Rivals.com's staff of recruiting analysts offer thoughts on things they learned while on the road scouting some of the nations top prospects in this week's edition of From the Road. Here is a closer look at some of the sights, storylines and recruiting scoop from the big weekend in high school football.
Jeremy Crabtree, Rivals.com Recruiting Editor
Two at the top: The battle for the top spot in next year's California state rankings is going to be very interesting, but it's clear that two guys might have already separated themselves from the pack. Those two guys are Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei quarterback Matt Barkley and Oxnard (Calif.) Santa Clara running back Cierre Wood.
Barkley has been nothing short of amazing this season in big game after big game. But Wood has also blown up time after time this season. And that was especially true this past weekend.
With almost the entire Southland shut down because of the raging fires, things were clear enough for teams to play up in Oxnard, and Wood took advantage of the opportunity and blew up with 370 yard, six touchdown performance, which was good enough to earn national player of the week honors from Rivals.com.
To top it all off, he scored the game-winning TD on a 61-yard run with less than a minute to play in the game.
What's ironic is that when Wood transferred in from St. Bonaventure after his freshman season, he had visions of staring in basketball at Santa Clara. Little did he know he would someday become one of the most highly coveted football prospects in the nation.
"I'm a real fast, quick first step basketball player," Wood, who did earn all-league honors in basketball last year, said. "I still love basketball. But I also know that football is going to help me get to college."
Wood plans on majoring in either engineering or business, and he's very open at this point. That's even after receiving an offer last Monday night from national power USC. The Trojans have made a living off of securing commitments from most of Los Angeles' top prospects after an early offer, but Wood said he's not in any kind of rush.
"I'm basically weighing all my options," he said. "Academically I want to go to a school that has an engineering program or a good business program.
"Location isn't really that big of a deal to me. Actually, I've thought about getting out of Oxnard and Los Angeles a little bit. That's when Florida offered me, I thought it was pretty cool. I've never been there, and I thought it would be a wonderful place to visit and go to school there. But that's not officially that big of a deal to me if I find the right fit close to home."
Forcier fallback plan: While observing a UCLA practice last week, Rivals.com bumped into San Diego (Calif.) Scripps Ranch junior quarterback Tate Forcier.
The 6-foot, 183-pounder was there to watch his older brother practice with the Bruins, but he was on his way to Happy Valley to watch Penn State play host to Florida. Forcier talked about how important an early offer from a school will be and that he's going to give plenty of attention on the schools that have already stepped up an offered. That includes places like Arizona, Stanford and Wisconsin, but others like Iowa, Michigan State, Penn State and Florida were mentioned by Forcier quite a bit.
Forcier also said he's been trying to hook up with the nation's No. 1 recruit Terrelle Pryor on his MySpace.com page, so he can find out if he's leaning one way or the other. Both Penn State and Florida have indicated to Forcier if they miss out on Pryor, then he'll be their top quarterback target.
Forcier also gave Rivals.com some of his junior tape, and after reviewing it, it's simply amazing.
It's clear that some schools might overlook him because he's only 6-foot, but honestly the kid's a big-time player and will be a highly successful college quarterback. There are fewer quarterbacks in the nation – even in the senior class – that have as quick of a release as Forcier. Plus, the kid has an extremely strong arm and can make things happen with his feet.
In today's game of spread offenses out of the shotgun formation so en vogue, there's no reason to believe that Forcier won't be a star in college – regardless of how tall he is.
No talent shortage at Centennial: Corona (Calif.) Centennial is one of the top teams in the Golden State and they have no shortage of talent, but the true leader of the team is four-star quarterback Matt Scott. The 6-foot-3, 205-pounder has been the subject of many rumors because of his pledge to Arizona. However, his coach Matt Logan said there are no issues with him looking around – unless there is a change made in Tucson.
"Everything is good still," Logan said. "As long as that staff is there, he wants to go there."
Logan is also blessed with one of California's top junior defensive players – linebacker Vontaze Burfict.
After missing almost all of his sophomore season and most of the attention focused on blue-chip running back Ryan Bass and Scott, a lot of people are asking who No. 7 is. Burfict is No. 7, and he's quickly developed into one of the nation's top junior linebackers. In seven games, he's racked up 73 tackles, one sack and one interception.
"Vontaze definitely has been one of our best players on the team this year," Logan said.
"It's been really exciting to watch his development over the past three years. To turn into what he has from a character standpoint and academic standpoint is amazing. He wasn't on the field last season for the first 10 games because of grades, and it's been great to see him work hard and overcome those obstacles and get back on the field and do as well as he has."
Logan said Burfict is definitely a force on the field.
"He's has a great tenacity about him," Logan said.
"He has a knack to make big plays when it counts most. He's all over the field. The thing about him is that he could probably play just about every position on the field. He could definitely play quarterback for us. He's got that kind of arm, and he's that kind of great athlete. He understands the game of football and has great instincts.
"He's also got the physical gifts. To be 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, run and do the things he can do that helps lot. He looks like Daunte Culpepper when he's out there playing quarterback. He could play about anywhere, but I think his college position is linebacker. That's why we've got him there. We're kind of steering him that way, too."
Since Burfict missed almost all of his sophomore season, he didn't appear on too many recruiting lists early on. That's caused a lot of schools to scramble to find out who he is. But when you watch the tape on him, it's easy to see No. 7 is definitely a big-time player.
"All the schools are asking, 'who is this kid, where was he on the list last year?' " Logan said. "They watch film on him and lucky for him he's got three major guys around him that are good and they get a lot of attention, and that helps for him, too. They all see that No. 7 keeps popping up just as much as they are. He's getting a lot of attention, and we're already getting a lot of calls from schools on him."
Burfict said he's also getting a lot of mail already.
"I've been getting mail from Minnesota and Colorado," he said. "That's two for sure that I like. My coach also said he got a call about me from USC. I haven't heard anything about offers yet, I think they're going to wait and see what happens with my grades this year.
Talent to Dye for: Corona Santiago four-star defensive back Anthony Dye has had a monster season, proving why he's not only one of the best in the Inland Empire, but also in the nation. Dye has been a long-time UCLA pledge but with the Bruins' question marks about the coaching staff, he took an official visit to Oregon this weekend.
Santiago also has a good group of 2009 prospects, but one of the most impressive looking players was offensive lineman Jordan Johnson. Johnson towers over people at 6-foot-5 and 280 pounds. He's already getting interest from UCLA, Washington State and Nevada. Also watch out for sophomore Ernest Sayles, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound safety/receiver.
Freshman to watch: From the never it's too early category, Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure freshman Cody Kurz is an amazing looking prospect. Kurz is already 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, despite being in the class of 2011. He is already starting as a true freshman, so who knows what he'll be like as he matures on the field as a sophomore and junior. Another monster youngster at St. Bonaventure is offensive line prospect Giovanni Di Poalo. He's already got a college-ready body at 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds.
2009 talent at Compton: In the city few programs are as loaded with talent as Compton High. Compton's 8-0 on the season and this weekend's game against Long Beach (Calif.) Poly will have more Division-I talent on the field that some states produce in a single year. Compton coach Calvin Bryant has really transformed the Compton program into one of the best in Los Angeles and through his hard work and determination, he's also developing good talent and turning them into monster D-I prospects.
Here are a few names to watch out for in the 2009 class from Compton – defensive tackle Justin Brown (6-2 ½, 260), linebacker/defensive back Byron Walker (5-10, 187), defensive back Chris Metcalf (6-2 ½, 185), and running back/defensive back Curry Williams (5-9, 179).
Metcalf is probably the best in the bunch. He already has an offer from Colorado and is getting interest from USC, UCLA, Washington State, Arizona State and Tennessee.
Barry Every, Rivals.com Recruiting Analyst
Tornadoes wipe out Hallandale: Booker T. Washington of Miami, Fla., pitched its fourth straight shutout, beating Hallandale 49-0.
The Hallandale Chargers (6-2) never really moved the ball at all except on the first possession of the game when they had time to find their one bright spot in senior wide out Frankie Hammond Jr. After that, the defensive pressure was too great. Booker T. Washington senior defensive end Kambriel Willis harassed the Hallandale quarterback all game long, accumulating one sack and at least five quarterback pressures. He was assisted by senior linebacker Winston Fraser and senior safety Franklin Brown who helped hold the Chargers to minus 31 yards rushing.
Booker T. Washington super sophomore running back Eduardo Clements finished the game with 91 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries and caught a pass for 25 yards.
Booker T. Washington had the fastest skill position players I've seen this year. Brandon Harris is not only a great cover corner, but a good receiver and great all-around player. The Tornadoes also have two other speedsters in Miami commits Davon Johnson and Thearon Collier. This team should go deep into the 4A Florida High School playoffs.
A showdown of speed in Miami: The Orange Bowl was the sight of the biggest game of the year to date in Miami, where the Northwestern Bulls held on to beat Miami Central 24-12.
This game matched up two of the best quarterbacks in the state. Northwestern was led by Miami commit Jacory Harris, and Miami Central had super sophomore Jeffrey Godfrey at the helm. Harris ended up outdoing his younger opponent, completing 14 of 23 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns. Godfrey struggled at times and forced some throws into tight coverage, perhaps relying a little too much on his cannon arm. He ended the night 14 of 29 for 146 yards and one touchdown to go along with two interceptions.
The receiving corps also would have their own little battle. Northwestern was led by Miami commit Aldarius Johnson, who took a short seven-yard pass and turned it into a 32-yard score. Johnson had help from Tommy Streeter, who added two grabs for 21 yards, and Robert Demps, who caught four balls for 16 yards.
The play of the game came from senior wideout Kendall Thompkins, who took a very short pass to the house for an 83-yard score, going untouched all the way to paydirt. The Rockets receiving corps was led by sophomore Edward Alvin catching five passes for 50 yards. He also had some help from senior Ben Kearse who finished with three grabs for 22 yards.
The Bulls would be led by another Miami commit in Sean Spence on the defensive side of the ball in what was mainly a defensive battle for most of the night. Spence made a name for himself in this game, making tackles all over the field and in every facet of the game. There was no doubt he was the defensive leader of the nation's No. 1 ranked team. Also leading the way on defense for Northwestern was yet another Miami commit in defensive lineman Marcus Forston. Fortson made life difficult for Rocket quarterback Jeffrey Godfrey.
The Bulls built a 18-0 that proved too much for the Rockets of Miami Central to overcome in this game, but they might get another shot. There is a very good chance both these teams will meet again for another showdown in the playoffs.