Local players to watch in the Pac-12 this fall
CULVER CITY, Calif. – It used to be that Southern California's high school football turf belonged to USC and, to a lesser degree, UCLA. The Trojans signed the best players and the Bruins got the leftovers.
Not anymore. Whether it's an abundance of talent or the ramped-up recruiting wars, virtually every school in the Pac-12 Conference feels it can hold its own when it comes to signing players in the Southland.
Recruiting for some isn't so much a challenge as it is an opportunity – even if a coach is showing a prep star the advantages of playing in rainy Seattle rather than sun, surf and celebrity.
"The biggest challenge is to get them on the airplane," Washington coach Steve Sarkisian, a former longtime assistant at USC, said. "Because once they get up there, they love it."
They must. At Friday's Pac-12 Media Day, Sarkisian was surrounded by quarterback Keith Price, who played at St. John Bosco High in Bellflower, and defensive back Sean Parker, who prepped at Narbonne in Harbor City.
There are plenty more. This season, these five players bear watching – and none of them will be wearing USC or UCLA colors:
Keith Price, QB, Washington (St. John Bosco)
The Huskies' third consecutive 7-6 record left Sarkisian and his program deflated.
"In our heart of hearts, we were better than 7 6, but we didn't get it done," he said. "In turn, it's left a bad taste in our mouths."
Count Price in that group. The senior threw for more than 2,700 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2012, but he also had 13 interceptions. He's looking for redemption.
"I'm ready," Price said. " I have a lot to prove to myself and a lot to prove to you guys. I can't wait. I think this is when I perform best, when people are doubting me and people don't think I can do what I did."
Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado (Serra)
Richardson went down in a heap at spring practice last year, and so did the Buffaloes' season. A torn anterior cruciate ligament knocked him out for all of 2012, one reason Colorado endured a 1-11 season and was 1-8 in the Pac-12.
Richardson, a junior, is fully recovered and begins the season ranked 21st in career receiving yards (1,069) and 25th in receptions (73) in the Buffs' record book. More than anything, he's shown an ability to bounce back from adversity.
"Paul was relentless in getting well, in pushing back to get going," first-year coach Mike MacIntyre said. In fact, Richardson could have return late last season, but given the team's record and the risk of re-injury, he decided to wait.
Now, MacIntyre says, "The players on the team saw his effort and determination. They know how good of a player he is and how hard he worked to get back."
Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State (Corona Centennial)
Sutton opted to return to ASU after he received a fifth-round projection from the NFL draft advisory board, a surprising development given the fact he was a consensus All-American and won the Pat Tillman Pac-12 defensive player of the year award.
But his return bodes well for the Sun Devils, who believe they can contend for the conference title. Sutton, who is nine credits away from graduating, had 23½ tackles for loss last season and 16½ career sacks.
"He's one of the smartest defensive players I've been around," coach Todd Graham said. "He understands the game, he knows the game, and he about runs me over game day coming out of the tunnel. In 27 years, I've not coached a defensive player more passionate than he is about competing."
De'Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon (Crenshaw)
Thomas is arguably the most dynamic offensive player in the country, a Heisman Trophy contender who is already on the watch lists for the Walter Camp and Maxwell awards.
He's also versatile enough that he's unlikely to start in the backfield for Oregon and is more likely to be used in a variety of spots, including the slot.
His role? "To be determined," coach Mark Helfrich, who succeeds Chip Kelly, said. "It depends. De'Anthony likes that role. He likes to be a moving target that doesn't lineup in one position all the time, and certainly we like that, too."
Last season, Thomas ran for 701 yards, caught 45 passes for 445 yards and also returned kickoffs and punts, finishing with 18 touchdowns. That's versatility the offensive-minded Ducks can use.
Bryce Treggs, WR, Cal (St. John Bosco)
An injury ended Treggs' freshman season prematurely, but he still made eight starts and finished third on the team with 21 catches for 216 yards and one touchdown.
His success this season will depend on which of three candidates wins the quarterback job for the Bears, coach Sonny Dykes said.
"If Bryce is smart, he'll take those quarterbacks out to dinner and make sure he says nice things about them and they'll throw him the ball more," Dykes said. "That's the way that stuff works."
To Treggs, it doesn't matter who throws the ball. "I'm comfortable with whoever the coaches decide," he said. "I'm ready to go to war with any of them."
Here are five more Southern California players to watch:
Jamil Douglas, OL, Arizona State (Cypress)
Started every game at tackle last season as a sophomore. Listed first on depth chart at right tackle.
Terrence Miller, WR, Arizona (Rancho Verde)
Received a fifth year of eligibility on a medical hardship after missing Wildcats' final nine games. Caught 13 passes for 143 yards before going down.
Sean Parker, DB, Washington (Narbonne)
Had two interceptions and was named honorable mention All-Pac-12. He and Price were named co-captains this season.
Trevor Reilly, DE, Utah (Valley Center)
Has 21 career tackles for loss and 11½ career sacks. Named to Butkus Award watch list.
Travis Wilson, QB, Utah (San Clemente)
Projected starter after playing in every game as a freshman and finishing with a 3-4 record. Coach Kyle Whittingham said, "We need him to hit the ground running."