We spent the last year following the story of Sean Wiser, the leading wide receiver for nationally acclaimed Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian School, who dominated with a 15-0 record in 2006 and the first Division III California state championship. Wiser led the Lions in receiving, though his senior statistics were more or less flat compared to his junior season. Part of the explanation was found in the blowouts by Oaks Christian that took Wiser and his fellow all-star senior starters off the field after halftime. There also were a pair of rising receiving stars in the junior class that put up numbers and picked up some slack for Wiser.
Now coming into focus as a hot prospect in the Class of 2008, Chris Owusu is the latest Stanford story to follow from Oaks Christian. He caught 35 passes for 790 yards and 10 touchdowns as a junior - all very close to what Wiser notched in his penultimate high school campaign.
"I was one of Jimmy's three targets. We really spread the ball a lot, so it confused people," Owusu explains of his role in the 2006 OC offense. "A lot of my routes were short because I could make the short gains into really long gains. I got a lot of the screen routes and streaks. I was a very versatile player who could do a lot for us."
The story sounds familiar to what we told of Wiser a year ago. Owusu has similar statistics, size (6'2" 185) and positions (wide receiver and safety). But Owusu and Wiser are different athletes and project a little differently as playmakers.
"We both have great hands. Sean has excellent hands and catches absolutely everything," Owusu begins. "I think I bring a little bit more speed than Sean. We both run our routes to perfection and concentrate on our route running."
Owusu averaged a team-best 22.6 yards per reception as a junior, with his speed picking up a good deal of that yardage after the catch.
The Oaks Christian junior class waited their turn while the superstar seniors led the way in 2006. With Wiser's graduation, Owusu and classmate Chris Potter can take center stage in the receiving offense in 2007. Owusu also toiled behind five-star and USC-bound Marshall Jones at safety, which limited him more on defense than on offense, where Owusu was a starter alongside Wiser in the Lion's three- and four-wide offense sets.
"I played when we blew out teams," Owusu says of his safety play. "They didn't have me play that much even then, though, because I was a starter on offense. I was the number two safety, but we had number three and four safeties who played a lot then."
"I'm probably going to start both ways now that Marshall is gone," Owusu adds. "We lost all 11 starters on defense, so we will have to renew everything. I'll have to start on defense and really work a lot. It's a challenge replacing the seniors, but we're looking forward to it."
With the celebration of a state championship now faded three-plus months behind them, the Lions underclassmen are working hard to prove that they are a powerhouse program and not just one great senior class. Owusu is doing his part to refine and improve his craft as a receiver.
"I'm working on routes. You can never be perfect on routes. Also working at concentrating on every single ball and making sure I bring it in every single time," he describes. "I'll probably run more slants and a lot of different routes this year, so I will have to work on every single thing and route. We still have me and Chris Potter, but we lose a lot at the receiver spot on offense in losing Sean Wiser. The ball will probably come to me a lot more, and I have to be ready with every single route."
"At safety, I have to work on my quickness. That's definitely important at the safety spot," Owusu notes. "We work on tackling every day, and that will be really important for me."
After wrapping his junior campaign of basketball, the 6'2" athlete is now midway through the track season. Owusu runs the 100m, 200m, 400m and 4x400m. He posted electronically timed PRs at a meet three weeks ago of 10.87 in the 100m and 22.17 in the 200m.
The other sprint now out of the blocks for Owusu is his college recruitment. He only a week ago finished and sent out his junior highlight tape to schools. The dividend came quickly, with five offers from Ole Miss, Duke, UNLV, BYU and Stanford. With only days elapsed since his film left the building, more offer activity is expected to continue rolling in for the Oaks Christian athlete.
"I didn't really start thinking about the recruiting process until recently," Owusu admits. "I'm definitely excited about the offers. My grades are really good, so I kind of expected something. Maybe not that quick of a turnaround, but I thought I could get those types of offers. It's definitely exciting, and hopefully the offers keep coming."
With a weighted 4.2 GPA (unweighted 3.8) in honors and AP courses, the standout student-athlete enticed the Cardinal to pull the trigger on his latest offer late Thursday.
"I had decided to call Coach [Andy] Buh, and he said that he had great news. He told me about my offer, and I got really excited," the recruit recalls. "It was kind of surprising to come really early. Stanford usually doesn't offer this early, so I was kind of surprised. It was a great experience, and I was just really excited for it to happen."
"It definitely made me more excited to learn a lot more about the school," Owusu adds.
The well-timed offer struck just 24 hours before he hit the road and drove I-5 up to Stanford late Friday in advance of Saturday's Junior Day. Owusu says that Andy Buh is his lead recruiter, and he also talks with offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach David Shaw.
"I have been calling them a little bit, and we text message. They really like the fact that I take the short gains into long gains. They look at my yards after the catch and like that about me," Owusu shares. "They're saying that I should really like the program because of Coach [Jim] Harbaugh, and they have a great staff this year. They have a chance to turn the whole program around, which is great."
Closer to home, the junior wideout has another Cardinal recruiter in his ear in senior teammate Sean Wiser, who is matriculating at Stanford in a few months.
"He says a lot of great stuff about the school," Owusu says with a chuckle. "He tells me that I should really go there."
With his junior film just finding its way to college recruiters, Owusu is too early into the process to have much information about his options or a firm idea of his favorites and plans. He does have a few early thoughts, however.
"Definitely Stanford is up there," says the newly offered recruit. "Duke is up there. Notre Dame, Michigan - I've been hearing some things about them. Also BYU. And Florida has been sending me some stuff in the mail. Those are my early favorites, and we'll see what happens."
And what will determine which campus Owusu calls home?
"The football team and how effective I think they are going to be in the future. Definitely academics will play a big part of my college choice," he opines. "I plan on committing maybe during the summer or maybe early during the football season. I'm not sure yet."
With his recruitment starting to heat up and his first college unofficial visit taken this weekend for Stanford's Junior Day, there will be more news on Chris Owusu soon enough. Stay tuned to his budding story as it takes shape in the weeks and months to come.
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