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June 12, 2010

Wittek, Blackwell shine at Air Strike

DANA POINT, Calif. - No backtracking, second thoughts or equivocations.

Max Wittek and Victor Blackwell wanted to make it crystal clear Saturday at the Air Strike Passing Tournament at Dana Hills High School that they're sticking with their commitments to Southern Cal, despite the recent sanctions levied against the school that include scholarship reductions and a two-year bowl ban.

They say they're Trojans. No doubts at all.

"I'm definitely a Trojan," Wittek said. "I'm not going to change my mind over something like that. It's not the greatest thing in the world but I'm a Trojan through and through and if anybody gets the opportunity to be a Trojan they should still go.

"It doesn't change the place, the charisma that's there, the chemistry. It's a great place to be. It helps knowing that you don't have to wait out through both years, too."

Blackwell said: "I'm not too worried about it. I feel bad for (Matt) Barkley and the team now for something they didn't do but it's soothing to know it's only going to be one year. It's no big deal."

None of Southern Cal's seven commits - one five-star and four four-star recruits - have de-committed days after the scathing report was released, a testament to the program's staying power during turbulent times.

And keeping Wittek and Blackwell, both from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei, in the class is important since they work so well together. Both players helped Mater Dei to the Air Strike championship by beating Los Alamitos in the final.

Their timing is impeccable. It looks like Wittek and Blackwell have worked on routes for years although Wittek, a Connecticut native, transferred to Mater Dei just last season. They have that special chemistry necessary for quarterbacks and wide receivers to reach their potential.

"Our timing is pretty impressive and I usually know where he's going to be at all times," Wittek said. "I know when he's going to adjust something or when we get a certain look that he's going to change his route. We're on the same page all the time and it's always easy knowing you're on the same page with a big guy like that."

Wittek, sometimes streaky but exceptionally talented and poised, found Blackwell on all kinds of routes and even though defensive backs knew the two like working together there wasn't much they could do to stop it.

Rivals.com rates Wittek as the fourth-best pro-style quarterback and Blackwell the eighth-best wide receiver in the 2011 class. Both hover around the top 100. Both proved they belong right there at least by this performance.

"It's a dynamic duo," Blackwell said. "We're good friends, we hang out with each other a lot and it's just a great friendship and he's a great person.

"When he transferred, my coach told him, 'You see this guy right here? He's going to be your next best friend,' so when he told him he's going to be my next best friend we kind of improvised on that and knew we were both going to be really good and to take care of the team he and I would have to have a great connection."

For Southern Cal fans, the news gets even better after a few tumultuous days of negative and nasty headlines. Wittek isn't the only quarterback committed to the Trojans.

The other is Bakersfield (Calif.) Centennial's Cody Kessler and Wittek said he's fine with having two QBs in the class, that all along the USC coaches were upfront about their recruiting plans.

Kessler is rated the second-best pro-style quarterback and No. 64 prospect nationally. Both he and Wittek are saying all the right things about playing together and sticking with the Trojans.

"They told me from the very beginning, they expressed to me in the beginning, they thought there was that much of a separation to offer me three months before anyone else," Wittek said. "I feel confident. There is going to be some competition, there's going to be competition everywhere you go, but I'm not afraid to compete."

For Blackwell, he hopes to carry on the success he's had with Wittek at Mater Dei to college as well.

"Hopefully, I'll be his No. 1 receiver," Blackwell said.

Waller starting to love linebacker

Making the transition from defensive end to linebacker can oftentimes be difficult but Long Beach (Calif.) Poly's Corey Waller is having fun with it - and proving to be a quick study.

Waller, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound prospect, was one of the top defensive players at Air Strike and could be even more fearsome once he's allowed to blitz - since there are no linemen in 7-on-7 tournaments, linebackers either have to stay home for the running plays or go out in pass coverage.

Washington, Washington State, Colorado State and Idaho have offered so far but Waller hopes more offers will come in once coaches see tape of him at linebacker. Oregon continues to be interested and Waller plans to work out at Southern Cal Sunday and at the upcoming Rising Stars Camp.

Waller is staying patient but said there's a good chance he and Poly teammate Kameron Jackson, a Washington commit, could end up at the same school.

Waller also tried his hand at ranking the best players in Los Angeles and had a different view than Rivals.com.

The Poly linebacker gave the slight edge to Los Angeles Crenshaw running back De'Anthony Thomas over Gardena Junipero Serra wide receiver George Farmer, followed by Beverly Hills defensive end Greg Townsend Jr., Mission Viejo linebacker Tre Madden and Blackwell.

Rivals.com has Farmer and Thomas fourth and fifth, respectively, in the 2011 class. In essence, Waller would reverse that order.

There's a good chance all five prospects - Farmer and Townsend, Jr. are the only uncommitted recruits - end up playing at Southern Cal.

Other top prospects perform well

With action on multiple fields and different sites it was impossible to follow every player and every team but here were some other top prospects who had solid performances throughout the tournament:

Some might forget that Bryce Treggs is a 2012 recruit because he's so polished and talented but the Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco receiver still has two years of high school left - much to the chagrin of his competition.

Treggs already has offers from Stanford and Arizona State and said he's hearing from Cal, UCLA, Washington, Arizona and USC. Staying in the Pac-10 is a priority.

** Jackson, the Poly cornerback, is excellent in coverage and runs track, too, so he's not stiff on the football field. Boise State has offered him and he said that it's a big deal but he's staying true to his Washington pledge at this point.

** The combination of quarterback Jerry Neuheisel and running back Jared Baker will be something to watch at Los Angeles Loyola. In a tournament like this it was difficult to see the two work off each other but they will be a threat next season. Baker has an extra gear and can run by people. Connecticut and Idaho recently offered him.

** Two names to remember are three-star athlete Sam Boyd from Corona (Calif.) Eleanor Roosevelt, who has all the physical tools to be a star, and 2012 wide receiver Joshua Caiquo from Los Alamitos who made an outstanding catch in the end zone while tiptoeing the sideline.




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