Zone Read: Take Your Pick

Hope everyone’s week is going well and appreciate you taking the time to check out “Zone Read” even if you don’t always agree with my musings. 

Without further ado, here we go.

Compare, Contrast Each Class…Many believe the 2020 class in Arizona will go down as the greatest group of high school prospects in state history. When you’re talking about high-level talent like Kelee Ringo, Bijan Robinson, Tosh Baker, Lathan Ransom, Jack Miller, Jacobe Covington and many others it’s tough to argue.

However, the 2007 class may have a leg to stand on. Everson Griffen, Cameron Jordan and Prince Amukamara are still playing in the NFL. Kerry Taylor, Eric Haag and Marcel Jones played in the league, as well. 

“What makes the class of 2007 so special wasn’t the two USC-commit five-stars (Everson Griffen, Kris O’Dowd),” Arizona Varsity Publisher Ralph Amsden told the “Zone Read.” “What really made that class special was it was that it was full of overachievers.”

“When it comes to the class of 2020, the sheer volume of talent is simply overwhelming,” he explained. “You have TWELVE four-star or above players when the most this state had ever previously produced was eight back in 2011.”

One consistent theme of the ’07 class was Arizona State and Nebraska essentially cornering the market on the top 20 in state forty-eight. The Huskers landed five players (Jaivorio Burkes, William Yancy, Amukama, Jones, Haag). The Sun Devils inked four (Taylor, T.J. Simpson, James Brooks, Colin Parker) from that class. 

Let’s circle back on this in six or seven years, shall we?

The Lake Show…You could make the argument no school in America recruits the Valley harder than Lake Forest College. The Division III school sits about 30 miles due north of Chicago off the shores of Lake Michigan. As of this week, their current roster consisted of 17 Valley products from power programs like Chandler, Higley, Pinnacle, Notre Dame Prep and Brophy with more players from Arizona likely to appear on the final fall roster.

The mad scientist behind it all is head coach Jim Catanzaro who refers to AZ as Lake Forest’s “Southwest Suburb.” Coach Cat used to recruit the local junior colleges after his aunt and uncle relocated from upstate New York to the west Valley.

What started as “some phone recruiting” quickly turned into personal, face-to-face relationship building with long-tenured coaches like Shaun Aguano, Dana Zupke, Dan Hinds, Scooter Molander and others.

“In the end I hope that the things that really stand out to our Arizona guys is that we are a genuine coaching staff,” Catanzaro said to the “Zone Read.” “The family connection that our players and parents feel in our program is real and never forced. I believe that most parents and players would tell you that school and coaches work with great resolve to deliver on every expectation that they have for their college experience.”

Catanzaro even quipped Arizona kids don’t mind the frigid midwest winters and some, by their second year, may be seen wearing shorts in January.

I may have to see it to believe that.

Regardless, well done Coach Cat. 

Junction Boys…the east Valley is loaded with talent across the board and that includes the base of the Superstition Mountains at Apache Junction. The Prospectors have experienced three-straight winning seasons under head coach Vance Miller.

AJ’s 2019 schedule is more than manageable, especially considering the offensive firepower returning in senior quarterback Gibson Limongello and sophomore wide receiver Jordan Morris. Both have continued to turn heads in summer 7’s the past several weeks.

Miller describes “Gibby” as the “best overall athlete in the program.” Limongello can beat you with his arm or his legs. He rushed for 776 yards and five touchdowns last fall.

His partner-in-crime Morris, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound sophomore, started last year as a freshman and has not only big-play ability, but legit Division I potential.

Most importantly, both are 4.0 students. 

Rocker on the Radar…There must be something in the water around Canyon del Oro High School in Tucson. Many consider Ka’Deem Carey the best prep running back in state history. Younger brother Elijah broke his single-season rushing record two years ago and now the torch has been passed to Stevie Rocker who ripped through opposing defenses last year as sophomore.

Despite playing through an injured ankle the back half of the season, the 6-foot, 185-pounder tallied over 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns for the 7-4 Dorados who fell to Cactus in the first round of the 4A playoffs.

“Stevie’s greatest quality that he has outside of his natural talent is he is a great teammate,” CDO head coach Dusty Peace said to the “Zone Read.” “[Everyone] really likes the character he displays day in and day out.”

“As far as physical characteristics,” Peace continued. “He has great home run ability and can score anytime he touches the ball.”

Colleges from around the country are taking notice. Rocker has offers from Arizona, Cal, Nevada and BYU.

Expect that list to continue to grow this fall.