Thursday, May 5, 2011
Whitney's wanted man
By Sean Ceglinsky
Plenty of prospects were in attendance at last weekend's Instinct Showcase held by B2G Sports at UCLA. However, the player seemingly everyone wanted to catch a glimpse of, Rocklin (Calif.) Whitney's Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, was no where to be found.
Turns out, there was more than a legitimate reason for his absence.
Cope-Fitzpatrick was on an unofficial visit to Washington. And for programs from all over the country, this comes as news considering the 6-foot-5 and 250-plus pound tight end is one of the nation's more sought-after unsigned recruits at his position for the 2012 class.
Odds are, USC was well aware of his whereabouts given the fact that the Trojans have recently kept in contact with Cope-Fitzpatrick. Keeping the Northern Californian in-state to play his college ball and landing an all-important commitment from him appears to be a priority.
One problem: Lane Kiffin & Co. haven't offered him a scholarship yet.
All of that could be on the verge of changing though, especially once word starts to spread about him exploring his options, which appear to multiply with each passing day.
"My goal was to work with B2G Sports, but sometimes, things come up," Cope-Fitzpatrick said. "I'm hearing from a lot of different schools, that's why it was important for me to check out Washington. I plan on making some other visits too, probably very soon.
"Things are happening fast right now, there are a lot of big-time colleges talking to me. When I think about things, it's amazing, so surreal. It's crazy. I have talked with Florida, Tennessee and Notre Dame, USC too. Actually, I think USC is recruiting me the hardest."
Whether the Trojans actually up the stakes and offer him in the near future remains to be seen. And the same could be said about his other potential suitors. Auburn, Miami (FL) and Tennessee are among the other powerhouse programs that have been in contact with him.
One thing is certain: Cope-Fitzpatrick has a worthy résumé. He is, after all, one of the more high-profile players around, thus his selection to the ESPNU 150 Watch List.
Suppose that best explains why he has nine offers to date, several from the newly minted Pac-12 Conference, including Cal, Colorado, Oregon State, UCLA, Utah, Washington and Washington State. Nebraska is also in the mix. Iowa State offered on Tuesday afternoon.
"Jalen is one of those kids who is dedicated to the game, to his craft, more so than any player I've seen in years," said Ron Allen, co-founder and executive director for B2G Sports. "He is a five-star type of athlete, but he doesn't buy into all of the hype. He goes out and plays with the mentality of a three-star kid, which means he's always working hard to improve. He never settles. Jalen is hungry. He hasn't come close to peaking yet. His best football is ahead of him.
"It's funny how recruiting works. Look at someone like Jalen, he's on everyone's radar right now, and at some point, colleges are going to have to put in the extra work to land a commitment from him. He is going to make an immediate impact at the next level and that's why I feel like some of the elite schools, USC for example, are going to jump on the bandwagon soon."
In the meantime, Cope-Fitzpatrick goes about his business.
He takes care of things he can control, of course, especially once he steps foot out on the football field with the likes of B2G Sports or his high school team, Whitney.
Cope-Fitzpatrick opened plenty of eyes, college coaches and scouts alike, during his junior year when he had 29 receptions for an average of 11.28 yards per catch.
Despite facing constant double-coverage, it's also worth mentioning that he scored seven touchdowns and converted a pair of two-point conversions for the Wildcats.
"Jalen is talented player, that's no secret," said Mike Gimenez, his coach at Whitney. "Physically, he is as gifted as they come. He's fast and smart, can make the difficult catch look easy and block with the best of them against the best of them. There's not much he can't do.
"Talk about demanding attention, Jalen gets it from opposing teams, as well as colleges from just about everywhere. I'm always talking to someone about him. With another year underneath his belt, we're excited to see what he's capable of doing in his senior season."
Onlookers over at B2G Sports' Instinct Showcase were also excited to see what Cope-Fitzpatrick was capable of doing this past weekend during the two-day showcase.
Unfortunately, he was missing in action, off attending to some more pressing business up in the Pacific Northwest. With colleges from all over the country beginning to clamor for his services, all signs point to Cope-Fitzpatrick doing more of the same in the near future.
"The unofficial visit to Washington was my fourth trip so far and I have also been to Cal, UCLA and USC," Cope-Fitzpatrick said. "I liked USC, I think that would be a solid pick for me, and the coaching staff said that they'd probably offer if I kept on improving."
"All I want to do is stay optimistic and analyze things carefully. I want to go somewhere, a college, that wants me, so I'm not going to rush into a commitment. Overall, things are going well, I've heard a lot of people say that I'm blowing up on the recruiting scene."
Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com.