Friday, May 3, 2013
Upland's youth movment attracts recruiters
By Erik McKinney
Senior athlete Jeff Farrar and wide receiver Trevor Wright are bringing college coaches to Upland (Calif.) High School this spring. But they're getting some serious help from the underclassmen in keeping those coaches around for the entire practice.
Coaches from Fresno State, Notre Dame, Oregon State, USC and Utah State were at Upland for spring ball practice this past Tuesday and each stayed well into the evening, as it seemed a new young standout made his presence felt during each drill.
In addition to Farrar -- who was put to work by the Upland staff at both defensive back and wide receiver -- as well as Wright, who was forced to miss the practice with a broken scapula, 2015 quarterback Tyler Hilinski is a known product at this point and generating serious interest from big-time programs such as Alabama, Oklahoma and USC. But he isn't the only junior-to-be making noise this spring.
Upland loses nine defensive starters from last year's team and will need to replace a big chunk of offensive talent as well. But rather than filling that in with senior talent, it looks as though the Scots will get big boosts from the 2015 and 2016 classes.
"We have some guys coming back, but what we're noticing is there are a lot of sophomores that are really stepping up right now," Upland head coach Tim Salter said. "And we have some freshmen that we think can really play well."
One position that will definitely be filled by a junior is quarterback, where Hilinski and Zac Sturdivant, last year's backup, will battle for reps this spring and fall. And while they'll have Farrar and Wright as targets on the outside, they'll also be throwing to several fellow youngsters, including 2015 prospect Eric Turner, who transferred to Upland and has already made a positive impression with Salter.
Elijah Jones is another promising 2015 athlete who could see time at cornerback and running back this year. Jones has already made a mark on the 7-on-7 circuit this spring with his solid play.
The 2016 class of wide receivers at Upland looks to be loaded. Grant Porter is a 6-foot-1, 165-pound speedster, which isn't surprising considering he's the son of George Porter, the former track standout at USC. Porter said following his father to USC is the dream right now, and he'll have the next few seasons to make it a reality. Joining Porter at wideout in the 2016 class is Joseph Jones and Joseph Ayala, who played quarterback for the freshman team last year but will make the shift to wide receiver for the varsity squad. Salter said he expects Ayala to contribute as a sophomore.
But it isn't just the skill positions that could be impacted by young players at Upland. The offensive line could see a youth push as well, starting with left tackle Don Greene. But it's the 2016 crop of big men who could turn some heads this fall. Jordan Kern has a chance to grow into a big-bodied tight end who can help along the defensive line, joining the freshman duo of Isi Otuafe, who could play both ways, and Kelon Ferdinand, a 275-pound defensive linemen who has a chance to develop into something special.
With all the young talent on hand, it's easy to get carries away with what could be at Upland, but Salter is quick to not let the talk of potential take over.
"I've done it long enough to know that even when they're quality underclassmen, they're still underclassmen," he said. "So mistakes are going to happen. I don't know if we'll see their full impact until about midway through the season, once they really settle in."
Although, the young players will have opportunities to make statements right out of the gate, as it appears as though Upland will take on Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei and Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian to open the season.
"I have a feeling we will have some seniors in certain spots who are quality football players," Salter said. "But we're predominantly going to be an underclassmen team."