Here are 11 things I learned this summer from watching seven-on-seven passing competitions:
* Jordan Payton of Westlake Village Oaks Christian is the best sophomore receiver to come out of the San Fernando Valley since former Woodland Hills Taft and USC receiver Steve Smith. He has size, speed, toughness and a little cockiness. He loves contact, doesn't drop passes and if he improves his grades, he'll be able to pick any college he wants.
* Los Angeles Crenshaw has more team speed than a 400-meter relay team. If speed matters, then the Cougars are going to do some damage this fall. Whether it's running back DeAnthony Thomas, linebacker Hayes Pullard or cornerback Geno Hall, these guys are so fast that they're going to be disrupters on both sides of the ball.
* Valencia Coach Larry Muir has a secret weapon. Every time I tried to speak to Muir, he put his finger up to his mouth and gave the shoosh sign, reminding me not to mention the junior running back he intends to unveil on varsity this fall. I've kept the secret long enough. His name is Steven Manfro, and he was unstoppable on the junior varsity last season.
* If Brett Favre can make another comeback, so can Joe Montana, who looks in great shape when watching his son, quarterback Nick Montana, play for Oaks Christian. Montana has committed to helping call plays from the press box this fall, so it will be interesting to see if more cameras are pointed upstairs than downstairs.
* Corona Centennial Coach Matt Logan has lots of work to do. Those players wearing Centennial jerseys in the Edison tournament were impostors. As bad as Centennial looked, Logan is known for quick turnarounds, so don't go erasing the Huskies from contention for a section title quite yet.
* Tight end Dylan Gutierrez of Ventura is my summer discovery. I was at Newbury Park watching a passing competition, and this 6-foot-3, 220-pound junior with muscles everywhere kept making catch after catch while showing agility and mobility. Then I found out he's an A student.
* The best transfer of the year might be receiver Nat Bellamy, who went from Portland (Ore.) Jesuit to Los Angeles Loyola. He's got speed, good hands and a commanding presence on the field.
* Running back is the strongest position. USC already has three commitments -- D.J. Morgan from Taft, Trajuan Briggs from Lake Balboa Birmingham and Anthony Brown from Fontana Kaiser. My early top five are Anthony Barr of Loyola, Malcolm Jones of Oaks Christian, Jordon James of Corona, Thomas of Crenshaw and Anthony Wilkerson of Tustin. And there are 35 more top running backs to consider.
* Dietrich Riley of La Canada St. Francis is the most improved player. He's a defensive back-running back who changed his body by lifting weights and getting into top condition.
* These are the top 10 teams going into fall practice: Lakewood, Oaks Christian, Ventura St. Bonaventure, Orange Lutheran, Crenshaw, Anaheim Servite, Mission Viejo, Temecula Chaparral, Rancho Cucamonga and Long Beach Poly.
Right behind are Huntington Beach Edison, Rancho Santa Margarita Tesoro, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, Gardena Serra, Corona Centennial, Redlands East Valley, West Covina Charter Oak, Loyola, Norco, West Covina South Hills, Manhattan Beach Mira Costa, Encino Crespi, Mission Hills Alemany and Moorpark.
* The player I'd pick to start my team is Robert Woods of Gardena Serra. He's the best receiver, might be the best defensive back, returns punts and kickoffs. Pete Carroll and Rick Neuheisel should lock down LAX to make sure Woods doesn't go anywhere but USC or UCLA.
City Section practice begins Aug. 3. Zero-week games are set for Sept. 3 and 4.
I can't wait for the madness to begin.