I’m using this column to assist college coaches and area high school programs with an important April event going on across America.
That event is the NCAA Spring Evaluation Period from April 15 to May 31 – when college football coaches come to the area high schools and check in on the talent coming back.
The talent level for the 2020 class is unlike anything I’ve seen in years. In all three counties of the 805, there are either going to be sleepers or cornerstones.
Here’s who I believe are worth looking into in this region – and who could see lots of visitors on their high school campus beginning first with Santa Barbara County:
The Warriors already produced a future American Athletic Conference (AAC) defensive lineman in 2019 Tulane commit Caleb Thomas.
The CIF Central Section Division 2 runner-up now has cornerback Jake Steels next in line.
Already with an impressive grade point average of above 3.7, the 2020 prospect Steels comes with wide receiver-hops, hands and a high football IQ while lining up at cornerback.
For 2021, cat-quick running back Kidasi Nepa added an outside threat in the Pistol Wing-T offense for RHS last season. The 5-foot-7 back is a threat to gain 10 to 40 yards or more whenever he touches the football.
Devin Guggia is the latest thoroughbred runner for the Knights.
The 6-foot, 200-pound incoming senior knows how to wear down defenses in between the tackles by running at a low center of gravity and showing no wear and tear. His stamina is a major plus. He’s built to carry the football up to 35 times a game.
Darien Langley helps energize the Knights’ 2021 class as a versatile wideout, defensive back and return ace. He’s likely to see a spike in touches of the football this coming fall.
Could Alex Sutton be this season’s Caleb Thomas?
Sutton may not currently have Thomas’s explosion off the ball or stature (Sutton stands at 6-foot-2, 225-pounds according to Max Preps). But he obliterates one-on-one blocks on the defensive line with his strength and tenacity. The 2021 prospect is also a 1,000-yard rusher from a year ago as a bruising running back reminiscent of a 1970s NFL fullback. Athletic director Chad McKenzie likens Sutton’s running ability to former Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back and Super Bowl champion Mike Alstott.
His girth, running style and defensive prowess could make him the Spartans’ most coveted football prospect ever.
Even in a 0-10 campaign, Patrick Durham was one guy who didn’t have an off switch during games.
The 2020 outside linebacker still kept his relentless side for all four quarters.
He’s a sure tackler and one of CHS’s top options on blitzes. He’s also a star wrestler on campus who went on to the CIF Masters Meet in the Southern Section – giving him an edge in stamina and leverage. The big question will be if he continues to pursue football after high school or lean on wrestling.
Class of 2021 defensive end Cade McNamee showed plenty of potential for the Conqs. The 6-foot-3 edge rusher tallied 6.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He has room to grow at defensive end.
Could this 2020 class be even more stacked than the Braves’ 2018 class?
Expect lots of college coaches to visit LHS.
It starts in the trenches with Jacob Nunez at offensive tackle – already the most heavily-sought prospect in this area with Pac-12, Mountain West and Ivy League programs either offering him or telling him they’ll be visiting soon. He torments defensive ends and tackles with his powerful low body leverage and nasty streak.
Leondre Coleman proved he can tote the rock at running back last season especially on inside runs, but the bulk of his top highlights are on defense – as the 6-foot-1 linebacker has emerged as a fundamentally sound tackler and relentless pass rusher in the two-point stance. The fact Arroyo Grande transfer Jed Rantz gets to team alongside him this fall makes it uneasy for offensive line coaches in figuring out who to account for come fall.
Speaking of Rantz, while he may not have much junior film, he showed sideline-to-sideline smarts and tenacity during his sophomore campaign at AGHS. Versatile Cullin Ranney doubles as a solid tackler and extremely reliable red zone option as a 6-foot-1, 210-pound H-back. He recently visited Cal Poly.
Quarterback Cameron Iribarren continues to maintain the lineage of dual-threat passers in the Brave uniform. The 2020 prospect is capable of taking over games with his legs and has spent the offseason fine tuning his quarterback mechanics.
On the perimeter, receivers Ryan Morgan and Joseph Schumer gives LHS not only an aerial element, but guys who can either stretch the field after snatching the short bubble screens or can burn defenders deep. The four-sport star Morgan told me recently that he’s leaning towards a future in football because of his build. Schumer linked up with Ranney and Iribarren at Cal Poly and also provides smarts and ball-hawking capabilities to the Brave defense.
The Pirates rode the defensive wave to the CIF Southern Section Division 7 playoffs last season. And defensive end Tyler Germani was a large reason why.
The 2020 prospect has a strong build at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds and brought relentless energy for the Pirates en route to 11.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and a team-high 8.5 sacks according to Max Preps. Per his head coach Josh McClurg, Germani has additionally seen an improvement in his academics.
Versatile Anthony Gills also spearheads the Pirates’ 2020 class as a dual-threat passer and reliable defensive back who can line up at cornerback and safety. Camron Prendergast helps lead the 2021 class at SYHS with his reliable hands and disciplined routes as 5-foot-10, 150 pounds.
Other players to note:
Adrian Sorraco, Bishop Diego: Two-way standout is explosive through the hole after taking handoffs and then wraps them up as an outside linebacker. He owns a 2017 state championship ring with the Cardinals. He has totaled 2,031 career rushing yards and 24 touchdowns in his three years on the varsity team.
Deacon Hill, Santa Barbara: Already has an impressive frame at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds. But he can really sling it in the pocket. Plus shows a willingness to learn and get better. The 2021 prospect showed flashes of potential last season for the Dons while rotating at quarterback.
Conner Lee, Dos Pueblos: Solid tackler with a good nose for the football from his safety spot. He helped energize the Charger defense during their 6-5 campaign.