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December 17, 2012
Top prospects shine in California
California held its state bowl championship games over the weekend, featuring the top teams from the North playing the South's best in five divisions. Rivals.com West analyst Adam Gorney breaks down the top players:
1. CB/WR Adoree' Jackson, 5-10/172, Gardena (Calif.) Serra: Jackson is a special prospect and backed up his early five-star ranking in the state championship bowl blowout. He caught two first-half touchdown passes -- one on which he sprinted by the defensive backs and caught a deep pass. The second one was even better. Jackson caught a short pass, then made about five defenders miss, cut back to the middle of the field and then sort of back-flipped over the defender into the end zone. As a cornerback he wasn't tested much, but he has been a lockdown guy all season.
2. RB Pierre Cormier, 5-10/180, San Diego (Calif.) Madison: Cormier is a little smaller than expected and he struggled for a while against Kentfield Marin Catholic, but once he ran to the outside a few times things opened up. He does not have incredible breakaway speed, but Cormier is at his best when he gets a pitch, or even in the option or wildcat, can break to the outside and then make moves around defenders trying to tackle him. He's not a between-the-tackles runner, but in Arizona's offense he won't have to be.
3. OLB Jayon Brown, 6-1/195, Long Beach Poly: In the first quarter, the UCLA commit recorded a sack, a tackle for loss and multiple pressures, and he dropped an interception. Brown is a little undersized, but he plays fearlessly and he uses his speed and athleticism well. Brown is fluid backpedaling into coverage and coming up to make a serious hit on the runner. He might be too small to contribute at linebacker right away, but if Brown adds muscle he should be ready to go.
4. OT Cameron Hunt, 6-4/267, Corona (Calif.) Centennial: Hunt is a mean, fierce, tough, hard-nosed offensive tackle who isn't afraid to scrum or play really physical, and coaches have to like it. Ever since California fired Jeff Tedford, Hunt's recruitment has taken off with offers from Michigan, Oregon and Nebraska, and Ohio State is getting much more involved. He's a Big Ten-type offensive lineman -- big and tough and not afraid to get physical at the line of scrimmage.
5. CB Iman Marshall, 6-0/175, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly: Marshall could be one of the best 2015 cornerbacks in the West, if not the entire country. He has outstanding size and is much more comfortable playing corner than safety. He has excellent anticipation and vision once the ball is in the air, plus he can come up and lead with his shoulder to knock the pass away once the receiver catches it. Some Pac-12 offers have come in, and Alabama, LSU and others are showing interest.
6. LB Dylan Keeney, 6-5/210, Granite Bay (Calif.): Keeney was one of the biggest surprises from Friday night's action as Granite Bay defeated Long Beach Poly. He returned an interception for a touchdown and was seemingly all over the place in Granite Bay's loaded linebacker corps. The 2014 prospect said he isn't hearing from any programs yet, but he could be this offseason. He's productive, fast, has great size and is a disciplined linebacker.
7. QB Jared Goff, 6-4/190, Kentfield (Calif.) Marin Catholic: The main thing about Goff's game that stands out is that he's poised in the pocket, can lead an offense down the field and always seems to make the right read. He's an intelligent and capable quarterback, and once he's surrounded by top-level receivers at Cal things could get even better. He patiently makes plays and seems comfortable sitting in the pocket and dissecting defenses. Sometimes Goff is still a little wild with his passes, but that's because he's trying to make plays. In Cal's offense, Goff could be a special quarterback.
8. OLB Michael Hutchings, 6-2/210, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle: The four-star USC commitment finished with about 100 tackles in his senior season, and it's no wonder he put up such nice statistics because Hutchings flies all over the field to make plays. He seems to know where the play is headed before the ball is snapped, and Hutchings has no problem moving across the field to make the tackle. He's fast but also a big hitter and was really impressive on Saturday night.
9. WR/S John Smith, 6-1/185, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly: He's got a boring name but definitely not a boring game. "JuJu" Smith could be a special talent in the 2014 class, and with UCLA and others involved in his recruitment, things could be looking up for him. He was sidelined for some of the first half with an apparent shoulder injury but had a beautiful touchdown catch between two defenders in the second half. Smith also looked good at safety, where he came up and wasn't afraid to pop receivers.
10. LB Cameron Smith, 6-3/220, Granite Bay (Calif.): Smith is a 2015 prospect but already has a full-grown beard and speaks like an adult -- thoughtful, intelligent and poised. He plays a smart game, too, filling holes immediately, using his size to make tackles, and it's plain to see he's a thinker on the field. This isn't a sophomore with great size who gets lost in the shuffle against a good opponent. Smith has a great frame and a great future because some Pac-12 schools have already shown interest. After seeing him play, it's easy to see why.
11. TE/DE John Mundt, 6-5/235, Modesto Central Catholic: The three-star prospect looked stronger and more physically developed than he did at the Oakland NIKE Camp, and it could help him get on the field earlier in college. Committed to Oregon, Mundt did not do much in the state bowl championship game because his team mainly ran the ball with great success and blew out a lesser opponent. Mundt had a nice 42-yard catch and run across the middle; that was his lone highlight. He got good penetration from his stand-up defensive end spot, but the running back hardly ran to his side so not many tackles were possible.
12. RB Gerard Wicks, 5-11/195, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly: Wicks was bottled up by Granite Bay's array of outstanding linebackers, but there were times when he broke free for nice runs. He does a nice job of being patient until the blockers open a hole, and then the Washington State commit busts through for nice yards. He has the speed to get to the edge and the power to hit the middle, bounce off tacklers and gain extra yardage.
13. LB Dwight Williams, 6-1/212, Gardena (Calif.) Serra: Williams did not make any spectacular plays like he did a couple of weeks ago against West Hills Chaminade with two interceptions including one returned for a touchdown, but he had another solid performance. There were questions last summer about Williams' size, but he's bulked up, he hits hard, plays downhill to attack running backs and is great in coverage. Williams has a few offers, and more could be on the way.
14. RB Marques Rodgers, 5-10/178, Gardena (Calif.) Serra: Rodgers is a little unheralded and under the radar on a team loaded with junior superstars, but he runs hard, breaks tackles and makes things happen. He scored three touchdowns in the first half against admittedly weaker competition, but he made nice cutbacks, showed good balance and could land lower Division I offers.
15. OLB David Moffitt, 6-2/205, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle: Moffitt's recruitment has not taken off like some of the other De La Salle defenders, but whichever program lands him is getting a special player. He had one really nice body slam-like tackle in the win over Corona Centennial, and he's always in the right place.
16. WDE Austin Hooper, 6-4/233, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle: Hooper went up against Hunt for most of the night, and it could be scored a draw because both players made nice plays in a hotly contested battle. Hooper has good burst off the snap, and he has an array of moves to get in the backfield. Corona Centennial moves the ball so fast and throws so quickly that defensive ends don't have much time to get in the backfield, but Hooper stuffed the run multiple times and was impressive all night.
17. QB Jalen Greene, 6-1/186, Gardena (Calif.) Serra: Greene's biggest strength is making things happen with his feet when the pocket breaks down. Serra is never out of a play because he is so athletic. Through the season, he's gotten more comfortable passing without rushing passes. His accuracy needs a little work, but he's such an athletic quarterback that there is always a chance he could pick up yards.
18. LB/DE Beau Hershberger, 6-3/232, Granite Bay (Calif.): The one question about Hershberger is position -- whether he's a linebacker or a stand-up defensive end -- and that has been a sticking point in his recruitment. He played mainly defensive end against Long Beach Poly and got good penetration, tracked down runners from behind and generally did a solid job. The issue about position shouldn't be a major one because he plays well wherever he is on the field.
19. WR Michael Garner, 5-10/155, San Diego (Calif.) Madison: Garner is the type of player who is forgotten for a few series and then breaks a big play to make his mark on the game. The 2014 prospect is good at wide receiver. He also runs some wildcat, and he has great athleticism. It's not always production with Garner, but his big-play capability has intrigued Arizona and some others.
20. OL Gunnar Graham, 6-6/280, Kentfield (Calif.) Marin Catholic: Graham impressed at the Oakland NIKE Camp this spring and looked good again in the state bowl championship game. He's big at right tackle and is a flexible prospect who can block at the line or move downfield if that's needed. With his size, we'd like to see him be more powerful at the point of contact and really drive defensive ends down, but he does a nice job of grappling with them long enough so Goff can get the ball out.
21. OLB Victor Egu, 6-3/217, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle: After talking to some people and watching Egu play again, the three-star has work to do to learn his position and know where to be at certain times, but he's an intriguing prospect because he has all the physical tools to be special. If Egu can grasp his position -- there's no doubt he has excellent coaching at De La Salle -- he can be a big-time contributor on the college level. Until that happens, though, he is not reaching his full potential.
22. DL Garrett Hughes, 6-3/230, Corona (Calif.) Centennial: We've seen Hughes in back-to-back weeks against two powerhouse programs -- De La Salle and Harbor City Narbonne -- and he's been good, not great, but a big run stuffer in the middle and aggressive once the ball is snapped. He could grow into a defensive tackle or be a big defensive end, and he probably weighs much more than the 230 pounds listed on his profile page.