Sunday, January 29, 2006

Cream of the Crop

The Contra Costa Times releases its Cream of the Crop every recruiting season. The lists consists of the area's top 20 high school players/recruits. Fresno State recruited more than its fare share of these 20 athletes, and received 3 early commitments from the top 10. However, one, #6 rated Jamal Hamler, de-committed to Oregon. His two teammates, from San Leandro HS, are ranked 7th and 8th, Nico Herron and Damion Owens, respectively.

1. Derrick Hill
DT 6-2 285 McClymonds
Coaches rave about this year's best prospect. Most closely compared to the Raiders' Warren Sapp. "Can play anywhere," a WAC assistant said. "Great with his hands, and first step is incredibly fast." Was defensive MVP of Cal, USC camps, according to McClymonds coach Alonzo Carter. McClymonds' leading tackler. "Has perfect technique for a tackle in a 4-3 (defense)," Carter said. "Big guy with a motor." Said a Pac-10 assistant: "As good as advertised. Plays hard. Likes game. Likes to practice." Final five were Colorado, Arizona, Oregon, USC, Cal. Announced intentions at U.S. Army All-Star game. College: Cal

2. Josh Tatum
LB 6-1 225 McClymonds
Injuries in junior and senior seasons limited playing time but didn't prevent feverish recruiting battle. "Best linebacker I saw," a Pac-10 assistant said. "The way he runs, the way he strikes people. Has a lot of ability." Suffered torn ACL in fourth game and missed remainder of 2005 season. Had shoulder injury in 2004. "When healthy can be a special player," McClymonds coach Alonzo Carter said. "Really explosive in his legs and hips. Potential is untapped. Tremendous athlete and hard worker." Said Mountain West Conference scout: "Even with bad knee he's fast. Can be a pro linebacker if he works at it." Chose among Tennessee, Miami, USC, Cal, Michigan. College: USC

3. Mike Costanzo
DT 6-2 305 Monte Vista
Best player in Contra Costa County in two years. "Big, strong, tough," said a recruiter. "Will be a good football player." Said a WAC assistant: "Might be the best player in the (East Bay). Good quickness and movement. I see him on the inside defensive line." Active and physical, according to one college football recruiter. "Tremendous player," Monte Vista coach Craig Bergman said. "Will make an immediate impact. Has size, strength and unbelievable quickness." Had offers from Nebraska, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, the entire Pac-10. Committed very early. College: Cal

4. Na Derris Ward
TE 6-5 245 McClymonds
First Cream of the Crop tight end since Isaac Watts (Encinal HS, Arizona) in 2001. Highest rated tight end since Marcus Williams (Berkeley HS) in 1996. "Prototype size," McClymonds coach Alonzo Carter said. "Has good hands, takes good routes. Needs to get stronger." Excellent defensive end -- had 19 sacks, according to Carter. But it's at tight end where he excels. "Good one," a Mountain West Conference scout said. "Tall, rangy, can run, catch ball. One of the top dudes, if not the top dude, in that area." Had ton of offers. Chose among Tennessee, Arizona, Louisiana State, Georgia, Florida and Cal. Chose to play on opposite coast of cousin Josh Tatum. College: Georgia

5. A.J. Simmons
TE 6-4 250 Bishop O'Dowd
Will begin college at tight end, but many scouts see him as defensive end because of how he gets off ball. "Can do either (position). An athlete," Pac-10 assistant said. "Heart is at tight end, and I think he will be a tight end." Bishop O'Dowd coach Paul Perenon agreed. "Devastating blocker, one of the best I've seen at this level," Perenon said. "Soft hands, decent speed, will get faster. My bet is that he is a tight end. He has more of an offensive player's mentality." Has perhaps more tools than any member of this year's Crop. "Big, powerful, size, range -- has a lot of potential," a Pac-10 scout said. Picked between Cal, Oregon, Utah, Arizona, Washington, UCLA. College: Arizona

6. Jamel Hamler
WR 6-1 190 San Leandro
Stock has risen throughout recruiting process. Has size college recruiters look for. "Best receiver in the area," said one college assistant. "Can run, nice hands." Probable possession receiver in college, but some scouts think he will improve 4.6-second speed in 40. "Highly underrated," a WAC recruiter said. "Not blazer, but faster than he looks. Excellent athlete, tremendous hands." One assistant said he would be just as adept at cornerback as at wide receiver. "Unselfish," San Leandro coach Brad Bowers said. "Doesn't care how many touches he gets. Solid leader."
Committed to Fresno State, then de-committed.
College: Oregon

7. Nicco Herron
LB 6-2 225 San Leandro
Hard hitter who seems best-suited for middle linebacker. Could wind up at defensive end if he puts on enough weight. "One of my favorites," Mountain West Conference assistant said. "Has size, speed, really strikes you with his hands." Might need a year or two before he's ready to play full-time. One coach called him a raw talent. "Interesting kid," Pac-10 assistant said. "Tough-minded. Big, strong, physical, plays sideline-to-sideline." Called very aggressive by San Leandro coach Brad Bowers. "Fire and desire," Bowers said. "A field general on defense." Oregon, Utah, UNLV, Utah State among schools expressing interest. College: Fresno State

8. Damion Owens
CB 6-1 185 San Leandro
Big cornerback, which is a rarity in college nowadays. Will be total package if he can add a little speed. Timed at 4.65 seconds in 40. Could end up at free safety, according to San Leandro coach Brad Bowers. "Very physical, has good instincts," Bowers said. Three-year starter for the Pirates. "More of a cornerback (than safety)," Mountain West Conference scout said. "Is good player and shows quickness." Said a WAC assistant: "Runs as fast as he needs to. Excellent feet, good movement, good change of direction." Known as tough competitor. San Diego State, Washington State showed interest. College: Fresno State

rest of the list.........

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