Salesian group draws attention

Senior quarterback Jihad Vercher is one of a handful of elite Division I prospects on Los Angeles Salesian. Tom Hauck/ESPNHS

LOS ANGELES -- Powerful and promising: The two perfect adjectives to describe the a collection of talent at Los Angeles Salesian.

The headliners now are Class of 2013 cornerback Jermaine Kelly, a UCLA commit, and dual-threat quarterback Jihad Vercher, whose stock has been rising in recent weeks. Kelly had three total touchdowns and Vercher had four Friday night in an easy 74-7 victory against an overmatched San Juan Capistrano (Calif.) Capistrano Valley Christian team.

The next wave for Salesian, though, might be even more impressive. A pair of coveted Class of 2014 recruits, linebacker Jamardre Cobb and defensive end Marquis Ware, each had touchdown runs Friday on top of their stellar defensive play. Class of 2014 cornerback Rodney Carr had an interception and 159 rushing yards.

The group attended USC’s 38-17 victory against Arizona State on Saturday and have been staples at the Coliseum throughout the season.

“USC has always been my dream school,” said Cobb, who holds offers from Boise State, Colorado, Memphis, Southern Methodist, Stanford and Washington State. “I like that they’re physical, and the players work hard in the classroom. That’s what I want to do -- do well in class and work hard in the weight room and on the field.”

Like Cobb, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Ware is on the ESPN Watch List for next year’s class. Ware also plays tight end and H-back, and might emerge as one of the city’s major recruits in the offseason.

“USC is right up the street from where I live, so it’d be good to stay home and play for a good school like that,” said Ware, who already has offers from Arizona, Boise State, Colorado, Memphis, Oregon State, Southern Methodist, Stanford, Texas A&M, UCLA, Vanderbilt and Washington State. “I haven’t really talked to their coaches, but from what they tell my coaches, I believe they want me.”

And then there’s Carr, a 6-foot corner who recently received his first offer from Southern Methodist and has garnered interest from Cal, Hawaii, Memphis, Missouri, San Diego State, UCLA and USC.

“I get so many letters every day, but I’d really like to stay in the Pac-12,” Carr said. “I think I’m having a great season and, when recruiting season comes, I just hope college coaches recognize it. Hopefully, I can get the offers I want. I don’t really have a dream school, but I would really like a USC offer. That’s the school we all grew up loving.”

Oregon has set its sights on the talented group, dropping by Salesian -- a private school located some five miles east of USC -- to check in on the batch of prospects earlier this month when the Ducks played the Trojans. It doesn’t figure to be the last time the Cobb, Ware and Carr draw visits.

By his own admission, Class of 2015 athlete Kyahva Tezino is raw, but he's already received letters from Arizona State, Boise State, UCLA and Wisconsin. He said he doesn't have a dream school but would prefer to play his college ball somewhere in the Pac-12.

“I’ve got a great group of guys around me,” said Vercher, who has offers from Army, Idaho and Sacramento State. “When you surround yourself with talent, there’s an unlimited amount of things you can do. I tell these guys every day to have fun. I expect greatness from everybody on this team.”

Kelly, who committed to UCLA in June, had a 23-yard touchdown to open the scoring and immediately followed with a 25-yard interception return for another score. He caught an eight-yard pass from Vercher for a touchdown before Salesian pulled its starters.

At least among local recruits, the 6-foot-1 Kelly, who will take official visits to Boise State (Dec. 7) and Houston (Dec. 14), appears to have been a victim of USC’s strict scholarship limitations. Any other year, he would have demanded a closer look from the Trojans, according to a Salesian assistant coach.

“In the beginning, I thought about not being offered by USC,” Kelly said. “But as of right now, I’m just enjoying the season with my teammates. I’m trying not to think about recruiting, but when it comes around it’s going to be a tough decision. As of right now, I’m still committed to UCLA.”

If USC coaches whiff on some high-caliber national prospects in next year’s class, don’t be surprised to see them scoop up at least one recruit from Salesian.

“Coach (Marvin) Sanders talks to our coaches,” Cobb said. “I sent USC my new highlight tape. The coaches watched it and said it’s looking pretty good. I feel they’re close to offering, but I’ll just have to be patient.”