Coast-to-Coast: Arizona and New Mexico

10/18/2006 - College Football

While the landscape in Arizona and New Mexico long has been known for it's scenic beauty, neither state has been known for producing upper-echelon high school football talent over a consistent period of time.

Linebacker Brian Urlacher, the pride of Lovington, N.M., was an under-the-radar prospect with great versatility and the range to play multiple positions, but he was barely recruited. He is the very definition of a "sleeper." At the start of the 2006 NFL season, there were only three players in the NFL from New Mexico -- Urlacher (Chicago Bears), Hank Baskett (Philadelphia Eagles) and Ryan Cook (Minnesota Vikings).

While Arizona boasts a few more marquee NFL names in Baltimore Ravens DE Terrell Suggs (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton) and TE Todd Heap (Mesa, Ariz./Mountain View), both of whom attended Arizona State, the fact still remains that if Arizona and Arizona State are to compete with USC in the Pac-10, they must steal some top prospects out of California.

New Mexico and New Mexico State must do the same in regards to recruiting Texas if they want to compete for the crown of their respective conferences.

Top recruit

Everson Griffen, defensive end/tight end
High School: Aqua Fria Union, Avondale, Ariz.
Schools considering: UCLA, USC, Arizona, Notre Dame, Oklahoma

Griffen is one of the most intriguing prospects in this entire class, not only as a defensive end but also as a running back/H-back type who would make a great tight end if he were to end up on offense. We have had mixed feelings on Griffen ever since we first saw him, but we never have doubted his versatility and athleticism.

Griffen hit the camp and combine circuit very hard last spring and wowed onlookers with his strength, power and speed in one-on-one drills. He is a workout warrior with great measurables, and he tests out extremely well. However, when evaluating Griffen on film, we have not seen the same dominance from play to play in game situations that we have in workouts, and this is concerning.

On offense, Griffen stands out and exhibits rare athleticism for a player of his size. But on defense, he only flashes signs of great play and must step up his consistency level in terms of motor and mean streak. He has all the tools, but as good as he may perform in a combine setting, you want to see that same type of play in game situations. Griffen already has visited Notre Dame and has scheduled visits to USC (Nov. 25) and UCLA (Dec. 2).

Player under the radar

Ryley Hegarty, quarterback
High School: Aztec, Aztec, N.M.
Schools considering: Ivy League, New Mexico State

Hegarty likely will end up at the Division I-AA level, but he has the tools to compete at Division I-A. Few quarterbacks at the high school level have put up the numbers he has -- more than 100 touchdowns, more than 9,000 passing yards and four years as the varsity starter.

He is the type of passer who finds a way to get the job done. He has adequate overall tools and is a touch passer who understands timing and anticipation. His only Division I offer was from New Mexico State, but the Aggies have pulled back. They wanted Hegarty to commit early, and he wasn't ready to do so. He is smart, heady and consistent, and he knows how to win.

On the trail

It is imperative that Arizona and Arizona State keep the best of the best in state, but it doesn't look like that will happen with Everson Griffen. The Sun Devils are off to a good start in-state with WR T.J. Simpson (Peoria, Ariz./Peoria) and OLB Colin Parker (Chandler, Ariz./Hamilton). It would be big for them to land mammoth OT Javario Burkes (Phoenix, Ariz./Moon Valley).

It has become clear that Mike Stoops is going to spend most of his time in California and Texas, and this will pay off down the road.

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