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November 16, 2012

Around the West: Jackson in good standing


REGION REPORTS: Mid-Atl. | MW | SW | SE

Each Friday throughout the fall, Rivals.com is breaking down the West region recruiting scene with news, notes and analysis. Here is the latest from Rivals.com West recruiting analyst Adam Gorney.

News and Notes

Adoree' Jackson is California's lone five-star early in the 2014 class by Rivals.com and there is good reason why the Gardena (Calif.) Serra prospect made the list.

First, his coach Scott Altenberg has an excellent point of view on these things since he's coached Marqise Lee, George Farmer and Robert Woods in recent years. Altenberg said there is "no doubt" Jackson belongs among that group of players.

Jackson does not have a blow-your-mind physical presence but he is incredibly athletic, outstanding in coverage and just has a knack for being around the ball and making a play. Plus, he's truly the triple threat because he shines on offense, defense and special teams -- kicking the ball and returning kicks.

The 5-foot-10, 172-pound prospect most likely plays cornerback in college but there's no question he could also excel in Wildcat situations or even at wide receiver. Altenberg compared him most to Lee, the star player at USC, and don't be surprised if Jackson lands that USC offer in the coming months.

Who's next for five-star status out West? The U.S. Army Combine could provide a few names and the spring circuit is always important as well.

The leading candidates -- guys who are rated one notch believe five-star right now -- are Sacramento (Calif.) Capital Christian defensive end Nifae Lealao, Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman running back Nathan Starks, La Mirada, Calif., tight end Tyler Luatua, Tucson (Ariz.) Salpointe athlete Cameron Denson, Palo Alto, Calif., quarterback Keller Chryst and Phoenix (Ariz.) Mountain Pointe athlete Jalen Brown.

All of those players have already been seen in person with the exception of Lealao, and some stick out more than others but the Sacramento Capital Christian defensive end has outstanding film and an impressive offer list with Oregon, USC and others already in the mix. There will be ample opportunities to see Lealao in person if he decides to do camps and others will also have the opportunity to impress.

Sticking with the 2014 focus, one player who could be pushing for four-star status especially now that his junior season highlight tape has been released is Devante Downs from Lynnwood (Wash.) Mountlake Terrace.

The 6-foot-3, 235-pound recruit runs over people because of his size and basically overpowers them but he's surprisingly nimble, too, can dodge tacklers and make smooth cutbacks. Washington and Utah have already offered but more Pac-12 teams are showing interest and he could pick up many more offers.

Underclassmen Watch

Here are some underclassmen to keep an eye on from around the region:

QB Brandon Dawkins, Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian (2014): Dawkins was inconsistent on the 7-on-7 circuit and he still threw too many interceptions in his junior season, but the 6-foot-3, 206-pound quarterback is still a dynamic playmaker. He's not the best sitting in the pocket and dissecting defenses. Dawkins is better throwing on the run or escaping and gaining yards himself. There are some early comparisons to UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley and if Dawkins tightens up his throwing, then they would be really accurate.

RB Nick Wilson, Fresno (Calif.) Central East (2014): Arizona is the first school to offer one of the next standout players at the Fresno powerhouse, but the Wildcats more than likely won't be the last. California and Boise State could be close with offers and others could follow suit. Want to see Wilson's speed? Go to about 1:00 on his highlight tape and watch him track down the player who recovered the fumble. It's pretty special.

OT Kaleb McGary, Vancouver (Wash.) Battle Ground (2014): They don't call him Big Country for no reason. McGary is 6-foot-9 and 270 pounds and moves well for his size, is physical and is starting to get noticed by more colleges. The junior lineman already has offers from Oregon State, Utah, Washington and Washington State and if he gets out to some national camps this offseason, he could be a special recruit.

What I'm Thinking

I've heard four-star safety Tahaan Goodman from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., is visiting UCLA this weekend and he's serious about the Bruins. A commitment there -- whether this weekend or later -- is not out of the question, according to sources, and he has been seen wearing a UCLA beanie at practice. USC is the other legitimate contender and Goodman will get a close look at both programs at the cross-town rivalry this weekend.

The extensive list of prospects that will be at the USC-UCLA game this weekend is quite impressive and it's another sign that first-year coach Jim Mora and his staff have done a tremendous job reinventing the UCLA program and making it relevant again.

I've only lived in California less than three years and during my first two years here I sensed this idea that UCLA was a cream-puff program, nobody really wanted to play there, the players were soft and it was a fallback school for guys who couldn't play at USC, Oregon or somewhere out of conference.

That has drastically changed since Mora's arrival. Goodman, four-star cornerback Priest Willis, top guys in the class, tough, hard-nosed guys, are looking at the Bruins again. One of the toughest, meanest players on the field, Sean Dowling, is all about UCLA. It's cool again to consider them. The mentality has totally changed so quickly.

UCLA might not win the game this weekend (the Bruins certainly could, too) but at least the rivalry is relevant again. I remember sitting in the Coliseum last season as USC opened a can on UCLA and the Bruins seemed lifeless. It seemed like the program was going nowhere. In one year, Mora and his staff have done wonders.

I stole this from a message board conversation I read this week so it's not an original thought but it's worth repeating:

If Max Redfield signs with Oregon -- and according to two sources they believe the Ducks have the slightest edge over Notre Dame right now -- then Oregon would have swiped a top recruit from USC's class for three straight seasons. De'Anthony Thomas and Arik Armstead are the other two.

And just imagine USC's offense if Thomas stayed committed there. They would have quarterback Matt Barkley, Penn State running back transfer Silas Redd, Marqise Lee and Robert Woods at wide receiver and Thomas as a utility player. USC is still averaging 37 points per game but with Thomas in the mix it could be even more dynamic.

Things are a mess at Colorado, I don't think anyone would deny that, but coach Jon Embree came into a difficult situation and needs time to repair things. Firing the coordinators, especially Eric Bieniemy, would be foolish because he's such a strong recruiter for the Buffaloes.

There is no question Colorado has many issues to fix and that losing four-star tight end Mitchell Parsons earlier this month is more bad news but there is a solid staff in place and turnarounds like this don't happen overnight. This could take years.

One win this season is not good, losses to Colorado State and Sacramento State and blowouts throughout the Pac-12 are not good, but what's the answer? Bring in someone else and start the rebuilding process all over again? This recruiting class is not horrible and something this bad takes a long time to fix.

This is all easy to say since I'm objective and not a Colorado fan enduring all the bad losses but starting over again with a new staff might not be the answer yet.



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