ANAHEIM - The California squad had a spirited first practice earlier today. With Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei head coach Bruce Rollinson running the show, this was by far the most organized and well run opening practice we've seen from an all-star team in some time. Here's a quick run down of some of the standouts on both sides of the ball.
The first few days of practice, whether it be an all-star game or otherwise, the defense is always ahead of the offense and that was the case today. When the teams went 7-on-7 or 11-on-11, the defense really dominated. The line got great push up front, the linebackers were swarming and the defensive backs didn't have to cover the receivers for very long as the quarterbacks were scrambling early and often.
Derek Simmons, 6-4, 270 pounds from Armijo, Fairfield bounced between defensive end and tight end all day but was easily the most athletic of all the defensive linemen. Simmons has a great frame, was very quick off the ball and uses his hands very well to keep opposing linemen off of him. McClymonds, Oakland tight end NaDerris Ward didn't arrive until after practice so Simmons was recruited to play tight end for the day but still impressed.
"I liked him a lot," Dominguez and Cali DL coach Keith Donnerson said. "He had the best day but I had a lot of players playing well. When Derrick Hill is in shape, he's a monster. Alex Parsons and Darius Savage also played really well in the middle, all three of those guys are going to rotate in and should be very good. Jeff Miller also had a good day and has natural pass rushing skills."
To no ones surprise, Colton's Allen Bradford was a man among boys at the linebackers. Bradford had some huge hits during the scrimmages and has incredible speed. Bradford was playing on the weak side and he's able to cover so much ground and was even chasing down wide receivers from behind.
Maybe the second most impressive 'backer on the day was Vista's Travis Goethel. With his long blond hair flowing out of the back of his helmet, Goethel looks like a shorter version of Hulk Hogan or the mythological figure, Thor. His look was the first thing that had people talking but after seeing his ability to run and hit, we were asked by about five different onlookers, 'hey, who is that No. 56.' That would have been Goethel and he had a strong practice.
The secondary was strong as well and had some great one on one match-ups with the receivers. Colton's Shareece Wright was beaten by Dominguez, Compton's Richard Sherman once but was locking down everyone else. Wright is a big, physical player who can run and could be the top corner in the West region.
"I like all my guys," Cali DB coach Martin French said. "JoJo (Vincent Joseph) made some nice plays, Shareece is a big time player, I like the way Devin Ross covers and Darian Hagan is just a baler who can really play. Jonas Mouton and Marvin Johnson are going to have big games as well. Jonas is a great run stuffer and Marvin plays a great centerfield out there."
Offensively, quarterbacks Michael Herrick and Garrett Green looked a bit rusty early on and then got it going as the day went on. Both have live arms and it took the receivers awhile to adjust to the ball getting on them so fast.
Kenny Ashley may have been the most impressive running back and was drawing a lot of Maurice Drew comparisons because of his similar size and toughness. It always took at least two or three guys to take down Ashley. C.J Gable was also impressive running the ball and looks like he has grown and inch and added at least 10 pounds since last summer's Nike Camp.
Mayfair, Lakewood's Alterraun Verner had the best day catching the ball showing great hands, quickness and the ability to run after the catch. Watching his senior film, Verner reminded us of current Cal freshman Desean Jackson and he did a good impression again today.
Dominguez, Compton's Richard Sherman was also very impressive and used his 6-3 frame to get open against some of the smaller Cali corners. The Long Beach Poly duo of Terrance Austin and Travon Patterson are two of the fastest players on the team and both made some big plays. The key will be getting the two out in space where they can use their quickness and ability to make people miss.
The Cali offensive line had some growing pains as some of the players were playing a new position on the line but did get better as the day went on. Paraclete's Jake Dean, normally a tackle, was playing center, Buchanan's Justin Prueitt, who played mostly defensive tackle this year lined up at right tackle and Sonny Tevaga, who played tight end for Dominguez played guard.