Friday, October 7, 2011
Randy Uzoma's life-changing combine
By Greg Biggins
It has been an incredible journey for Canoga Park (Calif.) athlete Randy Uzoma, and it's far from over.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder has gone from no-name recruit in April to SPARQ champion, recently receiving his first Pac-12 offer.
Uzoma showed up at the Nike combine in Long Beach, Calif., as a complete unknown. What he did over the next four hours changed his life forever.
"If it wasn't for that combine, no one would know who Randy was," Canoga Park offensive coordinator Randy Carlsen said. "That event put him on the map. It got his foot in the door and got people talking about him. We heard from a ton of colleges in the next week, schools that never stepped foot on our campus now wanted to visit, and it all started from that day in Long Beach."
Uzoma posted a blazing 4.47 40, 4.09 shuttle, threw the power ball 45 feet and jumped 36 inches in the vertical. His SPARQ rating of 130.26 was the highest from any of the 16 Nike combines (14,000 athletes tested) and earned him an invite to The Opening in Beaverton, Ore., where he competed against 150 of the best athletes in the nation.
I'll never forget interviewing Uzoma after the combine and quickly learning that the athlete was definitely unique in his understanding of the game. When I asked about junior stats, his answers brought a chuckle.
"I had six kick backs for touchdowns," Uzoma said.
"Kick backs, what the heck is that?" I asked.
"It's when they kick off the ball to you and you run as fast as you can and make it all the way to the other end zone," Uzoma said. "One of my kick backs didn't count though because the ref threw a small yellow towel on the field and said someone on our team did something wrong."
To say Uzoma didn't grow up playing the game would be an understatement. His parents, both from Nigeria, sent Uzoma to Canoga Park because of the academic reputation of the school. He didn't get his first sniff of a football field until his sophomore year.
"He's just a natural athlete," Carlsen said. "He's still raw as a football player obviously, but his upside is off the charts. He's 6-2, 205 pounds and has the frame to get a lot bigger without losing his speed. He ran a 10.7 100-meter dash for us last year, and that was on a dirt track. He has an incredible work ethic and is just a joy to be around. He always has a smile on his face and is a great teammate."
|Randy Uzoma ran a 4.47 40-yard dash at the Long Beach Nike SPARQ combine.|
Nevada was the first school to offer Uzoma, and he committed to the Wolfpack in August. However, after a fast start to his senior season, Nevada has some serious competition.
"Oregon just offered this week," Carlsen said. "They like him as an athlete right now. The receiver coach likes him, but the safety coach loves him. Washington came by this week too, and they're very close to offering. They knew he was a good athlete but wanted to see what kind of football player he was.
"I sent out his highlights of his first three games, where he has a 99-yard touchdown reception, a pick-six and a ton of tackles in the backfield, and I think they're sold. Randy wants to be a doctor and they have a great medical program, so the Huskies could be tough to beat. Utah likes him at linebacker and thinks he could get up to 230 pounds easy, and there are few more schools, including UCLA who are looking at him now."
As for his commitment to the Wolfpack, Uzoma said he remains solid but is intrigued by the new options.
"I like Nevada a lot," Uzoma said. "I'm happy with my commitment, and I still plan on taking an official visit there. I want to visit Oregon and a few other schools too, though. I just want to check out all my options and make sure I'm doing the right thing.
"I'm still learning about the process here and just want to have as much information as possible before I make a final decision. This whole experience has been great for me, and I'm just grateful for the opportunity to play football and go to college on a scholarship as well."
One of my kick backs didn't count though because the ref threw a small yellow towel on the field and said someone on our team did something wrong.
-- Randy Uzoma
Did UCLA dodge a bullet?
A pair of USC coaches were scouting La Habra (Calif.) linebacker Aaron Porter last Friday. The feeling was if the Trojans staff liked what they saw, it would offer the UCLA commit. Porter would definitely be interested if USC came calling.
It has been a week, and Porter has yet to receive an offer. The feeling was if USC was to offer Porter, the Bruin's top prospect, it would have happened within days of his game.
"I haven't heard from them yet, so I'm not sure what's happening," he said. "They already have two linebackers committed, and with limited scholarships, I think it was a long shot. I'm fine with UCLA. I'm solid with my commitment, but it would have been cool to have another option."
|Zach Kline has decided to play his college ball at Cal.|
Kline rolling along
It was an up-and-down spring/summer for quarterback Zach Kline (Danville, Calif./San Ramon Valley). The Under Armour All-American had a rough showing at The Opening and struggled through the first two days at the Elite 11 QB Camp before flipping the switch and finishing strong.
Kline has kept his momentum going and is off to a quick start to his senior season. The Wolves are 3-1 with their lone loss coming against defending state champion Folsom (Calif.) in the season-opener despite Kline throwing for 305 yards and three touchdowns with zero interceptions.
Since then, two of the Wolves wins were comebacks where Kline ran and threw for game-winning scores late in the fourth quarter. On the season, he is completing close to 70 percent of his passes and has 949 yards passing, nine touchdowns and three picks.
"I think the game is slowing down for me a little this year," Kline said. "I'm just trying to get better every game and lead our team. The hype from the summer is over and now. I'm just trying to lead our team the best way I can."
Bays down to two
Offensive lineman Grant Bays (Oceanside, Calif.) took official visits the past two weeks to Oregon State and Boise State. The talented center said prior to his visit to Boise State that he would take a week to think things over and then make his college decision.
Bays has been quiet all week, and the feeling is that the decision has been much harder than anticipated. Both the Beavers and Broncos have done a great job recruiting Bays, and this one is a toss-up at this point.
In addition to the two finalists, the lineman has also been offered by Arizona, Arizona State, Nevada, Utah, Washington and Washington State.
Greg Biggins covers recruiting in the West region. He can be reached at Greg.Biggins@espn.com.