"Boots on the Ground"

Our volunteer Southern California Recruiting Observer Bob Miller, an admitted Friday Night Lights addict, Southern California-style, took in the recent Mater Dei (Santa Ana, CA) vs. Cabrillo (Long Beach, CA) game and reports in with his first impressions & general evaluation of several prospective student-athletes currently on the recruiting radar of Stanford Football for the '08 and '09 classes.

Opening Note: There is generally a predisposition in these parts to savage the Stanford Athletic Department's marketing efforts. Accordingly, I felt a personal obligation to upgrade substantially my own amateur hour pieces to reflect the input/ concerns/ wishes of my valued audience. In this edition of "Boots on the Ground", I am introducing two exciting new features for my limited - surely speaking to quantity not quality - audience. The first will be The Gacard Report. His question regarding the incorporation of Michael Jackson's Thriller in the half time repertoires will serve as the genesis for regular reporting on half time festivities. The second feature will address the quality of fans for the programs and will be called The Flaunt Report. An entirely new, copyright/ trademark in process, rating scale has been developed to cover the full spectrum of fan behaviors, from shady side, "down in front" sleepers to the, "Tebow steps away from center and seems to be shouting up to the top of the stadium, "STFU, I heard you the first time", crazies who you really hope don't live in your neighborhood. A "Gator Teeth Score" will be presented in each report with a mythical, never awarded potential of 80, (a full complement for our reptilian friends), for fans whose zealousness could actually lift a Weis-coached ND team to a win against USC this year, to a toothless rating for fans like those of… aw you guys know! Keep those unsolicited ideas coming! On to the business at hand…

Mater Dei (Santa Ana, CA) @ Cabrillo (Long Beach, CA) 

After a quick leave to visit the alma mater for reunion activities last weekend, Sergeant Major Msquiri assigned me to duty at Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo High School for the match up with perennial powerhouse Mater Dei. The Mater Dei Monarchs are one of the storied programs in Southern California, fully utilizing their private Catholic school classification to recruit athletes, a practice that is a "no-no" for the run-of-the-mill public school programs. [Note, the best public school programs are rumored to engage in similar practices using relocation, false addresses, limited occupancy apartments, teammates and relatives.] If Cabrillo could be considered a "storied" program, it is a much different, much shorter story.

Alumni from Mater Dei include Heisman Trophy-winners Matt Leinert and John Huarte, plus Matt Grootegoed, Lenny Vandermaede, Colt Brennan, etc. Please note a bit of a "Cardinal & Gold" flavor here. Cabrillo, on the other hand, is a new school that at least in one respect shares the heritage of the wok. Ground was broken for Cabrillo in the winter of '96. The doors were open for business in the fall of the same year. The school was initially intended to serve the 9th and 10th grades with students then transferring to one of the district's other high schools to complete their educations. However, the school was so well received by students & parents, they petitioned the school board to offer 11th & 12th grade curriculum. The school board responded to the community and the first 74 Cabrillo graduates were honored with diplomas in June 1999. The school has been honored for innovative programs for special education students and operates magnet programs for computer art/ animation and pre-engineering.

Let's cover the obvious first, the score was 48-0 at the half in favor of Mater Dei and the game ended 48-8, I believe. I left early in the fourth quarter as the players of interest had left the house; Mater Dei's standout players were done at the half. It is fair to say the score didn't tell the whole story. Both teams had some playmakers, Mater Dei just had more. Remarkable though in determining the outcome, was the Cabrillo performance on special teams. Yeah, it was raining a little and ball was wet, but it was wet for both teams. A single game skill, or really the lack of such, made the contest a total mismatch. If anyone knows of a kid who can reliably long-snap, there is an immediate opening* (see below). If last night's performance fairly represents Cabrillo's play this year and the program's prospects going forward, Coach Turner should immediately begin the work to initiate California's first Long-Snapping Magnet Program. No fewer than three snaps landed at least 25 yards behind the line of scrimmage. The good news was that on the first two, Cabrillo simply provided Mater Dei with the opportunity to score from inside their 20-yard line. On the third, the punter decided he'd had enough, so he tried to pick up the ball, to scramble to an open spot where he could make an off-balanced wave at the ball with his leg, and hopefully get some positive yardage for the team. Alas, the line drive "punt" reached its zenith 3 ½ feet above the ground perhaps 10 yards from the point of impact and was fielded cleanly at the Cabrillo five by a Mater Dei defender who had borrowed the "Mano de Dios" from Maradona for the night. The defender crossed the goal line for another six, about one and a half seconds later. It was just one of those nights.

Going to the game, I intended to focus on four players, from Mater Dei Matt Barkley, QB, Khaled Holmes, OT, {interior college lineman}, and Robbie Boyer, WR, and from Cabrillo, Stanford verbal commit Marcus Turner, CB. Two factors made me less productive. Because of the short night and one-sided score, the key Mater Dei players were only on the field for the first half. Second, because of the offense/ defense match up and respective players/ team relationships, all four players were on the field at the same time and I could only watch one at a time.

It was good to see Barkley play quarterback after having had the chance to see Mission Viejo's QB Allan Bridgford two weeks earlier. The Sergeant Major is a learned mentor providing his troops with an opportunity to achieve success. At the time, it was noted Bridgford seemed to have some accuracy issues and would also throw into coverage. This week, MV lost their game with Bridgford going 11-26 for 122 yards with two TD's & three INTs. With respect to this week's QB target of choice, please recognize it is essentially impossible to provide a complete report on 2009 recruit Matt Barkley based on two quarters of play. In addition, the Mater Dei offense is limited/ structured in order to give him every chance to contribute to the success of the team. Mater Dei is going to pass and pass frequently and they don't care if opponents know it. Secondly, they are going to bet they can give Barkley enough time to dissect the opponents' defense without the need for play action or rollouts or other scheme advantages. Virtually every play is run from the shotgun so I really didn't get too much opportunity to see him drop back and set up to throw. Against this competition he was not under too much pressure. However, on the few occasions when he was pressured, he was able to get off strong accurate throws. He plays like a more physically-developed QB than Bridgford at this point (Barkley is listed at 6'4", 225 vs. 6'4", 195 for Bridgford. Strength matters, but we will obviously have to wait and see how these juniors continue develop.)

Even after seeing the kid for one half, I have no reservations in saying Matt Barkley is the real deal. He sees the field, he makes good decisions, finding his best opportunity for a positive result, and he puts the ball on the money. On Friday night he threw for 287 yards and five touchdowns without an interception. When he missed, the ball was where only his guy had a shot. He completed 75% of his passes. Not only were the passes completed, the receivers were hit in stride, and they could advance the ball after the catch. Not a bad first half. I couldn't summarize any better than Bruce Rollinson, Mater Dei coach who stated after the game, "Barkley read the defense well tonight, he got it out quick and his hot reads were on."

I spent the first quarter watching Marcus Turner, and the second quarter watching Barkley, so with Khaled Holmes and Robbie Boyer retiring to the sidelines after half time, I didn't get to watch them too much. With respect to Holmes, I anxiously await input from our resident expert, T.J. Gaynor, as to how one evaluates the physical potential of offensive line prospects. Holmes would probably never be a member of our "camera club". He carries a lot of weight, he trots/ walks everywhere he goes on the field, but Barkley's uniform stays CLEAN. The old saying, 'Don't confuse effort with results', comes to mind. The results speak for themselves during the first half. The Mater Dei offense is pass-dominated so there were very few opportunities to evaluate his drive blocking, or his ability to pull, or his ability to get down field and operate in space or take on a linebacker. These parts of his game are highlighted as strengths in the Scout evaluation. They know more than I. The few snaps I focused on him, largely extra points when Barkley and Boyer were off the field, he effectively took up space blocking traffic. Nonetheless, by the offer theory- USC, Cal, Notre Dame, Stanford, AZ, Nebraska, and OR State, he is a high quality recruit that I would watch more carefully if the Sergeant Major assigned me to an additional Mater Dei game.

Now to Card commit Marcus Turner. First, the measurable components. Roughly 210 corner back prospects participated in Scout's summer combines. Marcus' numbers do not jump off the page suggesting a difference-maker. Turner had a short shuttle time of 4.59 seconds and a 3-cone time of 7.7 seconds. Turner's times place him at number 160 in the short shuttle and number 140 in the 3-cone. Interestingly, the kid has at least one attribute that can't be coached, measured at six feet; he was the 14th tallest corner participating in the combines. Marcus has the size to match up with the larger receivers that are competing in the conference. In addition, the times may or not represent Marcus' best effort as he was timed a full tenth faster in the forty after the combine when he attended a camp at ASU. ( http://stanford.scout.com/2/655549.html )

So why get excited about Marcus Turner? In various interviews/ articles, the stories have properly characterized his skills/ abilities. Scout.com's Brandon Huffman states, "Turner has good instincts and anticipation. He needs to continue to improve his closing speed. The son of a former NFL defensive back and current high school football coach, he has a lot of intelligence and knowledge of the game." Turner himself states, "I guess it was my height and how I move well for a taller corner…. I can move well. I'm smooth in my movements and fluid. I guess that impressed them."

Marcus Turner is not the fastest corner back, but he may well be fast enough. He does move well in all directions and keeps his butt down while back peddling so he can turn his hips and change direction effortlessly. Cabrillo has Turner competing in a man scheme where he is exclusively used in one-on-one coverage. In this game, the most important thing was what I didn't see. As noted before, Matt Barkley performed superbly finding the open receiver and accurately delivering the ball. He has quality receivers to utilize in the previously mentioned Robbie Boyer, a three-star recruit, and Andrew Abbott, a two-star recruit. In one half of game action, one pass was thrown to the player defended by Turner. It occurred on one of the few occasions he was up in press coverage. Boyer got past the jam and had a step or two deep in the end zone. Barkley's pass was incomplete just off the fingertips. The rest of the half, on each and every play, Barkley elected to go elsewhere with the ball. Turner may not be "Darrien Gordon: Part Deux", but he can be effective in the right scheme.

THE GACARD REPORT

The Cabrillo marching Panthers put on a spirited show at half time, not easy when your team is down 48-0. The choice of the opening number, "Jump in the Line", was inspired. As the band belted out the tune, every member of the audience no doubt fixated on images of Jim Carrey's "Stanley Ipkiss" character in full Spanish flamenco attire dancing hypnotically in front of the zoo in The Mask as Peter Riegert's "Lt. Kellaway" steamed as his patrolmen fell under the spell of the music. Who cares about the score when The Mask is in da house! The next number was a spirited cover of the Ray Charles mainstay, "What I Say". With the horn and percussion sections dueling with, "Heeeeeeeeeeey", "Hooooooooooo", {Not a Rutgers women's basketball reference here folks, simply the lyric line}, "Hey, Hey", "Ho, Ho", one Curtis Love, #14 on the football team joined the festivities driving the band with a wonderful solo on the sax. The crowd went wild as Curtis wailed away. (Further, I now believe there is a strong and direct correlation between movement skill at cornerback and the ability to march with a feeling. As a last resort, does anyone know if our #14 plays a musical instrument?) The closer for the show was Wild Cherry's classic "Play that Funky Music (White Boy)", perhaps a jab at Mater Dei that would be worthy of those Nattering Nabobs of Novelty, the Incomparable Leland Stanford Junior Marching Band.

Alas, for fans of the Gacard report, Thriller was not included in the show.

THE FLAUNT REPORT

To hell with politically-correct. We are talking about the serious subject of fan behavior here and The Flaunt Report does not and will not compromise its journalistic integrity. Therefore, I will focus this initial report on a single fan, the wife of the Cabrillo Coach Marcus Turner, and the mother of Stanford commit Marcus Turner II. The kid gloves are coming off.

As luck would have it, once again this week, relatives of one of my targets elected to plant themselves immediately in my vicinity. (I've never enjoyed this kind of good fortune when purchasing lottery tickets or playing blackjack.) Unfortunately, Ms. Turner's performance was relatively weak. This woman brought young children to the game and actually paid attention to them instead of what was going on during the game. The kids were dressed in Hello Kitty garb instead of ripped sleeveless Cabrillo Panther T shirts. There was no Green & Black face paint anywhere, no eye black. What was this woman thinking? She answered their questions and helped them negotiate the steps over the benches. The kids smiled and were having quality mommy time. Really Ms. Turner, you don't earn "Gator Teeth" with this type of performance. The only excuse I can imagine for this type of behavior is to distract the kids so one's spouse could be free to shout obscenities at the top of their lungs with their hands free for appropriate single digit salutes. And Ms. Turner, we know your spouse was down on the field, don't we?

Throughout the game, I kept waiting for her to get into the game, the Bull Gator personality. Can you imagine a better opportunity to pick up Teeth than with creative use of profanity directed at the Cabrillo long-snapper? I mean a real Bull Gator loves cursing their own teams weak-ass efforts almost as much as the verbal humiliation of the opponent. OK, Ms. Turner missed her first chance; maybe as a coach's wife she felt a duty to "support all the kids". When the second snap was heading to the Evergreen terminal in the near by port complex, I felt sure I would get a few minutes of @#$##@%%$#@. No such behavior was in evidence. Frankly, I was becoming seriously concerned about her fan cred. But when the third snap produced the five-yard punt return for six and she remained in her seat speaking quietly with the kids, I mean that was strike three for her.

Some might have their judgment colored because of who Ms. Turner is. Some might try to rationalize an award of Teeth for useless skills like parenting, intelligent conversation, civility, frequent use of a smile and a sparkle in the eyes. But that crap won't win you a spot in the Meadowlands to root Rutgers home, merrily cursing the U.S. Army cadets will it? So fans, be noticed, that weak stuff can't earn you "Gator Teeth"!

Only 27 out of 80 "Gator Teeth" for Ms. Turner. Sorry, but she just doesn't appear to get what it means to be a hard-core fan. Darn "class act"!

Guide to The Flaunt Report fan rating system:

65-80  Gator Teeth:  Bull Gator- The pinnacle, the most cherished fan organization. The few, the belligerent, the drunk, and the "get a life" set.

45-64  Gator Teeth:  Fightin Gator- The "middle class". They buy the season tickets and use them much of the time, but are known to occasionally leave stone cold sober, with voices fully intact.

30-44  Gator Teeth:  Junior Lizards- the "close, but no cigar" set of fans. Actually elect not to purchase all of the available jerseys- retros, home, away. Brazenly carry on non-football discussions during the game and do not lustily cheer or boo big screen replays as though they were live action.

0-29  Gator Teeth:  You Call Yourself a Reptile? - The hopeless; actually attempting to balance life/ personal relationships with reasonable support of chosen teams. Limited profane vocabulary and/or moral principles make it impossible for them to contribute to the ambiance of the venue/support our team.

Editor's Note: The preceding commentary offers views of the on-field performances of some of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo High School's exceptional student-athletes. In no way should constructively-intended criticism be deemed as a lack of respect or admiration for the Roaring Jaguar players' (including specifically for the school's long-snapper) obvious desire and commitment to academic and athletic excellence.


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