West Recruiting Notebook- U.S. Army Bowl
The West region was well represented on the West squad during the week in San Antonio, but a few players were guys we were really interested in seeing how they performed on the big stage, after either just ok senior seasons, missing the year or proving that their big year was no fluke. Here are some of the players who stood out all week to us.
Concord (Calif.) Clayton Valley defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie was actually the player we were the most eager to see. The nation’s No. 1 prospect in the 2015 class, and obviously the top prospect in the West, McKenzie had to sit out his entire senior season after transferring from De La Salle. So we were curious if the rust would affect him. It didn’t. McKenzie was the West’s best player all week and answered any questions about his game that may have existed. He weighed in at 358, but surprisingly, didn’t look bad at that weight. He said he wants to drop about 25-30 pounds by the time he gets to Tennessee, and it’s scary to think how much more dominant he’ll be in even better shape, especially since he has great strength and quickness off the ball. One of the highlights of the week was watching McKenzie line up at fullback, and he caught a pass on Thursday, got about eight yards upfield before Marvell Tell tried to hit him and bounced off and then Porter Gustin held on for dear life for about 5-7 yards before finally the rest of the defense was able to bring him down. McKenzie probably solidified his top spot regionally and nationally.
Orange (Calif.) Lutheran outside linebacker Keisean Lucier-South was one of the players from the West we were most eager to see, after a solid, but not spectacular senior season. The five-star moved around positions during the season for the Lancers, but played exclusively defensive end in San Antonio and was excellent all week, ending the week by being a Top Five Defensive Performer in the Army Bowl. Lucier-South will play the hybrid linebacker/rusher role at UCLA, and he excelled coming off the edge, especially in Thursday’s practice, where he had a sack, a tackle for loss and a tipped pass in the first eight plays of their scrimmage. Look for Lucier-South to solidify his five-stars.
Pocatello (Idaho) Highland offensive lineman Tristen Hoge is the highest rated prospect from Idaho ever on the Scout 300 and he backed it up all week. The offensive lineman had their issues during the week, but Hoge was easily the most consistent linemen, especially on the interior, for the West. He’s one of the most technically sound linemen to come from the region in the West, with a major nasty streak as well as plenty of athleticism and has stayed loyal in his commitment to Notre Dame for over a year.
Bellevue (Wash.) offensive tackle Henry Roberts was another player we really wanted to see in this setting, with the uptick in talent he was playing against as well as the increase in pass protection he’d have to provide after playing in a run-dominant offense. Roberts had no problem at all in pass pro, an issue we remember from another Bellevue Army All-American lineman, Steve Schilling. Back in the 2006 game and practices, Schilling struggled with the speedier and quicker pass rushers, but Roberts had no such problems. Washington will be getting a good one in the four-star.
Since the first time we saw him on a national stage back in the spring of 2011, as an eighth grader on B2G at the Badger 7v7, Newhall (Calif.) Hart receiver Trent Irwin has been the steadiest and most consistent pass-catcher in the region. The week in San Antonio was what you’d expect from Irwin- solid play, fundamentally sound and catching everything. Well, almost everything. There was one drop from Irwin, the first drop we could remember seeing from him, and it may have even been tipped at the last second. But that was it. Irwin caught just about everything thrown anywhere in his direction throughout the week. Irwin is still down to two schools, Arizona State and Stanford, with a decision expected this month. He’s visited both schools already officially.
Riverside (Calif.) Poly cornerback Ykili Ross, who committed to USC during the Army Bowl, is a four-star as a defensive back, but in what’s been a growing trend out West, may be just as good as a receiver and very well could see snaps on both sides of the ball in college. Ross was terrific all week in practice, showing great burst and explosion, ability to get separation and caught the ball well consistently. Ross moved in to the Scout 100 during the season, but his performance in San Antonio should see him move up even more in the final rankings.
Its not a stretch to say that Salt Lake City (Utah) Brighton linebacker Osa Masina is the best prospect to come out of the Beehive State since Haloti Ngata in the 2002 class. Masina was all over the place this week, and excelled during the game. He moves so well sideline to sideline, is really fluid in coverage and has a knack for the big play. He also had a highlight play during the week, where he tracked down K.J. Hill from the opposite side of the field on a kickoff and tackled him short of the 20. Masina is down to Arizona State, UCLA and USC, and said he is genuinely wide open between the three. Expect a decision soon from Masina.
Anaheim (Calif.) Servite quarterback Travis Waller was a bit up-and-down during the first two practices then sat out the third practice, but really stepped up in the Army Bowl, earning Top Five Offensive honors after showing off the legs that Oregon covets in their quarterbacks but also the arm that they want (he threw a touchdown during the game).
One of the best pure football players in the West, regardless of position is Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei linebacker Ben Humphreys. The four-star headed to Duke starred in the Army Bowl, scoring a touchdown on a pick-six and also recovering a fumble. He’s got an incredible knack for the ball, a really high football IQ and is so technically sound. It would be a surprise if he’s not playing as a true freshman next fall.
Salem Hills (Utah) defensive end Porter Gustin worked mostly as a linebacker during the week and in the game, a game in which he scored a pick-six touchdown. But he also did some work as a rush end during the week and his quickness off the ball and his strength made him tough to block. We still think Gustin ends up playing with his hand down in college, and he looked comfortable coming off the edge. Gustin is still pretty open but Arizona State and USC seem to be the major favorites.
Long Beach (Calif.) Poly defensive end Joseph Wicker had a great senior year, with over 20 sacks, then backed it up this week, showing his last season was no fluke, with a great, consistent performance in practices. Wicker has a quick first step, plays low and gets in to the backfield after the quarterback, but also routinely showed great awareness, a couple times during the week, breaking up screen passes when he noticed the blocking scheme. He almost had a pick six in the last practice on a perfectly read screen, but did show linemen hands. The four-star is down to Arizona State, Texas Tech and UCLA, but admitted Arizona State and UCLA were the two standing out.