Backs like Nick Wilson of Central (Arizona), Xavier Stephens of Tulare Union (Northern Arizona, former Nevada recruit), Demetrius Warren of Bullard (Sacramento State), Chris Brown of San Joaquin Memorial (Oregon State) and the Edison High duo of Kevin Nutt (Colorado State) and Blake Wright (Nevada) have run through, around and over defenses in the Central Valley.
Looking ahead to the 2014 season, I found 12 backs who have either garnered college football interest or who are fully capable of getting on a school's radar. All of them can do damage to defenses in a number of ways.
Here's who to look out for:
BOLU OLURUNFUNMI, CLOVIS NORTH
|Photo courtesy of centralvalleyfootball.com|
The UCLA commit is a high-powered locomotive when he has the football. He's a combination of size, destructive power and freakish speed for a 5-foot-11, 205-pound back. Olurunfunmi is an old school type of runner who can leave defenders gasping for air with his speed or from feeling bruised by his shoulders with his power.
STEVAN JOHNSON, SAN JOAQUIN MEMORIAL
If it weren't for Olurunfunmi, Johnson of the Panthers would be considered the top power back in Fresno County. At 5-foot-11 and 200-pounds, Johnson is another big high school running back who bounces off of tacklers and trucks defenders. Johnson, though, elevated his versatility during the offseason. He burned defensive backs with his hands and route running at wide receiver during two tournaments at Passing Down in April 2014. If he can improve on his 4.58 40-yard dash time, Johnson could pile the offers during his senior year. He's already gotten interest from various PAC-12 and Mountain West programs.
More on Johnson: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/2075312/highlights/90881390
SHELDON CRONEY, RIDGEVIEW-BAKERSFIELD (TRANSFER FROM GARCES)
Croney is another throwback RB with the size/speed/power trifecta. Croney has imposing size at 6-foot-1, 215-pounds. But its his athleticism that makes him who he is on the football field. Croney has stunning straight line speed for a back his size. He got on CGM's radar last year and, as I predicted, the offers have piled up for Croney. Eight schools have made their scholarship pledge to him, with six Mountain West schools pursuing him.
MATT SMITH, BAKERSFIELD CHRISTIAN
Like Croney, Smith has similar size at 6-foot-1, 215-pounds. However, after breaking him down in CGM's film room, Smith is a more elusive back. He can spin and run around defenders. Yet, like all big backs, Smith does bury his shoulder into defenders and moves the chains. Smith landed a recent offer from Colorado State.
More on Smith: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/430795/highlights/139941377
ANTHONY MARISCAL, LIBERTY-BAKERSFIELD (ARIZONA COMMIT)
I have to wonder what position Mariscal will play at the next level, because he's done damage as a slot receiver, safety, cornerback and running back. He'll enter the 2014 season as the most versatile athlete in Kern County, hands down.
MICHAEL WRIGHT, DINUBA
Wright turned out to be the Emperors' top offensive weapon during their Central Section Division III championship run, and he was on a team that had the top quarterback in the section with Oregon State commit Marcus McMaryion. Wright has breakaway speed, receiving ability and incredible stamina. He's also a star wrestler at Dinuba. He's a big-time sleeper in the Central Section with no word on any scholarship offers for football. He finished the 2013 season with 36 touchdowns (32 rushing).
More on Wright: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/1063236/highlights/63656375
KHAI WILLIAMS, EDISON
|Photo by Lorenzo J. Reyna|
Williams played behind Nutt and Wright, but did enough to break into the Tigers' offensive plans and showed his track speed. Williams has one of the most explosive bursts in the Central Section. He enhanced his receiving ability after strong showings at the Pylon 7-on-7 showcase in Las Vegas and at Passing Down in the spring of 2014. If he improves his ability to go between the tackles and shows his power, you could be looking at a collection of awards or offers by season's end for Williams. Right now, Eastern Washington extended an offer to Williams. But Oklahoma, Cal, Arizona, Colorado State and Fresno State have had its eyes on him too.
More on Williams: http://caligoldmine.blogspot.com/2013/10/third-edison-tiger-running-back-earning.html
MALCOLM WILLIAMS, SUNNYSIDE
Nicknamed "Smash," Williams is one of the most electrifying runners in the section. He can run around and break ankles with his elusiveness. He also does an excellent job with maintaining his balance after bouncing off of defenders and he'll finish his runs. Williams runs a 4.4 40-yard dash and, like Khai Williams, Smash has an Eastern Washington offer.
More on Malcolm Williams: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/2654784/highlights/76895376
WILLIE FAIRMAN, ROOSEVELT-FRESNO
Fairman, like Mariscal, is utilized in a variety of ways with his team. He's played RB, wide receiver and safety. He's not only Roosevelt's top offensive weapon, but he led the Rough Riders in interceptions with seven. Sacramento State is the latest school showing interest. His cutbacks and second gear are his two deadliest traits.
More on Fairman: http://caligoldmine.blogspot.com/2014/02/rising-star-watch-willie-fairman.html
GREG QUEZADA, REEDLEY
|Photo by Lorenzo J. Reyna/The Reedley Exponent|
Quezada has battled injuries and fumble issues, but at 6-feet, 209-pounds and with a reported 4.7 40-yard dash time, he's a truck who's tough to bring down. He's capable of dragging two to four defenders on his back and bounce to the outside. He's received interest from the Mountain West and the Football Championship Subdivision ranks during the NCAA Spring Evaluation period.
More on Quezada: http://www.reedleyexponent.com/articles/2014/06/05/sports/doc538f673055005162921096.txt
WADE WALLACE, LIBERTY-MADERA RANCHOS
Wallace is undersized at 5-foot-9, 175-pounds, but he's been the Hawks' top scoring machine with 27 touchdowns during their back-to-back Division V championship runs. His speed, cutback ability, second gear and hands in the passing game are his strong traits. Wallace and the two-time section champion Hawks are moving on to Division IV this season.
More on Wallace: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/658037/highlights/117647376
MACINTYRE GARBANI, CENTRAL VALLEY CHRISTIAN
Garbani lacks size (5-foot-8, 185-pounds) and speed (4.85 40-yard dash time according to his Hudl account), but he was CVC's go-to-guy when the Cavaliers needed a big play. Garbani shows excellent vision and determination when he runs. He finished 10th in the section last year with 1,509 yards and scored 12 touchdowns.
More on Garbani: http://www.hudl.com/athlete/1777466/highlights/114230375