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It's Time to Sign : National Football Powers Checking the Dotted Line for Signatures of Top Gridders From Dazzling Valley Crop

January 30, 1986|MITCH POLIN | Times Staff Writer

After months of countless telephone calls and letters from college recruiters, prep All-American running back J. J. Flannigan of Pomona High School says the recruiting process is getting a bit wearing.

One night this week, Flannigan estimated that he received nearly 40 phone calls, not to mention a visit to his home by University of Hawaii recruiters.

Flannigan finally decided that enough is enough, and said he will announce his choice of college Monday, more than a week before the Feb. 12 date when high school seniors can sign national letters of intent.

"I'm anxious to make a decision," said Flannigan, a 6-0, 190-pound senior. "It was fun at first but now it's getting very hectic. It will be a big relief when it's over. I'm sure my parents will be relieved, too."

Many Want McGwire

Dan McGwire, a 6-8, 220-pound All-American quarterback from Claremont High who also is the subject of a heated recruiting battle, has indicated that he may make his choice of colleges by next week.

Flannigan and McGwire are perhaps the two most heavily recruited players in an outstanding group of San Gabriel Valley seniors. One scout calls it one of the best crops in recent years.

As the signing date approaches, players are completing their five allotted recruiting trips to colleges and coaches are making their final pitches to prospects.

Three NCAA Division I colleges that could be the biggest beneficiaries of the bonanza are Colorado, UC Berkeley and Arizona. They are listed among the leading contenders by numerous valley prospects.

A late entry in the valley recruiting derby is Pittsburgh, which had been mentioned among the final choices of three Claremont players--McGwire, wide receiver Travis Watkins and place-kicker Steve Bayer. This resulted largely from the effort of new Pittsburgh Coach Mike Gottfried, who is said to have strong contacts in Southern California.

However, McGwire said Monday that he is no longer interested in Pittsburgh.

According to recruiters, as many as 25 players from the valley could wind up with NCAA Division I schools.

Here is where some of the top prospects are leaning:

McGwire (Claremont, quarterback): With Pittsburgh out of the running, the list has boiled down to three schools from the Big 10 Conference--Purdue, Iowa and Illinois--and McGwire said that all have the type of offense that suits him. "I've decided that the Big 10 is for me and I'm looking forward to going there. All pass the ball and that's the kind of program I want to play for." McGwire passed often and accurately in leading Claremont to the CIF Eastern Conference title the last two years. He threw for 3,167 yards and 33 touchdowns as a senior and finished with 6,554 yards passing in three years as a starter for the Wolfpack.

Flannigan (Pomona, running back): Don't be surprised if Flannigan also winds up playing in the Big 10; Michigan is considered one of the strongest among his final five contenders. Besides the Wolverines, Flannigan is considering Colorado, USC, UC Berkeley and Hawaii. He will make his final recruiting trip to Hawaii this weekend. The school that signs Flannigan will get one of the best breakaway runners in the nation. As a senior, he rushed for 1,530 yards and 18 touchdowns in only 165 carries, for an average of 9.2 yards. He also set a meet record recently by covering the 60-meter dash in 6.41 seconds at the Sunkist Invitational Indoor Track Meet. Flannigan is a solid student with a 3.4 grade-point average.

Watkins (Claremont, wide receiver): McGwire's favorite passing target, Watkins may have been overlooked by recruiters at the start of the season. That is not true anymore, not after the 6-1, 175-pounder caught 103 passes and scored 24 touchdowns (including 3 as a rusher) last season. A three-year starter for the Wolfpack, Watkins has impressed scouts with his leaping ability, and he runs excellent pass patterns. He has narrowed his choices to Purdue, Stanford and Pittsburgh, where he made his final recruiting trip over the weekend. Purdue has been mentioned as a front-runner in the race for both McGwire and Watkins.

John Hardy (Muir, defensive back): Muir Coach Jim Brownfield doesn't hesitate to call Hardy the best safety in the state--even better than Long Beach Poly's All-American Mark Carrier. Scouts may not agree entirely but do rank him among the best. Hardy, a 6-1, 170-pound speedster who is noted as a fierce hitter, has narrowed his list to UCLA, UC Berkeley, Purdue and Colorado. If Hardy settles on Colorado, he will join a list of former Muir players to play for the Big 8 school that includes quarterback Mark Hatcher and running back Ron Brown.

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