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May 18, 2006

Golden State Nuggets: New names emerge

It's the middle of May and that's when new names start popping up all over the place. Many college coaches have already made their two allowed spring evaluations of prospects at their schools or another athletic event, and in states like California offers to prospects that were virtually unheard of before the are starting to flow in.

One such player is Hayward, Calif., linebacker Austin Stafford.

The 6-foot-3, 205-pounder earned rave reviews from the NIKE Camp coaches after a strong performance this past weekend in Palo Alto, and now his stock is shooting through the roof and teams are heading to the Bay Area to learn more and more about him.

"Austin is a very athletic young man," Hayward coach Casey Moreno said. "Every school that has come by here since the camp has said they are going to offer."

"It was good for Austin to show what he can do in space," Moreno said. "Every college that has come said they were very impressed by his NIKE performance."

Stafford looked like a natural at linebacker and he's one of those kids that could play outside linebacker or safety in college, but as a junior he did most of his damage at defensive end.

"Austin played defensive end for us and is used to getting after the quarterback," Moreno said. "But he's probably going to play strong safety or linebacker on the D-I level."

"Austin is probably going to play safety for us this fall," Moreno said. "He's very explosive and athletic."

As a defensive end, Stafford accounted for 83 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and two fumble recoveries. His performance saw him earn first-team all-league as a defensive end. Not bad when you consider that he's projecting as a linebacker or safety.

"That kid is as smooth as mother's butter," NIKE linebacker coach and former Green Bay Packer Chris Gizzi said. "The Stafford kid is on the money."

Stafford recently picked up his first offer from Nebraska, but with his performance at NIKE and just now having his film get out, look for that list to expand rather quickly.

Another guy that falls into that category is Rolling Hills (Calif.) Peninsula's Todd Huber.

The 6-foot-3, 273-pound offensive center had a dominating day at the NIKE Camp and walked away with camp MVP honors. He then walked away a day later with an offer from Stanford, a first of many offers expected to come in for the all-CIF selection.

"I'm really open right now in terms of even having a top five or 10," Huber said.

"The offer from Stanford obviously puts them high on my list, but I can't sit here and say I like them more than Cal or USC. Basically, I like the whole Pac 10 and right now, I just want to go through the recruiting process a little and see how everything plays out. My older brother (Scott) played at USC so I grew up rooting for them a lot but that really won't play a role in my decision. I'm just going to sit back and see who else is showing interest and will make a decision when it feels right for me."

FUTURE TEAMMATES?
Defensive linemen Kenny Rowe of Long Beach (Calif.) Poly, Brian Price of Los Angeles Crenshaw and DaJohn Harris of Gardena (Calif.) Serra were three of the most dominating defensive linemen at this past weekend's NIKE Training Camp and they talked after the camp about possibly ending up together at the same school.

And there's a catch to this talk - Price is already committed to UCLA, so that'd mean all would have to end up Bruins if they were together. Harris said he built a quick bond with Rowe and Price and he said it might be kind of fun for all of those guys to end up at the same school together.

"Oh my God those guys are good," Harris said. "I'm going to have snap up some of Kenny's moves. And BP, man, I saw him just go right those some of those guys. I hate Crenshaw, so in order for me to say something good about a guy from Crenshaw, that means he's really good.

"Those two guys were incredible and it might be kind of cool to end up with those guys on the same team. I'm not saying it's going to happen, but I also wouldn't rule it out."

Neither would Rowe, who is very soft spoken.

"That would be really kind of cool," he said. "We'd all make a good defensive line for somebody."

Price is already off the market after committing to UCLA. He said he's going to begin the recruiting pitch for the Bruins here after this week's camp.

Rowe lists Ole Miss, Oregon and USC as his early offers with Cal, Florida, Michigan, Notre Dame, and UCLA also heavily involved with him. Harris lists USC as his top team with Arizona, Ole Miss, Nebraska, Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, Washington and Washington State involved.

DUCKS GET BACK ON TRACK
After doing a great job the past 10 years in California, Oregon slipped for one reason or another toward the bottom of the Pac 10 recruiting rankings last year and the biggest reason why was because of a few misses in California.

Well Oregon took a nice step toward rectifying that when it landed a commitment from Royal, Calif., defensive lineman Tonio Celotto. The 6-foot-4, 250-pounder is one of the top defensive linemen in the West Region. He had a very solid junior season totaling 75 tackles and 14 quarterback sacks to earn all-area, all-CIF and first-team all-state Underclass honors.

The lineman took an unofficial visit to Oregon about a month ago and said he committed to the Ducks two weeks later.

"Yeah, I committed about two weeks ago," Celotto said.

"I had a great visit there and loved everything about the school. Steve Greatwood was the coach recruiting me and he's a real cool guy. I love the campus, the football program and their Criminal Justice program.

"I know it was early to make a commitment but I just didn't see any need to hold off on making a decision. Oregon has everything I was looking for so I decided to jump on it."

ETC.
It seems like every week there's more evidence to prove that Malachi Lewis is one of the nation's fastest rising prospects. More proof came on Wednesday when he picked up offers from Fresno State, Ole Miss, Michigan, Cal, Oregon and San Diego State. Not a bad day at all… Los Angeles Jordan cornerback Antwoine Baker is heading to Texas' summer camp on June 4th. The 6-0, 171-pounder has a serious interest in the Longhorns and has been actively courting them… Devin Mahina is moving up the charts with coaches, picking up offers this past week from Arizona, Washington State and Colorado. The tight end from Upland, Calif., lists UCLA and BYU as his top two teams.


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