Each year when I go to a camp to evaluate high school players, I have asked the above question, that my dad used to ask, echoing in my brain. "Who are the players you would not want playing against you?"
I remember going out with my dad in 1952 to see future USC great, Jon Arnett, play for Manual Arts and hearing my dad say that for the first time. "Jon Arnett is a player you want playing for you, not against you."
I said the same thing when I saw DE Devon Kennard at Rising Stars Camp last year at USC. Watching him in one-on-ones made you want to drop to your knees and pray, "please God, don't let Devon Kennard go anywhere but USC."
Rising Stars is the anchor leg of the spring evaluation of high school and underclassmen, and it's a blast seeing all these great players come to USC from all four corners of the country.
The weather was beautiful. There was a warm sun and cool breeze for two days. It would beckon any recruit to come to Southern California. You look out on Howard Jones and see all these five-star players in their Under Armor tights, and then there's the kids in their cut off, low-rider shorts with chips on their shoulders, wanting to show that they can play football too.
On the sidelines there are cameras, nervous parents, high school coaches, and fervent fans. On the field there are kids everywhere who want to come to USC. It's all about the future. It's all about hope. And people like me leave there after two days with more than just hope. You believe because of the skill and ability of the players that you've seen perform with your own eyes.
Thursday after lunch I got to talk to Mr. and Mrs. Allan Graf. They were there for Kevin Graf's orientation. Kevin had a great Rising Stars Camp last year and will be fighting for playing time as a true freshman. His mom and dad will be fighting homesickness because Kevin is their last child to leave home.
I talked to lots of people, but most of all I took a hard, and I hope, educated look at the players competing at Rising Stars Camp. I found the players I would not want to compete against.
Here's the athletes USC has to have on their side:
1. S/RB Dietrich Riley: Dietrich is a top 50 on everybody's list but #1 on Oldtimer's. Riley is tough, talented, and was everywhere. He's bigger, stronger, faster and better than last year and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. This 6'1" athlete out of La Canada will win a lot of games for USC. You wouldn't want to go up against Dietrich.
2. DE/MLB Ronald Powell: Ronald ran a 4.6 40, had a great vertical, and then tore up Howard Jones Field. He's going to be on everyone's top 5 list by the end of his senior year, and he's #2 on Oldtimer's guage. I'd go to war with Ronald Powell on my left and Dietrich Riley on my right any day. It would be a nightmare if this 6'3" 225 lb. man among boys from Moreno Valley became a Gator.
3. RB/WR Dillon Baxter: USC commit Dillon Baxter caught everything in sight. He gets great separation and looks faster than a speeding bullet. He's way better than advertised, and you don't want him lined up against you. Dillon Baxter would beat you. This 6' 190 lb comet out of San Diego beat everyone the past two days.
4. DE Greg Townsend Jr: Greg's dad, Greg Townsend Sr, an ex Oakland Raider, is 16th all-time in NFL sacks with 109. Greg Townsend Jr. mowed everyone down for two days in one-on-ones. Nobody could block him. Greg is at least 6'3" and 230 lbs, and has great lower body strength.
I know Townsend has played some LB at Beverly Hills High School, but he's a natural at DE and could grow to be a great SDE. I want him on my side even though he's from the class of 2011.
5. OL Christian Westerman: Christian is out of Chandler, AZ and is another underclassman who will be sorely needed by the Trojans in 2011. There were some local OL players that USC could pick up as projects, but Chris looks good and will only get better.
6. The unknown defensive lineman: He's the short guy with the white legs and homemade cut offs who looks like he should be leaning on a street corner, wearing a hat and smoking a cigarette. He appeared to be the least likely football player on the field, but everyone had a hard time blocking him in one on ones all afternoon. I don't know his name but I'd go to war with him beside me any time.
Ronald Powell had an impressive showing at the Rising Stars Camp.
Oldtimer's Take is a regular feature that will run every Monday on SCPlaybook.com