As fall practice begins for high school football teams, it’s time to begin looking at players to watch for the 2019 season, leading up to The Times’ nine-part series previewing Southern California’s top players starting on Aug. 14.
The quarterback position offers players the challenge of taking on two of the best in the nation in USC-bound Bryce Young of Santa Ana Mater Dei and Clemson-bound DJ Uiagalelei of St. John Bosco.
The two faced off in last year’s Southern Section Division 1 final won by Mater Dei. Each has spent the off-season getting stronger and working with their respective receiving corps hoping to compete twice this season in league and playoff matchups.
There’s also a group of rising prospects ready to earn their own respect. CJ Stroud of Rancho Cucamonga gained attention during the summer with a No. 1 ranking at the Elite 11 camp and will try to use that momentum during the regular season after passing for 2,343 yards and 19 touchdowns as a junior.
Jaden Casey of Calabasas, a Fresno State commit, is coming off a junior season in which he surpassed 3,000 yards passing and had 38 touchdowns. His receiving group is outstanding.
Junior Miller Moss of Alemany made major strides during the summer and appears primed for a productive season. Gardena Serra has competition between UNLV commit Doug Brumfield and highly regarded sophomore Maalik Murphy.
Washington commit Ethan Garbers of Corona del Mar has lots of offensive weapons at his disposal in what should be a fantastic senior season.
Jake Garcia of Narbonne had to sit out the first five games last season after transferring, so having a full junior year should put him in position to be one of the best from the class of 2021. Norco quarterback Shane Illingworth, an Oklahoma State commit, is one of nine returning offensive starters and passed for 29 touchdowns last season.
Mission Viejo has high hopes for junior Peter Costelli, a transfer from Santa Margarita. He gets to train under Chad Johnson, who helped develop Josh Rosen.
Luca Diamont, a Duke commit, has been Venice’s starter since his freshman season. His running and passing skills make him a player to watch in the City Section.
Culver City has high expectations for junior Zevi Eckhaus, who passed for 3,487 yards as a sophomore. Ben Gulbranson of Newbury Park, an Oregon State commit, is healthy and set for an outstanding senior season. Gavin Beerup of St. Bonventure, a Wyoming commit, is 6 feet 4 and making steady progress.
Jameson Wang has left Harvard-Westlake to play his senior season at Oaks Christian, which will be a big jump and challenge but showed promise this summer.
Marco Siderman has regained his health at Westlake, and if he can stay injury free, he has shown the ability to be very productive. Cole Lourd of Brentwood passed for more than 2,000 yards as a sophomore. A year’s experience and better strength ought to translate into even better numbers.
Zach Johnson of Hart, a Cal commit, passed for 2,892 yards and 30 touchdowns. He also rushed for 347 yards, making him a legitimate two-way threat.