To uncover the nation's best high school football players, Dave Baldwin and his staff travel all over the country.
Like his counterparts at other major universities, the Stanford University recruiting coordinator is on an unrelenting search for players who can boost a team into national rankings and post-season bowl games.
But Baldwin says he doesn't really have to travel that far to reach the most talent-rich football area in the country. It's only about 375 miles from the Farm to Southern California.
And in Baldwin's opinion one geographical region of Southern California, the South Bay-Long Beach area, spanning approximately 10 miles, stands tall above the others.
"You can go to Carson High, Banning High and Long Beach Poly and in just those three schools you can find the best high school football players in the country," Baldwin said.
UCLA obviously agrees with Baldwin's assessment. The Bruin roster is dotted with 16 players the South Bay-Long Beach areas. The Bruins also have 11 from Orange County.
Many college recruiters won't single out the South Bay-Long Beach area as the best in Southern California, but they all give it high marks.
"There are always going to be fine athletes coming from those two schools (Banning and Carson) and Long Beach Poly," said Dick Laugens, recruiting coordinator at USC. "They always have a steady influx of talent coming in to their programs. But as far as picking a particular area, it's tough.
"I think it kind of runs in cycles. One year one area is really strong. The next year another area might be strong. It's hard to say. The whole Los Angeles and Southern California area is an excellent area for high school football."
"It varies from year to year," said George Darlington, a recruiter for Nebraska. "Some years Orange County may have the better edge, or San Bernardino or Riverside. Other years the best players may come from the inner city.
"It's hard to generalize because there are good years for almost every area. Some years you can just say it was just a bad year for the city, and then the next year the city is better than, say, the San Fernando Valley."
Dick Lascola, who runs the Fallbrook-based Scouting Evaluation Assn., agrees that things go in cycles.
"Long Beach and South Bay seem to always have outstanding athletes," Lascola said. "Orange County produces good linemen. "Why? I'm not sure. Maybe its socioeconomic. Maybe they get fed better."
Lascola said that the Riverside-San Bernardino area is turning out good college prospects "but you don't hear about that area as much because of geographical distance to Los Angeles."
"It comes and goes," Lascola said. "One year one area is better and the next year it is a different area. There is no apparent reason.
"Orange County seems to turn out the best quarterbacks, but in the 1970s the San Fernando Valley had two great quarterbacks, (John) Elway and (Tom) Ramsey playing at the same time." Both played for Granada Hills schools, Elway at Granada Hills High and Ramsey at Kennedy.
Darlington, an assistant coach at Nebraska who has recruited in California for nearly 20 years, summed it up this way:
"Of course I'm a little prejudiced because I have recruited there for so long, but, from a general standpoint, Southern California has a number of excellent programs and a number of excellent coaches. It's simple. Southern California is the best.
'It's the Programs'
"Part of it's the warm weather. But mostly, it's the programs. Southern California has the finest--I think--passing leagues in the country. And the overall programs are the best in the country."
The two major Southern California universities seem to think so, too.
After last season, USC recruited and eventually signed to letters of intent Mark Carrier and Brian Tuliau, both of Long Beach Poly. The Trojans also signed Tom Debasinskas of San Pasqual, Greg Hartsuyker of Orange Glen, Peter MacLachlan of Carson, Mark Tucker of Banning, and Gary Wellman of Westlake. USC also recruited Curtis Hein of Woodland Hills Taft.
Across town at UCLA, things were even better.
The Bruins, who after last season enjoyed perhaps their finest recruiting year ever, concentrated on Southern California. They recruited Randy Austin of Canyon Country's Canyon High School, Brian Brown of Gardena, Anthony Burnett of Lynwood, Stacey Elliott of Long Beach Poly, Rocen Keeton of Serra, Brian Lockwood of Vista, Nathanial Morris of Gardena, Eric Turner of Ventura and Lance Zeno of Fountain Valley.
Other Schools Recruiting
It didn't end with Southern California universities.
Colorado, which frequently blankets the Southern California area for prospects, did well, too. Planning to play for the Buffaloes in the fall are J. J. Flannigan of Pomona, John Perak of Sherman Oaks' Notre Dame, M. J. Nelson of Simi Valley and Sal Aunese of Vista.