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West mailbag: Wests best on OL

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How do the best offensive linemen on the West Coast stack up against each other?
What is the latest on running back Byron Marshall?
How is Colorado's new staff doing on the recruiting trail?
These questions and more are addressed by Rivals.com analyst Adam Gorney in this West region recruiting mailbag.
Best out West
With so many outstanding offensive linemen on the West Coast, how would you rank them?
- A.J. from Rialto, Calif.
It is a phenomenal year for offensive linemen out West and since I've only seen a few of these players so far, and the spring evaluation period will be so crucial, it's difficult to determine a settled list on where Rivals.com will have that ranked.
I can say this much: Andrus Peat will lead that list and we're really impressed with his overall feel for the game, his toughness and he has an incredible offer list. Plus, he comes from good stock since his brother, Todd, was a four-star defensive tackle who signed with Nebraska last month.
Many others will have the chance for five-star status as well. Joshua Garnett and Zach Banner are battling it out for supremacy in Washington. Ronnie Stanley is the best offensive lineman in Nevada. Kyle Murphy's stock has shot through the roof in recent months and Jordan Simmons and Freddie Tagaloa are also two other top players in California.
There's a good chance some of those names will end up five-star prospects but it's almost assured - unless they fail to perform - that they all will at least be high four-star recruits. It's that special of a year out West.
One more big-time name to consider out West is Elk Grove (Calif.) Pleasant Grove's Arik Armstead, one of the top two-way linemen in the nation. He's listed as a defensive tackle by Rivals.com but could have a special future on either side of the ball. Seeing him again this spring and summer could give him a tremendous boost in the rankings.
Leader for Marshall?
What is going on with Byron Marshall? Are there any leaders yet?
- Tom from San Jose, Calif.
It's probably too early to tell with Marshall, the outstanding running back from San Jose (Calif.) Valley Christian who put up huge numbers in his junior season.
Many consider him the best running back in the state of California so far and he was definitely impressive at the U.S. Army Combine in San Antonio. We want to see more of him this spring and summer to get a good feel on where he should be ranked nationally.
I know Marshall has visited a bunch of Pac-10 schools already and his brother plays at Arizona State so all of those things can play an influence. With more exposure before his senior season, I think some national programs could get involved so it's probably too early to tell where he's headed.
Cal lock?
I think Shaq Thompson ends up at Cal even though he reopened his recruitment. Do you feel the same way?
- Mike from Berkeley, Calif.
In short, yes. What I think happened with Thompson is that Cal has always been a favorite, he was enamored with the coaching staff during his junior day visit and decided to make a hasty commitment.
Instead of making such a quick pledge, I think people close to him have encouraged him to back off a little bit, take some other visits just to make sure Cal is the right place and to do it as an uncommitted prospect so there is no bias.
The Golden Bears are still considered a heavy favorite for many reasons that have been discussed before but numerous national programs at least still have a shot at him.
Just getting started
Is Colorado's new coaching staff gaining any traction?
- Paul from Boulder, Colo.
There's no doubt about it. Coach Jon Embree has pumped much-needed life and energy back in the Buffaloes' program by not only compiling an outstanding coaching staff but really selling Colorado football and its history to an impressive group of recruits.
The 2012 class has the potential to be a really good one as the Buffaloes transition to the Pac-10.
If Embree can keep the in-state talent home that would be a major recruiting coup. Colorado will still tap into talent-laden states but there are a lot of impressive prospects close to campus that could become a part of the class.
Quarterback Cyler Miles and offensive lineman Paul Thurston made the Rivals250 to watch list and then tight end Evan Baylis and offensive tackle Shane Callahan are two other big-time players who could really help Colorado's class.