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Thursday, February 21, 2013
Pittsburg trio ready for spring circuit

By Erik McKinney

Every offseason presents an opportunity for juniors to play themselves onto the radars of college coaches with strong camp showings. This year, a group of Pittsburg (Calif.) prospects will look to generate some recruiting momentum heading into their senior seasons.

Pittsburg High School is accustomed to sending players to the next level, as the former home of Oregon State's all-time leading rusher, Ken Simonton, as well as Oregon's Avery Patterson and Washington State's Tracy Clark. But running back Harris Ross has an opportunity to leave his own legacy at Pittsburg.

"Ross is the big one," said Manny Chavez, who coaches tight ends and oversees recruiting at Pittsburg. "Last year he split time with two seniors and sat out three games. Still, in three of the eight games he played, he was around 200 yards and averaged more than 10 yards per carry. He runs everything the way it's supposed to be run. At times, we wonder why we're even coaching the kid. He's good enough to just let him do his thing."

As a junior, the 5-foot-11, 195-pound back rushed for 828 yards on 71 carries, including a three-game stretch in which Ross posted 577 yards rushing and four touchdowns.

Chavez said he is excited to see what Ross takes away from Simonton -- now the running backs coach at Pittsburg -- but added that much of the success Ross finds going forward will be a result of his own work ethic.

"We talked to him after the season about being a pass catcher, and he's going out and doing it on his own," Chavez said. "This kid is hungry. He's got that fire. Every day he has another question about what he can do to get better. He found a different gear at the end of last year, once he realized that he wasn't just another guy."

Early in the process, Connecticut, Fresno State, San Jose State, Southern Illinois and every school in the Big Sky Conference have expressed interest in Ross.

In addition to Ross, Xavier Crawford and Chibu Onyeukwu will be recruits to watch this spring and summer. Chavez said the plan is for all three to showcase themselves at Nike Camps and college camps, including local stops at Cal and San Jose State, as well as perhaps heading to southern California, Arizona, Nevada and Washington schools.

Crawford, at 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, is arguably the fastest player at Pittsburg and the school's top runner in the 100 meters. Capable of playing wide receiver and cornerback, Chavez said he was most impressed by how much Crawford improved his game toward the end of the year.

"He finished last year as one of the best tacklers in the secondary," he said of Crawford. "The kid can run and can jump out of the gym, but he's physical. Receivers couldn't block him."

While Ross and Crawford are poised to make a big impression during the offseason, it's Onyeukwu who could be the most intriguing down the road. At 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds, the defensive end only turned 16 during the second semester of his junior year. While Onyeukwu hasn't played much and has little film to show coaches, Chavez said the talent and desire to succeed is there, which could lead to a big senior season.