- Craig Haubert, ESPN Staff Writer
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At your next tailgate party, when the debate turns to which states generate the most talent, not many people will mention Washington, Oregon and Idaho. While these Pacific Northwest states don't have a claim among the top states, more than coffee, athletic footwear and computers come from this region.
The 2006 NFL season started with 62 players from these three states on rosters. In addition, the 2006 NFL draft saw at least one player from each of these three states get drafted, and Oregon was home to one of only 13 high schools nationally to have multiple players drafted this year (Lebanon High School).
The number of players from these areas may not match other states, but the quality of talent can. Some of college football's best quarterbacks have recently come from these areas, like Drew Bledsoe from Washington, Joey Harrington from Oregon and Jake Plummer from Idaho.
Chris Izbicki, Tight end
Lake Washington (Kirkland, Wash.)
It is not every year that the top recruit from a region or state is a tight end, but it is not every year that a player like Izbicki is available. The nation's No. 10-ranked player at his position is special because he has a little bit of everything you are looking for in a tight end.
For a high school prospect, he has ideal size (6-foot-4, close to 250 pounds). He also has a work ethic and physical nature to maximize his size. On film, Izbicki proves his worth as a blocker, but what helps separate him from the pack of the hundreds of other tight ends is his ability to contribute as a receiver. He has nice hands and displays his athleticism by being able to catch the ball away from his body. For a player of his size, he runs well and can push linebackers in routes.
Izbicki's physical nature is exciting. He runs hard with the ball in his hands and is not afraid to lower his shoulder and run through a defender.
Size, athleticism and ability have made Izbicki the top prospect in the region, but it's his confidence that could put him over the top in college.
"I want to be the tight end that makes all the great high school tight ends want to go to Washington because Chris Izbicki went there and set the tone as both the great receiver and the great blocker," he told the Seattle Times.
Player under the radar
Jason Munns, Quarterback
South Ridge (Kennewick, Wash.)
The 2007 class has many quarterbacks who have name recognition, but one player from the Northwest who you may not have heard much about (but should) is Jason Munns.
At first glance, he is a pocket passer given his size, field vision and pocket awareness, but there is more to him. Munns is also a good athlete with nimble feet -- he can throw on the run to beat the rush. He does not have the strongest arm and is not a drop-back and "bombs away" deep-ball thrower, but he is very good at shorter passes that require timing and placement.
The BYU Cougars have had some very good quarterbacks, and Munns is a guy to watch to see if he can throw his way into their company.
On the trail
Naturally, schools like Boise State and Oregon State are having success in their own backyards, but the program doing the best in this region so far is the Washington Huskies. Washington has been down recently but is trying to make a push back to national prominence, and one route head coach Tyrone Willingham is taking is landing the top talent in his state.
So far the Huskies have six verbals, with five from the Northwest region and four hailing from Washington. Izbicki leads the way, but defensive lineman Emeka Iweka (Seattle/Rainier Beach) is a well-built prospect and a good addition. He is a bit raw but has nice upside and could be a guy to watch in college.
The Huskies also have landed a quick and competitive corner (Vonzell McDowell) from the same high school as Iweka.
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Maxpreps Games of the Week
Idaho: Coeur d'Alene (2-0) at Centennial (1-0), Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Centennial of Boise ended Bishop Kelly's 25-game winning streak with a 32-16 win Friday, while Coeur d'Alene has put up 97 points in victories over Sandpoint and University (Wash.). Centennial running back Keaton Matlock tallied 215 yards on the ground last week running behind one of the state's biggest and most physical offensive lines.
Oregon: Marist, Ore. (1-0) vs. Kennedy, Wash. (1-0), Saturday, 9 p.m.
Oregon's defending 3A champion will trek north to face Kennedy, an early-season favorite in Washington's 3A ranks. Marist prepped by beating Shelton, another Washington team, 21-7 on Friday. Kennedy opened with a statement victory over 4A Lincoln of Tacoma, 34-24, behind 182 yards and four touchdowns from star running back Nate Williams.
The contest will be played at the University of Washington's Husky Stadium, and the Lancers will be playing for state pride after Oregon teams dominated Friday's Oregon-Washington Les Schwab Kickoff Classic in Portland.
Washington: Puyallup (1-0) at Kentwood (1-0), Friday, 7 p.m.
Tom Ingles turned Kentwood into one of Washington's elite programs during his 14-year run in Covington, compiling a 114-40 record and winning a pair of state titles. But Friday, Ingles will lead Puyallup against his former school for the first time in a South Puget Sound League showdown. Ingles' Vikings hammered Sumner 37-7 last week, while the Conquerors downed perennial power South Kitsap 26-20. Kentwood features one of the state's top juniors, running back Demetrius Bronson, who ran for 125 yards in last week's win. --Jason Hickman
Craig Haubert is a recruiting coordinator for ESPN's Scouts Inc.
As ESPN.com goes coast-to-coast to feature the top recruits and high school football stories, we make a stop in the Pacific Northwest.