Note: Check back late Wednesday and Thursday for any updates to this roundup.
As usual, California’s top senior prep football prospects will be scattering to different parts of the country next season to play in college, although a lot of the scattering will be to colleges in the Pac 12 Conference.
Wednesday’s national letter of intent day is a time of celebration for many top players. It’s when all the hard work becomes official with a college scholarship secured. Even though almost all of these players and their parents have known a full-ride scholarship would be in their future probably since last summer, the act of signing that letter of intent brings it all to fruition.
Signing day also is a day when thousands of other athletes with the same dreams as those who are signing won’t be going to a ceremony at their school. They’ve been deemed too slow, too small, too much of a tweener or they don’t have the academics to be assured of a scholarship.
In 30 plus years of writing about the journeys of athletes from high school to the Super Bowl, however, signing a letter of intent on the first Wednesday in February is no guarantee. In fact, perhaps as many as one-fourth of future NFL players won’t be signing this week compared to those that do. This is because college coaches cannot predict which young athletes will still grow a few more inches, which young athletes will exponentially develop their strength and speed in the next few years, which young athletes have the heart and desire to relentlessly work on their skills in the next few years and which young athletes will just get lucky and find themselves in the right place at the right time due to injury or coaching change or some other reason.
One of my all-time favorite players as an example of someone who persevered through a lot of adversity, who was a total unknown in high school and who also went to an out-of-the-way small college is offensive lineman Larry Allen. He didn’t really come into his own until he was several years out of high school (he attended Centennial of Compton, Tokay of Lodi, Edison of Stockton and lastly Vintage of Napa) and even then that was at Sonoma State. He eventually became a second-round draft pick by the Dallas Cowboys and had an NFL career that included one Super Bowl ring (Super Bowl XXX) and 11 Pro Bowls.
If you weren’t paying attention over the weekend, Larry also was just elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. He’s one of the greatest offensive linemen in football history and he didn’t sign on signing day. His son, Larry Jr., will hopefully get that opportunity next February. He was an all-state underclass second team pick from the 2012 season at CIF Open Division state champ De La Salle of Concord.
Looks like sleepers to us:
Just based on the teams that I happened to have seen in person during the recent season, a player I thought was vastly underrated was tight end Ross Dwelley from Oak Ridge (El Dorado Hills). He’s almost 6-foot-5 and 200 and should certainly fill out and become much bigger down the road. He had nine catches when Oak Ridge lost to Granite Bay in the CIF Sac-Joaquin D1 final and showed he had the speed to get open and make tough grabs in traffic. Dwelley is reported as being headed to the University of San Diego.
I also wouldn’t be surprised if James Logan of Union City athlete Jeffrey Prothro eventually became a solid football player or more at Texas A&M. He’s headed to College Station on a track scholarship and played quarterback for the Colts last fall. Athleticism? He was fourth in the state last spring in the triple jump and turned the corner on one run I saw against California of San Ramon as quick as anybody I’ve seen in a long time. Not saying he’ll be a quarterback, but anybody with Prothro’s speed and athletic skill set could potentially play football at the highest levels.
The college that recruited the best in California this year is….
USC always gets a strong in-state group and UCLA did this year as well, but the Huskies are really racking up strong numbers of quality and quantity within the state’s boundaries. This reminds us of the days when Washington was No. 1 in the nation with a lineup of many California players (remember Napoleon Kaufman?).
The program’s strength in the state is not surprising given that head coach Steve Sarkisian is from West of Torrance and El Camino College plus lead recruiter Tosh Lupoi (former De La Salle defensive lineman) has become almost legendary for his ability to build relationships with top recruits in the state. Lupoi did it previously at Cal and is now doing it for the Huskies.
Washington’s haul of top California players got even stronger on Wednesday when Keishawn Bierria, linebacker from Narbonne of Harbor City, picked Washington instead of Oregon State and other Pac-12 schools. Bierria’s first team all-state quarterback teammate, Troy Williams, already is in Seattle after graduating early. The Huskies’ top in-state group also includes receiver Darrell Daniels (Freedom, Oakley); receiver Demare’ea Stringfellow (Rancho Verde, Moreno Valley); offensive tackle Dane Crane (Santa Margarita); receiver-athlete John Ross (Long Beach Jordan); defensive tackle Elijah Qualls (Casa Grande, Petaluma); defensive back Kevin King (Bishop O’Dowd, Oakland); running back Lavon Coleman (Lompoc); defensive back Connor O’Brien (Santa Margarita) and defensive end Joe Mathis (Upland).Here’s where this year’s first and second team Cal-Hi Sports all-state players are going to college (based on reported commitments, not signings, will be updated throughout Wednesday and Thursday based on new announcements):
FIRST TEAM OVERALL OFFENSE
WR Thomas Duarte (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) to UCLA
WR Steven Mitchell (Alemany, Mission Hills) to USC
OL Aaron Cochran (Buhach Colony, Atwater) to Cal
OL Dane Crane (Santa Margarita, Rancho Santa Margarita) to Washington
OL Nico Falah (St. John Bosco, Bellflower) to USC
OL Sean Harlow (San Clemente) to Oregon State
OL Cameron Hunt (Centennial, Corona) to Oregon
QB Troy Williams (Narbonne, Harbor City) to Washington
RB Pierre Cormier (Madison, San Diego) to Arizona
RB Zach Green (St. Bonaventure, Ventura) to Arizona
RB Terrell Newby (Chaminade, West Hills) to Nebraska
PK Griff Amies (Corona del Mar, Newport Beach) Undecided
FIRST TEAM OVERALL DEFENSE
DL Kenneth Clark (Carter, Rialto) to UCLA
DL Austin Hooper (De La Salle, Concord) to Stanford
DL Paulo Lepua (Narbonne, Harbor City) to Washington State
DL Eddie Vanderdoes (Placer, Auburn) Undecided (announcing Wed. night)
DL Vita Vea (Milpitas) Undecided
LB William Gulley (Oceanside) Undecided
LB Michael Hutchings (De La Salle, Concord) to USC
LB Viliami Latu (Rancho Cucamonga) to Arizona State
DB Su’a Cravens (Vista Murrieta, Murrieta) to USC
DB Dominique Hatfield (Crenshaw, Los Angeles) to UCLA
DB Max Redfield (Mission Viejo) to Notre Dame
P Jason Sanders (Villa Park) senior year still to come
FIRST TEAM OVERALL MULTI-PURPOSE
WR/DB Adoree’ Jackson (Serra, Gardena) senior year still to come
RB/LB Warren Miles-Long (James Logan, Union City) to Northwestern
RB/DB Brandon Monroe (Del Oro, Loomis) to San Jose State
QB/RB Christian Rossi (Clovis North, Clovis) Undecided (may go baseball)
WR/DB John “JuJu” Smith (Long Beach Poly, Long Beach) senior year still to come
QB/RB Robert Webber (Centennial, Corona) senior year still to come
SECOND TEAM OVERALL OFFENSE
WR Drew Wolitarsky (Canyon, Canyon Country) to Minnesota
WR K.J. Young (Citrus Hill, Perris) to Oklahoma
OL Gunnar Graham (Marin Catholic, Kentfield) to Colorado
OL John Lopez (Lutheran, Orange) to UCLA
OL Poasi Moala (Rancho Verde, Moreno Valley) to Oregon State
OL Scott Quessenberry (La Costa Canyon, Carlsbad) to UCLA
OL A.J. Samatua (Del Campo, Fair Oaks) to San Jose State
QB Jared Goff (Marin Catholic, Kentfield) to Cal
RB Justin Davis (Lincoln, Stockton) to USC
RB Khalfani Muhammad (Notre Dame, Sherman Oaks) to Cal
RB Joe Protheroe (Clayton Valley, Concord) to Cal Poly SLO
PK Kevin Robledo (Westlake, Westlake Village) junior and senior seasons still to come
SECOND TEAM OVERALL DEFENSE
DL Garrett Marino (Mission Viejo) to Arizona State
DL Joe Mathis (Upland) to Washington
DL Ainuu Taua (Lompoc) senior year still to go
LB Keishawn Bierria (Narbonne, Harbor City) to Washington
LB Zach Claiborne (Oak Ridge, El Dorado Hills) Undecided (also wrestling)
LB Beau Hershberger (Granite Bay) to Nevada
LB Edward Tandy (Tustin) to Cal
LB Dwight Williams (Serra, Gardena) senior season still to go
DB Tahaan Goodman (Rancho Cucamonga) to UCLA
DB Spencer Havird (Valhalla, El Cajon) Undecided
DB Dashon Hunt (Westlake, Westlake Village) to Oregon State
P/LB Nico Bornand (Dos Pueblos, Goleta) Undecided
SECOND TEAM OVERALL MULTI-PURPOSE
RB/DB Mossi Johnson (Crenshaw, Los Angeles) to Utah
RB/LB Kenneth Olugbode (Bellarmine, San Jose) to Colorado
QB/RB Israel Pao Pao (Oceanside) to Florida International
WR/KR John Ross (Jordan, Long Beach) to Washington
FB/LB Adrian Salas (Clovis) Undecided (likely wrestling scholarship)
RB/LB Marcus Stamps (Jefferson, Los Angeles) to San Diego State
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