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BEFORE THE Newbury Park ( Calif.) season opener junior running back Chris Brown bet the team trainer a 7-Eleven Slurpee that he wouldn't get more than 20 rushes in the game. After all, Brown had played on the sophomore team last year and watched his three older brothers star as receivers for the Panthers, who led the Marmonte League in receiving in two of the last three seasons. But that first week Brown carried 21 times for 103 yards and two touchdowns in a 20--14 win over Camarillo ( Calif.). "I was happy to pay up," says Brown of his small-stakes wager. Three months later the 6'1", 189-pound back finished the season with 1,904 yards and 22 touchdowns on 318 carries for the newly balanced attack of 11--2 Newbury Park. "We weren't real sure he could do this, or we'd have done more to get him playing varsity last year," coach George Hurley says. "He's certainly raising eyebrows." Last month college recruiters and scouting services started calling Hurley about Brown, who'd like to attend a Pac-10 school.
For many players it takes only one great season to become a hot prospect, especially in the case of a junior, such as Brown, who emerged from nowhere to lead the league in rushing by more than 600 yards. Circumstances, however, may demand that a player prove himself with a convincing follow-up season.
That was the case for Cierre Wood, a junior running back at Santa Clara ( Oxnard, Calif.), which hasn't produced a scholarship football player since 1989. Wood ran for 1,407 yards and 17 TDs in 2006, but at 6 feet, 185 pounds he was more of a speedy scatback, on the radar of only one Division I school, San Diego State. "Coach told me to put some meat on my bones," Wood says. He lifted weights, bulked up to 198, and this season he has 146 rushes for 2,404 yards (16.5 per carry) and 33 TDs, including a 327-yard, six-touchdown performance in the Saints' 42--20 CIF Mid-Valley Division semifinal victory over Valley Christian ( Cerritos, Calif.) last Friday night.
Wood has received offers this fall from eight schools, including Florida, Notre Dame and USC. What's more, Rivals.com released its first rankings for the class of 2009 last week, and Wood was the top-rated running back.
When Terrence Robinson transferred within Texas District 16-5A—from Spring High to Klein Oak—as a sophomore in 2005, the state's University Interscholastic League barred him from playing varsity as a junior. He spent last year in jayvee exile, where, coach David Smith says, "he was O.K., but he played to that level." This year the 5'9", 170-pound back ran 223 times for 2,127 yards and 26 TDs in helping the Panthers to the best record (10--2) in the school's history. Rivals.com awarded him a fourth star (out of five) last month, and he's picked up offers from Boston College, Oregon and Wake Forest. "Some of these offers are coming in late," says Smith of Robinson, who had been considering mid-level schools such as Rice and SMU, "[but] late's no problem."
Defensive end Nick Perry finished with 12 sacks as a junior at Mackenzie ( Detroit) last year, and an impressive showing at a scouting combine last January led to offers from Michigan, Michigan State and West Virginia. This fall Perry transferred to crosstown Martin Luther King High, where the Crusaders' coaches rotated him through nine defensive positions. He set a Michigan record with 37 sacks and led King to a 14--0 season and the Division 2 championship on Nov. 23, the first by a Detroit public school. Perry recently added scholarship offers from Miami and USC. Says CSTV recruiting expert Tom Lemming, "He's super-fast, he's got a great build, and he's going to be a great player in college."
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