When it comes to talent in Oregon, it's usually an up year or a down year. But for the class of 2008, the talent in the Beaver state falls somewhere in the middle. The Rivals.com Oregon top 10 is headlined by Rivals100 defensive end Ethan Johnson of Portland Lincoln, but there are also some good quality players from two to 10 in the ranking.
But make no mistake about it, Johnson is Oregon's best prospect.
The 6-foot-4, 266-pound four-star prospect is ranked as the No. 3 strongside defensive end in the nation. He's also ranked as the No. 48 player overall after racking up 83 tackles and 10 sacks in 2006. Johnson said one of the biggest things that helps him excel on the gridiron is his ability to work with anybody and to be coached. He also stresses that he likes to lead by example and his hard work inspires those around him to be even better.
"I think people are going to do their own thing regardless, but you can work hard and lead them by example," he said. "I just try to dominate on the field and try to focus in practice as much as I can. I try to keep my intensity up in practice, because off the field is where you make all your strides."
And he's had a good mentor to help him get better and better.
Lincoln's defensive line coach is Shawn Price, a 10-year NFL veteran who finished his professional career with the San Diego Chargers in 2002. Working daily with a former pro has rubbed off on Johnson.
"He's taught me a lot and has made me a better player and also a better person," Johnson said. "He's been teaching me from the beginning. He's taught me a lot of techniques and ways to get after the quarterback. I'm a much better player because of the things he's taught me."
And he's only going to get better and better if you ask Johnson's coach, Chad Carlson.
"He's a big-time jumbo defensive end," the coach said. "His speed coming around the corner is extremely good. He's got that high end motor and he's got the long arms to keep guys off of him. He's learning how to use that body weight with leverage. Right now it's just about getting even quicker. When he does, he'll be unstoppable."
There's no stopping him in the recruiting process. His offer list is amazing as more and more schools are realizing that he's definitely one of the nation's top defensive linemen, even though he's from the Pacific Northwest.
"I think it's really fun, and I try to take it in stride," Johnson said. "When you get offers like USC, Notre Dame, Auburn, Oregon State, Oregon, Minnesota, Colorado and all those great schools it's just flattering and it makes me want to work harder. It's very humbling.
"I've never played in Texas, Florida or California, but there are some great players everywhere. I think if you're a good player coaches are going to find you regardless."
At No. 2 on the list in Oregon is rapidly ascending tight end prospect Demetrius Guice of Portland Central Catholic. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder has become one of the West's hottest targets late this spring and into the early part of the summer. With recent offers from Washington and Cal, look for Guice's stock to continue to shoot through the roof. He's currently ranked as the No. 40 tight end prospect in the nation, but that might change after further evaluations in the fall.
Johnson and Guice are the only players in Oregon ranked three stars or higher, but there is a very solid group of players from No. 3 to No. 10 on the list. Each one of those players – like Tigard running back Scott Grady at No. 3, Portland Jesuit running back Raphiel Lambert at No. 4, Lincoln receiver Jordan Polk at No. 6 or Ashland offensive linemen Matt Lipski at No. 7 – have big growth potential in their senior seasons.