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June 23, 2009

National Notes: Whiteside back in cleats

Newport (Calif.) Newport Harbor linebacker Cecil Whiteside is one of the nation's top two-sport athletes, but his focus now is officially back on football only.

After finishing third in the state and second in a national meet in the discus, Whiteside, a four-star outside linebacker, is glad to be back in football cleats instead of track spikes.

"I just got done with my last meet last week," said Whiteside, referring to the national meet. "I [had a personal-best] in that meet after throwing 183 feet, 11 inches at state, so that was good. This week I've been working out with the football team, trying to get in shape. It's a pretty tough transition from throwing [the discus] to football running shape."

But it's a transition he's made before without any hiccups. As a junior, Whiteside had 50 tackles and seven sacks, and added 322 receiving yards as a tight end. He went on to earn scholarship offers from Colorado, Nebraska, Texas A&M, Washington, Arizona and Arizona State before committing to California.

Whiteside said now that he's back on the football field, he's going to be working hard on becoming more of a complete player, especially in the leadership department.

"I want to be more of a team captain, more of a leader, pick guys up and teach incoming guys what it takes," he said. "I've been on varsity four years now, so I want to teach some of the younger guys the tricks of the trade.

"If something happens, I take them off to the side and try to explain to them. Some coaches yell to get their point across and some kids don't really respond to that. I'm going to try to take them off to the side and let them know that they shouldn't really listen to the sound, but instead to listen to the message."

Whiteside bought into the message early that Cal was the right place for him. He said he has talked a lot with four-star Cal quarterback commit Austin Hinder about the Bears' class, and he likes what he sees so far.

Despite his commitment, Whiteside said he's still being targeted by a few school, mainly Colorado and Arizona State.

"Those two haven't given up the fight," he said. "I'm keeping in contact with them just for the simple fact that I'm still kind of open, but I have committed to Cal. I love the place. That's why I [went] back up there, to watch the camp. Just to be around campus again and be around the players. That's something I wanted to be a part of."

RECRUITER OF THE WEEK: Florida State tight ends coach James Coley

Maintaining bonds with top in-state prospects is a must for Florida State, but sometimes that's extremely difficult because no state is recruited harder than Florida. And one could argue that no high school in the state is recruited harder than Pahokee.

So Florida State was happy to see talented Pahokee prospects De'Joshua Johnson and Merrill Noel commit to the Seminoles earlier this week. Johnson is one of the nation's top receiver prospects and a member of the Rivals250, and Noel is a three-star cornerback who has a big upside.

Both pointed to FSU tight ends coach/recruiting coordinator James Coley as being a big factor in their decisions.

"Coach Coley, through recruiting me, has turned into a mentor and a friend," Johnson said. "He is someone I can depend on for advice and social-life stuff. I talk to Coach Coley on an almost-daily basis."

The additions give Florida State some much-needed momentum for its 2010 class. The 'Noles now have six commitments, and five are ranked among the best at their positions nationally.

Four-star OL high on Pac-10 powers

Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei four-star guard Chris Ward recently picked up two offers, but he's still stuck on two schools as his clear favorites at this point.

Ward (6-4/285) is up to eight offers after new additions from Colorado and San Diego State, but he still considers Cal and UCLA his favorites.

"They're pretty even at this point," he said. "Those are my top two, but I'm not fixed on my top two. I'm open to others."

Mater Dei began summer practices Monday, meaning Ward won't have much time to do camps or visits in the near future.

"I'm looking into it, but I've had a lot of stuff going on," he said. "I'm planning to go up to Cal a little later this summer and definitely UCLA again."

Both coaching staffs have impressed Ward. His lead recruiter from Cal has been defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi, and the two have a good connection. He said at this point, Cal is recruiting him harder than UCLA.

"He emails me almost every day, and we talk all the time," Ward said of Lupoi. "I call him quite often. I like his energy and he's young, so he's easier to relate to."

Ward has heard good things about UCLA from a number of players, including a former Mater Dei teammate.

"I've talked to a couple players there, and one of my friends that I used to play with goes there, Andrew Abbott," Ward said. "He has talked great about it."

Though Ward already has offers from his top two schools, he said he's not ready to make a decision yet and will continue to do his research. "There's pros and cons to both schools," he said. "I haven't 100 percent decided on one or the other yet."

Star recruits ready to rise

USC will hold its annual Rising Star Camp on Wednesday and Thursday, and as always, the list of star prospects heading to Los Angeles for the camp reads like a who's who of 2010 and '11 recruiting.

One of the most intriguing story lines will be at quarterback. USC hasn't truly zeroed in on its quarterback target for the 2010 class, but that could change with star prospects such as Jesse Scroggins, Brett Nottingham, Chase Retting, Tyler Bray and Tyler Shreve expected at the camp.

The quarterbacks will have plenty of passers to throw the ball to with blue-chip recruits Robert Woods, DeMarco Cobbs, Paul Richardson, Kaelin Clay, Deshawn Breck and Tevin Carter scheduled to be there. In addition, top 2011 tight end targets Troy Niklas and Austin Seferian-Jenkins are scheduled to be in attendance.

The solid receiver group might have a tough time getting open because the defensive back group might be the most loaded in the camp. Tony Jefferson, Sean Parker, Dietrich Riley, Dion Bailey, Joshua Shaw, Anthony Brown, Reggie Davis, Davon Dunn, Lucky Radley and Bene Benwikere are highly recruited prospects slated to compete.

The defensive line and linebacker groups should have plenty of quality, as well. Leading the d-line group will be Ronald Powell, Jackson Jeffcoat, Sione Potoae, George Uko and Cassius Marsh. At linebacker, look for Josh Shirley, Hayes Pullard, Victor Burnett and David Tavita to have good camps.

Etc.

Jonathan Mincy, a 5-10, 175-pound three-star cornerback from Decatur (Ga.) Southwest DeKalb, committed to Auburn earlier this week. His pledge gives the Tigers eight commitments and the first from a defensive back.

• Portland (Ore.) David Douglas four-star defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa was blown away by his recent camp visit to Cal. And while he wouldn't say the Bears are his top team, he made it clear he had a great time in Berkeley. "It was an unbelievable experience," Odighizuwa said. Odighizuwa recently narrowed his list to five schools Florida, USC, UCLA, Oregon State and Cal.

• Missouri received its first 2011 commitment, from Lee's Summit (Mo.) High quarterback Corbin Berkstresser (6-4/220). He was offered at the Tigers' satellite camp on June 2 in Kansas City, Mo., and it was an offer he accepted rather quickly. "I bleed black and gold," Berkstresser said. "I'm a Tiger fan, through and through."

• Jesse Scroggins, a four-star quarterback from Lakewood (Calif.) High, recently visited Tennessee and Florida, and came away impressed with both schools. Scroggins told coaches at Lakewood he still doesn't have a leader following the visit and should have a better idea where he stands after USC's Rising Star Camp.



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