As it does each and every year, National Signing Day comes and goes in the blink of an eye. We say goodbye to the class of 2015 which had many names we have seen at the varsity level for quite a few years.
Without wasting time, we shift gears to an incredibly athletic and talented 2016 class in Arizona.
It is hard to believe the time has finally come that Hamilton’s monster defensive tackle Garrett Rand is now a senior. We saw him burst onto the high school scene in the valley as a Freshman for the Huskies which is rare to say a player that young make such an early impact on the storied program. The day after 2015 Signing Day, Stanford became the sixth school to offer Rand joining Arizona, Arizona State, Illinois, Nebraska and Washington. Rand as well as Hamilton’s Mr. Do-it-all Kyeler Burke lead what expects to be another talented Hamilton next season.
When you talk Hamilton, you also have to talk Chandler and wow do the defending state champions have a lot coming back. Bryce Perkins is off to ASU so now in-steps Mason Moran as the starting quarterback. We have seen him in garbage time the last two seasons and he has made quite the name for himself as a safety on the defensive side of the ball as well. But now the job is his as signal caller and right off the bat, expects to be one of the top quarterbacks in the state. Moran currently has three offers from Boston College, Colorado and UMass. He has told me he is open to play either QB or safety at the next level.
Along side of Moran, Chase Lucas and N’Keal Harry are two more guys we have seen make major impacts since they were sophomores. Now they head into their senior years as two of the top recruited local players in this class. The wide receiver Harry has blown up this off-season now having seven offers after not having any before the season ended. Those offers include ASU, Colorado, Nebraska, Oregon State, Texas A&M, USC and Washington. Lucas has had major attention since blowing past the competition starting two years ago. He is up two 11 offers which consist of ASU, Arizona, Cal, Colorado, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oregon State, UCLA, Utah, Utah State, and Washington. He is being recruited as an athlete, we’ve seen him make a name for himself as a running back but I have seen him in practice as a defensive back and his footwork and ability at that position as well is as good as any.
The 2016 class is also all about the Murphy’s. Next to Rand, Bryon and Connor are the cream of the crop on the defensive side of the football. Saguaro defensive back and wide receiver Byron Murphy was special in 2014 to say the least playing next to Christian Kirk. The game looks slow to him and every time I watched him last season, I would see something spectacular on both sides of the ball. Byron is now up to 15 offers which is the most in this class to this point. Offers include many of the elite in the nation: Arizona, ASU, Colorado, Indiana, Michigan State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oregon State, Texas A&M, Tennessee, UCLA, USC, Washington and Wisconsin.
Connor Murphy, the younger brother of former Brophy standout and current Washington Redskin Trent Murphy, is one of best you will see in Arizona when it comes to his combination of size, strength and skill. He is the defensive leader on a Brophy team that is riding a lot of momentum after how they finished their 2014 season. Connor is up to nine offers including Arizona, ASU, Boston College, Colorado, Michigan, Nebraska, Oregon State, Stanford and Vanderbilt. The Michigan offer is most intriguing as the Murphy family knows Jim Harbaugh well from his time recruiting and coaching Trent. I personally would be shocked if Murphy doesn’t make his way to Ann Arbor but once you think you have recruiting figured out, it wind up making you look silly.
The number one ranked offensive guard not just in Arizona but also the west coast, according to Scout.com, is Centennial’s Marshal Nathe. Another player we have seen at the varsity level for quite some time now stands 6-3, 285 and is just the latest in the incredible fraternity that is Centennial offensive lineman. Oddly enough, the three-star talent is without an offer but that should change in the very near future. Centennial always has college prospects on their roster. I also love their middle line backer Bozton Sanders.
There are two players that I believe are extremely under-recruited at this point and I think that should change between now and next year at this time. The first, Paradise Valley wide receiver Jacob Brown. This young man is one of the most dynamic players in Arizona. South Dakota State knows what he is capable getting a jump on him in large part because of how much they love having his older brother Jordan. Brown could also be looked at playing defensive back as well.
Going down to Tucson, Salpointe’s Justin Holt looks to be the top Southern Arizona prospect for this class. He hold one offer from his home town Arizona Wildcats that are out to a great lead in his recruitment. Holt is a huge presence on the defensive line and has very good size. He has been the anchor of a Salpointe defense which has shoved out many college level players over the last two seasons. His athleticism is very underrated and I think this young man could be a steal.
I really like the quarterback class for 2016. It might not have the star power we have seen the last two years with Kyle Allen and Luke Rubenzer for 2014 and then Brian Lewerke and Bryce Perkins in 2015, but there are quite a few next level signal callers in this state in my opinion. I mentioned Mason Moran already but there is also Paradise Valley’s Daniel Bridge-Gadd, Desert Vista’s Alex Farina, Brophy’s Cade Knox and Saguaro’s Karé Lyles. Farina the lone of that group with an offer at this point which is from NAU. Also watch out for the return of Tyler Bloom who went down with a torn ACL on the first game of the year for Higley. Him and Mason Crossland are in for a nice little QB competition for the Knights going into next season. Bloom was a guy I pegged to be a next level player watching him during passing league last season.
Finally, the two most under-the-radar prospects for this class had break out 2014 seasons. Pinnacle linebacker Justin Mandrola and North Canyon wide receiver John Okwoli. Mandrola does just about anything asked by Dana Zupke and really has a presence on the field. Okwoli is the best athlete in the state that does not get talked about. At least enough. He is lightning quick and one of the best playmakers the state has to offer. I can’t help but compare him to former Rattler Bryant O’Georgia. A guy that was not talked about nearly enough, finally NAU jumped on board and brought him up to Flagstaff and now they absolutely love him after his freshman season. Okwoli needs to be on everyone’s radars. And lastly, Highland’s Tyler Johnson was a man amongst boys at the wide receiver and defensive end positions for the Hawks. He will be the main athlete and playmaker next season for them and I think it will just be a matter of the first domino to fall in terms of offers coming in for him.
There are a ton more talented players in the 2016 class that I look forward to spotlighting once spring practice rolls around. This class at the moment looks top-heavy, but it has the potential to be much deeper than this past 2015 class was.