Commentary

Coast-to-Coast: California offense

Originally Published: September 5, 2007
By Tom Luginbill | Scouts Inc.

Having spent most of my upbringing in a college football locker room in both Arizona and California, I can honestly tell you that traditionally the state of California is strong enough to not only fuel USC and UCLA but also catapult programs like Cal, Oregon and Oregon State into the limelight on a consistent basis.

In fact, in most years California has so many top-tier prospects that if Dennis Erickson at Arizona State and Mike Stoops at Arizona play their cards right, they too could find themselves back among college football's elite programs.

However, I must say that top to bottom, the 2008 class of offensive prospects from California is not quite as strong or deep as in years past. For the first time in a long time, this class is much stronger in the interior line as a whole than it is with skill players, which is what California -- much like Florida -- is known for producing.

Top '08 Calif. prospects -- offense
Name Pos Grade
Darrell Scott RB 89
Dayne Crist QB 86
Nick Crissman QB 82
D.J. Shoemate ATH 82
Matt Kalil OT 82

Of the top 15 prospects graded to date in the state, six of them are offensive linemen, including three USC commits in OT Matt Kalil (Anaheim, Calif./Servite), OT Matt Meyer (Stockton, Calif./Lincoln) and OT Tyron Smith (Moreno Valley, Calif./Rancho Verde). The seventh interior player is TE Blake Ayles (Orange, Calif./Lutheran), and he too is a Trojan commit. For USC, the rich just keep getting richer.

Although this feature's focus is on the offensive talent in the state, California has great under-the-radar players on both sides of the ball who we feel will become great ones at the next level. Strangely, these guys are not receiving the national attention you would expect, surprising in a state so talented year in and year out.

Yet, don't kid yourselves folks, the guys near the top are about as good as you can ask for. Notre Dame commit Dayne Crist (Sherman Oaks, Calif./Notre Dame) is better than last year's California quarterback who signed with this Irish, and UCLA is getting a polished, well-groomed signal caller in Nick Crissman (Huntington Beach, Calif./Edison).

It is a down year in California in my opinion for quarterbacks in terms of numbers, but these two are very good.

Top recruit (offense)

Darrell Scott, Running back
St. Bonaventure (Ventura, Calif.)
Considering: USC, UCLA, LSU, Florida, Texas, Florida State, Cal, Michigan, Colorado, Notre Dame

The 6-foot, 204-pound Scott is a load to say the least, but what makes him unique is his blend of speed and elusiveness coupled with his strong, sturdy frame. After a wonderful junior season at Moorpark, the talented galloper decided to join the always strong St. Bonaventure program and provide it with a true running threat in the backfield.

He carried a whopping 337 times for 3,194 yards (9.5 average) and 45 touchdowns as a junior. Likely to face eight-man fronts this season, don't expect the numbers to be quite as gaudy this time around.

Scott had a slow start in the opener with just 76 yards on the ground but scored the game-winning two-point conversion against Santa Margarita to seal the victory for the Seraphs.

As far as recruiting goes for Scott, don't be surprised to see him make a move to put him closer to Florida, his original home state. Expect official visits to Florida, Miami and Florida State, as well as LSU among others whom he has yet to sort out. Other visits could come closer to the West Coast, with UCLA and maybe even Colorado. The dark horse could be Texas.

Player under the radar (offense)

Marvin Jones, Wide receiver
Etiwanda, Calif.
Considering: Cal, Oregon, Nebraska, Arizona State, Arizona

This 6-2 receiver still had limited offers in early summer, but we feel he will continue to pick up recruiting steam and significant offers as his film slides across the desk of college recruiting coordinators across the country.

It is difficult to find many physical flaws in Jones' game. His tall, lean body should continue to fill out with lean bulk and greatly complement his current big-play possession ability. He utilizes his frame well, gaining proper body positioning and consistently winning the jump-ball matchup. His hands, body control and concentration are excellent, but what gets us excited as evaluators is his attitude attacking the football.

The physical skills are obvious, but Jones' savvy play and relentless effort as a receiver prospect are the intangibles that people could be missing when looking merely at his combine numbers. With that said, the No. 30-rated receiver prospect in 2008 can still move the chains after the catch with great movement skills for a tall receiver and good straight-line speed. Look for his stock to rise with ESPN (currently a player we are tracking for ESPN 150 status) and some of the top national programs outside of the Pac-10. His talents at safety only add to his upside.

On the trail (BCS schools)

USC, 14 commitments
WR Brice Butler (Norcross, Geo.) and ATH Joe Adams (Little Rock, Ark./Central Arkansas Christian) are the big ones at the skill spots, and plenty of offensive line help follows. Expect an impressive class when it's all over.

UCLA, 24 commitments
The Bruins have a lot of scholarships this time around and have been focusing on the 2008 class for well over a year. Crissman, the best quarterback no one is talking about, headlines this group, and don't forget under-the-radar safety E.J. Woods (Culver City, Calif./Crespi).

California, 8 commitments
Not a lot of numbers right now for the Bears, but this is a marathon not a sprint. A strong on-field showing will up the ante for Cal come February. OLB J.P. Harrell (San Mateo, Calif./Serra) leads the class.

Stanford, 9 commitments
For a team with a ton of work to do, the Cardinal and coach Jim Harbaugh are luring believers to Palo Alto. QB Andrew Luck (Houston/Stratford) is a huge find and could be the guy who leads the resurgence and helps land Stanford a better than expected class.

Christopher Lawlor's Game of the Week

Southern California
Canyon (0-0) at Notre Dame-Sherman Oaks (0-0), Friday 7:30 p.m.
The highly anticipated season debut of QB Dayne Crist, No. 14 player in the ESPN 150, is against Canyon, California's defending Prep Bowl Division I champions. Crist threw for 1,270 yards and 17 TDs despite missing part of the last season with a back injury. Crist's teammate, LB Anthony McDonald, will also sign with the Fighting Irish. -- Lawlor

Tom Luginbill is the national director of recruiting for Scouts Inc. Luginbill is a college football and recruiting studio analyst for ESPNU.