2012 Spring Football Primer

Chris Santini of San Jose Leland stretches out during play at the 2011 Northern California Nike camp. Danny Moloshok/ESPNHS

With three major events coming up this weekend in Northern California, it’s time to start looking ahead for what to watch around the state in the coming months before the start of the 2012 season.

1. Why does the Elite 11 tryout, Nike SPARQ Combine and Nike Football Training Camp held in the Bay Area each season seem to be superior to the same events in Southern California?

There’s an obvious answer here and that is simply that the NorCal events are later in the year and therefore gives athletes more time to train for them. There are, after all, many SoCal kids who come up north each year while not as many NorCal kids go down south.

This year’s Elite 11 quarterback tryout will be Friday at Contra Costa College, the Nike SPARQ Combine will be Saturday at Laney College and the NFTC will be Sunday back at Contra Costa College. Wraps for all those events will be posted on the ESPNHS.com football page within several hours of completion.

2. Which team is going to be No. 2 behind De La Salle in the Cal-Hi Sports and ESPNHS FAB 50 rankings in Northern California?

The Spartans are coming off their third straight CIF Open Division title and might even be better on defense than they were last year, which is a scary thought.

As to which team will end up as De La Salle’s biggest threat in the north, it looks like a wide open group of contenders. Bellarmine of San Jose will quite possibly be ranked the next highest to start the season, but that’s mainly because of tradition, how close the Bells came to DLS last year and because the two teams once again will square off in De La Salle’s first game.

Other contenders should include Palma of Salinas, Lincoln of Stockton, Logan of Union City, Elk Grove, Granite Bay, Del Oro of Loomis and St. Mary’s of Stockton. Joe Davidson of the Sacramento Bee says Grant will be back as a major contender next season and that may be true, but the Pacers are going to have to beat some teams early before they get too high of a state ranking. They were only 8-4 last season.

3. Which team is going to be No. 3 behind Santa Margarita and Vista Murrieta in the Cal-Hi Sports and ESPNHS FAB 50 rankings in Southern California?

It’s not going to take a brain surgeon to pick Santa Margarita (nine starters back on offense from CIF Division I state title team) and Vista Murrieta (will have state’s top recruit, Su’a Cravens, and quarterback Nick Stevens among those back from 14-0 team) as the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the south to start the season.

After that, though, it’s not as clear-cut. Oaks Christian of Westlake Village has a number of top returning players, including State Sophomore of the Year Brandon Dawkins. Servite of Anaheim could be in the mix, too, along with defending Central Section champ Bakersfield. We also really like Alemany of Mission Hills, which was loaded with top juniors and sophomores last season.

4. Will early college commitments continue to create buzz and headlines?

If you followed recruiting in the state earlier this year for the Class of 2012, you know that early college commitments are often meaningless. Players can and do change their minds just before signing day due to coaching changes or a number of other reasons. For the really big names, they’ll always be important, but perhaps many fans will start to get less excited about colleges until these players actually sign their name to the letter of intent.

5. Is there any prospect in the state close to Su’a Cravens of Vista Murrieta?

Cravens, the 2011 State Junior of the Year, is the highest-ranked prospect in California by virtually all of the major services, including No. 15 on the ESPN 150.

It’s a potpourri of evaluations after that, though. The next highest on the ESPN 150 is Mission Viejo defensive back Max Redfield. Many upcoming events, including The Opening up at Nike headquarters in Oregon in July, could reveal some legitimate high-risers.

At the start of the summer two years ago, for example, Kingsburg quarterback Tyler Bray wasn’t that high on too many lists. He took advantage of his opportunities, though, eventually signed with Tennessee and already is looked at as a possible first-round NFL draft pick for next year. Is there a Tyler Bray about to launch this spring and summer? Stay tuned.

Corrections or comments? Email Mark.Tennis@espn.com.