California RB watches recruitment ramp up

HE MIGHT BE one of the better running back prospects you haven't heard of this recruiting cycle. Some RB recruits might have a little more top end speed. Some prospects are a little taller. And others are certainly getting more ink and accolades. But there aren't many guys who racked up over 2,100 yards their senior year, as P.J. Vallier out of Mission Viejo, Calif., did this season.

It was about three weeks ago that Vallier's recruiting started to ramp up, as the calls, in-homes and offers starting rolling in.

Among those offering full rides, Air Force, Navy and San Jose State. Other schools, including Nevada (Jan. 12), UC Davis and Utah State, have been by for in-homes and have set, or are in the process of setting up, official trips for January. Vallier (5-9.5, 200, 4.5) remains open to everyone.

SCHOOLS LIKE OREGON STATE, in closer contact earlier this recruiting season, could begin to follow Nevada's lead and start to come in late on Vallier depending on how their classes shapes up.

No school gets all of their A and B guys and as the pieces start to fall into place, prospects like Vallier who were just a notch lower on some recruiting boards suddenly start seeing increased interest over the final stretch drive.

Attrition is another factor, since nothing is for certain until Feb. 1. OSU verbal Clinton Polk, a junior college running back and mid-year transfer, became a soft verbal recently, and could decide it it'll be Oregon State or Nevada he signs with tomorrow.

Another reason Vallier might not have seen as much recruiting action until recently, despite the gaudy season and career rushing stats, are the measurables schools look at in recruiting.

Vallier rushed for 5,183 on his high school career, including 2,117 yards this season.

WITH TALLER PREP prospects, schools can gain the ability to plug a player into different positions if the original plan isn't the best fit. Get him in the strength program and start building a linebacker. A late running back "get" and RB depth is now pretty stacked -- Let's take a look at him playing the safety spot.

When you're 5-9.5, those position options are fewer. And how Vallier develops as a college player is anyone's guess. But food for thought: The landscape of college football is dotted with "small" running backs who thrived on their ability to get lost between the tackles.

Ken Simonton (OSU), Jerome Harrison (WSU) and Darren Sproles (KSU), who picked K-State over Kansas, are some lightly recruited smaller backs of recent vintage who were not only starters, but stars. And while the game's changed since their day, seasoned observers recall the memory of 5-foot-8, 180 pound Archie Griffin running wild and Terry Metcalf out of Seattle who stood 5-9 and weighed 160 pounds soaking wet. After stints at Everett CC and Long Beach State, Metcalf played six years in a little league called the NFL.

TRABUCO HILLS HEAD man Jason Negro says few are as highly motivated as Vallier to achieve his gridiron goals.

"P.J. is a special player with a bright future at the next level," he says.

Whatever his success at the next level, Laguna Beach High coach Jimmy Nolan, who's trained pro, college and prep athletes, and started training Vallier two years ago, says Vallier's dedication to honing his craft will play a big role. He also doesn't rule out a stellar college career on the defensive side of the ball.

"I believe P.J.'s talent, work ethic and competitive spirit are as good as anyone I've ever trained," says Nolan.

In addition to the tutelage of Trabuco Hills' Jason Negro, Laguna Beach's Jimmy Nolan, who's trained pro, college and prep athletes, started training Vallier two years ago. "I believe P.J.'s talent, work ethic and competitive spirit are as good as anyone I've ever trained," says Nolan.

VALLIER, WHO BENCH presses 340 pounds and squats 510, is a quick back with fast-twitch moves, vision and surprising power. He also has a pretty solid set of hands coming out of the backfield, averaging over 15 yards a catch in 2005. Action footage on Vallier will be up on his player page shortly.

Vallier's 2,117 yards his senior campaign boosted his total to 5,183 over his prep career --- (JR. year: 1,775; SO. year, 1,291).

He also scored 47 career touchdowns at Trabuco Hills, with 20 (18 rushing) of those coming this season.

P.J. Vallier profile

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