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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | ERIC SONDHEIMER

Prototype Tight Ends on the Loose

July 12, 1998|ERIC SONDHEIMER

The football field doesn't shake when Mike Seidman trots by--it only seems that way. At 6 feet 5, 235 pounds, with size 14 feet, the Westlake High tight end is so big and powerful he makes Paul Bunyan look small.

Coaches from USC, UCLA, Penn State and Michigan would gladly do a somersault tomorrow if Seidman ended up on their campus.

He's part of the new generation of tall, athletic tight ends in great demand by college recruiters.

Many are plucked off the basketball court and introduced to football as a temporary second sport. Soon, they discover a shortcut to stardom.

The 1990s version of an elite tight end is expected not only to catch passes but to outrun linebackers and block anyone from a 280-pound tackle to a lightning quick defensive end.

"They've got to be fast enough to get deep in a two-deep coverage and they have to be physical enough to block a defensive end," said UCLA assistant coach Gary Bernardi.

The physical requirements for a college tight end have changed.

'It used to be you could recruit a guy 6-2, 230 pounds," Bernardi said. "Nowadays, with the emergence so much of one-back offenses, they have to pass block a lot. If you get a guy in there 235 pounds and he has to block, you got a problem."

College coaches looking for a prototype tight end have lots of options locally. Tight end will be one of the strongest football positions in the region this fall.

Besides Seidman, there's Jacob Rogers of Oxnard, a 6-6, 240-pound senior who's already committed to USC. George Wrighster of Sylmar has left opposing coaches in awe by the way he dominates summer passing competitions.

Alex Holmes of Harvard-Westlake is a 6-4, 300-pound junior who runs like a running back. Nick Longshore of Canyon is a 265-pound senior with immense blocking skills. Steve Racius of Chaminade is 6-4 and thrives on making tough catches in a crowd.

During this weekend's summer passing competition at Valley College, it was interesting to see tiny defensive backs try to cover some of the large tight ends.

"I get held a lot--pushed, shoved, tripped," Holmes said.

Don't feel sorry for Holmes. He can send a defender flying to the sideline with one shove.

"When we play teams for the first time, it surprises them I can get open and catch the ball," he said of defenders who underestimate how fast he moves in a 300-pound body.

High school coaches are always searching for tight ends. Crespi Coach Tim Lins watches basketball games with the idea of identifying a potential tight end. His best tight end was Christian Fauria, now with the Seattle Seahawks. His latest prodigy is 6-6, 235-pound junior Gregg Guenther, the starting center for the basketball team.

Basketball players are ideal candidates to play tight end because of their hand-eye coordination, size and aggressiveness.

"Running the [pass] routes is like boxing out under the basket," Lins said.

But tight end is no easy position.

"It's the hardest thing," Chaminade Coach Ed Croson said. "You have to play against big physical guys and small athletic guys. You have to have balance, and that's the hardest to find. They're at a premium." . . .

Tyler Johnson of Newbury Park figured to be one of the region's top receivers after catching 42 passes for 541 yards and four touchdowns last year. But Johnson has apparently given up football in the hope of becoming a pitching star. The Panthers will miss him. . . .

St. Francis' starting quarterback could be sophomore John Sciarra, the son of the former UCLA quarterback. "He's going to be a good one," Coach Bill Redell said. . . .

With star receiver Travis Campbell sidelined by a separated shoulder, Westlake has found a promising backup in Chris Catalano, the most valuable player on the sophomore team last season. "He's opened some eyes," Coach Jim Benkert said. . . .

There aren't many linebackers as impressive as 6-4, 260-pound senior Jorge Tapia of Hueneme. "He's the strongest man in Ventura County," Coach Larry Miller said. Tapia won a lifting competition at Rio Mesa last month.

Miller should take some lifting pointers from Tapia. Miller is on crutches after tearing his Achilles' tendon in a lifting accident. . . .

Jon Brewster of Notre Dame needs a chauffeur and phone booth to help him play simultaneously this summer for the football, basketball and baseball teams. He's learning that trying to please all his coaches is difficult.

"They want you to play all the sports," he said, "but when it comes down to it, they want you to play their sports." . . .

If he can stay academically eligible, running back Steve Smith of Poly will be one of the most exciting players in the Valley Pac-8 Conference. . . .

It's scary to think how many touchdowns Alemany could score with 6-4 junior quarterback Casey Clausen and talented sophomore running back DeAndre Scott if the Indians' offensive line comes through. . . .

Paraclete in Lancaster has a sophomore defensive back to watch in Michael Washington. . . .

Receiver Reggie Lee of Chatsworth is one of the best in the Northwest Valley Conference.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Lumbering Giants

The region is loaded with quality tight ends for the 1998 prep football season. Here are the most prominent:

Mike Seidman, Westlake, 6-5, 235, Sr.

* One of the best in the nation

Jacob Rogers, Oxnard, 6-6, 240, Sr.

* Committed to USC

Alex Holmes, Harvard-Westlake, 6-4, 300, Jr.

* Runs like a fullback

George Wrighster, Sylmar, 6-4, 225, Sr.

* Tough, fast and great athlete

Steve Racius, Chaminade, 6-4, 225, Sr.

* Has size and excellent hands

Nick Longshore, Canyon, 6-5, 265, Sr.

* Might be the best blocker of the group

Blane Kezirian, El Camino Real, 6-6, 225, Sr.

* If only he can gain a few pounds

Joe Boskovich, Westlake, 6-5, 240, Sr.

* Gives Warriors imposing TE duo

*

Eric Sondheimer's local column appears Wednesday and Sunday. He can be reached at (818) 772-3422.

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