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Monday, May 13, 2013
Centennial spring showcase unveils stars

By Erik McKinney

Corona (Calif.) Centennial was the place to be for college coaches this past Thursday, as the Huskies went through their spring showcase event designed to give schools from every level a chance to evaluate the juniors and top underclassmen. More than 30 schools were represented, including coaches from Alabama, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, USC and Washington.

Of particular interest was ESPN 150 guard Viane Talamaivao, who holds offers from much of the Pac-12, as well as Alabama, Mississippi and Wisconsin. But some of the highlights came when Talamaivao found himself matched up against defensive tackle Austin Maloata, a distant cousin who committed to the Trojans recently after picking up an offer.

Talamaivao was also tested several times by defensive end Jaylen Johnson, a 6-foot-3, 232-pound dynamic defender who already holds offers from Arizona State, Boise State, Oregon, Oregon State and Utah, among others.

Johnson said after the practice that although he holds 12 offers already, he is in no hurry to move through the recruiting process.

"It's still kind of early," he said. "I don't want to lean too hard in one direction. I'm taking it as it goes. I'll start thinking about it later this summer."

Johnson will attend a summer camp at Boise State in June and hopes to make several other trips. The Broncos were the first program to offer Johnson a scholarship and he wants to check out the campus before seeing other schools.

At this point, it appears that the program Johnson will play for as well as the position he plays at the next level are still up in the air. A versatile defender, Johnson said he could fill several roles at the next level.

"I'll most likely be playing outside linebacker in college," he said. "Schools have talked about a 3-4 outside linebacker or a 4-3 defensive end, but they'll drop me back. I like the versatility of that spot. I think I can do more things in the passing game and the running game."

While plenty of eyes were on the big men during Thursday's practice, attention shifted to the skill players throughout the session as well.

Quarterback Robert Webber was phenomenal as a junior -- he passed for 3,968 yards and 41 touchdowns while rushing for 781 yards and seven scores -- and will return to lead a potent offense in 2013. Slightly undersized, Webber has gained some attention from Division II schools but is pushing for more attention this spring and fall. He is excited about getting back on the field as well as the opportunity to put up another round of eye-popping numbers as a senior.

"It's really fun, especially here," Webber said. "It's fun to have full control of the offense and run it fast-paced like we do. We're trying to get back to CIF and work our way back to State. You can't sell yourself short."

Webber spent the evening running the zone read with tailback Tre Watson and throwing passes to Barry Ware, who have earned early attention from schools and who should see their recruitments continue to increase throughout the season.

Ware made an early commitment to UCLA and said he is still committed to the Bruins, although he won't shut the recruiting process down completely, just in case he needs a backup plan. He holds a scholarship offer from Washington State, but said he hasn't really given a thought to some of the schools he will keep in touch with.

Watson picked up an offer from New Mexico following the Thursday practice, adding to earlier ones from BYU, Nevada, Toledo, Utah and Washington State.

"It's been a great process," Watson said. "I'm out here working hard every day, getting ready for the season. We can't take another loss this year. We're going to take it one game at a time and see how it goes."

As for his recruiting process, Watson said he will take several unofficial visits this summer, but doesn't have any scheduled at this point. As a junior, Watson led the Huskies with 1,483 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns. He's expecting more of the same this year.

"I love it," Watson said of the high-powered offense at Centennial. "They give me the ball in the open field and I do what I do best -- make plays. It's a great thing."

Thursday's practice also showed that Centennial will have some talent in the secondary as well. Cornerback John Plattenburg picked up an offer from Colorado shortly after the session ended, putting the 5-foot-10, 175-pound defense back is now into double digits, including offers from Boise State, California, Oregon State, Utah and Washington.

This fall, he'll again have help from free safety Jihree Stewart, a 2015 prospect who could be a three-year starter by the time he's finished with his senior season. Though he doesn't hold any offers yet, Stewart has already received interest from Auburn, Colorado, Florida State, Notre Dame and Oregon, and proved that he'll be yet another Husky to watch at next year's spring showcase.