Thursday, April 30, 2015

This Curtis Jackson doesn't want to be 50 Cent - he wants his own name

Curtis Jackson of Irvine High has put together a strong offseason with his club squad Orange County Elite. Jackson isn't just known for being a hitter at Irvine High, though. He shares the same name with a renown New York rapper (photo by Lorenzo J. Reyna). 
When he sets foot on his stage, Curtis Jackson becomes a muscular performer who energizes the crowd with his collection of hits.

But this is not the renown hip hop rapper/producer Curtis Jackson who’s better known to music fans as 50 Cent. This Curtis Jackson is the hard hitting, ball chasing enforcer leading the Irvine High School secondary on the football field.

Still, he hears people placing his name with the New York M.C. and G-Unit founder.

“Couple of my coaches call me 'Young 50.' Some call me Curtis Jackson. Or they call me 'Fifty,'” Jackson said. “I mean, I think it’s cool and they do it to joke around.”

The chiseled Class of 2016 prospect dons the green and white for Irvine High and goes into a destruction mode once the Friday night lights come on.

Jackson, who stands at 6-feet and weighs 170-pounds, is known in the Orange County prep football scene for crashing into wide receivers and running backs. His eyes spot where the football is going, then he turns his hips to chase the ball down and lastly, he’ll throw his shoulder and send his opponent flying into the O.C. air.

“I come downhill real fast and I like to hit. I love to lay the wood,” Jackson said.

He led the Vaqueros with 121 tackles last season and forced two fumbles. Jackson also returns punts and kickoffs for Irvine, combining for 336 yards on special teams.

While he’s considered the sledgehammer in the Vaqueros’ defensive backfield, he said he’s looking to polish his skills and become a better safety. Which is why Jackson linked up with Orange County Elite during the offseason to build on his abilities. He and his O.C. Elite teammates operate under this motto:

“Slow feet don’t eat baby,” Jackson said. “It’s hard work. Everyday we’re working on footwork. Everyday is grind mode. Our coaches put us in a high tempo. That’s what I love about it.”

The practice sessions have helped turn Jackson loose during 7on7 tournaments. Jackson closed down hard on wide receivers and forced quarterbacks to throw away from him during three appearances at Passing Down, which is California’s largest 7on7 event. His O.C. Elite squad proved they can match up against the top players in Northern and Central California, as they clinched a spot in the tournament’s Best of the West regional held on April 26.

“It’s the best,” Jackson said of O.C. Elite. “They’ve been helping us out a lot and they’ve been a great experience so far.”

Even though Jackson makes a lot of noise with his punishing hits, his recruiting period has been quiet so far. During the NCAA Spring Evaluation Period, Jackson said San Diego State has visited him at Irvine High. He’s also had USC and Utah reach out to him by inviting Jackson to its summer camps.

He isn’t just searching for his first scholarship offer, Jackson is looking to be different from the platinum recording artist he gets mentioned with.

“At the end of the day, I want my own name,” Jackson said.


What to like: If you’re a secondary coach, you’ve got to love someone who can dash to the football and ignite the sidelines with his ferocious hits, which is what Jackson does. He shows good vision and reaction to where the ball is going. Takes sharp angles and is rarely caught out of position. He fights for possession of the football on defense by digging his hands into the ball carrier and jar the football loose for the fumble. Versatile enough to return kicks. During returns, he shows some elusiveness and can make defenders miss the tackle.

What to build on: He doesn’t appear to be the fastest safety even with his pursuit angles. He can always enhance that trait. I’ll need to see more of his ability to be a ball hawk and grab interceptions. I also need to see more of his ability to crash down toward the line of scrimmage on blitzes and if he has the hands to fight off blockers.

Overall: Anyone wanting a tone setter in the secondary can use someone like Jackson. His aggressive nature is capable of striking fear into the heart of a wide receiver. He’ll need to improve his speed down the road, but he’s a hidden gem in a talent rich region.

More on Jackson can be found here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

This Angel is a Rhare Breed

Angel Matute has picked up steam on the recruiting trail, as the Rancho Cucamonga High quarterback not only received his first offer from Arkansas State, but made a near Most Valuable Player run at Passing Down's Best of the West regional on April 26 (photo by Lorenzo J. Reyna). 
One team and its Class of 2016 quarterback was out looking for respect and recognition, as Rhare Breed Blue and Angel Matute stepped on the Fullerton College practice field against the top prep prospects in the state of California for Passing Down’s Best of the West regional.

The end result? Both ran through the tournament gauntlet like a pack of tigers stampeding through their jungle - before falling short of the BOW title.

Matute helped lead an underrated group of Inland Empire stars to a second place finish in the renown tournament on April 26, firing the football with accuracy, precision and dissecting different coverages.

Now, the 6-foot-4 Matute of Rancho Cucamonga High School has upgraded himself into a big time sleeper prospect in a region that’s been a prominent hot bed for college football coaches. The Inland Empire - or I.E. - has had USC, UCLA, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Norte Dame and other prominent NCAA Division I football programs visit the region to pluck out football players.

And Matute said he and his Rhare Breed teammates don’t get much fanfare from their highly recruited peers.

“We’re slept on,” Matute said. “We’ve got a whole bunch of guys who can ball. We’ve played against some of the top guys and we’ve beaten them.”

Matute used his eyes and right arm to feed the football to his cat quick wide receivers at the championship tournament. He helped turn the likes of Khris Vaughn, Brian Casteel and Xavier Caldwell into game breakers who could beat defenses on out routes, slants or fades in the end zone.

In the title game against Team Big Blue, Matute finished with 15 completions out of 21 attempts, three touchdown passes and one interception, as Rhare Breed Blue fell 21-20 in double overtime.

Matute, though, saw his abilities improve while trying to carve a name for himself along with the rest of his teammates.

“Definitely. Just seeing every defense and having the team come together more then progress each game, it’s huge for us,” Matute said.

He said he still believes there’s room for improvement.

“Just getting bigger and adding muscle. Also improving my reads,” Matute said. “It’s because the college game gets much faster. So I want to get into a routine of making my reads quicker.”

Matute holds one scholarship offer from Arkansas State of the Sun Belt Conference. The Red Wolves extended their pledge to Matute on April 21. He adds that he’s had conversations with coaches at North Carolina State, Purdue, Texas Tech, Northern Arizona, Sacramento State and Arizona State.

In shoulder pads, he leads Rancho Cucamonga’s deep ball aerial assault as he attacks secondaries with the Hail Mary. He led the Cougars with 2,855 yards, an average of 237.9 passing yards per game, 24 touchdowns and 8 interceptions.

But its not just his howitzer on his right arm that‘s gotten college coaches glued. He adds “I’m also a good leader by just getting everybody to focus in.”


What to like: Powerful right arm and won't hesitate to use it. Immediately locates the one-on-one coverage then attacks right away. He takes command of the huddle and has the personality to win over his teammates. Has solid field vision and most of the time, makes accurate decisions. Shows a sense of comfort in the pocket and doesn't get rattled by pass rushers.

What to build on: Footwork can get some polishing. He's not the fastest runner either on keeper plays. While he has quick receivers and can instantly spot them right away, I'll need to see more of his ability to scan the field and not zero in on one guy. I'll also need to see how he plays the cerebral game against defenses and if he can adjust to coverages at the line of scrimmage.

Overall: Matute is emerging as a fast riser in the Inland Empire's 2016 class. With his size and arm strength, I'm convinced he'll add more offers between now and the end of his senior season.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Images of the Best of the West

It was another spirited and epic day with Passing Down, as arguably the most stacked Best of the West regional ever was on hand at Fullerton College on April 26. In the end, Team Big Blue out of the Silicon Valley took home the title. Here's some of the top pics of the day (all photos by Lorenzo J. Reyna):