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.

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