Prep Prospects Draw Recruiters to O.C.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Orange County's high school football fields have usually proved to be fertile ground for college recruiters, and this year is no exception.

Representatives from universities across the nation will spend countless hours in the county's stadiums this fall, looking for the players who best fit their programs. They won't have to search hard, however, when it comes to the county's top-notch athletes.

Allen Wallace and Rick Kimbrel, two expert college recruiting analysts, speak highly of the county's Class of 1998.

"It's a well-balanced class," said Kimbrel, managing editor of Prep Star magazine, which is published in Woodland Hills. "About the only thing missing is a top defensive lineman. But there also seems to be a shortage of defensive linemen nationally.

"Still, the list is impressive. Most of them are national recruits. They could have an impact as [college] freshmen.'

Wallace, who publishes SuperPrep magazine in Laguna Beach, says although this year's seniors are good, they still have some strides to make to catch up to last year's talent.

"Last year you had players like Malaefou MacKenzie, Rod Perry and Ife Ohalete [all at USC], [Austin] Moherman and David Priestly [both at Ohio State], Kurt Vollers [Notre Dame] and Billy Newman [Washington State]," Wallace said. "Oregon signed Jim Adams, Garrett Sabol and Danny Pulido. Colorado signed Ruben Vaughn. Greg Cicero went to Texas. . . .

"When I look back at those kids, I can't say this group is any better. They will have to have good senior seasons to match the quality of the signees of last year, which is one of the best groups I can remember."

With the help of Wallace, Kimbrel and several local football coaches, here are the county players (in alphabetical order) expected to attract the most recruiting attention:

* Joey Boese, defensive back, 5-11, 175, Mater Dei. Boese, who is also a wide receiver, became an overnight star in recruiters' eyes after Mater Dei's 34-14 victory over Long Beach Poly in the Division I semifinals in December. Boese was credited with holding touted wide receiver Ken-Yon Rambo (Ohio State) to one reception.

"Everybody thought we would put Rod [Perry Jr.] on Rambo," Mater Dei Coach Bruce Rollinson said. "But we knew Boese was ready for the challenge. Boese got the assignment and took him out of the contest. I told Joey after the game, 'You earned a Division I scholarship tonight.' "

Wallace and Kimbrel agreed.

"He's come out of nowhere to rank among the top 300 prep defensive backs in the country," Wallace said.

Rollinson said Boese has "six legitimate offers" from schools, including Arizona, Oregon State and Washington State.

* Anthony Daye, linebacker, 6-2, 230, Laguna Hills. Daye has caused a stir among recruiters from the Pacific 10 (USC has offered a scholarship) and the Big 12. They love his size, strength (he bench presses 350 pounds), explosive first step and vertical leap (33 inches).

"Anthony has the body of a guy who has worked hard in the weight room," Laguna Hills Coach Steve Bresnahan said. "But he is also very intelligent. He has run our defense for two years and can figure out on the field what the opposition is doing."

Wallace said recruiters rate Daye as "quicker than he is fast, but he is always around the ball."

* Derald Deason, defensive back, 6-3, 180, Orange. Like Boese, Deason is also a fine receiver. But Deason, who had six interceptions and was a Times all-county first-team selection last year, might be the county's best defensive back prospect. He has the size to defend against the run and the speed to keep up with most wide receivers.

El Modena Coach Steve Howard called him "a game-breaker."

Orange Coach Dick Hill said Deason, who has received letters from UCLA, Oregon State and Washington State among others, still has some maturing to do. "His abilities have not fully [realized]," Hill said. "He is so much better than we have been able to get him to perform. He still needs some maturing in his work habits, but his potential is enormous."

* DeShaun Foster, running back, 6-0, 205, Tustin. Along with Michael Jones and Mike McNair, Foster is considered among the best senior running backs. Last season, he rushed for 1,630 yards, had 34 touchdowns and led the county in scoring (216 points).

Tustin Coach Myron Miller said Foster has received scholarship offers from Wisconsin, USC and Arizona State, and should receive more.

"Just a powerful person," Miller said of Foster. "He is the best blocking back I've ever had. He is also the best runner and best receiver. I won't be near as good a coach when he graduates."

Wallace said Foster "is comparable to Mike McNair, although DeShaun appears a little more versatile." Wallace added that Nebraska is interested in Foster as a defensive back; Texas and Washington view him as an athlete who could play several positions.

Kimbrel describes Foster as a combination of Earl Campbell and Marcus Allen. "He can bully you or run by you," Kimbrel said. "One observer told me Foster has perfected the lost art of the straight arm. He can knock you out of the way; he has no fear. He is also a very good receiver. Last year he had 25 catches out of the backfield for 725 yards and eight touchdowns."

* Michael Jones, running back, 6-1, 195, Laguna Hills. Jones' second consecutive 2,000-plus-yard season has him in position to break the county career rushing record this year. He needs 891 yards to pass Valencia's Ray Pallares, who gained 5,397 yards from 1983-85.

"What I've liked about Michael since he was a freshman, is he can make moves when he needs to, but he runs inside the tackles as well as anyone we've had," Bresnahan said.

Though Jones will not have the grades to play at a Division I-A school, recruiters will keep in touch in hopes that he will remember them after two years of community college.

"One of the most naturally fluid runners you will see," Kimbrel said. "When he runs, his instincts take over. You always ask how he does it. He also has pretty good speed."

* Saia Makakaufaki, tight end, 6-4, 240, Laguna Hills. Makakaufaki may be in Jones' shadow in the Hawks' offense, but his blocking is a key reason for Jones' success. An excellent showing at the Nike summer camp raised Makakaufaki's stock among Pac-10 recruiters, according to Wallace.

"He's very physical with good speed and good size," Wallace said. "He had only 22 receptions, but his team primarily runs the ball, and he still scored five touchdowns."

Kimbrel said Makakaufaki has very quick feet for his size and a 35 1/2-inch vertical jump.

Said Bresnahan: "He can single block with power, but he's not a lineman playing tight end. He can run, has soft hands and can catch. He's got all the tools; we will try to throw to him more this year."

* Mike McNair, fullback, 6-2, 225, Mater Dei. Though he's considered a top prospect at linebacker, McNair will play mainly on offense this season, Rollinson said. McNair rushed for 1,222 yards and 19 touchdowns last year.

"His speed is incredible for his size," Rollinson said. "If you don't stop him within three to five yards, he can go all the way each time he handles the ball."

Rollinson said McNair has narrowed his choices to USC and Notre Dame.

"He is one of the fastest guys around for his size," Kimbrel said. "USC may have the lead, but don't count out Notre Dame. McNair is the real deal and has the frame to get bigger and not lose a step."

* John Minardi, receiver, 6-2, 190, Santa Margarita. Minardi, who had 42 receptions last season, already has made an oral commitment to attend Colorado next year. Kimbrel said Colorado made the offer with no expectations of attracting Minardi's teammate, Santa Margarita quarterback Carson Palmer.

"Minardi is a classical possession wide receiver who broke three school records last year," Kimbrel said. "Yes, he has a good guy throwing to him, but I don't think Palmer is good enough for Colorado to waste a wide receiver scholarship that early. If he gets a chance to prove himself, Minardi will be fine with any quarterback."

Wallace said although Minardi does not have blazing speed, "he can find holes in the defense, runs good routes, and is the type who makes the clutch catch."

* Carson Palmer, quarterback, 6-4, 210, Santa Margarita. Palmer is considered, along with Compton Dominguez's Jason Thompson, the state's top quarterback prospects. Thomas may be the better athlete, but Palmer, who threw for 2,084 yards and 24 touchdowns last season, is considered the purer passer.

Said Newport Harbor Coach Jeff Brinkley: "I've seen Thomas play and he is a real good runner, but I would put Carson with him as a quarterback. Carson has everything a team wants in size, mobility and a strong arm. The key may be mobility. He doesn't have to just sit in the pocket; he runs the quarterback draw real well. He will be a very good player in college."

Wallace and Kimbrel each had Palmer on their respective preseason All-American teams. USC, Colorado and Miami are believed to be the leading suitors.

Whether Palmer plays Friday will be determined by the results of X-rays to be taken today on his left foot; he suffered a possible stress fracture last week.

* Blake Worley, offensive lineman, 6-7, 280, Capistrano Valley. He was a Times all-county first-team selection last season despite playing only eight games because of injury. Worley is another player some coaches believe is just scratching the surface of his potential.

"He has real good movement and is fast for his size," Dana Hills Coach Scott Orloff said. "A tough kid with good blocking techniques. Linemen that big usually take a little time to blossom, but he already moves well."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Orange County's Top 10

The county's leading football recruits, in alphabetical order:

Name Joey Boese

Pos. DB

School Mater Dei

First Game of '97 Friday vs. Santa Ana Valley at Santa Ana Stadium

*

Name Anthony Daye

Pos. LB

School Laguna Hills

First Game of '97 Friday vs. Sonora at Mission Viejo HS

*

Name Derald Deason

Pos. DB

School Orange

First Game of '97 Friday vs. Newport Harbor at El Modena HS

*

Name DeShaun Foster

Pos. RB

School Tustin

First Game of '97 Friday vs. Foothill at Tustin HS

*

Name Michael Jones

Pos. RB

School Laguna Hills

First Game of '97 Friday vs. Sonora at Mission Viejo HS

*

Name Saia Makakaufaki

Pos. TE

School Laguna Hills

First Game of '97 Friday vs. Sonora at Mission Viejo HS

*

Name Mike McNair

Pos. FB

School Mater Dei

First Game of '97 Friday vs. Santa Ana Valley at Santa Ana Stadium

*

Name John Minardi

Pos. WR

School Santa Margarita

First Game of '97 Friday vs. Trabuco Hills at Saddleback College

*

Name Carson Palmer

Pos. QB

School Santa Margarita

First Game of '97 Friday vs. Trabuco Hills at Saddleback College

*

Name Blake Worley

Pos. OL

School Capistrano Valley

First Game of '97 Friday vs. La Mirada at La Mirada Stadium

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