Recruiting '04: Abundance on O down south

LOS ANGELES -- If you had any questions about which high schools Cougar football coaches would be visiting during the off-campus recruiting period in late April and May, a look around the USC campus on Sunday pretty much mapped out an itinerary of sweet possibilities. Some 350 of the upcoming prep season's top seniors from Southern California gathered here to take part in Student Sports' first NIKE camp of the season. Here's a look at the offense.

EACH YEAR, WSU secures an estimated 40 percent of its players from Southern California, so you know that many of the top performers here will be bumping into Cougar coaches come May.

While the talent on the offensive side of the ball was abundant on Sunday, there wasn't the one special player, like a Lorenzo Booker or Whitney Lewis from years' past that just stood out above the rest of the pack. There were a few that came close, however.

One of them was running back Terrell Jackson (Centennial High of Corona), a running and catching dynamo believed to have an early short list of six that includes Washington State. This past season he rushed for 2,344 yards and caught 25 passes for 422 hashes. In all, the 5-9, 185-pound speedster scored 50 TDs.

On Sunday, Jackson and Patrick Gates (5-9, 180) of Marian Catholic in San Diego) reaffirmed themselves as top-flight RB prospects.

Jackson is just a veritable freak of nature and you can't help but be impressed watching him work out. He can do it all well --- block, cut and catch. He's got all the speed you need in a running back (4.46 in the 40) and is going to make a Division-1 team very happy. Gates is an incredibly smooth, fluid runner. Going out on pass patterns, the coaches would intentionally throw long passes to see what kind of closing speed the RB's had. Gates never looked rushed going after passes and displayed good hands. His 4.40 in the 40 time is proof his speed is legit.

Another top RB performer Le'Andre Matthews (East Bakersfield). The 5-7, 182-pounder had a phenomenal day testing (4.40 40, 4.06 shuttle, 28 reps of 185 pounds and a 33-inch vertical jump), and although he's not the biggest back in the world he is incredibly well put together. To many he's reminiscent of Napolean Kaufman or Steve Broussard in stature. He has the body that looks to be able to take Pac-10 punishment right now.

Other backs that set themselves apart included Ryen Carew (Sylmar) 6-0, 170, Ryan Kelley (Serra, Gardena) 5-11, 185, Kenyon Blue (Helix, San Diego) 5-8, 160 (who had the top 40 time of the day at 4.33 and also had a 35.3-inch vertical jump), Trason Bragg (Loyola, Los Angeles) 5-10, 190, Travis Lee (Jefferson, Los Angeles) 5-9, 150, Nigel Ricks from Arizona (Cactus, Glendale) 5-11, 170 (4.43 40) and Chris Green (Serra, Gardena) 5-11, 175.

THERE WERE FIVE players who stood out in the wide receiver corps --- Justin Shaw (Palmdale) 6-1.5, 193, Aaron Ware (Oaks Christian, Westlake Village) 5-11.5, 175, Michael Bumpus (Culver City) 6-0, 175, Ryan Graves (Muir, Pasadena) 6-1, 160 and Damon Morton (J.W. North, Riverside) 6-1, 175. Ware is a sophomore and the younger brother of UCLA star Matt Ware.

Bumpus and Shaw were the ones that really made impressive showings, and Michael's workout was even more so because he was running on an ankle that had been giving him some problems. He's a gamer.

ARBUABLY, THE PLAYER of the camp was QB Rocky Hinds of St. Bernard in Playa del Rey. At 6-4 and 207 pounds, he was clearly the toast of the quarterback class, and it wasn't really even close. He ran a 4.47 40 on a sore hamstring and displayed a gun for an arm. Quarterbacks coach Bob Johnson put Hinds through the paces and worked him hard.

The rest of the quarterbacks didn't stand out much. They showed flashes of brilliance, but were also inconsistent. The players in this group included Cole Berquist (San Clemente) 6-0, 180, Alex Hickerson (Ocean View, Huntington Beach) 6-4, 210, Brian Stevens (St. Bonaventure, Ventura) 6-3, 185, Brian Hildebrand (Corona) 6-1, 170, Oliver Linter (Beverly Hills) 6-2, 180 and Dion Morton (J.W. North, Riverside) 6-1, 175.

THE OFFENSIVE LINE was deep in talent, and there were seven players who made big impressions.

Foremost on the list is 6-6, 310-pound Chilo Rachal from Dominguez High in Compton. Chilo is massive, but not overly big. 310 seems to be just about right for him. He lost a big one-on-one matchup with Norris Malele (we'lltalk about Norris in a later story on defense), but after that really dominated. That loss to Malele fired him up. His competitive spirit and drive set him apart.

Another standout was Tustin's John Ioane, a 6-5, 335-pounder believed to be very interested in WSU. Other head turners in the hoss class were Daniel Espinoza (Los Alamitos) 6-2, 290, Mark Gray (Loyola, Los Angeles) 6-2, 285, Matt Streid (Granada Hills) 6-2, 290, Leo Talavou (Fountain Valley) 6-3.5, 318 and Josh Smith (Norco) 6-5, 313 (who had 30 reps on the bench Sunday.

All seven of these offensive linemen have D1 written all over them.

Other offensive linemen that had very solid workouts and should not be overlooked include Brian Abraham (Rancho Cucamonga) 6-6, 260, Dan Rowlands (Los Alamitos) 6-5, 270, Ivan Nicholson (Loyola, Los Angeles) 6-5, 255, Geoff Schwartz (Palisades, Pacific Palisades) 6-8, 280 and John Torres (San Pedro) 6-5, 285.


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