Los Angeles Preps: Victor Blackwell
Editor's note: In the latest of a postseason series on West Coast prep football prospects, recruiting expert Greg Biggins takes a look at the region's top wide receivers now that national signing day has come and gone:
It was an overall strong year at the receiver position as several highly touted players lived up to their pre-season hype and several other players emerged as legitimate prospects with big senior seasons.
For the second year in a row, a player from Serra (Gardena, Calif.) tops our wide receiver rankings. Last year, it was Robert Woods, a freshman All-American at USC. This year, it’s Cavaliers standout George Farmer who earned the top spot.
Farmer did it all for the Cavs catching 65 balls for 1,514 yards and 14 touchdowns, added two more scores on the ground and took four kicks to the house as well. He has incredible speed and could run a sub 10.4 100 meters this year. He played full time in the secondary and some feel Farmer could be an All-American safety in college but receiver is definitely where he’ll start out and it wouldn’t be surprising if he has the same early impact as Woods.
Kasen Williams finished his career as one of the most prolific receivers in state history. He’s a big athlete who can run and shattered just about every school record while playing in four state championship games at Skyline. He ended his high school career with 232 catches, for 4,121 yards and an amazing 56 touchdowns and will be counted on to play the minute he hits the field next fall.
Brandin Cooks does everything well and has the talent to make an impact right away in college. He’s explosive with a great burst off the line and has the softest hands in the region. He’s a pure route runner and caught 66 passes for 1,125 yards and 10 touchdowns this past season.
Devon Blackmon could end up the top receiver on this list or drop down a few notches. He has tremendous speed and runs very well after the catch. He’s one of the few players capable of catching a short hitch, making five guys miss and going the distance. He must work on his hands and consistency catching the ball however as he’s still relatively new to the receiver position.
Injuries are the only thing that have slowed down Victor Blackwell the last two seasons. When healthy, he has game breaking speed and is a true deep threat. He’s wiry strong, is an advanced route runner and finished his season on a high note catching 50 balls for 976 yards and 14 touchdowns.
The Top 10
1. (1) George Farmer, 6-2, 190, Gardena (Calif.) Serra -- USC
Lived up to the preseason hype and had a dominant year on both sides of the ball.
2. (2) Kasen Williams, 6-2, 205, Sammamish (Wash.) Skyline -- Washington
Some are calling Williams the best WR in state history.
3. (5) Brandin Cooks, 5-10, 160, Stockton (Calif.) Lincoln -- Oregon State
Underrated regionally and nationally but should shine in Beavers offense.
4. (3) Devon Blackmon, 6-0, 155, Fontana (Calif.) Summit -- Oregon
Game breaker who will stretch the field right away for the Ducks.
5. (4) Victor Blackwell, 6-1, 190, Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei -- USC
Has all the tools to shine at the next level.
6. (8) Devin Lucien, 6-1, 190, Encino (Calif.) Crespi -- UCLA
Blew up as a senior and might have the strongest hands in this group.
7. (7) B.J. Kelley, 6-2, 175, Fresno (Calif.) Central -- Oregon
Explosive with good hands, could play before Blackmon.
8. (12) Patrick Onwuasor, 6-2, 195, Inglewood (Calif.) -- Arizona
Great frame, tough and physical and can get deep.
9. (11) Nelson Spruce, 6-2, 190, Westlake (Calif.) -- Colorado
Polished route runner with good size and great hands.
10. (NR) Marvin Hall, 5-10, 175, Los Angeles (Calif.) Dorsey -- Washington
Undersized but has game-breaking speed and is very productive.
The Next 10:
11. (14) Richard Mullaney, 6-2, 185, Thousand Oaks (Calif.) -- Oregon State
12. (17) Blair Holiday, 6-2, 185, Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian -- Duke
13. (NR) Dominique Williams, 6-4, 185, Pomona (Calif.) Garey -- Washington State
14. (16) Tyler Trosin, 6-0, 170, Folsom (Calif.) -- Oregon State
15. (10) David Richards, 6-2, 200, Palmdale (Calif.) -- Arizona
16. (NR) Michael Thomas, 6-2, 180, Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft -- Unsigned
17. (13) Rahmel Dockery, 5-10, 160, University Place (Wash.) Curtis -- Washington State
18. (19) Josh Perkins, 6-4, 180, Cerritos (Calif.) Gahr -- Washington
19. (9) Jamaal Jones, 6-2, 175, Graham (Wash.) Graham -- Kapowsin- Washington
20. (NR) Quinton Pedroza, 6-3, 205, Chino (Calif.) -- Utah
Greg Biggins is an occasional contributor to the ESPNLosAngeles.com Preps Blog. For more recruiting news, check out his Insider blog on West Coast recruiting.
For a half.
But as has been the case all season, you've got to roll for four quarters to keep up with top-seeded Mission Viejo, which overcame an early deficit and scored a 42-21 victory in the Southern Section Pac-5 semifinals at Santa Ana Stadium.
The Diablos (13-0), who have been part of a season-long debate involving Servite as to who is No. 1, have done their part. They will be in the finals next Saturday at Angel Stadium. On the other sideline will be second-seeded Servite (12-0) or third-seeded Alemany (12-0), which play Saturday night at Cerritos College.
The opening moments of the game were fantastic. Mission Viejo needed only three plays to score, with Alex Bridgford passing to Austin Reuland for a 53-yard scoring pass.
Then Mater Dei (8-5) scored in two plays as Freddie Mora scored from 17 yards after Treavon Coley returned the kickoff 52 yards.
But since we're ESPNLA.com, we asked Biggins to give us a comprehensive list of the best players in the Southern Section and City Section of the CIF.
Here is Biggins' list of the best SoCal has to offer, regardless of position.
The list includes three players from Gardena Serra and two apiece from Crenshaw, Mater Dei and, Lakewood. Listed after each player is their current college commitment. If nothing is listed, it means the player is undecide. Six of Biggins' top 25 SoCal players are committed to USC.
Letters of intent can be signed beginning Feb. 2.
1. DeAnthony Thomas, 5-9, 160, ATH, Crenshaw (Los Angeles, Calif.) -- USC
2. George Farmer, 6-2, 210, WR, Serra (Gardena, Calif.)
3. Greg Townsend, 6-3, 260, DL, Beverly Hills (Calif.)
4. Marqise Lee, 6-1, 190, ATH, Serra (Gardena, Calif.)
5. Todd Barr, 6-3, 265, DL, Lakewood (Calif.)
6. Victor Blackwell, 6-1, 190, WR, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) -- USC
7. Devon Blackmon, 6-0, 160, WR, Summit (Fontana, Calif.)
8. Jason Gibson, 6-3, 220, DE, Serra (Gardena, Calif.)
9. Tre Madden, 6-1, 215, LB, Mission Viejo (Calif.) -- USC
10. Kelsey Young, 5-10, 185, RB, Norco (Calif.) -- Stanford
11. Antwaun Woods, 6-1, 325, DT, Taft (Woodland Hills, Calif.) -- USC
12. Max Wittek, 6-4, 215, QB, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) -- USC
13. Junior Pomee, 6-3, 215, TE, Rancho Verde (Moreno Valley, Calif.)
14. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, 5-9, 185, CB, Chino Hills (Calif.)
15. Troy Niklas, 6-7, 260, ATH, Servite (Anaheim, Calif.)
16. Devon Moreland, 6-3, 215, DE, Salesian (Los Angeles, Calif.) -- Southern Methodist
17. Jeff Worthy, 6-4, 275, DT, Whittier Christian (La Habra, Calif.) -- Boise State
18. Jalen Jefferson, 6-2, 200, LB, St. Bonaventure (Ventura, Calif.) -- California
19. Rahim Cassell, 6-1, 205, LB, Lakewood (Calif.) -- Oregon
20. Corey Waller, 6-3, 210, LB, Poly (Long Beach, Calif.)
21. Isaac Luatua, 6-2, 290, OL, La Mirada (Calif.) -- Alabama
22. Devin Lucien, 6-1, 190, WR, Crespi (Encino, Calif.)
23. DeVante Wilson, 6-4, 230, DE, Corona (Calif.)
24. Marcus Martin, 6-3, 350, OL, Crenshaw (Los Angeles, Calif.) -- USC
25. Patrick Onwuasor, 6-2, 190, ATH, Inglewood (Calif.)
West region positional breakdowns:
Greg Biggins is an occasional contributor to the ESPNLA.com Preps Blog. For more recruiting news, check out his Insider blog on West Coast recruiting.
Sean Ceglinsky/Special to ESPNLA.com
Devin Lucien, left, and Chris Harper form one of the most potent receiving duos in the Southern Section.
Pick your poison, Devin Lucien or Chris Harper. But before making the decision about which Encino Crespi High receiver to double-team on the football field, know this, there’s no good answer. More than a few opposing coaches can attest after having made the wrong choice this season.
Week in and week out, Lucien and Harper have combined to play about as well as any other wideout tandem in the Southland. And as a result, the Celts are still alive and well in the postseason playoff picture heading into Friday night’s Serra League game against visiting Los Angeles Loyola at 7 p.m.
“Devin and Chris bring so much to the table, it’s crazy. Those guys make my job a whole lot easier,’’ Crespi quarterback Kenny Stenhouse said. “Lucien is big, fast and athletic, he’s the total package, no doubt. Harper runs great routes and catches everything thrown his way, he’s a handful to deal with.’’
Lucien and Harper compare rather favorably to some of the more talented pass-catching teammates residing in Southern California. Of course, Gardena Serra’s George Farmer and Marqise Lee instantly come to mind. And there's also Santa Ana Mater Dei’s Victor Blackwell and Sedric Hill.
For all intents and purposes, Lucien is the more polished of the two outside threats for the Celts. He is, after all, an experienced senior. The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder has scholarship offers from several NCAA Division I programs and leads Crespi with 45 receptions for 860 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Servite is ranked No. 1 in the ESPNLA top 25, and Mater Dei is ranked No. 12. Both teams have loads of momentum. Servite (7-0, 2-0) has won 18 in a row, including last season's Pac-5 title and State Division II Bowl Championship -- as well as a 30-20 victory over the Monarchs.
That victory, in which Cody Fajardo passed for two touchdowns and ran for another, ended a 20-year winless streak for the Friars. Their best showing over the previous two decades was a 0-0 tie in 1992.
This year, Servite lacks a player with the offensive charisma of Fajardo, who is now at Nevada Reno, but the defense seems to be even better led by linebackers Matt Inman and Butch Pauu, lineman Jody Thomas and defensive backs Jordan Jones and Karlton Dennis. Servite's first unit has allowed only six touchdowns this season, and two of those were on drives of 22 yards or less.
The Friars' special teams figure to gives Servite an advantage as well. They have blocked three punts in the last two weeks, all leading to touchdowns, and with strong-legged Connor Loftus -- he has kicked a 52-yard field goal already this season -- Servite figures to have the edge.
Three touchdowns came after long returns that set up short drives, and Mater Dei – ranked No. 14 in the ESPNLA top 25 – ended a five-game losing streak to its Trinity League nemesis. Now, if rival Servite (6-0, 1-0) can take care of business Friday against St. John Bosco (4-2, 0-1), it will set up a game next week at Angel Stadium with a share of first place at stake.
Wittek passed for three touchdowns and ran for another as the Monarchs (5-2, 2-0) won their fifth consecutive game. Lutheran dropped to 3-4, 0-2.
“They've had our number the past few years,” said the USC-bound quarterback. “We came in very determined. Coach instilled it in us. We heard it all week. We were confident”
Wittek completed 14 of 20 passes for 178 yards with two interceptions. But he didn't have to be perfect on a night in which three scoring drives were for 47, 45 and 34 yards courtesy of Tyler Meglan, Victor Blackwell and Glen Raphael, respectively. Meglan returned the opening kickoff 47 yards, Blackwell answered Lutheran's game-tying touchdown (a 92-yard kickoff return by Will Gonzales) with a 48-yard return, and Raphael returned a punt 34 yards.
“They did a great job of getting out of our end of the field and into their end,” Wittek said.
Blackwell is already a chiseled 6-foot-1, 191-pound specimen. The USC commit scored twice in the first half of 14th-ranked Mater Dei's 31-20 victory over the Braves, but the manner in which Blackwell plays – and makes plays – continues to impress week after week.
“Too much Blackwell,” said Jason Negro, the first-year coach at Bosco whose team played a game that was much closer than the score indicated – the Braves (4-2, 0-1) led 20-17 in the fourth quarter. “He's a tremendous player. We knew that coming in and we designed some things and he still hurt us.”
Blackwell caught six passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns, of 32 and 15 yards for Mater Dei (4-2, 1-0), which has won four in a row. But Blackwell was also directly responsible for all three penalties committed by Bosco – two pass interference penalties and an offside against a defensive back.
It was a classic Trinity League battle, indicative of how tough each game will be. Bosco very clearly was upset-minded.
Larry Goren/Special to ESPNLA.com
Max Wittek says he makes it a point to never get too high after something good happens or too low after something bad.
SANTA ANA -- Some football players might shy away from the unenviable task of having to live up to the lofty expectations that come along with being anointed as the starting quarterback at Mater Dei High. Not Max Wittek. He has embraced the role.
The fact he’s done so without reservation is all the more impressive considering the list of his predecessors, which includes a pair of former Heisman Trophy winners, no less. Most would agree that it takes a special individual to not be overly intimidated about having his name constantly compared to such a storied past of signal callers.
Apparently, Wittek has the makeup to get the job done and doing so in each of his two years on the job thus far is a good indication of that. Not surprisingly, the quarterback tradition is currently alive and well at Mater Dei and the 6-foot-4, 215-pound senior is largely responsible for making the others who came before him proud in that respect.
“Everyone likes to compare Max to the great guys that we’ve had play here, so really, all the talk is nothing new,’’ Monarchs coach Bruce Rollinson said. “Stuff like that has been going on for years and years now and will continue happening in the future.’’
The cast of quarterback characters Rollinson refers to includes, most recently, Matt Leinart, Colt Brennan and Matt Barkley. Each made his mark while slinging the ball around for Mater Dei over the course of the last decade, or so. During the early 1990s, Billy Blanton called the plays from underneath center for a while. John Huarte started it all when he was at the helm of the Monarchs' offense back in the mid 1960s.
Huarte and Leinart ended up winning collegiate football’s most prized possession, the Heisman Trophy, in 1964 and 2004, respectively. Brennan was finalist for the honor in 2007. If Wittek needs some inspiration, he doesn’t have to look very far to find it. One glance at the illustrious list of alumni figures to serve as plenty of motivation.
“I can tell you this much, it takes a special kind of person to play quarterback for us; it’s a demanding position,’’ Rollinson said. “It’s one of those full-time job type of things. You have to be a student first, football player second and there’s not much time for anything else. It’s a total and complete commitment, always has been, always will be.
“There’s certain kids that can’t do what we ask, it’s plain and simple. They’d rather ride skateboards, go to dances or get home from school and watch Oprah Winfrey. With Max, he’s different. He has drive, the initiative, just like Leinart and Barkley did when they were around. Max has passion. He’s dedicated, a perfect fit to run our system.’’
This time the Monarchs defeated No. 15 Edison, 27-7, in a nonleague contest that was never in doubt. Not after the start that the Mater Dei got.
“They're going to talk about Max Wittek and Victor Blackwell, and deservedly so, but we were rocking on defense,”Rollinson said. “The interception was huge, we had a bunch of sacks, put pressure on Chase (Favreau) the whole night -- he never got comfortable, and I commend him for going, the word is he didn't practice all week (because of a sprained ankle).
“I challenged both fronts, and I challenged the defensive line right before we came out to make something happen and they did. . . . You hold them to seven points, that's a heck of a defensive effort.”
There were two sacks, but three other plays in which Favreau -- who transferred from Mater Dei (2-2) to Edison (3-2) -- was tackled for a loss. After the interception, the defense forced a Favreau fumble that also set up a short score, and it limited the potent Edison offense to 120 yards -- 33 came on the final series as it ran out the clock.
Mater Dei receiver Victor Blackwell was incredible in a win over San Clemente last week.
The magic of the three stripes returned to the Mater Dei sidelines a week ago, but if it's a command performance that fans want, it's probably going to take an even greater effort than last week by Monarchs players .
Its annual nonleague game against No. 15 Edison (3-1) tonight at Orange Coast College provides another test for Mater Dei (1-2). It took a monumental step forward last week in a 42-14 upset of previously unbeaten San Clemente in which receiver Victor Blackwell was amazing. He had six catches for 183 yards and two touchdowns, he was faster than a speeding locomotive and he was leaping ... well, just take a look at the photos above. All receivers, if not all players, who turn in description-defying performances this season should henceforth be called Blackwellian. One of the keys this week for the Monarchs is to give the USC-bound Blackwell the opportunity to earn his adjective.
Apart from getting the ball into Blackwell's hands, Mater Dei must also play with the emotion it did a week ago. It all goes back to the Corona Centennial game, a 44-13 loss. Even though Centennial could embarrass a lot of teams by such a score, Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson called it “a rude wakeup call and reality check as to where our mental preparation was. I felt that mentally we weren't dialed into the game. Physically we were overmatched. If you bring some emotion and some fight – we should have represented the program better.”
So that's what Edison has to be wary of. A fired up Monarchs team that is playing for the pride of its past against a very real threat to its present. That cornered animal that San Clemente faced a week ago still has its teeth.
That doesn't mean Edison doesn't come loaded for bear. Defensive linemen Charles Burks and Robert Mase – playing against Mater Dei's work-in-progress offensive line – are a very real threat to Mater Dei QB Max Wittek, and that can impact Blackwell. The Monarchs can't be one-dimensional, either. Corbin Anderson (meniscus) is still out, so RB Josh Valdivia must still pick up the yards to keep Edison's pass rush honest.
Mater Dei has been the benchmark in OC football, but this season the Monarchs have lost twice to tough opponents. Now comes a third opponent, and the proud program is looking at 0-3. Or are they?
“Even though we might be ranked ahead of Mater Dei now, Mater Dei is very dangerous,” said San Clemente coach Eric Patton. “It's like playing a cornered animal, they're desperate for a win, and they're better than their record is showing. This is not something that is a wing and a prayer for us. We look forward to having a great game with Mater Dei, and we're very respectful of what they've done.”
Centennial quarterback accounted for 380 yards of offense in his team's rout of Mater Dei.
The 6-foot-5 and 220-pound senior quarterback from Corona Centennial did a little bit of everything on Friday evening, most of it extremely well. And as a result, the host Huskies had little trouble thoroughly defeating Santa Ana Mater Dei, 44-13, in a nonleague game.
"My goal was to come out and make a big statement tonight in front of everyone,'' said Eubank, who completed 11-of-17 passes for 200 yards passing with a pair of touchdown passes. He also carried the ball 13 times for 180 yards on the ground and scored three touchdowns.
Entering the game, Mater Dei quarterback Max Wittek was thought to be the main attraction. The USC commit struggled from start to finish though and ended up 11-of-25 for 176 yards with two interceptions.
Turns out, Wittek was overshadowed by his counterpart. And keep in mind Eubank has one scholarship offer thus far, Northern Colorado. Others figure to follow suit after his performance Friday.
"I wanted to prove that I can hang with a USC boy,'' Eubank said. "When people underestimate me, it only motivates me more. I'm hungry. I hope this is an eye-opener for Division I coaches. I'm a dual-threat, I can pass it or run it, you saw that out there. I did what I had to do.''
The standout senior receiver injured his left shoulder in a 14-10 loss to Carson on Sept. 4 and his status is unclear. Over the past couple of days, Blackwell was limited in practice. Without the USC commit in the lineup, Mater Dei (0-1) could be in trouble against the Huskies (1-0), who are coming off a 48-8 victory over Lake Balboa Birmingham.
“Victor is injured, yes, but he’s made some progress this week,’’ Monarchs coach Bruce Rollinson said after practice Wednesday afternoon. “We’re not going to rush him back before he’s ready and risk further injury, so he’ll be a game-time decision for us.’’
Blackwell is a game-changer, no doubt about it. As a junior, he finished with 52 receptions for 1,044 yards and 11 touchdowns for Mater Dei. That probably best explains why ESPNU ranks him as the nation’s No. 9 player at his position and No. 55 overall.
If Blackwell isn’t at full strength, it makes sense for the coaching staff to let him fully recover considering the Monarchs have a series of difficult nonleague games on the horizon before Trinity League play begins on Oct. 14 against Bellflower St. John Bosco.
“My injury happened on one of those freak kind of plays, and believe me, I know that this game against Centennial is big, I want to be out there to help my teammates more than anything,’’ Blackwell said. “But, I have to be careful, it’s a long season.’’
Whether Blackwell plays in Friday’s road game, beginning at 7:30 p.m., remains to be seen. One thing is certain: The Monarchs desperately need the 6-foot-1, 190-pound wideout in uniform against the Huskies to keep things close.
Trailing by seven in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, Mater Dei had a fourth-and-3 at the six-yard line -- and chose for Eric Goitia to kick a field goal. That left them still needing a touchdown to win.
Mater Dei's only touchdown came on a 74-yard interception return by Glen Raphael that tied the game, but then Dion Willis returned the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a 14-7 lead.
"We get momentum and give it back on special teams, which is one of the things we pride ourselves on," Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson said. "But we had problems all night with substitutions. You would have thought we started practice on Wednesday.
"We have a lot of issues we've got to get corrected."
Victor Blackwell, Mater Dei's USC-bound receiver, hurt his shoulder and didn't play the second half, but he did make a big hit on Rollinson, who was sporting a bandage over his eye at game's end -- kind of like his team.
"That tops the night," Rollinson said, almost laughing. "When Victor was hurt, Victor was holding his shoulder and I leaned down to say what's wrong and he came flying up [and hit me with his helmet]. That epitomizes the whole thing."
Here's something for Monarchs fans to think about: It's not going to get easier. No one gave Carson a chance in this game, but after a bye next week, Mater Dei plays at Corona Centennial -- a team that everyone thinks more highly of than Carson.
Yep, Mater Dei better correct its issues.