Sunday, February 21, 2016


Elijah Blades of Pasedena-John Muir is starting to heat up as a household name on the 2017 recruiting trail, as the tall 6-foot-2 cornerback was offered by San Jose State recently (photo contributed). 
They may be considered underrated compared to most of their Class of 2017 peers, plus they have reeled in most of their offers from mid-major programs. But make no mistake, no one should cross these guys’ no fly zone.

Six different defensive backs – all hailing from well-known college football factories in California - are starting to emerge as household names on the recruiting trail. Three of these prospects have already landed their first set of pledges.

Here’s who to watch as the 2017 recruiting period rolls along:

Elijah Blades, Pasadena-Muir

He’s 6-foot-2 and comes equipped with upper body dominance. Blades controls and throttles opposing receivers at the line and his long wing span allows him knock the ball from the air. San Jose State became offer No. 1 for Blades on Feb. 19.

“I describe my game as a corner as physical, focused, calm and fast,” Blades said.

John Balderas, Bakersfield-Liberty

The Patriots already have one national recruit in defensive lineman Kurtis Brown. Balderas doesn’t look to be far behind him. Like Blades, Balderas is another tall lockdown artist at 6-foot-2. He swatted 13 passes and grabbed five interceptions last year for the CIF Central Section Division I champions. Colorado, Oregon State, Washington State and Fresno State have inquired about him through letters. Balderas knows that the expectations are high for Liberty even after losing megastars Jordan Love to Utah State and Krys Barnes to UCLA.

“We lose a lot of starters, but we have athletes and underclassmen showing a lot of potential at the varsity level,” Balderas said. “I feel that we will kind of be underdogs because people haven't been heard of our guys yet.”

Carl Holmes, Valencia

The son of former Fresno State running back Carl Holmes, the younger incarnation has track and field speed, soft hands and aggression against running backs. He’s reliable in providing the defense an extra run stuffer. Also holds a 3.7 grade point average.

Jalen Cole, Santa Ana-Mater Dei

From a school that’s known for breeding college football talent, Cole may be small in stature (only 5-foot-9), but he’s big on physicality. He’s unafraid to close quickly on the ball and jam at the line. Colorado State and Idaho have offered him.

Adrian “A.J.” Lopez, Fresno-Central

Lopez is keeping this lineage going at Koligian Stadium in the 559: ball-chasing defensive backs. He’s got a strong nose for the football and is supportive against the run. He hasn’t reported his first offer yet, but he’s representing the same high school that produced Oklahoma’s Michiah Quick and Hatari Byrd.

Darren Hall, Rancho Cucamonga

Known as “DH6” to his teammates and coaches, Hall describes himself as a “technician” on the field. He bounces between cornerback and safety and is a bone rattling hitter at both spots. He’s not only got solid instincts for the ball, but is a threat to block punts on special teams. Holds three offers from Utah, Hawaii and Nevada.

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