PACIFIC PRO FOOTBALL LEAGUE…The Great Alternative For High School Seniors

As we get closer and closer to National Letter of Intent signing day there are many high school senior athletes who have yet to make a decision on their future plans.  Unfortunately there will be some great players that signing day will pass by for a plethora of reasons.  Make no mistake about it, college sports while having some of the best athletes in the world has historically looked over potential pro talent.  In many cases some of these misses have found their ways into prep schools and/or junior colleges eventually ending up on a division one roster. Now comes the Pacific Pro Football league which will basically be a sizable fishing net that will catch some of those misses and unsigned seniors. The first season of the league is projected to begin in the summer of 2018 which would mean that it’s first selection of players would be the winter of 2017 or early spring of 2018.  The brass tax of it all is that this league will pay its players and as any former or present college football player will tell you, being paid to play the sport you love is a major plus.  Why will the PAC Pro League succeed?  Simple.  It has a former coaching mastermind in Mike Shanahan and a former super bowl champion in Ed McCaffrey as the main advisors to league owners.  McCaffrey is actually one of the founders and with his knowledge of the components of a winning franchise and Shanahan’s experience with the NFL, things are sure to go in the right direction.  And this of course is not to downplay the other executives involved.  Donald Yee is known as an aggressive and successful businessman and this will definitely be one of his greatest business moves.


Currently there are four teams involved with the PAC Pro League but rest assured there will be expansion and with the hype meter heading off the charts, big corporations are readying their checkbooks to get in on this venture.  Compensation packages will include but are not limited to an annual player salary of $50,000, one year of paid community college, and academic/vocational counseling.  A pretty good deal considering most guys would be willing to play for free as long as they have a division one uniform on their back.  Meanwhile there are thousands of high school football players especially those in the class of 2018 and on thinking that this is the opportunity of a lifetime.  Now it must be said that the league is mainly for players who are college age but that in no way means that a high school football player  at the least shouldn’t  bask in the hopes of a paid alternative and thus “have an ice cream cone and skip through the park” sort of feeling at this new opportunity.


Should the NCAA be worried about the PAC Pro League taking some of its better athletes?  At the moment that would be a big no.  The NCAA is a billion dollar industry and has pipelines for talent that reach around the world.  But that is not to say that they won’t be looking over their shoulders and paying attention to the PAC Pro League’s progression.  Figure this a classic situation of Nike versus Under Armour.  When Under Armour first began all they wanted to do is get into the same room as Nike, Adidas, and Reebok and now they have one of the biggest names in athletic apparel.  This may or may not happen with PAC Pro Football but at it’s roots there is definitely an argument that this will be the next powerhouse league.  Stay tuned.

Shareef O’Neal…Diesel Version 2.0

Most of us remember Shaquille O’Neal for his rim shattering dunks.  Die hard basketball fans can scroll their memory all the way back to when Shaq faced off against a Christian Laetner led Duke team. Where after being defeated by Duke, Shaq was minimized as a “maybe” future NBA star.  Those who said that would later eat crow when Shaquille O’Neal became a hall of famer as the most feared inside presence in the history of the NBA.  Scroll life forward to the present and now comes Shaquille O’Neal’s son, Shareef O’Neal, who is his father’s clone with his heart, his drive, his presence on the floor but he adds a couple of more components to his own game.  The true basketball mind would immediately ask what an athlete could possibly add to the game of a hall of famer and more than that how could someone, even if it’s Shaq’s son, become better than the original number 32.  Here’s how.  Shareef O’Neal has the favor of NBA legends on his side mainly Kobe Bryant who he schedules workouts with.  Between arguably the best basketball center in history and one of the top three overall players in Kobe Bryant, Shareef O’Neal will have some of the best training that a prospect can come by.  The younger O’Neal may very well rise up to the top spot for co’18 prospects.  Currently the 6’9 power forward attends Crossroads School located in California.


What makes Shareef O’Neal one of the top recruits in the class of 2018?  Besides the fact that he is the most athletic swingman in his class, he is quickly learning how to defend.  A defender with his length and potentially high basket IQ that will be attained from training with NBA legends will be nothing less than lethal on the floor. In fact when he learns how to play defense with the fierceness of the elder O’Neal, things could get downright frightening for his opponents.  Offensively, he already has a very effective midrange jumper.  While Shaq’s finishes at the rim were at minimum sinister to his competition, Shareef O’Neal’s dunk ability has been described as violently poetic.  This touches to the fact that while there are many similarities in the father and son’s game, the younger O’Neal is also turning into a perimeter threat.  While there are other prospects that can match skills with the young prospect, Shareef is developing floor leadership skills, an NBA caliber handle, and a defensive prowess that has now made him the prime target of every major basketball program in the NCAA.   There are murmurings in the basketball world of the elder Shaq wanting his son to attend Kentucky.  Whether Shareef chooses the Wildcats remains to be seen.  What we do know though is that he will continue to terrorize his opponents on the high school level and is set to be a sleeker version of the original diesel.  Would a fitting nickname be Diesel 2.0?  Stay tuned.

Caleb Hanson…Grand Opening, Grand Closing

The 2016-17 high school year started with some incredible sports stories.  In this class you have over 60 football prospects who are slated to be first year starters when they arrive on the campuses of their respective colleges of choice.  You also have a basketball class that includes eight prospects that NBA scouts predict will be in the 2018 NBA draft.  So with that I thought the better high school athlete stories had been written or reported.  There has been a  quiet yet steady mumble taking place in central Illinois and it’s about Caleb Hanson.  He’s a 6’1, 182 pound quarterback playing for the undefeated  Monticello Sages.  The Sages are one game away from a visit to the state championship but the stories behind their success  include how this budding star has helped his team arrive to the most important game in school history.


So what makes this prospect stand out so late in the recruiting stage and more importantly why are division one schools making him a prime target for signing day in February.   At his size he is what you would expect from most student-athletes desiring a chance to play on the college level.  As an outsider looking in and only with the mindset of recruiting, game film showed the story of a strong arm, good pocket presence, and a gritty style of competing.  A further look into the story of this young prospect made it very clear on why he has moved onto the list of targeted prospects by major conferences including the MAC, AAC, and even Sun Belt conferences.  Now it would be a travesty to miss the main storyline of Caleb Hanson’s high school football career.  He has been a backup quarterback for the past three years and finally got his chance as a senior.  He stepped in as an instant leader and already had the respect of his teammates and peers.  Before seeing him in real-time action, the interest was at best what you have for a grade B movie and at worse what you would expect for an end of list recruit.  But after watching Hanson in live action, I couldn’t help but to compare this young man to quarterbacks that have made some big time impressions at the division one level.  His release, his movement in and out of the pocket, and the way he led his team throughout this season had blaring likenesses to that of University of Hawaii legend Colt Brennan.


When the Monticello Sages face off against their opponent this weekend, Caleb Hanson will be in a win-win situation.  The winner of the contest will advance to the Illinois class 3A state championship  and college scouts will get another look at how Hanson handles big pressure moments.  After ICC Catholic High School leaves Monticello this weekend their defense will have a newfound respect for the Sages and the utmost appreciation for the Sages’ quarterback who has earned the right to play on the next level.  Stay tuned.

Trevon Duval…Meeting League Standards

Trevon Duval is a name that will resonate throughout sports media for at least the next decade.  Let’s not make the mistake of thinking that this class of 2017 guard will fall short of any of his goals.  It was less than 500 days ago that Duval was left out of most high school basketball player rankings.  So much for the experts.  Duval has been labeled as the most eligible prospect by actual NBA scouts and is considered pro-ready.  The IMG transfer comes into the ’16-’17 basketball season as the number one rated guard and second highest overall player behind DeAndre Ayton.


While IMG Academy is known for its football excellence, the basketball program in Bradenton, FL will get an immediate talent boost and there will be plenty of eyes watching their progress. But it may be the aftermath that boosts recruiting for the IMG basketball program.  While Trevon Duval has yet to make a decision on college, he is a legitimate pro prospect.  While playing for IMG Academy, there will be intense training along with learning the game from some of the best coaches and trainers in the nation.   So far the evaluation on the 6’2.5 180 pound guard has been nothing less than excellent.  He is considered the best ball handler in his class but his highest score during his summer assessments came in court vision.  The newest Ascender can’t help but to be ecstatic about comparisons to NBA hall of famer and longtime Phoenix Suns guard Kevin Johnson.  Right now though there will be more time in the gym and less talk by the young man who has already been considered a shoe in for the high school All-Decade team.  Stay tuned.

Bishop Gorman Vs St. Thomas Aquinas…Countdown To The Magic City Melee

There are some football games played in high school that rank historical.  The mid season showdown between Bishop Gorman and St. Thomas Aquinas will be a little more than all out football madness and a little less than pure pandemonium.  Between the combined 180 players on each side of the ball for both teams, there are a total of 40 division one prospects that will be competing in one of the most watched high school games of the year.  Bishop Gorman is currently and understandably ranked number one in high school football.  Tate Martell has led this team across a path of sheer dismantling of all the Gaels’ worthy opponents.  The Gaels average 38 points per game and are absolutely upending any team in their way.  The defense is not too shabby either led by elite prospect Bubba Bolden and Palaie Gaoteote.


The Raiders of St. Thomas Aquinas also have excellent offensive production.  More to that is the fact that they are still feeling the ill chills from the upset to Booker T Washington in the opening game of the season.  Call it an early wake up call or just fire under their backsides but it definitely resulted in a team with ongoing destiny.  St. Thomas Aquinas has dared opponents to even step into the same stadium without the ending result being a Raider style pillage. It will be fun to see how Tyler Dunning and Drew White, two high ranking defensive prospects, take on a Bishop Gorman front five that so far has been as much as a vanguard to Tate Martell as the secret service is to a president.  With all the focus on the duel between the defense of STA and offense of the Gaels, fans should not ignore the best receiving corp in high school football.  Trevon Grimes is all world and leads a group that makes the deep ball a habit of choice.


This contest between these two powerhouses will be aired on ESPN and is one that pundits and analysts will be better off leaving prediction free.  Battles like this are the type that overfill the fans’ hearts with joy resulting in welcomed heartbreak by game’s end.  But of course first things first.  Wins versus Hallandale and Bonanza are in order and then preparation can begin for a truly epic battle.  Stay tuned.

Joe Kane…The Marked Prospect Is More Than Able

When I first received a heads up on a division one caliber defensive end playing out in North Carolina, I shrugged my shoulders. He was probably one in many prospects in that area.  So what? Another one, but okay lets take a look at him. And then he proved himself to be  “The Minister of Sinister.” In the game of football nicknames are given out like mouthpieces during equipment hand out, but Joe Kane happened to be the young man given this tag. It would be putting things lightly to say he’s earned it.

Kane attends Heritage High School in Wake Forest, North Carolina.  Besides being a national sack leader and garnering defensive mvp honors as an underclassman, the amount of hoopla surrounding Kane has spilled from his town to the entire east coast.  His measurables are that of a prototype defensive end.  At 6’3.5 and 258 pounds, Joe Kane adds 4.85 speed to the mix. While this would be considered comme il faut by the smoother talking experts, it is better than average for a prospect with at least two summers of training left before his first college football game.


Besides his measurables what makes Joe Kane a marked defensive prospect for the class of 2018?  Try his alley-brawl style of intimidation or his high end energy that he brings for four quarters.  Bragging up ball players who have yet to play one down of college ball can be somewhat premature but Kane is a prospect that 95% of coaches and scouts would warrant success.  It would not surprise any of his high school coaches and peers to see Kane choose a regional division one school for his college football experience.  Four division one powerhouse programs are within a couple hours drive of Kane’s hometown.  Those programs include Wake Forest, North Carolina, Duke, and North Carolina State.  In Kane’s mindset decisions can wait until later. Right now he’s all about getting his team to the state championship while bringing home the national sack title.  Stay tuned.

M.J. Tafisi…First Come, First Serve

Every athlete has hopes and dreams of being the top ranked individual in their respective sport.  What makes these hopes and dreams legitimate is the amount of effort and hard work put in by that individual to make their goals come to pass.  Such is the case with the state of Utah’s top hidden gem.  His name is M.J. Tafisi and he comes out of the class of 2018 as one of the best linebackers in the northwest region.  Most analysts and college scouts would consider Tafisi a slight underdog when it comes to being recruited.  Because of  his flash free style of play, this confirmed division one prospect brings the commonly unnoticed elements to the game that make him a primary player on recruiting lists.


It’s always a cool thing to show items like a recruit jumping 50 inches in the air or doing a viral footwork drill to gain the love of the masses.  In the case of M.J. Tafisi,  the bona fide bluechipper comes to the early morning table of football recruiting not expecting the “wakey, wakey, eggs and bakey” sort of treatment but instead answering the request of every single college coach in the NCAA.  That request was simply to prove that he is one of the best by showing it on film and not through word of mouth.  Tafisi is doing exactly that by being one of the national leaders at tackles and carrying his team to a 4-0 season.  At 6’1, 220 pounds, the junior out of Alta High School has been clocked at 4.7 in the 40 yard dash.  Any coach or scout can look at his film and see that this young talent plays in the box like he is a 4.4 laterally sound athlete.  His great hands are the reason he plays tight end on offense, and his versatility makes him efficient at the position of long snapper on special teams.  A word of advice to the high school fan of future big time college players.  Meet the most underrated defensive player in the class of 2018 who is able to play and compete at a high level for any power conference in college football.  Currently Tafisi is drawing interest from local universities including Utah, Utah State, and BYU but the dye has been cast on his position as a national top prospect.  Where he goes from here in terms of football excellence is a matter of his consistent hard work and high caliber play which is a normal thing for M.J. Tafisi.  Stay tuned.

The Adjustment Bureau…Connor Vanover, Chol Marial, And Matt Van Komen

Right now there are three basketball players in high school that will be the main catalyst for rule changes with the NCAA and NBA.  Currently players have to attend one year of college in order to be eligible for the NBA draft.  There have been loop holes around this rule such as playing overseas or out of the country which has been practiced by several players.  Thon Maker is the latest top rated player who played outside of the borders of the US and was draft eligible without attending college.  On that note there may not be the need for loop holes soon as the trio of seven footers that have been nicknamed “The Adjustment Bureau” may cause an immediate push for a rule change.  Their names are Conner Vanover, Chol Marial, and Matt Van Komen.  All are rated as top college prospects with Vanover of Baptist Prep being in the class of 2018, while Marial of Chesire Academy and Komen of Pleasant Grove High are in the class of 2019.


Sometimes the best part of sports punditry is when the rubicon of a perfect storm comes.  In other words there is no avoiding the fact that these three high schoolers will have the option of going straight to the NBA simply because of the need for the center position in the league.  Self proclaimed experts will do their best to anchor down the hype on these three, while the true basketball analysts will see the sports related allegory of players not gaining anything from one year of college anyway.


It’s a trend that will be more concentrated in the classes of ’17, ’18, and ’19 because of the splurge of athletic ability and the fact that NBA owners are opening their pockets even more.   Figure it a blast to the past when players were allowed to defer their college attendance for a shot at the pros or just it a chance for league officials to adjust the rules.  Say for example a high school player performs in pre-draft camps without an agent and follows the results of their camp performance.  Surely it wouldn’t hurt a college program for an agent-less 18 or 19 year old to enroll into their athletic program if they fall short of draft projections.  But this of course is only a short preview of the hoopla that will surround these young recruits in a couple of months.  Be it as it may, the nickname fits and “The Adjustment Bureau” will have plenty of chances to spark serious rule change discussion.  Stay tuned….

Jalen Hurts And Shane Buechele Show Why Freshmen Should Be Ready

If you missed the opening weekend of the 2016 college football season, here’s the most important factor that directly relates to high school athletes.  The top 25 college football teams had a total of over 70 true freshmen either starting or playing significant time in their respective games.  It was the highest number of first year players contributing more than two quarters of playing time for their team in college football history.  The leaders of this special pack were Jalen Hurts of the Alabama Crimson Tide and Shane Buechele of the Texas Longhorns.  Their games were the headliners of an awesome weekend of college football.  Both freshman ended their days with major wins over teams that had top 25 positions in the AP polls.  More than that, the college football world saw the importance of freshmen being ready to play early.


Often considered a no no, when young players are pushed into the starting lineup or giving significant playing time, the mental wear and tear of a full season comes into consideration.   Take Jalen Hurts first series against the USC defense for example.  His very first play was a fumble.  Of course he recovered from this in a big way but you have to wonder if a weaker mentally prepared player were at the helm, would the winning recovery have been as efficient.  Shane Buechele’s experience was just as successful in the end and a lot smoother in the beginning.  He led his team to scoring drives in his first couple of series while only making one major mistake which was an interception during second half play.


One of the more unexpected moves by a coach to play a young player came when head coach Mark Richt of the Miami Hurricanes started three freshmen at linebacker.  Needless to say this was the first time in school history that this was done and by the end of a marginal defeat of FAMU, “the young and the wreckless”, as they are so eloquently called, totaled 25 tackles between the group.  Taking a look at where each of those 70 players ranked in their senior season of high school football shows various scores in terms of stars.  While there is daily ridicule over high school players getting rated and/or ranked with an extra dose of disdain going to the “pundits” who rank them, one common theme is present amongst this elite pack.  They all were ready to perform in their first year and this shows that some players come physically and mentally ready to campus with goals of more than a scholarship to a division one university.


The only question that remains is what players in the current class of high school seniors may have the chance and readiness to contribute early?   Right off the top, the film on running backs Najee Harris and Malik Davis makes him a prime candidate as a running back on the division one level.  It would be a huge surprise not to see Dylan Moses and Anthony Hines on the field in their first year.  The position of quarterback is always a difficult pick in terms of determining who will play but Dylan McCaffery of Valor Christian may have the most upside when it comes to early action.  But these are all a little more than fictitious facts because team need and injury all comes into play.  The only thing but most important fact about week one of college football ’16 is that incoming freshmen had better be ready to play when stepping on campus.   Stay tuned …