Some of the biggest names in recruiting world came from San Diego. We should all remember the name Dillon Baxter and what kind of noise he made by going... and leaving the Trojans. We are also fortunate to have a few athletes from SD on our roster - Mustafa Jalil, Stefan McClure, Brian Schwenke, etc. Tom Sheridan, reporter of SD's North County Times, graciously agreed to tell us a bit more about what Cal fans can expect from the prep stars in the region. Make sure you follow his work on North County TImes and Twitter @NCTVarsity.
What do you look for when evaluating talent?
Obviously, evaluating talent is not part of my job description. But there isn't a sports reporter alive who doesn't engage in a little armchair scouting. In football in particular, I'm impressed by kids who have a single natural attribute -- speed, strength, agility, tenacity -- that stands out among their peer group.
How has the recruiting game changed in the time you have spent following it?
Well, the Internet has revolutionized recruiting in the same way it has revolutionized music distribution, news dissemination, politics, social discourse, etc. al. There is much more information. Much more disinformation. And the whole process has been irrevocablydemocratized. Even marginal recruits, kids who are destined to play Division III football, are out there 'hawking' their CDs, and posting their highlight clips online. With Lil Wayne on the background track, I might add. Back in the day, it was a handful of guys like Tom Konchalski and Clark Gilbert sending out newsletters through the U.S. Postal Service. And preview magazines like Street & Smith's listing their 250 top high school players. That was about the extent of it. Brave New World, right?
What weight do you put on recruit's twitter chatter? Is it all to screw with the media or are they saying legitimate things on there?
My favorite part of recruit's chatter is their ingenuity and facility with profanity. That stuff slays me! I'm serious! I know kids talk like that, but now they're broadcasting this stuff to the whole world. A lot of tough lessons about what is and isn't acceptable, are being learned out there.
You probably followed Taylor McNamara's recruitment. Any idea what made him chose Oklahoma over other schools like Colorado and California?
I talked to Taylor about it a little and I think the fact that a handful of San Diego-area recruits have gone out to Oklahoma and succeeded -- Kenny Stills, Tony Jefferson, Brendan Clay -- was one reason. The other thing Taylor mentioned was the way the offense uses the tight end. He was very aware that Jermaine Gresham was an Oklahoma tight end who became a first-round draft choice.
Who are the top recruits in the 2013 class from the San Diego area?
Our coverage area is North County, which doesn't include Lincoln. But they have a set of twins -- Tyrell and Tyree Robinson -- who have been starters on the football and basketball teams since they were freshmen. They are wide receiver-defensive back prospects. Oceanside quarterback Tofi Paopao is a physical marvel who has been starting since his sophomore year. That is also true of Cathedral Catholic's signal-caller Garrett Bogart, he'll be a three-year starter. But while Bogart is your prototypical drop-back quarterback, Paopao may have a future as a outside linebacker, safety or tight end. One kid who has the kind of attributes that just jump out at you -- as I alluded to earlier -- is a cornerback from Poway named Derek Babiash. His ball hawking and coverage skills are exceptional. And when he gets the ball in his hands watch out. He plays basketball too.
Who would you say performs the best in recruiting San Diego among all the Pac-12 schools?
Lately, I would say Cal. And no I'm not trying to butter anybody up. Stefan McClure (Vista), Alex Crosthwaite and Mustafa Jalil (Cathedral Catholic), Brian Schwenke (Oceanside) are just a few of the notable examples.
If you had to guess who would be the player from the 2012 class to shine in college, who would be your pick?
Again, from our coverage area I would say one of the two big guys: Erik Magnuson (Michigan) or Kwayde Miller (San Diego State). But of them are offensive tackles in the 6-5 to 6-7 range, 280 to 300 pounds, and athletic. They both played basketball. Miller has really matured a lot over his high school career. You know, emotionally and intellectually, not just physically. That whole personal makeup thing is something you can't ignore.
If there's one local player you're rooting for to succeed at the next level because of his success on and off the field, who would it be and why?
As a reporter who strives to be as objective as possible, it's hard to say I 'root' for any specific kid. But there are certainly kids who you get to know over the years and when they do well, you make a mental note of it. I'll tell you a kid who impressed me a lot as a person who is not a big-time recruit, but who I will definitely be keeping an eye on as he moves onto college. His name is Tyler Tony. He was an option quarterback at San Pasqual. The program had been a little down and he led them to their best season in years. The Ivys were looking at him but he decided to hang locally here at the University of San Diego. Remember, that is where Jim Harbaugh coached immediately before taking the job at Stanford. So they play some pretty good football there for a Division III school. The quarterback from that era -- Josh Johnson -- is the backup in Tampa Bay. Tyler can't be much taller than me (5-9). But he is a great, great kid and a competitor nonpareil. And an option wizard. I grew up in the era of James Street and Thomas Lott and Rick Leach, quarterbacks with highly developed option skills. And I love it when I get to see a modern kid run that offense. Tyler will probably be a slot receiver or a safety in college.
We have a few players on the Golden Bears roster from the SD Section - Mustafa Jalil, Alex Crosthwaite, Stefan McClure, Brian Schwenke, and Brian Farley. What stood out in your mind about them and what made them special on and off the field?
Yeah, as I mentioned further up in the Q&A, Cal has made a splash down here. I'll take two in particular, starting with Stefan. What a naturally gifted athlete! And he works hard too. I cover track too, and he was our San Diego Section triple jump champion. If you know anything about track, you've got to be an exceptional athlete just to execute a triple jump, much less do it well. He went close to 48 feet. On the football field he could do just about anything: return kicks, catch passes, run reverses, block, play safety, lock-down corner. I have no idea how he throws the ball, don't even know if he's left-handed or right-. But he can do everything else. And not to sound redundant, but what a cool kid. I know his dad, Al -- a very good high school athlete in his own right who has helped out as an assistant football and track coach at Vista. Al played high school ball (also at Vista) in the 1970s and looks like he still might be able to get out there and mix it up. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, as they say. The other kid is Jalil, or "Moose" as he was known down here. There was a lot of talk about his 'makeup.' Some people intimated he wasn't the best of kids. Others would say he was just a little rambunctious. But there was no denying his ability to wreak havoc on the football field. In Cathedral Catholic's come-from-behind win over Point Loma in the Division III section final in 2010, he took over the game with a series of big plays in the fourth quarter, playing like a man possessed. I'm not sure you'll ever see that player at Cal. But if you do, you won't soon forget it.
Give us your favorite story on and off the field with the prep stars.
I've got a million of 'em ... hahaha. But we don't have the time and space. To pick one, I'll go in a completely different direction here, it involves a golfer. I was hired in 2006 by The Californian in Southwest Riverside County and got to cover Rickie Fowler during his final year in high school at Murrieta Valley. For those who don't know, he's the flashy, young player on the PGA Tour who was the rookie of the year in 2010 and is on the cover of the EA Sports Tiger Woods game. As a high school freshman in 2004 he won the Southern California Regional with a 62. A tournament scoring record that may stand for a long, long time. I was covering for a different paper at the time, but wanted to get a look at this freshman who shot 10 under par. I asked around, and was pointed in his direction. What I found was a kid who was 14 or so, but looked like he was 12, handling all this attention as if he was 30 years old. Poised, calm, thoughtful, peering out from under the long brim of his ballcap. Four years later, at the end of his freshman year at Oklahoma State, he qualified for the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. After the first round, he was tied for seventh, as an amateur. NBC's Jim Gray collared him for an interview and it was like deja vu -- this impossibly young and incredibly talented kid, handling the commotion following another great performance with all the aplomb of a seasoned veteran. That day the nation was introduced to him in much the same way that I had been three years earlier. Kind of a trip.
What advice do you have for these D-1 bound recruits? What would or wouldn't you do if you were in their shoes?
Handle your school work. Don't talk dirty on Twitter. Remember what got you where you are. Stay humble. Stay humble. Stay humble.