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Thursday, March 20, 2014
Meet No. 5 OLB John Houston Jr.

By Erik McKinney

Throughout this recruiting cycle, RecruitingNation will profile several ESPN 300 prospects in the 2015 class, including an inside look at the prospect, his recruitment, a scouting report and what college program could benefit when he ultimately makes his decision.

For much of the past decade, Gardena (Calif.) Serra has been a must-stop destination for college football coaches. Not only have the Cavaliers not lost more than three games in a season since 2005, the last five recruiting classes have featured ESPN 300 prospects Robert Woods, Marqise Lee and George Farmer of USC and Jason Gibson of Cal, as well as standout receiver Paul Richardson of Colorado. In the 2014 class, nine Serra players signed with FBS programs, including No. 9 overall prospect Adoree' Jackson with USC and No. 180 overall prospect Dwight Williams with UCLA.

The Serra campus will again be swarming with college coaches in 2014, as the school has three ESPN Junior 300 prospects and several more 2015 recruits that will sign with FBS programs. And right in the middle of it all will be John Houston Jr.

John Houston Jr.
Linebacker John Houston Jr. is next in line at West Coast powerhouse Gardena (Calif.) Serra.
The 6-foot-3, 198-pound outside linebacker is the nation's No. 51 overall prospect and No. 5 at his position. After making an appearance on the scene as a sophomore, he announced his presence in a big way as a junior, leading the team with 137 tackles, including 1.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries and a team-high nine pass deflections.

As he heads into his senior season, Houston -- holding offers from elite programs such as Alabama, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Miami, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, UCLA and USC -- isn't only concerned about his recruiting. The Cavaliers came up short last year in their quest for a state title, and Houston plans to do everything he can to rectify that this fall.

"I just have to coach up all the young guys," Houston said. "I like to do that so that when I leave, I can leave a good legacy at Serra. I've seen four years of guys doing big things and going onto college and the NFL."

Houston's father played football at West Texas A&M and Houston has been involved with the sport his entire life, ascending through the ranks and now standing as one of the most highly coveted recruits in the country.

Houston still has a lot of room to grow. The words "promise" and "potential" are uttered often when coaches speak about the dynamic athlete. This spring, Houston is running track and will compete in the 400, both individual and relay.

"I'm trying to break 50 seconds right now, get down to 48 or 49," Houston said.

The thought of the big man moving that quickly could have several college assistants running a few extra sprints if they want to keep up with Houston during the upcoming spring evaluation period.

About his recruitment: Houston hasn't yet truly made the dive into the recruiting process as he's been concentrating on football and track this spring. Though he's done some preliminary research into schools, he said he'd like to develop a better understanding of all the schools recruiting him in the coming months. Houston believes the next step for him will be coming up with 10 or 15 schools as his finalists, though he isn't sure when he will take that step.

Scouting profile: Houston is a lean, wiry athletic linebacker with a good frame to develop. He needs to continue to fill out, but on film as well as at the Los Angeles NFTC, the talented defender has demonstrated good range and the ability to make plays in space. A non-padded event, Houston was not surprisingly strong in coverage drills, as he displays the ability to get good depth in his zone drops and he possesses the length and athleticism to match up well with RBs and tight ends in man coverage. Among the top defensive prospects out West, Houston is a good, versatile linebacker with continued promising upside. -- Craig Haubert

Handicapping the race: It's tough to pick against one of the two local schools for Houston, as UCLA and USC will make Serra a priority stop during this cycle. The Bruins landed two former Cavaliers in the 2014 class and USC signed three from the school. Offers from some of the big-time programs will move the needle for Houston, but in what could become a trend among Southern California standouts in the 2015 class, this battle could shape up as an important one between the Pac-12 South rivals.