"Boots on the Ground": LB Poly vs. Wilson

Our volunteer So. California Recruiting Observer Bob Miller, an admitted Friday night lights addict, took in the recent Long Beach Poly vs. Long Beach Wilson game, won handily by Poly. He reports in with his evaluation of several prospects currently on the recruiting radar of Stanford Football for the '08 and '09 classes and also undertakes a novel "celebrity survey" with hilarious results.

"Boots on the Ground": Long Beach Poly vs. Wilson

Stanford Juniors:

Over the last several weeks I have gone to two Long Beach Poly games. The first was a match up between Long Beach Poly and Long Beach Wilson. The intention was to watch Wilson junior wide receiver Jemari Roberts, a Stanford '09 prospect. The second was a first round game in the State playoffs between Poly and Santa Margarita. Here the objective was junior weak side linebacker John Davis. Both players are standouts on their teams playing on both sides of the ball and the respective coaches try to get them as many touches as possible. This year Roberts has played wide out, carried the ball, occasionally on reverses, returned kicks and punts, kicks off and has tried a few extra points and plays in the defensive backfield. Santa Margarita's Davis lined up as a wide out and at QB on offense as well as linebacker of defense. Matched against Poly, both players faced high quality competition with a couple of high profile D-1recruits.

On paper, both games were mismatches and conventional wisdom was spot on. The final score for Wilson was 45-6 in favor of Poly. Santa Margarita had no more success losing the first round game by a score of 39-7.

In addition to Roberts and Davis, two Poly players are worth comment because of their recruiting profiles and potential school choices; safety prospect Vaughn Telemaque and lineman Jurrell Casey. I use the term "lineman" because the kid plays both DT and OG, participating in every play excluding kick offs and kick off returns. This has to be a rarity today and Casey demonstrates great commitment and conditioning taking on the assignment. Telemaque is a Michigan lean with offers from a who's who of college football including Oregon and USC. Casey is a USC lean with offers from Arizona, Ole Miss, Nebraska & Oregon. For the Stanford recruits, Roberts is being recruited as a wide out with interest from five Pac-10 schools including Stanford, USC & Cal with an early offer from Oregon. Roberts' brother attends Oregon. He was named to the All-State underclass team. Davis has received attention from Alabama, Cal, Florida, come on "Flauntsc", leave a few for us, Michigan, Notre Dame, UCLA & Stanford. Davis attended the Scout.com San Francisco combine and was one of the few juniors named to the all-combine team. He has some speed, explosion & strength.

The Players:

Unfortunately, I arrived at the Wilson/ Poly game to learn that Jemari Roberts was on the sideline in sweats and would not play. I had looked forward to seeing him compete with the Poly athletes. It is always good to see someone "pick on someone their own size", so to speak. Roberts however passes the eyeball test. He appears to be an honest 6'2" with a good frame; looking lean carrying 200+ pounds. I think the early offer from Oregon speaks highly about the gene pool. Roberts forms a great tandem with Michael Willie, a 6'2" senior wide out that is also athletic. It must be noted, the Wilson receivers are not working with a Matt Barkley at the quarterback position. 5'9" senior Zack Kazarian played the position in the game I saw and he had difficulty with the Poly size and pressure up front. It led to hurried throws, interceptions, and sacks. Below are game by game stats for Roberts, season that are available on the Wilson High site. {Roberts also handles kick offs and kick off returns for Wilson. Unfortunately, I was unable to obtain stats for the Milliken game.}

Opponent Rec / Yds / Long / TD K/O Ret / Total / Long / Avg XP Made / Att
Inglewood 3 / 38 / 25 / 1 3 / 146 / 88 / 48.7 1 / 2
Pacifica 2 / 16 / 11 / 0 1 / 94 / 94 / 94  
Los Altos 4 / 36 / 13 / 0 2 / 44 / 31 / 22  
Los Alamitos   3 / 85 / 40 / 28.3  
Compton 2 / 28 / 24 / 1 3 / 30 / 16 / 10  
Cabrillo 2 / 19 / 19 / 0 3 / 100 / 80 / 33.3  
Jordan 2 / 46 / 32 / 0 3 / 89 / 55 / 29.7  
Lakewood 2 / 17 / 13 / 0 2 / 23 / 16 / 11.5  

Roberts does everything for the Wilson team and it is clear they try to get him opportunities with the ball every way they can. For the season, he was the leader on the team in terms of all-purpose yards accounting for approximately 25% of his team's total on a per-game basis.

It is a shame he has limited talent around him. A lack of supporting cast surely impacts skill development making the transition to D-I football much more difficult for any small school recruit. To me, the work focused on elite high school programs is one of the critical successes of the Harbaugh coaching staff. Just in the Southern California area alone our coaches have established relationships with many of the power programs- the teams capable of making daily practices much more meaningful in terms of skill development and competitive challenges. I have to think over time this will pay dividends.

It was good to see John Davis in action as it supports a more balanced evaluation than one would get from highlight tapes. Unfortunately, he got banged up and didn't finish the first half. I don't know if he was physically limited coming into the game. Davis is a player who Santa Margarita wants on the field. He lined up to return kicks, he played at wide out, he took a couple snaps at QB, and he played outside linebacker on defense. Reports to date project Davis as an outside linebacker.

In the playoff game, Poly shredded Davis' Santa Margarita team. There was no answer for Poly's speed at the skill positions and physicality up front. In the first half Poly gained 181 yards on the ground with three touchdowns including runs of 37 yards and 22 yards. On the longer of the two runs, the play was away from Davis and he took an incorrect pursuit angle. When the play became a straight out sprint to the goal line, Davis was unable to close on the Poly ball carrier. The young man has speed and desire but it does not seem to be at a level that provides a distinct playmaking advantage relative to high-level competition.

In terms of recognition and competitive desire, Davis looked very good. He made reads quickly and was headed in the right direction. In addition, he would take on opponents and pursue all over the field. However, physical limitations may have reduced his effectiveness. He was not dominant taking on blockers. Unfortunately, he looked like he might have had a stinger as he was definitely dragging one of his arms. He went to the sideline mid second quarter, never to return.

From the Poly side:

Jurrell Casey has had two dominant games. While he exploited an obvious physical advantage against Wilson, against Santa Margarita he simply outplayed the competition. The kid has ability and a motor. Casey has some unique skills. He has excellent feet and is very quick. On offense he gets set in pass protection the moment the ball is snapped while on runs he regularly enjoys a first-mover advantage. He gets into his man and routinely walks him off the line of scrimmage. Remarkably, I didn't see him off his feet on a single play either night; on offense or defense. This allows him to defeat his man and then move downfield to abuse linebackers and DBs. He is mobile and pulls very well. Casey and the center, Douglas Spacht, opened gapping holes that led to long runs by Poly running backs. On defense, Casey was similarly dominant. He had the quickness to defeat double teams, could bull rush, and runs well enough to be effective in pursuit. It will be interesting to watch Poly as they move forward in the playoffs and the competition is stepped up further.

Vaughn Telemaque is a superior athlete with good size and is aggressive trying to make plays all over the field. The aggression can sometimes cause him to be out of position. I suspect the only issue he will have in transitioning to college ball is mastering assignment discipline. Telemaque is a sure tackler and has closing speed. He had an interception in the Wilson game as he went to the ball while in flight. Against Santa Margarita he caused a fumble with a very physical hit in the backfield. Telemaque will be the type of player who can cause receivers to, "hear footsteps" leading to drops.

Name That Jackrabbit :

SO… what do you do when the guys you want to see make plays are confined to the sideline? You try to have some fun with Poly fans. At least they are usually in a celebratory mood. I came to the game prepared to investigate how alumni and current students revere famous Poly graduates past- including one of Stanford's own Poly legacies. I brought a picture of three famous Poly grads so we could play "Name That Jackrabbit." While a simple game on the surface, in today's sports/ entertainment industry, familiarity and favorability are the keys to the big money as product endorsers.

Marketing Evaluations, Inc developed the "Q score" in 1963. Surveys are conducted to evaluate both awareness and opinion about people, things or brands. The resulting Q score is a composite reflective of both familiarity and favorability. Scores can be calculated over an entire population or for target demographic groups based on age, sex, income, or education level. While high-achieving athletes are well paid for on-field exploits, the real money is earned away from the field of play. In the '07 Forbes study, Tiger Woods' annual income was estimated at $100 million, Mickelson at $42 million; this money didn't come from playing tournament golf. Familiarity and favorability can be used to move product in exchange for big cash and prizes.

Poly has a rich history having produced many famous graduates. There are any number of Poly grads who have been trail-blazers or icons. Further, there is something of a tradition of outstanding athletes who have continued their educations at Stanford. "Boots on the Ground" selected three Poly grads for testing, one who has gained some notoriety in the entertainment field as well as two athletes; one a tennis player, the other a basketball player. The basketball player, recognized on the Long Beach Press Telegram "Best in the West" list in 1981, went on to letter three years on the Stanford basketball team. I will call him "Mr. Zero" so as to protect him from the unanticipated results of our informal study.

Anyway, armed with an appropriate picture of Mr. Zero and the other two Poly heroes; I began to evaluate familiarity and favorability. See right. My first test sample focused on female Stanford graduates and Mothers-in-law whose daughters graduated from Stanford. Excitedly, the subjects properly identified test celebrities one and two. However, knitted brows and frustration were in evidence when the subjects considered Mr. Zero. The Stanford grad, class of '74 stated unequivocally, "He had to graduate before I did because I don't know who the hell he is." This was a troubling result because Mr. Zero's graduation significantly post-dates that of the interviewee's. More troubling still for Mr. Zero's Q score potential, after providing his name to the test subjects they replied, "He played basketball at Stanford?" Hmmm, familiarity may not be Mr. Zero's strong point.

With the knowledge in hand that I didn't yet know squat about the demographic ideal for the exploitation of Mr. Zero's commercial potential, off I went to the game. I realized it would be critical to interview a broad cross section of Poly fans, students, alumni and faculty to find anyone familiar with Mr. Zero. Each sample group was advised that the folks in the pictures were in fact Poly graduates and each had gone on to stellar careers post-graduation. In an early sample, one hoping to tap cross-generational boundries and the family demographic, celebrities one and two were rapidly identified. When the subjects turned to Mr. Zero, the name Walton was mentioned, but alas he never played at Poly or at Stanford. (Law school intermural participation is ignored.)

OK, I hadn't found Mr. Zero's sweet spot yet, but undeterred, I thought I would test where any guy would be happy to be found - amongst the Poly cheerleaders. These young ladies are the Webster's definition of high energy, moving with style and grace. If I were on the Poly football team, I would feel proud as could be to have their support.

Their job is not as easy as it might appear. Poly has been an institution in the area since 1895, initially as Long Beach High School. The audience in attendance crosses generational lines. These girls work to the oldies for the legacy grads. However, from time to time, they will get down to more contemporary music, and when they do, the student body erupts to support them. The fans get up and dance with the cheerleaders as they dance and sing to the rhythm. It is spectacular! But alas, I fear it would not be popular on the shady side of Stanford stadium, more is the shame. However, I digress... The Poly cheerleaders I sampled rapidly identified subject two in my test picture but had difficulty with subjects one and three. No registered score on the familiarity scale for Mr. Zero yet.

Next, I decided to investigate whether or not Poly's legacy graduates might be a suitable demographic for Mr. Zero. After all denture adhesives need a spokesman too. I engaged with Olaf and Violet. They are proud members of Poly class of '51 and '52 respectively. Olaf and Violet have been happily married since 1953 so I was certain they were at least alive to appreciate Mr. Zero's athletic exploits and subsequent selection to the "Best in the West" in 1981. Now I kid you not, when Olaf and Violet took the test, they "successfully" identified, "Snoopy Dog" and Billie Jean King, but you already know how it goes for Mr. Zero- still dreaming about reaching the Mendoza line.

OK, I had tried some target sampling. It was time to broaden the scope and engage in some mass sampling. Poly has a select group of students identified as Commissioners. The Commissioners show up at the games in matching shirts and are obviously serious about school, athletics and academic pursuits.

Well, there were at least 30 Commissioners. Each and every one carefully examined the test graphic and sure enough quickly identified the first two subjects. However, when it came to Mr. Zero, all I got were quizzical expressions. Like all great students/ test takers, they asked for a hint & a copy of the test photograph so they could work the Poly sideline to find someone who could identify Mr. Zero. The Commissioners' quest ended with an introduction to an Assistant Principal who considered my graphic and said we should head over to the band area. The band Director had some length of service at the school and accordingly he felt he might be able to identify Mr. Zero. Unfortunately for Mr. Zero's Q score, when I advised the Director that the "celebrity" in question was a class of 1981 grad from Poly, he stated simply, "That's way before my time."

And so ended the first episode of "Name That Jackrabbit".

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