- Erik McKinney, ESPN Staff Writer
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Plenty of words have been used to describe Su'a Cravens (Murrieta, Calif./Vista Murrieta). Gamer, baller, playmaker all have been uttered, and all seem appropriate, but one consistently rises to the top.
"He's a special player," Vista Murrieta coach Coley Candaele said shortly after Cravens dominated a playoff game last season. "We know he's special."
On Wednesday, one college coach had better prepare himself to use that word to describe the top-ranked safety in the 2013 class quite a bit in the coming years. Cravens has received scholarship offers from virtually every top program in the country and will decide between Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State, UCLA and USC. However, the Wolverines and Trojans are the most likely destinations for the 6-foot-1, 205-pound safety. The announcement will take place on his mother's birthday, and while coaches from all programs will continue recruiting him, Cravens said in the past that he does not want to be a recruit who goes back on his commitment.
That, like everything else he does, is a part of what makes him so special.
Vista Murrieta assistant coach Lonnie Ford has had an opportunity to watch Cravens compete for the Broncos in the fall, as well as in 7-on-7 settings this spring. Ford said it's the intangibles Cravens possesses that make him such an important figure in the 2013 recruiting class. When the Frat Boyz -- a passing tournament team coached by Ford, Chris Claiborne and Ruyshawn Moulton -- made an appearance at events, all eyes would turn toward Cravens.
"When we went to 7-on-7 stuff, some of these kids would bow down to him," Ford said. "To me, that's kind of crazy. He's 'the guy' in this recruiting class. He might not be the No. 1 dude, but everybody respects his game. Whoever gets him, it's going to benefit their recruiting class because he's going to bring in other people."
Cravens combines the lineage -- his grandfather, brother and two cousins played college football -- with a true passion for the game that increases as the stakes get higher. After putting in a terrific regular season, Cravens' play rose to new heights in the playoffs, as a four-game run to the CIF-Southern Section Inland Division title saw the outstanding athlete score seven touchdowns, including a 200-yard rushing performance, and rack up 36 tackles and eight sacks. Cravens said it was the best stretch of football he played during his high school career. An adjusted record due to early-season forfeits kept Vista Murrieta out of the state title game, but with Cravens leading the way in 2012, the Broncos will again be considered one of the favorites.
Claiborne also saw the aura Cravens brought to events, but he still can't get over one simple fact.
"He's still only 16 years old," Claiborne said. "That he's coming in and playing at this level at 16 years old says a lot. As he matures, he's going to be a monster. The sky's the limit for this kid."
Claiborne, a Butkus Award winner and first-round NFL draft pick, knows a thing or two about defensive play and was immediately drawn to Cravens. His versatility was the first thing Claiborne picked up on because Cravens has the ability to play multiple positions on offense or defense. As a junior, Cravens rushed for 15 touchdowns, caught 20 passes for four more scores, registered 100 tackles, 11 sacks, four forced fumbles and three interceptions.
"Whoever gets him is getting a game-breaker," Ford said. "He's somebody you can insert at any time. He can play safety or linebacker. He can return kicks, play running back, line up in the slot. He can probably do anything. He's a strong kid, a smart kid, a good-character kid. He doesn't bring the 'me' attitude to a program. Somebody is going to get a very well-rounded student-athlete."
USC and Michigan coaches have talked to Cravens about playing on both sides of the ball, and while the safety remains confident about his ability and passion for defense, he said recently the idea of playing some snaps on offense intrigues him. It wouldn't be surprising to see offensive coordinators draw up some special packages to utilize all of Cravens' skills at the next level.
It's a concept with which he's plenty familiar.