Recruiting Spotlight - Bellevue

BELLEVUE - It's become tradition at Bellevue High School; a few weeks before Christmas they open their holiday presents early. And why not? When you've won the Class 3A Championship the last four years, you can afford to be a little selfish.

After recently seeing the Wolverines, coached by Butch Goncharoff, you get the sense that it's simply become a matter of re-loading - and they've got plenty of talent in the hopper on the east side of Lake Washington.

The spotlight has always been on Bellevue ever since Goncharoff took over the program. After all, the Wolverines have won nine 3A crowns since 2000. Add to that the healthy roster of alumni that have graced the BHS halls - Jamal Atofau (Washington State), Eric Block (Washington State), David DeCastro (Stanford), Jeff Dicks (Cornell), Jake Eldrenkamp (Washington), J.R. Hasty (Washington), Marcus Henry (Boise State), Brendan Lopez (Washington), Keith Parr (Washington State), E.J. Savannah (Washington), and Steve Schilling (Michigan) - and it's fair to assume that Bellevue will continue to produce quality, winning football for the foreseeable future.

There's no fewer than 10 BHS prospects for the class of 2013; Michael Carlson, Sean Constantine, Nathan DeRider, Darien Freeman, Myles Jack, Cole Landes, Ari Morales, Reuben Mwehla, John Nguyen, and Nick Santa all should expect to have their college paid for next year, regardless of the level they find themselves at.

Constantine and Jack are getting the headlines so far. Constantine, a 6-foot-2.5, 225-pound linebacker prospect, already has scholarship offers from Washington and UCLA, and expect more to come. Jack has been the real breakout star, as the 6-foot-2, 215-pound linebacker has nearly double-digit offers - Washington, Washington Sate, California, Oregon State, Arizona State, Stanford, UCLA, Utah and Virginia - and there would probably be more suitors at the door if he hadn't been shuffling back and forth between Georgia and Washington due to family obligations. With schools like Wisconsin and Georgia Tech taking notice too, don't be surprised if Jack turns into a national recruit.

The rest all have their own stories. Carlson, DeRider, Landes, Morales and Mwehla are all classic Wolverine players; hard-nosed, tough and productive. Most of them are on the smaller size, but overachieve and win titles, which has been the Bellevue Way. Because the competitive nature at Bellevue is already sky-high, Carlson has a chance to become a rare breed at BHS - a three-year starter. Some, like Freeman and Nguyen, have family ties that lead to enhanced expectations. Freeman's older brother Jo Jo played in college (Western Montana), and Nguyen has two brother who are currently playing at the University of Montana. Santa, he of the Yuletime tidings, has two brothers who played at Central Washington. Santa has already been hearing from the in-state schools, and for good reason; he was an all-state performer like Freeman, and the future for the 6-foot-2, 230-pounder is bright indeed.

Don't ask Goncharoff or the Bellevue assistants about statistics; they'll tell you a 40 time has never won a championship - and they are right. That being said, if you take any stock in the numbers put out by the Seattle Times, you'll see that there are five BHS running backs listed in the KingCo 3A/2A top-18 and five Wolverine receivers listed in the top-19. And in all those digits, you won't see the name Budda Baker - which is the exception that clearly proves Goncharoff's rule about statistics being meaningless. But don't tell Bellevue fans Budda wasn't a huge part of their 2011 championship run; he had four kick returns for touchdowns, including one in the title game.

Baker, the 5-foot-10, 165-pound all-everything skill performer for Bellevue, has offers already from Washington and UCLA, despite only being a sophomore right now. He has a chance to become the Wolverines' most electric back ever, and that's saying something.

Budda is one of nearly a half-dozen BHS prospects for the class of 2014 that have a chance to play ball in college; TE Shane Bowman, DT Marcus Griffin, QB Tim Haehl, OL Morgan Richey, and OL Jack Walton all have shown glimpses of promise. Some, like Richey, already have played a bunch of varsity football, while others - like Griffin, who was injured for much of 2011 - are looking at 2012 as their breakout campaign.

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