Big prospect, small town, large upside

TUCKED AWAY IN the northwest part of Oregon about ten miles outside of Salem is the town of Independence. It's where Jeff Charleston made a name for himself before moving onto Co-Defensive Player of the Year and All-America honors at Idaho State. These days, Central High's Justin Cuellar is busy making the headlines, and he's arguably further along at this stage.

There's much to like on Cuellar, starting with his 6-foot-6, 235 pound frame and athleticism.

What position he plays at the next level probably depends on the school, and he plays a mean linebacker at Central, but tight end might be Cuellar's strongest suit.

"He runs good routes, does a good job blocking," said prep coach Shane Hedrick. "In our summer league where we do a lot of passing, they really couldn't stop him."

Cuellar also has many of the other attributes you find in a good college tight end. Speaking to his athleticism, he started for the Central hoops team that took third place in state.

"He's very athletic," said Hedrick. "He has a very solid work ethic, and he has a good intelligence on the football field."

CUELLAR TOOK AN unofficial trip to Washington recently, which he said he enjoyed, but notes the recruiting process for him is in the initial stages in terms of frontrunners and in just getting a feel for all the schools.

"I'm just going to go out and work hard," said Cuellar. "Whatever schools show interest I'll do my best to try and get to know them."

Distance won't be a factor in his decision and Cuellar said he's open to everyone.

A number of schools in and outside of the Pac-10 have been in contact with Hedrick and/or filling up Cuellar's mailbox, with Washington, Oregon State, Oregon and Cal among those showing early interest.

AS A JUNIOR, the 6-6 Cuellar was a first team all-league linebacker selection, and was named All-Region by the Statesman Journal.

He racked up 132 tackles on the season, an average of 12 takedowns every Friday night, with nine sacks, four fumble recoveries and three interceptions.

Justin Cuellar profile

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