When La Costa Canyon High's Kenny Stills became one of three San Diegans to join Oklahoma's 2010 recruiting class, the same old question rose of why would an elite player go to a big-time school and wait three years when he could just go to San Diego State and start immediately?
In too many cases over the years, it turned out to be a good question. There have been too many what could have beens.
Not in the case of Stills, nor his local compatriots. According to NewsOK.com, Stills is likely to start for the Sooners this fall as a true freshman. That is no small accomplishment, considering that OU returned all of last year's pass-catchers. If you saw their Sun Bowl win over Stanford last December, you saw some pretty good ones, too. Stills caught the eye of head coach Bob Stoops and his assistants with his maturity and knowledge of the game, the result of having a former NFLer as a dad. So much for going to a major program and getting lost in the shuffle.
Fellow true freshman Tony Jefferson, from Eastlake High, is set to be the starting nickel back in passing situations. It appears that the third first-year player, running back Brennan Clay of Scripps Ranch High, will also get some snaps.
Here is how big their achievements are: Oklahoma is a reasonable dark-horse pick to emerge as a national champion this year. Last year, some publications picked the Sooners as the team to beat, but their season was ruined by injuries to TE Jermaine Gresham and QB Sam Bradford. Now they're healthy and could make some noise. That is the type of team that Stills, Jefferson and Clay are breaking into.
Their rise, and the emergence of several other young area footballers, is returning San Diego to college football prominence not seen since early in this decade. You won't find many upperclassmen on two-deeps, but there are true freshmen and redshirt freshmen galore.
-- A big splash was made earlier this month when true freshman QB Pete Thomas was named the starting quarterback at Colorado State.
-- Receivers Davon Dunn and Victor Dean, the Lincoln High two-some at Fresno State, have reportedly been impressive in fall camp, though the Bulldogs aren't publicizing their two-deep.
-- Those who did stay home at SDSU are thriving. Jake Fely (Oceanside High) is the backup MLB, and ex-Pirate Rene Siluano should find time on special teams. A third Pirate, King Holder, also might get some time at cornerback or special teams.
-- Deon Randall, the Francis Parker star who spurned the Aztecs to go to Yale, will play wide receiver for the Ivy League school.
At Stanford, redshirt freshman TE Levine Toilolo (Helix High) moved past a returning regular and will start. Coach Jim Harbaugh is reportedly enamored with his 6-foot-8 frame, and for good reason.
But this is where things begin to get murky. There is little to no mention anywhere in Palo Alto of Escondido High's Ricky Seale, another one who barely eluded the grasp of SDSU's Brady Hoke. Tyler Gaffney, the former Torrey Pines High star who saw some snaps at RB last fall, is suddenly buried fourth at the position many thought he would inherit after the departure of starter Toby Gerhart. He's sporting a fancy new Mohawk 'do, however.
Lastly, you have the saga of Mission Bay High's Dillon Baxter at USC, since I suspect you're already familiar with the story: making spectacular plays in the Trojans spring game and then being caught under the influence of marijuana at a dormitory, resulting in a suspension for Thursday's opener at Hawaii. Baxter is a smart kid, despite the youthful indiscretion, and has apparently picked up the offense so well that he is being looked at as an emergency QB, according to the LA Times. The Trojans are brittle behind starter Matt Barkley because of a transfer, an injury to backup Mitch Mustain and eligibility issues surrounding a recruit. You'll find Baxter all over the Coliseum Field, but not until Sept. 11.
San Diego's sudden return to great heights for high school football products is no one-time thing, either. DTs Mustafa Jalil (Cathedral Catholic) and Christian Heyward (Point Loma) are elite recruits who will be seniors this fall, along with WR-DB Stefon McClure of Vista. Other recruits include OLs Daniel Murray (Torrey Pines), Taylor Reich (Westview) and Brian Farley (Patrick Henry); LBs Tyrone Sauls (Christian) and Aaron Wallace Jr. (Rancho Bernardo)-- using Rivals.com info.
2010 is going to be a good year to get out and watch some games on both Fridays and Saturdays.
SDSU's locals who will play a lot: QB Ryan Lindley (El Capitan), FB Brandon Sullivan (Poway), WRs DeMarco Sampson (Castle Park) and Osmond Nicholas (Oceanside), TE DJ Shields (Bonita Vista), T Tommy Draheim (El Capitan), LB Jake Fely (Oceanside), CB Jose Perez (Oceanside), P Brian Stahovich (Torrey Pines), PKs Brian Shields (Bonita Vista) and Abel Perez (Castle Park).