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Sunday, March 24, 2013
Lessons Learned: Gamebreaker Classic

By Erik McKinney and Blair Angulo

NEWBURY PARK, Calif. -- The Gamebreaker Classic was held over the weekend at Newbury Park High School, with a dozen of Southern California's top 7-on-7 teams in attendance. While a number of prospects shined and the Snoop Dogg All-Stars came away with the ultimate prize, a number of big-picture items came into focus during the event.

RecruitingNation writer Erik McKinney attended the event, and here is what he learned:

Playing with flair

Each team might have been outfitted with matching uniforms, but it was up to each player to provide a personal touch, and many did with gear from various colleges. It wasn’t surprising that the Pac-12 was well represented. The most obvious and expected was Jaleel Wadood (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) in his Arizona State gear and Rahshead Johnson (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) wearing a Washington cap. Those two are committed to those schools, respectively.

Other Pac-12 schools spotted included USC, worn by Curtis Bolton (Murrieta, Calif./Vista Murrieta) and Shay Fields Jr (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco); Oregon, with D.J. Young (Harbor City, Calif./Narbonne) and Nick Needham (Buena Park, Calif./Buena Park); and UCLA, with Equanimeous St. Brown (Anaheim, Calif./Servite) and Darrell Cloy Jr. (La Habra, Calif./La Habra).

Dual-threat quarterback Jalen Greene (Gardena, Calif./Serra), who last week received his first offer from Boise State, walked in wearing a Broncos beanie.

Young guns

California always produces a solid crop of quarterbacks, and the 2014 class will be no exception. But eyes already are beginning to look ahead to the 2015 class, which should be a terrific group for the Golden State. Josh Rosen (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) led his team to the title, while Brady White (Newhall, Calif./Hart) also flashed his big-time potential over the weekend.

Tyler Hilinski (Upland, Calif./Upland) is already a name to watch, and Nate Ketteringham (San Diego/Westview) showed he’ll be in the discussion next year, as well.

Trojans waiting too long?

It’s known in the region that if a California prospect -- and especially a Southern California prospect -- is going to pick up an offer from USC, he likely is going to have to wait until the summer before his senior season and earn it at USC’s Rising Stars Camp. But depending on how this fall goes on the field for the Trojans, that tactic might not work much longer.

When USC was ripping through the Pac-12 and cherry-picking local recruits, some very good prospects had no problem waiting around for USC to offer, even if the timing was considered somewhat late in the game. But to add another layer to how important this season is for Lane Kiffin, there are starting to be more and more rumbles from recruits and coaches at 7-on-7 events that the Trojans are waiting too long to offer local players in favor of getting in early with out-of-state recruits.

It will be an interesting dynamic to follow, as USC coaches have found great success on the recruiting trail with that tactic and always will want to get an in-person look at a player in camp. A big year on the field could go a long way toward keeping that approach as a winning one in terms of being able to hold out and still corral the top players in the area come signing day.

Head games

Though one prospect walked off the field Sunday and tossed away his protective cap, complaining about the tight padding and uncomfortable feel, the use of the headgear has become more prevalent at passing league events. Athletes might not rave about how they look, but they are a staple of the circuit for a reason.

"Ultimately, 7-on-7 is one part of the season. We want to send these kids back to their high schools better -- not hurt or any of those things," Gamebreakers coach Chris Claiborne said. "When it's done and over with, they need to be healthy. A lot of times high schools have problems with these events, but this is all to help kids. This is what it's all about. It's a process. No matter what it is, you've got to help find the best fit for the kids. Coaches have to enforce it and buy in, just like the kids."

Claiborne said he's also hoping to make the use of mouth guards mandatory to further prevent injuries.

Competition on repetition

Event champion Snoop Dogg All-Stars was not only known as the most talented squad heading into the weekend but also carried a reputation as one of the feistiest groups on the circuit. Competition gets heated at times, especially during intense, game-defining situations, but athletes are asked to keep their cool. An altercation tarnished the team's showing at the Las Vegas event, but there weren't any signs of that this weekend. There was plenty of jawing from all sides, an indication that even in the offseason, there is no offseason.