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Football Recruiting Roundup : USC and UCLA Have a Big Day, but Notre Dame Seems Big Winner

February 11, 1988|SCOTT HOWARD-COOPER | Times Staff Writer

The curious business of college football recruiting reached its crescendo Wednesday, when one waiting game ended and another started all over.

Most of the nation's high school football players ended months of intense recruiting by signing letters of intent, the ties that bind in college sports. The next step, of course, is to wait and see how they develop.

But for now, at least, this much is known:

--UCLA and USC had fine years, especially the Bruins. Bill Rees and Coach Terry Donahue got the top quarterback in the state, Bret Johnson of El Toro, a good all-around athlete in Willie Crawford of Beverly Hills and a running back, Kevin Williams from Spring, Tex., who some say is the No. 1 prospect in the country at any position.

The Trojans, in the first full year of recruiting under Coach Larry Smith, headline their group with record-breaking quarterback Todd Marinovich from Capistrano Valley of Mission Viejo, linebackers Jeff Pease from Mission Viejo and Matt Gee from Arkansas City, Kan., and defensive backs Stephon Pace of Bishop Amat of La Puente and Lamont Hollinquest from Pius X of Downey.

--In a very good year for linebackers in Southern California, Notre Dame got two of the best, Arnold Ale of Carson and Michael Smalls of Eisenhower of Rialto, helping the Irish to what looks like the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation for the second straight year. Ale, the top defensive player in the Los Angeles area last season and regarded as the best linebacker on the West Coast, picked Notre Dame over USC and joins tight end Derek Brown from Merritt Island, Fla., and Rodney Culver of Detroit, Rod Smith of St. Paul, Minn., and Kenny Spears of Atlanta, all standout running backs.

"Notre Dame won the sweepstakes going away," Donahue said. "It wasn't even close. They got an excellent group. The best, by far, in the country."

--For the third straight year, Colorado had a significant impact in California, especially in the backfield. After getting quarterback Sal Aunese from Vista and running back J. J. Flannigan from Pomona in 1986 and running backs George Hemingway from Colton and Eric Bieniemy from Bishop Amat last year, the Buffaloes added the best kicker in the state, Pat Blottiaux of Servite of Anaheim, and one of the best runners, option quarterback Darian Hagan from Locke of Los Angeles, this time around.

"He is about as good a kicking prospect as you could find," Colorado Coach Bill McCartney said of Blottiaux. "Obviously, last year our kicking game hurt us. But this kid has tremendous range and ability, so we look for him to help us out early on."

--Southern Methodist, which will not play until 1989 because of National Collegiate Athletic Assn. probation, signed 10 players. The first was quarterback Mike Romo of San Antonio, who waited for 30 minutes in 40-degree weather until 8 a.m. CST, the earliest he could sign. Coach Forrest Gregg, who quit the Green Bay Packers last month to coach at his alma mater, was able to recruit only by telephone because of the sanctions.

--New Mexico, coming off an 0-11 season under former Cal State Long Beach Coach Mike Sheppard, had a good recruiting year in the Los Angeles area. Linebacker Rick Tiedemann from Carson, running back Derrick Malone from Fontana and linebacker Roger Roadstrom from Los Alamitos headline the group.

Meanwhile, Auburn expected to sign at least six players who might not qualify under Proposition 48, which could put the Tigers near the top of the recruiting dash with Notre Dame, UCLA, Tennessee and Louisiana State. Among those was standout defensive tackle Tim Cromartie from Tallahassee, Fla., who had made a verbal commitment to Florida State but was dropped by the Seminoles due to possible grade problems.

Coach Pat Dye defended the signings.

"I don't care what the public says," he told United Press International. "As long as I know what we are doing to help these kids, as long as I know the opportunity we are giving them to go to college and get a degree, we'll keep doing it."

Running back Glyn Milburn of Santa Monica, who set the California record for single-season rushing and touchdowns, signed with Stanford.

And finally, linebacker Scott Kilgore from Gunderson of San Jose picked up his second scholarship in recent months Wednesday, when signed with San Diego State. This is the same person who was labeled a 17-year-old "hazel-eyed heartthrob" and won the "Dream Guy" contest in the March issue of 'Teen magazine, which included a six-month scholarship to the Barbizon School of Modeling.

Notes

Among the uncommitted: defensive back Charles Gardner from Carson, who will probably choose between Arizona State and Alabama, and standout linebacker Todd Collins of Dandridge, Tenn., who is expected to decide between Georgia and Tennessee. . . . Tim Gorman, who was expected to be a two-way starter on the line for Hart of Newhall before he transferred to Wayne Hills High in New Jersey during the summer, signed with Arizona.

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