By Stephen Spiewak
With the recruiting process for the class of 2008 coming to a climax today, the spotlight will soon shift to a stellar crop of juniors.
Some, like Gatorade National Player of the Year Matt Barkley, have already made their intentions known - a full year before they can sign with their school of choice. A product of California powerhouse Mater Dei, Barkley recently pledged to become a USC Trojan, following in the footsteps of former Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart, once a Monarch himself.
Barkley, Tom Lemming's top-rated junior prospect, threw for 3,576 yards and 35 touchdowns last fall.
Other news and notes from the class of 2009:
- Scouts flocked to Cottonwood High School in Salt Lake City, Utah, over the past year to see one of the nation’s top linebackers, Lynn Katoa, who has committed to Colorado. While there, they definitely took notice of another top-notch player, Cottonwood offensive lineman John Martinez.
According to his head coach Cecil Thomas, Martinez had four offers after signing day last year, when he was only a sophomore. A tireless worker, Martinez has been getting it done on the field as well as in the classroom. Thomas thinks he can still has lots of room to grow.
“Right now he weighs 265, but I think he can carry 290 and still run very well,” Thomas said.
Oklahoma State is hot in pursuit, along with in-state schools Utah and Brigham Young.
- Roxbury Catholic (Mass.) defensive lineman Brennan Williams might be mourning the Patriots' Super Bowl loss, but his growing number of Division I scholarship offers should help soften the blow for the mammoth New England fan.
Roxbury Catholic coach Alex Campea reports that Williams boasts offers from Boston College, Syracuse, and Connecticut, while many other schools also remain interested.
At 6-foot-6, 260 pounds, Brennan could be able to help his future college on either side of the ball, Campea said.
- Another offensive lineman who can contribute early is Cedar Hill’s (Texas) Tom Ashcraft.
At 6-4 and 280 pounds, Ashcraft has been a force in the trenches for Cedar Hill since his sophomore year, when he started 16 games for a state championship team and blocked for William Cole, who rushed for over 3,000 yards from the quarterback position.
The experienced Ashcraft has done so well academically, he is on pace to graduate at the end of the fall semester, making him eligible to enroll in college next January.
“The only regular class he takes is football,” Cedar Hill head coach Joey McGuire said. “He’s an honors student.”
- In Florida, one current Seminole also could be a future Seminole.
The Florida High Seminoles feature one of the nation’s best defensive lineman, Brandon Jenkins. Florida High has a close association with Florida State University, whose department of education governs the high school.
Jenkins could end up a Florida State Seminole, but other local suitors like Miami and Florida are also making a strong push, along with regional powerhouses LSU and Georgia.
- From the school that produced current USC Trojan signal caller Mark Sanchez comes another blue chip QB, Allan Bridgford.
At 6-4, Bridgford has the prototypical build of a pro-style quarterback that college coaches savor. He has received a great deal of attention from Pac-10 schools, but is entertaining all suitors at this point.
Bridgford has split allegiances within his own family. His father is a USC graduate, while his mother attended Stanford.
- Immaculata (N.J.) will be a popular destination this year for recruiters mining the Garden State.
Running back Theo Riddick and lineman Mark Brazinski have each garnered early offers from Rutgers and Boston College, while attracting interest from many other schools.
Head Coach Pierce Fraunheim reports that Urban Meyer and Charlie Weis have each paid visits to last year’s Non-Public III state runner up. Each has done well recruiting in New Jersey. Meyer landed St. Peter’s Prep’s Will Hill this year; Weis, Hoboken’s Duval Kamara and Camden Catholic’s Mike Ragone last year.
- Many of the nation’s top juniors have gifts of athleticism that stretch beyond the football field and on to the hardwood.
However, some of the nation’s elite are choosing to pass on basketball season and dedicate themselves to football training and the recruitment process.
Mike Campanaro, an impressive running back who led River Hill (Md.) to a state championship on the gridiron, chose to sit out the basketball season this year, after running the point on a championship team as a sophomore last year.
Leo High School’s (Ill.) coveted offensive line prospect Leon Hill made a similar decision. He chose not to play basketball so that he could re-dedicate himself to academics. It should pay off for the big man, who committed to play for Ron Zook at Illinois just this Saturday.