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August 26, 2011

Rival regions: SoCal vs. NorCal

MORE GORNEY: AZ/NM vs. Colo/Utah | Ore vs. Wash

In this two-week series, Rivals.com is taking a look at the high school football talent in rival regions - breaking down the best prospects, best teams and giving our vote for which area is superior.

TODAY'S MATCHUP: Southern California vs. Northern California


The Case for Southern California

It is a little surprising but the quarterbacks in Southern California are a little weak this year led by Utah commit Travis Wilson, Colorado pledge Shane Dillon and San Diego State pledge Matt Morin, but there's plenty of talent in other spots.

The offensive line, for example, could go against any in the entire country.

Offensive tackles Kyle Murphy, Erik Magnuson, Max Tuerk and Lacy Westbrook are an incredibly strong group. Jordan Simmons is outstanding at offensive guard and then Boise State pledge Travis Averill is also strong. At center, Arizona commit Beau Boyster and Grant Bays are good.

Running back is not a deep position - Ryan McDaniel and fullback Jahleel Pinner lead the way - but wide receiver is outstanding and could be considered one of the best groups in a long time.

On top of that list are California commit Bryce Treggs, former USC pledge Jordan Payton, underrated SMU commit Gabriel Marks, USC commits Darreus Rogers and Jaydon Mickens, Stanford pledge Kodi Whitfield, Oregon State pledge Malik Gilmore, Arizona State commits Richard Smith and Kenny Lawler and four-star Derrick Woods. It's a fast, strong group that is fundamentally sound and really talented.

Tight end is also deep with four-star recruits Taylor McNamara and Christo Kourtzidis, who are going to Arizona and Florida State, respectively.

Five-star defensive tackle Ellis McCarthy leads the way on the line. Fast defensive ends Jeremy Castro and Kyle Kelley, a hybrid DE/LB, is tough to stop.

USC commit Scott Starr, UCLA pledge Aaron Porter along with Joe Robinson, Thomas Brown and Butch Pauu are a formidable group at linebacker. In the secondary, cornerbacks Brandon Beaver, Ishmael Adams and Kevon Seymour can defend any wide receiver in the country.


The Case for Northern California

It is one of the strongest classes in the northern part of the state in a long time and it starts at quarterback with Wisconsin commit Bart Houston, Oregon commit Jake Rodrigues, Cal commit Zach Kline and Oregon State commit Brent Vanderveen leading the charge.

The backfield is loaded, led by San Jose (Calif.) Valley Christian's Byron Marshall and Fresno (Calif.) San Joaquin Memorial's Chris Brown.

Wide receiver is also a strong position but there isn't a lot of depth. Notre Dame commit Deontay Greenberry and speedster Kenneth Walker offer different strengths. Tight ends Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick and Ian Taubler are both big-time targets.

The offensive linemen in the region are serviceable but not completely dominant. Fernando Villanueva, Gavin Andrews, Matt Cochran and Freddie Tagaloa are all respectable across the board.

One of Northern California's biggest strengths - arguably its biggest of all - is the defensive line led by five-star defensive tackle Aziz Shittu and four-star defensive ends Arik Armstead and Pio Vatuvei. It's an outstanding group that could challenge any offensive line class.

Cal pledge Michael Barton and four-star Seth Jacobs are both aggressive and active linebackers. In the secondary, five-star safety Shaq Thompson leads the way. Oregon State commit Cleveland Wallace, Boise State pledges Marcus Rios and Chris Santini and Notre Dame commit Tee Shepard are all great competitors.


Bottom line

If there was any year where an argument could be made for Northern California it would be this one especially because it is so strong across the defensive line. A fine bunch of quarterbacks with a strong group of running backs, wide receivers and tight ends carries Northern California over the top.


Team matchup

Coming off a dominating performance in the 2010 CBG's the fans of NorCal football have to be flying high. Not only that but the preseason grades of the two very different areas of the state have come back top-heavy in favor of NorCal with Concord (Calif.) De La Salle, San Jose (Calif.) Bellarmine Prep and Elk Grove (Calif.) Pleasant Grove grabbing the top three spots in the state. The early evaluations of Southern California have been down across the board and that leads many to expect another strong season from teams north of the fertile valley. The Pac 5 in the Southern Section is always going to be a national power and whichever team represents that grouping will be among the best nationally, but entering the season there is no clear favorite, instead a cluster of solid programs battling for that distinction. While the tide hasn't fully pushed to NorCal - largely based on raw numbers it never will - the top tier of team talent is sliding that way.

- Dallas Jackson


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