Another Serra tandem to watch

GARDENA, Calif. – Out of the class of 2010, Robert Woods emerged from Junipero Serra as one of the top freshmen in college football. One year later, Serra products George Farmer and Marqise Lee signed with Trojans as five other teammates also inked major college letters of intent.

Raymond Ford (left) and Patrick Wooten are considering playing together in college.

Now, as the 2012 class continues to unveil itself, it is clear that the Serra pipeline is a long way from drying out with the emergence of defensive backs Patrick Wooten and Raymond Ford.

At first glance, the pair may not catch the attention of recruitniks. An Arizona and Arizona State offer for Ford is the only offer between the two of them. But that should change in a big way very soon.

Serra head coach Scott Altenberg knows a thing or two about talent and he has high praise for the pair, particularly Ford.

“I think Ray, to me probably in all my years, is the best pure corner that I’ve ever coached,” Altenberg said. “The thing that’s real important to us is quick hops, being able to get up as fast as possible in the middle of a stride. A lot of guys can’t do that. A lot of guys have great speed and all that other stuff but they can’t just physically get elevated that fast. He gets up and he just makes plays.”

Ford has all of the other stuff too. At close to 5-11 and a 40 time that teeters between the low 4.4s and the high 4.3s, Ford has size and speed. Overshadowed by the top 100 upperclassmen that he had as teammates last season, Ford quietly was a dominant player with around 30 catches on offense and a lot of big play ability out of the secondary.

“He was just scratching the surface last year,” Altenberg said. “The thing about Raymond too that’s sort of our thing here is that he loves to just go after it and compete. You put this little carrot in front of him. Raymond is one of those guys that loves to compete and just get better.”

Wooten had perhaps even more to overcome to be noticed by college coaches. Naturally a safety, Wooten was forced into a middle linebacker position out of necessity in 2010 and despite his 5-10, 185-pound frame, was one of the team’s top playmakers.

“Patrick is a player that can just run and go get it,” said the Serra coach. “On tape, he just shows up. He can just go.”

Raymond Ford is one of the top cornerbacks in California.

In 2011, Wooten will be playing his true position as a strong safety and attempting to fill some big shoes left by the departing Lee and Farmer. Both he and Ford are ready to step up to the challenge and their competition with Lee and Farmer last year has prepared them for that new role.

“When you work with [Farmer and Lee] you’ve got no choice but to be good,” Wooten said. “Every rep, me and Raymond tried to go with those guys to make ourselves better. I didn’t want to go against anybody else because there’s no point. I’m not going to get the same work. They beat me and they’re bigger and they’re faster but I’m going to have to work that much harder to get on their level.”

On Saturday, Ford and Wooten took in the USC Junior Day as part of what will be a quickly progressing recruiting process. Though they didn’t leave with an offer, the Trojans will be very much a factor - not just due to their relationship with their former teammates that are Trojans.

“I grew up watching USC,” Ford said. “Reggie Bush was my favorite player. I just liked their style of play. I liked their DBs and I just liked Reggie Bush. Basically whatever team he went to, I would go to.”

Ford admitted hoping for an offer from USC. He also has a high interest in both Arizona and Arizona State. Two other schools well out of his region that have caught his eye though are Florida and Miami.

Would it be tough for Ford to leave the west coast?

“If I have someone that I know going with me I could leave,” he said. “But if I have to go by myself, I probably wouldn’t go that far.”

Enter Wooten.

Thomas Brown is an unknown now but that won't be for long.

“Me and Raymond are trying to go to the same school,” Wooten said. “We’re trying to be a package deal so schools know that too. We’ve been playing ball together since we’ve been in Pop Warner since we were seven all the way up till now…we want to stay together.”

Not coincidentally, Wooten has picked up interest from Miami as well. He has also been hearing significantly from USC, Oregon State, Northwestern and Arizona. Wooten’s mentality towards leaving the state is much less contingent than his teammate.

“I wanted to leave California but now I don’t know,” he said. “I think if USC offered me, I would go but it would be hard because of Miami. I want to go there too…I want to stay out here but at the same time, I want to see the world.”

And there’s more

- Two names that are unknowns now could become national recruits under the national spotlight of the Junipero Serra program.

Thomas Brown is a physically impressive 6-2.5, 212-pound linebacker that was dominant last year at a small-school program of St. Anthony High School. With size and loads of ability, Brown may end up with double digit offers after he gains more exposure this spring and summer.

Kache Palacio is another transfer at 6-2, 224 pounds that certainly looks the part. Out of Westchester High School, Altenberg and the Serra staff are expecting big things out of this long and athletic backer.

- You can’t miss Tavita Tua’au. At 6-4 343 pounds, Tua’au is a massive kid with surprisingly nimble feet. Though he needs to cut weight and shape his body, Tua’au is an intriguing prospect with the right physical development.

- Any player that is a multi-year starter at a program the caliber of Junipero Serra is a player to watch and at 6-3, 268 pounds, Kris Cooper has that experience as well as size and versatility to become a solid division I prospect.

- Remember the name Jalen Green. He will be a sophomore quarterback in 2011 and he hasn't even won the starting job yet but if he does, watch out. Coach Altenberg has very high expectations for the youngster who brings everything but experience to the position.

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