Of the 40 players on the California roster, about half of them have yet to make their college decision. At least one player will make his choice during the CaliFlorida Bowl, and four others will make their decisions known at the Army All-American game a week later. Here's an inside look at what we've been hearing throughout the week on a few of the non-committed players.
We'll start out with the players who are planning to announce their choices in the next week or two. Colton (Calif.) defensive back Shareece Wright appeared to be an Oregon- Arizona battle until USC stepped in to the picture a few weeks ago and offered a scholarship. Wright has said several times in the past that USC was his dream school and they would be tough to turn down. We'll find out how tough December 31 when Wright announces his choice during the game.
Four Cali players will announce their choice during the All-American Bowl January 7. Colton linebacker Allen Bradford, Long Beach Poly receiver Terrence Austin, McClymonds defensive tackle Derrick Hill and Rancho Cucamonga defensive back Devin Ross. All three look like heavy leans right now according to some of their current teammates.
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Bradford is down to USC and UCLA and at this point, it would be a major shock to many if the linebacker chooses anywhere other than USC. Bradford hasn't stopped buzzing about his visit to USC and has been seen talking up USC during the week. Whether he's playing linebacker or safety, Bradford has shown this week why he's the top rated player in the state.
Austin looks like a heavy of a Bruin lean right now. Notre Dame, Arizona and Oregon are all still involved but we would be just as surprised if Austin chooses anywhere other than UCLA as we would if Bradford chose anywhere other than SC. We knew it was going to be tough for anyone to beat out UCLA for Austin when we talked to him after his visit to Notre Dame. Austin couldn't say enough about the trip and sounded almost giddy when he described his time in South Bend but told us at the end of the conversation that UCLA was still his leader.
Hill took visits to Colorado, Oregon, Arizona, USC and Cal and the Bears are leading comfortably right now. The tackle has had Cal and USC as his top two most of the year but Hill has said recently that he wants to stay closer to home and added he has the best relationship with Bear DL coach Ken Delgado among all the coaches who are recruiting him.
Ross is down to Oregon and Arizona and has been playing things very close to the vest. The talk among some of the players this week however is Oregon is clearly the team to beat. Ross was even rumored to be a silent commit to the Ducks a few weeks back. His family denied that but it does sound like the Oregon is the team to beat at this time.
Oregon is also a solid leader for Dominguez defensive back Marvin Johnson. Johnson has only take one of his visits (Mississippi State) but will visit Oregon on January 13. The safety told us if he had to decide right now, it would be the Ducks and their lead looks big right now.
A fellow Dominguez standout, wide receiver Richard Sherman, is also a big Pac 10 lean right now. Stanford recently cleared Sherman academically and once that happened, this one became close to a done deal. Sherman will still visit Washington January 6 but the Cardinal are looking very good for talented athlete.
We're not so sure who leads for Crenshaw defensive back Darian Hagan. Hagan has had a great week of practice and is just a very talented player. He's not real big or real fast but he's always in the right position and has playmaker written all over him. UCLA and Cal are co-leaders and Hagan will visit the Bears January 6. From talking with some of the players, this one looks like a toss up right now.
Things look as close for Cordova running back James Montgomery. Montgomery committed early to Washington but took a visit to Cal a few weeks back and told us the schools are still dead even. In fact, Montgomery said he was hoping to announce a final choice at the CaliFlorida Bowl but said as of right now, he really has no idea what he's going to do. In the past, he told us his heart favors UW but his head favors Cal and this one could do down to the wire.
Things are more clear cut for another Cali running back, Sylmar's C.J. Gable. With Gable, the question isn't so much who but when. USC has been leading big for Gable since last spring and his recent official visit only enhanced that. There's a slight chance Gable could announce during the CaliFlorida Bowl but if not, look for the athlete to announce sometime in early January for the Trojans.
Vista linebacker Travis Goethel, nicknamed 'Sunshine' by his teammates also has the Huskies in his final two and they are joined by Utah. Like Montgomery, Goethel said things are too close to call right now and he really has no clue what he'll do. He tripped recently to Seattle and said Washington may have a slight lead but he told us during the week that Utah has gained ground and added he'll need the rest of the Holiday break, at least, before he'll be able to pull the trigger. As for his performance this week, if we had to name an unofficial player of the week for the Cali team, it would be Goethel, he has been amazing every practice.
We've said it before, but no player has been harder to read than Venice safety Jonas Mouton. Most agree the finalists are USC, Michigan and LSU but after that, it's been a crap shoot. Even his coaches and friends can't agree who leads for Mouton but the hard hitting DB may have given a small clue following Tuesday's practice.
About six or seven of the players, some USC commits and others USC leans, were in a group together talking about where they were going to school. As each of the players stated USC was their leader, a few, including Mouton, gave the Trojan victory sign (two finger salute as they were calling it). Later on, Mouton said he was just playing around with the other players and said he still doesn't plan to announce anything until Signing Day.