Long Beach Poly Scouting Report

This year's Long Beach Poly squad may not have the superstars of last year¹s team, but this Jackrabbit squad is deeper and has more talent from top to bottom. This year's squad also looks more disciplined and focused and is much more together as a team.

I had a chance to travel to Hawaii with Poly earlier in the year and also spent a day this week at the school to watch a practice. The difference in this year's team compared to last is like night and day. Several of the players commented that they weren't prepared for how physical De La Salle plays because they were so much smaller on film.

"We thought we could just come out and smash them because they look tiny on film," offensive lineman Charles Owens said. "Even with the streak, we took them a little lightly but not this year. We've watched a lot more film and have a lot more respect for them as a team."

Every Poly player commented that last year's team relied so much on the Big 5 (Manuel Wright, Hershel Dennis, Winston Justice, Darnell Bing and Marcedes Lewis) that the rest of the team took plays off and didn't play as hard as they should have.

"We're much more of a team this year," safety Freddie Parish said. "We're not waiting for one of the big five to make a play, we're all rallying together and trying to make something happen. We don't have any superstars so everyone is stepping up their game."

Offensively, Poly is very balanced and is almost 50-50 in its run-pass selection. Leon Jackson is the trigger man and he could be the key to the game. Jackson is smart with the ball, has a strong arm, quick release and can get the ball down the field. He'll need to play mistake free as quarterback Brandon Brooks did a year ago and the offense needs to sustain drives to keep the Spartans¹ offense off the field.

Jackson has plenty of weapons to throw the ball to and junior Derrick Jones is emerging as a bonafide star and one of the best deep threats in the state. Jones has game breaking speed and can get deep against anyone. Alex Watson and Khalid Abdur-Rahim are the team¹s possession receivers but both can fly as well as they both clocked 4.4s in the 40 at the Nike Camp. All three have shown they can consistently catch the ball and will have to step up big time because the Spartans have one of the best secondaries they've ever had.

At running back, Poly has a herd of players who bring something different to the table. Lorenzo Bursey has excellent quickness and strength and runs much bigger than his size. He finishes runs like a fullback and catches the ball very well out of the backfield. You won't find anyone quicker or shiftier than Dwayne Washington. Washington is small enough to hide behind his offensive line until he finds a seam and then he's gone. He can cut and slash as good as anyone and is a great change of pace back. Throw in hard running bulldozer Jabar Morris as well as super sophomore Larenzo Bursey, younger brother of Lorenzo and you have a great package of speed, quickness and power.

The offensive line is big, quick and aggressive and is led by the best center in the region, Hercules Satele, All-State guard Kevin Brown and emerging Div I recruit Charles Owens . De La Salle has incredible team speed on defense so the line will have to get a strong push and stay on their blocks. It's very difficult to run wide on the Spartans so Poly will have to try and run right at the smaller De La Salle defensive line. Last year, the Spartans won the battle in the trenches and as a result, won the game.

Defensively, Poly is led by its defensive line, which we rated the best in the country in the Student Sports/Sporting News pre-season football annual. It's tough to imagine a better set of tackles anywhere in America than Kevin Brown and Josh Tauanuu . The two complement each other extremely well and both are not just big and strong but very quick off the ball and can rush the passer as well as dominate the run.

Defensive end Junior Lemau'u is an incredible team leader and is much improved from a year ago. Lemau'u is not just gifted athletically, but is one of those players who brings everything he has on every play no matter who Poly is playing. He's an excellent pass rusher, plays the run well and never quits on a play. When your best defensive player is also your emotional leader and hardest working player, that's contagious. Watch Lemau'u fire up his teammates before the game and then leave it all out on the field and you can see why his stock has skyrocketed in our eyes.

At linebacker, Poly has two players that are as gifted physically as any linebacker in the state. Mark Washington has an NFL body right now at 6-1, 240 pounds but his speed (4.6-40) is what makes him such an intriguing prospect. Not only that, he's still learning the game (has only played for two years) and his best days are way ahead of him.

Marlin Simmons might be the best linebacker in the state right now and he's just a junior. His older brothers. Melvin (USC) and Marvin (Compton JC-committed to USC), have told us several times that Marlin was easily the best athlete in the family and would be better than both of them. After seeing him in action twice this year, they may be right. Marlin isn't the athletic freak Marvin was in terms of strength and speed and he doesn't have the size Melvin had but as a pure football player, we think he is the best of the group. Simmons flies to the football like he was shot out of a cannon and hits like a truck.

In the secondary, Poly is strong, especially at the safety position. Strong safety Parish and free safety Rodney Van are a perfect complement and again, it's tough to imagine a better combination anywhere in the region.

Parish, a Notre Dame commitment, is tough and driven to be the best. He's a former junior world champion in judo so his toughness was never a question and he hits with perfect technique and ferocity. We think his best asset is his ability to cover and in fact, Notre Dame would like to start him out at cornerback before eventually moving him to safety.

When you combine all of his physical gifts with his work ethic, smarts and savvy, you have one talented package. At free safety, Van, just a junior, will be a national recruit next year. He has big time speed and athletically, is off the charts. As a sophomore last year, Van was one of the state's top long jumpers and also ran a leg on Poly's nationally ranked 4X100 meter relay team. Van is a solid tackler and cover man and once he fills out his 6-0 frame, we think he has a chance to be a very special player.

Byron Velege , another talented junior, is the team¹s best cover man. He had two interceptions against Kahuku including one acrobatic, leaping grab near the end zone that was as good at it gets. De La Salle has excellent speed at receiver and is always good for at least one big play a game so Poly will be tested here. The secondary needs to play strong and when Spartan running back Maurice Drew comes flying into the secondary, they'll need to step up and make a tackle or it will be a quick six points for the home team.


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