I have just completed my annual odyssey to California, up and down and criss-crossing the state for five days and 3,000 miles. Year in and year out, Los Angeles and southern California is the best area in the country for football talent. And the class of 2010 is better than normal.
Notre Dame is a major presence here with chief recruiter Brian Polian, who recruited the Irish's top three players in the class of 2009. Under coach Charlie Weis, Notre Dame is making its presence felt in Los Angeles as it did in the 1960s.
Michigan, Penn State, Minnesota and even Indiana are here. Northwestern is recruiting several top-flight academic players. But Illinois isn't visible. I'm surprised that the Big 10 isn't move visible in southern California but the conference appears to be concentrating more on Florida and Texas.
The No. 1 player in California is 6-4, 220-pound linebacker/running back Anthony Barr of Los Angeles, whose father Tony Brooks played at Notre Dame. He has 4.5 speed and rushed for 1,900 yards as a junior. If he concentrates on defense, he can be outstanding. He looks thin at 220.
Barr has been offered by all Pac-10 schools and also Notre Dame,Tennessee and Florida State. He doesn't list any Big 10 schools on his preference list. He favors USC, Notre Dame, UCLA, California, Stanford and Tennessee at the moment.
The No. 2 player in California is 6-2, 185-pound wide receiver/defensive back Robert Woods of Gardena, a versatile and superior athlete. Like Barr, he has been offered by all of the Pac-10 schools and Tennessee. He also has accepted an invitation to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. He also is considering Oklahoma.
A few words about Tennessee. New coach Lane Kiffin may have gotten some much-deserved bad publicity over controversial comments he made after accepting the job. But nobody is laughing now. He signed the best recruiting staff in the country with big salaries and they are paying off handsomely. Kiffin's father, Monte, the defensive coordinator, is being paid $1.2 million and defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, the former head coach at Mississippi, is being paid $650,000.
Tennessee's staff is everywhere. Smart athletic directors understand that college football isn't all about coaching, it is about getting great players. And the top players on the West Coast are considering Tennessee.
D.J. Morgan of Woodland Hills, a 5-10, 175-pound running back with 10.5 speed for 100 meters, has committed to USC. He averaged 8.5 yards per carry last season and already has accepted an invitation to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Sean Parker of Harbor City, one of the nation's leading cornerbacks, has been offered by Notre Dame, Minnesota, Penn State and Alabama.
Northwestern has offered Pete Thomas, a 6-5, 215-pound quarterback from El Cajon. Thomas is one of the leading quarterbacks in the nation and he lists Northwestern among his top picks. Last season, he passed for 3,000 yards. He has a big-time arm and size, all the tools to be a big-timer. He has a Tom Brady look. A straight A student, he also has been offered by Maryland, Arizona and Boston College.
Ronald Powell, a 6-4, 240-pound defensive end from Moreno Valley, said he wants to attend an SEC school. Originally from Alabama, he likely will choose USC, UCLA or Auburn. He has offers from all Pac-10 and SEC schools. He is a top 100 player.
Slotback Dillon Baxter, a 5-11, 190-pounder fro San Diego, has committed to USC but said he looking at other schools, including Tennessee, Penn State and Notre Dame.
Brett Thomas, a 6-1, 190-pound cornerback from San Diego, has been offered by Indiana.
Detrich Riley, a 6-1, 197-pound wide receiver/safety from LaCanada, has been offered by all Pac-10 schools and Notre Dame. He has been timed in 10.7 seconds for 100 meters.
Michigan has offered Brennan Clay, a 6-0, 190-pound slotback/cornerback fro San Diego. Clay also likes Wisconsin.
Looking for a sleeper? One of the best running backs I've seen, a top 100 player, is 5-10, 190-pound Jordan James of Corona. He played only 4 1/2 games last season because of an injury but still rushed for 1,135 yards and averaged 8.7 yards per carry. I think he is the real deal. He will be a big name in the 2010 recruiting cycle even though he didn't play much as a junior.