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August 23, 20131.) John Smith Long Beach Poly Sr.
Don't let his generic name fool you. Long Beach Poly's John Smith is an extraordinary football player and is far and away the top safety in the 2014 Southern California recruiting class. The 6-foot-1, 208-pound prospect is an elite cover safety with the size, leaping ability and ball skills to go up and compete for the football. He shows off a good back pedal and solid instincts, and soft hands and excellent body control from his time at receiver. Smith isn't as physical as some safety prospects and will need to support the run with more aggression, but few high schoolers defend the deep middle like he can. Smith has visits set up with four huge out-of-state colleges, including Michigan, Alabama, Ohio State and Notre Dame.
2.) Darren Gardenhire, Long Beach Cabrillo Sr.
An intriguing player to watch based on his versatility and his move to a new school, Gardenhire has several traits scouts look for in a defensive back. A transfer from perennial contender Lakewood to struggling Long Beach Cabrillo, Gardenhire will be counted on to step in and immediately shore up the Jaguars' secondary. His ability to play either safety position and even cornerback will be useful, and it would be wise for Cabrillo's coaching staff to move Gardenhire around in the secondary to confuse opposing offenses. Gardenhire committed to San Jose State on the first day of July.
3.) Jamal Scott, Magnolia Sr.
Playing for a school not known for its football prowess, Scott's ability as a strong safety has been difficult for scouts to ignore. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound strong safety prospect looks the part, with a big, powerful frame and the type of aggressiveness you'd expect out of a linebacker. He's also an instinctive player, with the ability to shoot gaps and blow up plays in the backfield. Scott's coverage skills are above average as well, with Scott showing the ability to stick tight ends and even wide receivers, though his aggressive nature can get him out of position from time to time. The three-star prospect committed to Arizona State earlier this month.
4.) Quentin Tartabull, Alemany Sr.
Few safeties play the game as fast as Tartabull does. The 6-foot, 190-pound defensive prospect played up near the line of scrimmage last year in a hybrid safety/linebacker role, and displayed the type of quickness, straight-line speed and violent nature that could make him a natural fit as a strong safety at the next level. Tartabull's experience at linebacker makes him a potent blitzer, where he's able to disguise his ambitions and fly through the line to press the quarterback. He's less experienced covering a deep zone in the field, however, and will need to prove his coverage skills at some point down the line to be an all-around safety. Tartabull committed to Cal early on this summer.
5.) Uchenna Nwosu, Narbonne Sr.
An intriguing prospect because of his size and athletic ability, Nwosu is a sleeper prospect who has been flying up recruiting boards lately. Despite not producing much as a junior, Nwosu's 6-foot-2 frame, speed and quickness suggest a dynamic strong safety prospect whose best football is ahead of him. Nwosu is raw and will make mental mistakes as he learns the position more, but the right coaching staff could find a real playmaker with enough time. Oregon State is one of Nwosu's two offers, and clearly sees the type of potential the senior-to-be has.
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