- Erik McKinney, ESPN Staff Writer
Recruiting for Kyle Penniston (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei) began more than a year ago. When the 6-foot-3, 217-pound tight end was a freshman playing on the varsity team at Orange (Calif.) Lutheran, Penniston landed an offer from Florida State. Since then, he's made his mark on the camp circuit and has impressed a number of coaches across the country.
Penniston said he isn't focused on recruiting in any way at this stage of the game. Instead, he wants to get back out in front of as many coaches as possible this offseason in order to best set himself up for success in the coming years. He has received letters from a number of schools, including Duke, Northwestern, Oregon and UCLA. He recently spoke with USC head coach Lane Kiffin and last summer attended camps at Oregon, UCLA, Washington and Wisconsin.
"It's exciting," Penniston said of the early attention. "But right now I want to just take a step back and wait for everything to come in. I've been to some places where I think I'd want to attend school, but everything could change in a few years when I make my decision. I'll get more serious about it in a couple years."
Penniston grew up a UCLA fan, as both parents attended the school. He went to games for several years before he had to stop due to conflicts with his own football schedule.
Though he isn't a member of the 2014 recruiting class, Penniston will be a player to watch this spring and summer. He he was a standout at both underclassmen combines he attended in January and is a tight end capable of having a big impact on a seven-on-seven team. While he plays offense and defense for Mater Dei, he said college coaches definitely view him as a tight end at the next level.
"Probably more on the receiving side than blocking," Penniston said. "More standing up than down in line."
Mater Dei loses several talented pass catchers from an 11-3 team that surprised many last season, but Penniston is looking forward to getting back on the field for his junior season.
"We have expectations to get back there," Penniston said of the championship game. "We have a lot of good returning players and a great coaching staff. We feel like we have a good chance of going one step farther this year and winning a CIF championship."
20hDerek Tyson and Tom VanHaaren
2dTom VanHaaren and Erik McKinney