April 18, 2007

Top 2008 Los Angeles prospects emerge

Los Angeles is home to arguably the top high school football talent in the nation.

The class of 2008 in Ventura County, Los Angeles County, Orange County and the Inland Empire are as strong as ever. The region features 10 players who were on the recently released pre-evaluation period Rivals100.

After this past weekend's NIKE Training Camp in Los Angeles and the earlier Rivals.com Junior Day at Anaheim Servite, a core of recruits from Los Angeles has emerged. A few players that didn't make the most recent Rivals100 list tried to show they belong among the nation's best.

At the head of the class is Darrell Scott of Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure. The 6-foot, 215-pound running back is franchise player that has everything you want from a future NFL running back.

Scott is equally strong running inside or bouncing it to the outside and running away from defenders. Defenders tend to bounce off of him, but it's his elite speed that makes Scott a franchise back.

He has been clocked as fast as 10.6 in the 100 meters, and when watching him on film he looks like he's at full speed within just a few yards. Scott is a physical player who does not shy away from contact and really finishes his runs well.

"Darrell is a physical player who does not shy away from contact and really finishes his runs well," Rivals.com Western region recruiting analyst Rick Kimbrel said.

"He also played last year at Moorpark against one of the top schedules in the state, so he did all of his damage against the top competition in California. It's going to be truly exciting to see what he will do now that he's at St. Bonaventure. But without a doubt he's one of the best backs that I've seen in my years of covering high school football in California."

As a sophomore at Moorpark, he had 1,988 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns. As a junior, he ran for 3,194 yards and 45 scores. He has offers from national programs like California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Notre Dame, USC, Texas, Texas A&M and UCLA.

"He's going to be one of the most interesting guys to follow this recruiting season," Rivals.com Western region recruiting analyst Greg Biggins said. "I think he's one of the guys that could end up about anywhere."

Below is an early look at the top 10 prospects in Los Angeles (listed in alphabetical order) for this year's class and a breakdown of several other Division I prospects in the area.

Los Angeles top 10

Blake Ayles

6-4, 235, TE, Orange (Calif.) Lutheran

Ayles in action

Orange Lutheran won the state championship last season, and much of the attention went to Ayles' teammates - Michael Reardon and Aaron Corp. However, some feel it was Ayles that made the biggest impact in the Lancers' state championship run. He had 43 receptions for 616 yards and three touchdowns. He also played defensive end in the title game and dominated. Ayles recently broke the school record in the shot put with a toss of 50 feet, 10 inches. He is a big-game performer who can block just as well as he can catch.

Recruiting update: Many people expect Ayles to join Corp and Reardon at USC, but he's not rushing the recruiting process. He has offers from Arizona State, Cal, Florida, Miami, Nebraska, Notre Dame, USC, UCLA, Wisconsin, Boston College and many more.

Kemonte Bateman

6-0, 171, WR, Los Angeles Crenshaw

Bateman in action

Earlier this year, Bateman was named a member of the Rivals250 to watch for the class of 2008. However, after winning most valuable player honors for receivers at the recent NIKE Camp in Los Angeles, Bateman's stock has gone up in many evaluators' eyes. He should be a serious candidate now for the Rivals100 when it's updated. Bateman was outstanding in the head-to-head battles with defensive backs, and he also made quite a few circus catches during drill work. He was a first-team all-city selection in 2006 after posting 63 receptions for 644 yards and eight touchdowns.

Recruiting update: Bateman is apparently heading to UCLA, but is a soft commitment. He is working on reaching his qualifying test score. Colorado and Arizona State have also offered, but he's without question the Bruins' to lose.

Dayne Crist

6-5, 228, QB, Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame

Crist in action

One of the nation's elite quarterback prospects, Crist already has offers from most of the major players in college football. Crist missed five games of his junior season with an injury, but then came back with a vengeance in the final seven games. In those final games, he threw for more than 1,200 yards and rushed for another 500. He also threw for 17 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Crist took home most valuable player honors for quarterbacks at Sunday's NIKE Camp. What is most exciting about Crist is the athletic ability he has for a big quarterback. He can run as well as he can pass, and is a member of the Knights track team.

Recruiting update: Crist is down to a final five - with USC and Notre Dame leading the way over Michigan, Stanford and LSU. He is expected to have a decision within the next week. "Staying local or leaving home won't be a factor for me," he said. "At first I thought it would be, but after taking these trips I'm very comfortable with all the schools. If I feel the school is the best fit for me, I'll go anywhere."

Matt Kalil

6-7, 277, OL, Anaheim (Calif.) Servite

Kalil in action

Kalil was offered a scholarship to USC as a sophomore and quickly accepted. Kalil is a different type of player than his older brother, Ryan Kalil - who will be selected early in the upcoming NFL Draft. Matt Kalil is long, lean and has an amazing frame. He does need to improve his technique, but he is a franchise offensive tackle and displays it on film. Going against one of the top schedules in California, Kalil will often take over a game for Servite. He dominated at the recent Los Angeles NIKE Camp, where he didn't lose a one-on-one battle the entire camp.

Recruiting update: An early commitment to the Trojans, he also had offers from Arizona, Colorado, Miami and Nebraska. He would easily have more offers if he were still on the market.

Rahim Moore

6-0, 185, S, Los Angeles Dorsey

Moore in action

Moore just turned 16, and had a great junior season at safety. He racked up more than 100 tackles and seven interceptions at Dorsey, one of the top programs in Los Angeles. Moore is always around the football, and his ability to show up at key times could easily make him a great safety prospect. He could also project at corner on the next level. Moore has high-end speed, running the 400 meters in the 47-second range. That ranks as one of the top times in the state of California.

Recruiting update: Moore has committed to UCLA, but other schools have continued to recruit him. Auburn, Washington, Washington State, Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon and USC are interested. Despite other schools chasing him, the odds are slim that he'll end up anywhere but UCLA.

Darrell Scott

6-0, 215, RB, Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure

Scott in action

It's hard to come up with ways to describe Scott with words that haven't already been used. He's one of the most dangerous offensive players to come out of Los Angeles in quite some time. He's strong, he's fast and he's productive. There's no question he's one of the nation's top players regardless of position.

Recruiting update: Scott says he's open to many teams, and has a national offer list. He lists Cal, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Notre Dame, USC, Texas, Texas A&M and UCLA as his favorites. He's not as tied to the West Coast as some of the other L.A. kids.

D.J. Shoemate

6-0, 219, ATH, Anaheim (Calif.) Servite

Shoemate in action

Shoemate missed almost all of his junior year after suffering an injury in the first game of the 2007 season. However, he was one of the most dominant players in Los Angeles as a sophomore. Even though Shoemate was a younger player, many analysts agreed that he was the top prospect in Orange County. He would have ranked as one of the top players in the nation. He finished the year with 464 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns. He added 35 catches for 646 yards and five touchdowns. But a lingering foot problem kept him out of action last season. He's poised to return as a senior and re-establish himself as one of the nation's best players.

Recruiting update: Shoemate ended the recruiting process early. USC offered him a scholarship as a sophomore. He quickly jumped on the offer and hasn't looked around at all since.

Tyron Smith

6-6, 264, OL, Moreno Valley (Calif.) Rancho Verde

Sabino in action

Smith was recently named most valuable player for the offensive line at the Los Angeles NIKE Training Camp. While he looks like a tight end or a defensive end, his technique, power, footwork and everything else that you look for in an offensive lineman are quite advanced. "He's the best lineman I've seen at our camps in five years," Marty Spalding, one of the coaches at the NIKE Camp, said. "He's that good. He's amazing."

Recruiting update: It looks like a two-team race between UCLA and USC. He said he's going to look hard at the program that would help him win a national championship. "The deciding factor for me is going to be simple - what school gives me the best chance to win a ring," he said.

Max Tuioti-Mariner

6-4, 300, OL, Corona (Calif.)

Everybody knew that Tuioti-Mariner was one of the better players in California. He was already ranked as one of the Rivals250 players to watch for the class of 2008. However, Tuioti-Mariner simply dominated at the recent NIKE Camp in Los Angeles. In the next update in the Rivals100 list, it'll be hard to keep him out of it. Tuioti-Mariner was impressive against top competition. On film, Biggins says he's one of the best offensive linemen he's seen in the nation.

Recruiting update: Tuioti-Mariner has offers from Ole Miss, BYU, Oregon, Oregon State, Colorado, Hawaii and Arizona. "I really don't have a favorite, but if I had to list five right now they would be Cal, Washington, BYU, USC and Hawaii," Tuioti-Mariner said. "I'm going to take my trips before making a decision. I'm not in any hurry."

E.J. Woods

6-1, 195, S, Encino (Calif.) Crespi

Woods in action

Woods, a Rivals.com Junior All-American, took a little while to get up to speed after transferring to Crespi before the start of his junior season. Once he did, he made an impact. He rushed for 438 yards on just 62 carries. He added 31 tackles, four sacks and one fumble recovery in just seven games on defense. He looked right at home this Sunday at the NIKE Camp, where he was the top safety and had a very good camp. Safeties aren't used to covering one on one, but Woods looked very smooth and showed excellent closing speed.

Recruiting update: Woods made an early commitment to UCLA on March 11, and he had a powder blue Bruin T-shirt at the NIKE Camp. He was already holding early offers from Colorado, Ole Miss, Oregon and Penn State. He was also receiving attention from Washington, Ohio State, USC and Texas. He definitely would have had more offers had he not made an early pledge.

Best of the rest

Inland Empire: Ryan Bass, Corona Centennial, RB; Anthony Dye, Corona Santiago, DB; Damien Holmes, Colton, DE; Chris Polk, Redlands East Valley, WR; Matt Scott, Corona Centennial, QB; Kevin Walker, Arcadia, WR.

Los Angeles: Dominque Blackman, Carson, QB; Donovan Carter, Lake Balboa Birmingham, LB; Datone Jones, Compton, DE; Uona Kavienga, Los Angeles Leuzinger, LB; Milton Knox, Lake Balboa Birmingham, RB; Maurice Simmons, Compton Dominguez, LB.

Orange County: Nick Crissman, Huntington Beach Edison, QB; Khaled Holmes, Santa Ana Mater Dei, OL; Cameron Meredith, Santa Ana Mater Dei, DE

The Valley: Joseph Fauria, Encino Crespi, TE; Wes Horton, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, DE; Anthony McDonald, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, LB

Orange County: Vaughn Dotsy, Ventura St. Bonaventure, OL.

Five sleepers

Ryan Katz, Santa Monica, QB: Katz earned a scholarship offer from Air Force immediately after his strong performance at the Los Angeles NIKE Camp. Katz also looks good on film. If coaches can overlook that he's only 6-1, then they're going to find a good signal-caller.

Patrick Larimore, Newhall Hart, LB: Larimore already has a few solid offers. As more coaches see this hard-working and very coachable linebacker prospect, they're going to like him.

Brandon Magee, Corona Centennial, LB: Often overlooked because he plays on the same team as two high profile recruits (Bass and Scott), Magee is going to receive some attention from Pac-10 schools. Some in the know are whispering that he might be the best of the talented trio.

Jonathan Martin, North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake, OL: He was impressive at the NIKE Camp. Martin has already picked up an offer from Ole Miss, and many more are sure to come.

Curtis McNeal, Los Angeles Venice, RB: Size scared a lot of schools away early, but USC loved McNeal's playmaking ability and offered him an early scholarship. It was one he jumped on rather quickly.

Los Angeles top 10 prospects | Best of the rest | Sleepers


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