DB, Arizona
Teofilo Freeman, DB, Northwestern Oklahoma State
Michiah Quick, ATH,Oklahoma
(Note: Ex-Grizzlies star Tee Shepard signed a LOI with Ole Miss. Shepard was playing junior college football at Holmes Community College in Mississippi)


Josh Gibbs, DE, New Mexico State
Nate Palomino, LB, Cal Poly
Thomas Coronado, DE, Eastern Illinois
Lafaele Fautanu, TE, Indiana State
Patrick Markarian, OL, Indiana State
Wylie Brand, OL, Southern Utah
Dakota Gordon, FB, San Diego State


Asauni Rufus, ATH, Nevada
Kevin Hayes, WR/DB, Oregon State
Jeremiah Reddick, RB, Sacramento State


Grant Bouma, LB, Texas Tech (walk-on)


Chris Hannible, DB, North Dakota


Tyrone Smith, WR, Utah
Yasmon Haynes, DL, Portland State
Blake Wright, RB, Nevada
Kevin Nutt, DB, Colorado State
Aaron Johnson, DB, Cal Poly


Nautica Fleming, DB, San Jose State


Andre Chachere, DB, San Jose State


Kyle Riddering, OL, Fresno State
Michael Mechikoff, DB, Air Force


Adam Soesman, DB, Oregon State


Kody Beckering, LB, Eastern Washington


Chris Misaalefua, OL/DL, Texas-El Paso 


Colton Foster, OL/DL, Colorado State


Nick Moreno, ATH, Whittier College