Los Angeles Preps: Pete Carroll

Payton's wild recruiting experience

February, 1, 2012
Jordan PaytonJohn Lazar/Special to ESPNLosAngeles.comOaks Christian's Jordan Payton went from committing to USC to Cal to Washington and signing with UCLA.

In the span of 48 hours, Oaks Christian wide receiver Jordan Payton switched commitments from Cal to Washington to UCLA. Before that, as a junior, he verbally committed to USC.

He told a third of the schools in the Pac-12 Conference that he was going to play football for them.

He is one of the top recruits in the country, a talented receiver who can also play defensive back. He is tall, 6 feet 3, and fast, ranked 15th in the nation at wide receiver by Scout.com and Rivals.com. He was the 29th-ranked wide receiver in the nation by ESPNU. He would have been a valuable piece to any college offense.

But he might have become a victim of a relentless recruiting process that demands high school players make decisions before they are ready.

“It’s crazy, but the people have to understand this process is crazy,” Payton told the Los Angeles Times on Wednrsday. “You’re giving an 18-year-old kid a decision of a lifetime. I wanted to make sure I made the right decision.”

That decision left some coaching staffs and fans in the Pac 12 a bit upset.

By the end of signing day, Payton’s Twitter account had been disabled. He wasn’t taking phone calls for interviews and only talking to a few close friends and family once he committed to UCLA. ESPNLosAngeles made several attempts throughout the day to reach Payton to no avail.

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Su'a Cravens can lean on rich family tree

November, 15, 2011
Su'a CravensVista Murrieta High SchoolSu'a Cravens has an advantage in the recruiting process by coming from a family with so many good athletes.

MURRIETA -- USC wants him as a halfback, Oklahoma hopes to slot him at linebacker or strong safety. Notre Dame, UCLA, Stanford or Boise State? They might feel lucky just to lure Su’a Cravens on campus for a visit.

These are just a few of the options for the nation’s hottest recruit in the class of 2013.

Cravens, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound junior for Vista Murrieta High School in Southwest Riverside County, already claims 17 scholarship offers from major colleges across the country.

[+] EnlargeSu'a Cravens
Vista Murrieta High SchoolSu'a Cravens is probably more known for his defense, but he has shown this season what he can do on offense too.
Over the next 12 to 15 months, likely right up until National Signing Day, Cravens will certainly hear from a lot more. Weekly phone calls, in-house visits, on-campus meet-and greets. A lucky few might even earn one of those five official visits.

Talk about a lot to digest for a kid who won’t turn 17 until next summer.

Fortunately for Cravens, who will lead the Broncos into the first round of the SS-Inland Division playoffs Friday night against visiting La Verne Damien, there’s no shortage of trusted advice.

His family tree is filled with athletes who’ve been through the recruiting process, listened to the promises and witnessed how scenarios can quickly change once a college career begins.

Look no further than his grandfather, Jack Cravens, who was convinced to turn down a scholarship offer to play for legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.

“I have a lot of helpful information around me,” Su'a Cravens said. “And I’m always listening.”

His two closest advisers are his father, Kevin Cravens, and older brother, Siaki, a junior defensive lineman for the University of Hawaii.

Siaki’s recruiting experience began when he was one of the top tight ends in the Inland Empire during his senior season at Temecula Valley High in 2007. One of the schools that showed interest was Utah, coached by Kyle Whittingham, whose sister is married to Kevin Cravens’ younger brother, Ryan.

Siaki committed to the Utes as a slot receiver, but the coaching staff switched him to middle linebacker the first day of practice.

“For a kid who had never played defense before, that was a total shock to him,” Kevin Cravens said.

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