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Football: Three intriguing first-year players to track

Football: Three intriguing first-year players to track
Kobe Johnson (left), 6-6, 270 pounds, towers over his Birmingham teammate. (Eric Sondheimer)

A year ago, Alex Akingbulu of Narbonne was a first-year football player trying the sport after playing basketball. He was so good he became Narbonne's standout offensive lineman.

Oluwole Betiku of Gardena Serra was a first-year football player from Nigeria. He ended up with 11 sacks. Breland Brandt of Windward went from basketball standout to UCLA recruit as a linebacker.

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Who's going to be another surprise contributor this season?

Here's three candidates:

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Kobe Johnson is a 6-foot-6, 270-pound defensive end at Birmingham. He played JV football as a freshman, transferred to Alemany as a sophomore and didn't play football. Transferred back to Birmingham as a junior and played JV again because of transfer rules. He's so big that Birmingham has no one to match up against him. With a little experience, beware.

Australia doesn't just produce good basketball players. Brent LeRoux is a 6-5, 242-pound rugby standout from Australia who joined St. John Bosco's football team as a defensive lineman for his senior year. Early reports are he's pretty good. And he's got the accent to make people take notice.

Then there's 6-5, 280-pound junior Massaman Ladji Bagayoko, who just moved to Alemany from Canada. It remains to be seen if he's eligible this season, but the coaches say he has talent and with that kind of size, he has to be able to push around a few people on the football field.

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