- Tom Luginbill, ESPN Staff Writer
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California year in and year out produces upper echelon prospects from San Diego all the way to Sacramento. When the 2005 NFL season kicked off, there were 199 players on active rosters who played their high school football in California.
As we began evaluating California's 2007 recruiting class, we discovered that once again it was going to be a strong year for quarterbacks. Keep in mind, this is a state that has produced the likes of John Elway and Tom Brady. All the hype may go to Jimmy Clausen (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian), but many others are sure to make their own marks at the college level.
Top recruit (offense)
Jimmy Clausen, Quarterback
Oaks Christian (Westlake Village, Calif.)
Verbal: Notre Dame
Clausen is the most physically impressive quarterback prospect to come out of high school in a long, long time. If you were to build a pure pocket passer from scratch, Clausen's overall measurables -- height, delivery, arm strength and instincts -- would be the ideal recipe for success. He can make all the throws you need and gives an offense a huge presence in the intermediate and vertical passing game because he has a great feel for anticipation and timing and can zip the ball into the tightest of spots. He is well-groomed and will face very few physical challenges once he enters college.
Obviously, Clausen has the goods. However, despite all the hype that surrounds him, his recruitment and his commitment to Notre Dame, there actually are concerns here, believe it or not. For all his production, flashy numbers and big wins, the simple fact remains that he doesn't face topflight competition week in and week out. California is strong in terms of strength of schedule but not in Oaks Christian's conference. This fall, Clausen will face two tough tests against St. Bonaventure and Venice. Plus, his teammates are so talented that everything has been easy for him to this point.
As good as Clausen is physically, his greatest challenges will occur from the neck up. The jump from high school to Division I-A is a steep learning curve for most. How he handles pressure and the expectation level that comes with playing quarterback at Notre Dame (see Ron Powlus) will likely determine just how successful his college career will be. Nothing is going to be given to him, I assure you of that. His commitment press conference that would make Vincent Chase and his gang blush has not won him any popularity contests. Notre Dame's fans should expect great things from this young man, and I believe he will rise to the occasion, but everyone needs to be realistic and patient if need be. Wait a minute, did I say realistic and patient?
Player under the radar (offense)
Jahvid Best, Running back
Salesian (Richmond, Calif.)
Considering: Notre Dame, USC, UCLA, Arizona among others
Best is the fastest player in California that you haven't heard about yet. He is very good, and word is getting around about his lightning-in-a-bottle running style. Oftentimes, recruiters or scouts can get scared off by backs who lack great size and bulk. The concern is that they will be injured often and will struggle to carry the ball between the tackles on a full-time basis.
Best will have to prove he is capable of carrying the ball inside, but he is so good in space that coaches will take a chance because of the big-play potential he possesses. Best is speedy, explosively quick and tough. He reminds us of Northwestern running back Tyrell Sutton. His versatility as a receiver and return specialist give him huge potential to have an impact on the game in a variety of areas.
On the trail
Is it shocking to anybody that USC is loading up again? Seven of the Trojans' nine commitments thus far are in-state kids, and at least six are in what we would term the "elite" category, including Oaks Christian teammates running back Marc Tyler and safety Marshall Jones. Don't be surprised if these two end up on the other side of the ball in college -- Jones could wind up at running back and Tyler could become a linebacker.
The state is so deep that it has produced enough talent over several decades to fuel successful programs not only in the Pac-10, but the WAC and Mountain West as well.
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Maxpreps Game of the Week
Notre Dame-Sherman Oaks (0-0) at Canyon (1-0), Friday, 7 p.m.
Notre Dame and Canyon registered a 26-2 combined record in 2005, and both are strong favorites to contend for division titles this year. Canyon opened with a 33-14 win over Moorpark Thursday, getting 280 all-purpose yards from Brigham Young-commitment John DiLuigi. Notre Dame head coach Kevin Rooney is used to cranking out Division I-A prospects, and this year's club may be among his most talented. Charlie Carmichael (6-5, 304), Sam DeMartinis (6-6, 273) and Aaron Thomas (6-3, 243) give the Knights a big presence up front, while junior quarterback Dayne Crist and senior receiver Shane Horton headline a dangerous group of skill position players. -- Jason Hickman
Tom Luginbill is the national director of recruiting for Scouts, Inc. Tom is a college football and recruiting studio analyst for ESPNU.
As ESPN.com goes coast-to-coast to feature the top recruits and high school football stories, we make a stop in California.