One of the first places we can look for talent in the 2007 recruiting class is the same spot where Stanford landed its Parade All-American in the recently concluded '06 crop. Norco (Calif.) High School is on the leading edge of a rising tide of talent in Riverside County, as can be seen by their CIF Southern Section Division V championship this past fall and two championship game appearances the previous two seasons. Unquestionably, the star performer through those seasons was Mr. California running back Toby Gerhart. The 6'0" 225-pound runner did more than break the California high school career rushing record, previously held by Lorenzo Booker - he obliterated it with more than 1,100 yards of distance.
There are some observers who have argued that Gerhart's numbers impressed because of the blocking he received at Norco. Senior film of the Stanford-bound tailback accentuates the individual abilities he possesses, but there was some talent on that offensive line. Big, strong and aggressive, the front five established a physical and dominating tone to each of Norco's games this year. The three seniors and two juniors were the hammer, while their all-world tailback was the nail. Or maybe it's the other way around.
Gone is athletic Josh Laibach, the First Team All-CIF and Second Team CIF All-Southern Section senior, along with two of his classmates. But both of the junior linemen who started for Norco this past fall are future Division I players who are already receiving a good deal of recruiting attention. 6'2" 304-pound center Garth Gerhart and 6'4" 276-pound right guard Adam Tello will help make Norco High School a must-see destination for college coaches again this year.
The younger Gerhart is the center of attention, both literally and figuratively, but not due solely to his name. He was tabbed First Team All-State Underclass in addition to First Team All-CIF Division V honors. A rarity, Gerhart has the physical build as well as the skills and athleticism needed to play center at the next level, where often college offensive line coaches have to take a high school guard or tackle and teach him how to snap the ball and play the position.
"He's a prototypical college center," says Norco head coach and father Todd Gerhart. "He has great feet and long arms - the wingspan of a 6'6" guy. He has great length but a heavy lower half of his body to give him that low center of gravity you like."
More than just a body, the younger Gerhart obliterated defensive linemen and linebacker to pave a path for his brother this past fall. "It's amazing what he does to people," Todd Gerhart laughs.
At this early stage of his recruitment, the 300-pounder has a trio of favorites: Stanford, UCLA and Oregon. With Toby already headed to The Farm, could Garth be blocking for his brother come the fall of 2007?
"He went on the recruiting trip with my wife and I and Toby," Todd says of Garth's experience at Stanford. "He had a ton of fun. We just don't know yet if he would academically qualify."
Toby Gerhart has earned a perfect 4.0 core GPA at Norco High School, about to be crowned the valedictorian of his class, and has been taking classes at a nearby junior college since he was in the eighth grade. Not just a good student, the older Gerhart brother is an academic superstar on par with this football abilities. It is a difficult act for Garth to follow.
"He's not Toby in terms of academics, but he has a 3.63 on his last report card," Todd Gerhart reports.
The Norco coach says that Tello is also a talent destined to play Division I football, most likely as an offensive guard. The lens through which he is looking at colleges is different from his classmate.
Todd Gerhart also tells us to watch for his next big talent on the offensive line. Sophomore Kyle Johnson waited behind senior starters this past fall but could be a prominent figure in Southern California recruiting for the 2008 class. He already stands 6'6.5" and tips the scale at 282 pounds. Johnson will start at right tackle for the Cougars.
Another Norco name to watch in the junior (2007) class is linebacker Jordan Campbell. He is a bit undersized at 5'11" but is well-built at 226 pounds and runs well enough to play outside linebacker in college. Campbell was second on the team in tackles this past fall, with an eye-popping 75 solo and 135 total wrap-ups. He earned First Team All-CIF and Second Team All-State Underclass honors. His early favorites are USC, UCLA, Oregon, Colorado and Boston College.
More than just "Toby Gerhart's school," Norco has numerous faces to watch in the next year of high school football headlines and recruiting reports. You can look for junior highlight video of Garth Gerhart, Adam Tello and Jordan Campbell here at Scout.com soon, and also look for these exciting underclassmen at an upcoming Scout.com All-American Combine in the spring. Stay tuned for their film, photos and stories in the months to come.
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