WESTWOOD -- Los Angeles (Calif.) Venice's Gabriel Marks might not be one of the most well-known wide receivers when it comes to recruiting on the national level. And given the collection of talented wideouts in the 2012 class, the lack of recognition is somewhat understandable.
The perception about him, however, could be on the verge of changing soon.
Marks took another step in the right direction toward having his name mentioned among the country's premier players at his position at last weekend's Instinct Showcase held by B2G Sports at UCLA. The 5-foot-11, 175-plus pound pass-catcher performed well, often times making the particularly difficult catch appear routine despite drawing double-coverage throughout.
“I'm competitive, I've always been that way. I feel like I'm one of the top receivers on the West Coast already, but I want more, I want to be the best around,'' Marks said. “Every time I step on the field, I'm trying to make people look bad and make a name for myself. It's that simple.''
Make no mistake, Marks has done a good job of making a name for himself thus far. In his first season with a full-time job on the outside for Venice, he had 35 receptions, 13 of which were for touchdowns. He also finished with 1,344 all-purpose yards during his junior year.
Accordingly, Marks caught the attention of numerous prospective colleges. He has scholarship offers on the table from Colorado, Idaho and Southern Methodist. Also worth mentioning is the fact UCLA and Utah have recently raised the stakes and offered him.
With well-rounded efforts such as the one put forth at B2G Sports' Instinct Showcase, chances are his list of potential suitors will be growing in the near future. Oregon and Texas A&M recently jumped on the bandwagon and both are expressing varied levels of interest.
“I've had the pleasure of working with Marks for a while now and one of his biggest assets is his drive, his determination to do whatever it takes to be the best,'' said Ron Allen, co-founder and executive director for B2G Sports. “He plays with a chip on his shoulder. His commitment is unmatched. He's hungry. We're talking about a kid with all of his priorities in line.''
After all, signs point to Allen being correct with his assessment.
If that is in fact the case, it could be a matter of time before Marks ends up joining the ESPNU 150 Watch List, along with receivers Dorial Green-Beckham (Springfield, MO/Hillcrest), Shaq Roland (Lexington, SC/Lexington) and Cayleb Jones (Austin, TX/Austin).
Marks compares favorably to his West Coast counterparts and fellow ESPNU 150 Watch List players Jordan Payton (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian), Derrick Woods (Inglewood, Calif./Inglewood) and Davonte Neal (Scottsdale, AZ/Chaparral). And you can't forget about Bryce Treggs (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), who is another highly regarded individual.
“I feel like my name is in the same category as a lot of the best receivers out there and I have a lot of respect from those guys,'' Marks said. “Does that mean I'm happy with where I'm at in my career? No, there's always room for improvement. I'm not going to stop working.''
LEWIS ON THE LOOSE AGAIN
Marks has not been the only individual to recently benefit from putting in additional work with B2G Sports. Robert Lewis (South Gate, Calif./South East) is another.
The running back has emerged as one of the more high-profile prospects in the 2012 class, someone to definitely keep an eye on moving forward. And Lewis' invitation to January's U.S. Army All-American Bowl in Texas is further proof of his burgeoning national status.
It's not as if Lewis is one of those complete unknown types.
The 5-10, 160-plus pound ball-carrier nearly topped the 1,000-yard plateau during his junior season at South East, finishing with 901 yards and 11 touchdowns. His 7.64 yards per carry average was impressive, no doubt, a total ranking him among the state's best.
Based on those statistics, along with plenty of available game film, several schools started to contact Lewis. At one point, the ESPNU 150 Watch List member decided SMU was the best fit for him and he gave the Mustangs a verbal commitment back in late February.
Apparently, Lewis is keeping his options open these days.
“I committed to SMU, but I'm listening to all the colleges,'' Lewis said. “It's still early in the recruiting process, I think things are going to get bigger and better for me.''
With the window of opportunity seemingly slightly ajar, interest in him has picked up quite a bit lately. Lewis has five other offers of note, including Colorado, Oregon and San Diego State. Utah offered early last week, and two days later, Mississippi followed suit.
Several programs from the newly minted Pac-12 Conference have also been in touch with Lewis, including nearby UCLA. Fresno State and Nebraska appear to be somewhat intrigued too.
“I was surprised when Ole' Miss stepped up and started talking to me, that showed me what could be out there for me in the future,'' Lewis said. “We'll see what happens next. My plan is to start taking some visits soon, you know, see what these schools have to offer.''
In the meantime, it's reasonable to expect more of the same. More of Lewis taking advantage of his opportunities, similar to the one he recently had with B2G Sports.
MISSING IN ACTION
Make no mistake, there were more than a few top-notch prospects in attendance over at the Instinct Showcase. However, the high-profile player seemingly everyone wanted to catch a glimpse of, Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick (Rocklin, Calif./Whitney), was no where to be found.
Turns out, there was more than a legitimate reason for his absence.
Cope-Fitzpatrick was on an unofficial visit to Washington. And for programs from all over the country, this comes as news considering the 6-5, 250-plus pound tight end is one of the nation's more sought-after unsigned recruits at his position for the 2012 class.
“My goal was to work with B2G Sports, but sometimes, things come up,'' Cope-Fitzpatrick said. “I'm hearing from a lot of different schools, that's why it was important for me to check out Washington. I plan on making some other visits too, probably very soon.
“Things are happening fast right now, there are a lot of big-time colleges talking to me. When I think about things, it's amazing, so surreal. It's crazy. I have talked with Florida, Tennessee and Notre Dame, USC too. Actually, I think USC is recruiting me the hardest.''
Interestingly enough, Lane Kiffin & Co. haven't offered him a scholarship yet. All of that could be on the verge of changing though, especially once word starts spreading about Cope-Fitzpatrick exploring his options, which appear to multiply with each passing day.
Whether the Trojans actually up the stakes and offer him in the near future remains to be seen. And the same could be said about his other potential suitors. Auburn, Miami and Tennessee are among the other powerhouse programs that have been in contact with him.
One thing is certain: Cope-Fitzpatrick has a worthy resume. He is, after all, one of the more high-profile players around, thus his selection to the ESPNU 150 Watch List.
Suppose that best explains why he has nine offers to date, including Cal, Colorado, Oregon State, UCLA, Utah, Washington and Washington State. Nebraska is also in the mix. Iowa State offered on Tuesday afternoon.
“It's funny how recruiting works,'' Allen said. “Look at someone like Jalen, he's on everyone's radar, and at some point, colleges are going to have to put in the extra work to land a commitment from him. He is going to make an immediate impact at the next level and that's why I feel like some of the elite schools, USC for example, are going to jump on the bandwagon soon.''
Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.