Read about Cal's Elite Junior Day -- complete with a list of attendees -- in our MESSAGE BOARD THREAD
BERKELEY -- Petaluma (Calif.) Casa Grande head coach Trent Herzog was once again in attendance at California spring practice on Friday night, and he brought yet another one of his players with him in athlete JaJuan Lawson, who had briefly attended Wednesday's practice, before heading out to track practice.
Lawson is an interesting prospect in that he's being looked at by programs both as a quarterback and as a defensive back. Before Friday's session, he had a sit-down with the Bears staff to iron out just where they see him playing.
"They were just telling me that they loved me as a safety, and that I fit perfectly into what they're looking for and everything," said Lawson. "They said they'd love to offer, but they said that they just want to see a little bit more DB work, because I only play quarterback. They said, probably around April, the offer will be out there, but right now, I'm just enjoying practice, just seeing where everything's happening."
Cal and USC are both looking at Lawson as an athlete, while Georgia Tech, Boston College and Utah have all jumped in recently, and Lawson said, "They're coming on strong."
"Those schools have all told me that they want me as a quarterback," Lawson continued. "Brian Johnson is of course the OC [at Utah], and he knows what it's like to be undersized. And then, the new head coach at Boston College actually was Tim Tebow's offensive coordinator, so he loves me in their system."
Last season, Lawson was primarily a signal-caller, only switching to defense when his team needed him to lock down particularly troubling receivers as a cornerback.
"At the beginning of our football season, I was actually one of our best cornerback, and I was our best man-to-man cover corner, so whenever we had a receiver we felt was a threat, I played man-to-man on him in games, but around week seven, I had a high ankle sprain, and I just couldn't cover after that," Lawson said. "That kind of hurt me a little bit last year."
Lawson said that schools who have yet to offer him as an athlete, but like him on the defensive side of the ball, just want to see more film than the two games he played last season.
"We played teams that we were killing, so I didn't even have to play that game, so I only played in two games, because there were only two teams that really even threatened us with good receivers," Lawson said.
When the 2013 season rolls around, Lawson will have a big decision to make – stay at quarterback, or get more time at defensive back.
"I'm going to weigh it out a little bit longer than I originally thought," Lawson said. "I'm going to look at everything. Whatever fits me best, academically, will overall win it. I'm not going to just make everything come down to whether I'm a quarterback. I'm going to keep my options open and give everybody fresh eyes."
Since Cal is interested in Lawson on the defensive side of the ball, he spent most of the evening watching the Bears' defensive backs intently, with an eye always trained on assistant coach Randy Stewart. Clad in reading glasses, a backwards baseball cap and basketball shorts, Stewart was a ball of energy all night, something that tickled Lawson.
"You would not think that's your average DB coach," Lawson laughed. "He's a load of energy. He's an Energizer Bunny. He's always all over the place."
Stewart embodied the overall frenetic tone of practice that's been set out over the past week, a big difference from the practices Lawson saw last year under the previous regime.
"It's completely different from last year, when I was here," Lawson said. "Last year, you could tell that they were more of a pro-style, slower-paced team, and now, they're full-speed ahead, a hundred miles an hour, every play."
Lawson is a longtime fan of the program, dating back to the days of Aaron Rodgers and when family friend Marcus Ezeff put on the blue and gold, so playing for the Bears is something he can easily see himself doing.
"First, it's my home. It's my hometown, it's my backyard," Lawson said. "Growing up, it was all about the Golden Bears, with Aaron Rodgers -- I got to see all of them play -- and I've had family friends here in Marcus Ezeff -- he grew up playing Pop Warner football with my cousin, and we've kept in contact with him ... I've seen everything go on at Cal, from when it was the old, beat-up stadium to this brand-new, luxury facility."
Speaking of Rodgers, there's now a new No. 8 under center in redshirt freshman Zach Kline, who is also a longtime acquaintance of Lawson's.
"I've actually known Kline for a few years now, and I train at his high school," Lawson said. "I train with their quarterback coach, the guys who works with those quarterbacks, so I've gotten to know Zach a little bit, and Jared [Goff[ a little bit. I know both of them are going to be butting heads for the next four years. Zach has got that rare ability to throw the ball farther than you could think. I've known him since the end of his senior year, and he's kind of helped me through the recruiting process. He said it'll be hectic for a while, but the minute you make that commitment, it'll all calm down."
Lawson also has other resources and mentors in the recruiting game, including Washington-bound teammate Elijah Qualls.
"I've been around recruiting more than people think," Lawson said. "I had a cousin that's at Oregon, and before him, guys that were on the end of not getting offers and were getting preferred walk-on [spots], so I got to see the end where you're one of the highest-rated recruits with 30-plus offers, and the guy trying to get one offer, so I've seen what they've done wrong and what he did wrong, and I get to balance it out and get to see what works for me."
Recruit Report: Lawson Visits Bears
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