WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. – A few years ago nobody knew where the tiny private school Oaks Christian was. Now a strong junior class of at least eight Division-I prospects have rattled off victory over victory and the national media are flocking to the school in north suburban Los Angeles. One of those future stars is safety Marshall Jones, and he said all the attention has been tough to handle.
"We're going to be on ESPN twice next year, Sports Illustrated was here earlier this week and now we have Rivals.com here," Jones said.
"Some times it's tough to stay grounded. Our heads are a little big, kind of, because of all this press. But we're doing what we can on the field to stay focused. We just want to win the championship and move up in the rankings. We want to put Oaks on the map because most people don't think we can play."
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There is little doubt that Oaks can play.
The team is 8-0 on the season, and quarterback Jimmy Clausen leads a pack of blue-chip recruits that already have numerous scholarship offers. It might have been Clausen that originally sparked attention at Oaks because of his strong family name in college football, but guys like Jones give the team a ton of depth and make it one of the best programs in the nation.
"Marshall is a big time safety," Oaks Christian coach Bill Redell said. "If he was at any other school, he'd also be a big time tailback, but here he doesn't play that much both ways.
"I think his best position in college is safety because he's about 185-pounds, and he ran about a 10.6 in the 100 meters as a sophomore. He can hit, and is probably the best defensive back I've had in my 18-years of high school coaching."
With so many different headliners on the team, it might be tough to come together and blend as one team. But Jones said the Lions have no such problems.
"It feels good to be part of this year because I think everyone is starting to get used to playing with each other and connect more," Jones said. "It's easy to play with each other.
"We're all good friends off the field. I hang out with (Duke) Lemmens, (Sean) Wiser, Marc (Tyler) , Jimmy (Clausen) and all the guys. Marc is the clown. I'm the clown too some times.
"It was like almost we clicked immediately. That first summer me, Duke, Sean and Marc were the only freshman on varsity. I don't remember when we weren't friends honestly, and that's helped us work together as a team."
It's a team that will eventually have to go their separate ways to college. Jones said he already has scholarship offers from Tennessee, LSU, Oregon State and Arizona. But he's thinking about two local teams at the top of his list.
"I want to go to USC or UCLA, one of those two," he said. "
"It's nervous thinking about the future. Actually that I know I have a big decision to make, it's going to change the rest of my life. I have no idea what I want to do after football is over. I want to take my time with the recruiting process, see what happens and not rush it. That'll hopefully make this process a little easier for me to handle."