West Valley Preps’ top 10 recruits for the Class of 2018

While the 2017 high school football season does not start until Aug. 18, the recruiting season for NCAA and NAIA football schools hardly slowed down.

Here’s a look at the most recruited players from schools West Valley Preps covers, entering the season Remember, this is a list of the most recruited players by colleges in this senior class, not necessarily the 10 best high school players.

The top 10 recruits of 2018:

Deer Valley offensive lineman Joey Ramos (76) in action against Williams Field senior defensive end Jackson Vaught (#55) during the first half of their 5A football game on Friday Aug. 25. [Ralph Freso for West Valley Preps]

1. Joey Ramos  OT/OG/LS  Deer Valley  6-4  275 lbs.

Offers: Washington, Kansas State, Oregon, UCLA, Washington State, Arizona State, Arizona, Cal, Iowa State, Utah, Nebraska.

Ramos started for the Skyhawks in his freshman year, so it’s hardly a surprise that he was the first player in the Northwest Valley to receive offers, or that he hauled in the most Division I scholarship opportunities thus far.

Earlier this summer, he pared the list down to his top six — which are, in no particular order: Iowa State, ASU, Arizona, UCLA, Oregon and Washington. Both the Sun Devils and Cyclones are going after Ramos hard and the Wildcats will make a big pitch as well.

It’s easy to see why. Ramos is a rock, with technique and a nasty streak. He can slot in virtually anywhere on a line, even for Power Five teams. Plus, he is one of the state’s better long snappers. Every recruiting service lists Ramos as one of the top five seniors in Arizona, regardless of position.

Centennial’s Dominique Hampton (#21) returns an interception for a touchdown against Desert Edge on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017 at Centennial High School in Peoria. [Jacob Stanek/West Valley Preps]

2. Dominique Hampton CB  Centennial  6-2  185 lbs.

Offers: Oregon, Washington, Washington State, Wyoming, San Diego State, Oregon State, Fresno State, ASU, Arizona, Colorado

Verbal Commitment: Washington Aug. 7

Unlike Ramos, Hampton was not on the radar until last fall. But he made up ground fast in the spring, with more than half of the Pac-12 offering this Coyote.

Cornerbacks who stand 6-2 tend to get that kind of attention, especially if their play matches their measurables. Hampton proved that last season, perhaps by his lack of blow out statistics. Within a week or two, opposing teams simply avoided him

He narrowed his list to a top five of Arizona, ASU, Colorado, Oregon State and Washington. Monday, Hampton became the second Coyote to verbally commit, choosing the defending Pac-12 champion Washington.

3. Zidane Thomas  TB Centennial  5-10  205 lbs.

Offers: New Mexico, NAU, UMass, Boise State, Iowa State, New Mexico

Verbal Commitment: Boise State Aug. 1

Thomas made an even larger impression at Centennial last fall, jumping from the junior varsity to 2,000 yards. And he did it in style.

Thomas reminded me of the powerful, slashing running backs with an extra gear in the open field that I grew up watching in the 1980s — think Marcus Dupree. His size and speed are close to ideal for a workhorse, and he’s sudden enough to break off big runs.

Recruiting was quiet on Thomas this offseason. But Boise State honed in on him and the tailback liked what he saw from the school that sent Doug Martin and Jay Ajayi to the NFL. He started August by committing to the Broncos.

4. Josiah Bailey  WR/Slot/KR  Kellis  5-10  170 lbs.

Offers: Adams State, Air Force, Kentucky Christian

Bailey may be on the border line between FBS and FCS, but he is already the most heavily recruited player in Kellis football history.

In high school, his position is athlete and Bailey will take handoffs, play defensive back and line out wide. But he is most dangerous in the slot and on returns.

In addition to Air Force, I would expect some other Mountain West Conference schools to jump in with offers this fall. His size may be a sticking point with some schools but the skill level is not.

If Bailey is overlooked now, he, like many other West Valley phenoms, could go the junior college route and land a spot in a name brand football program.

5. Jaden Hoyt  DT  Northwest Christian  6-4  280 lbs.

Offers: Adams State, Arizona Christian, San Diego

A two-way lineman for the Crusaders, Hoyt figures to be another in a steady stream of FCS/Division II big men coming out of Coach Dave Inness’ program.

The eighth-year coach raves about Hoyt’s strength and disruptive potential. San Diego is the only Division I school on board yet, but that should change.

6. John Clark  DT  Liberty  6-3  260 lbs.

Offers: San Diego

The big man is Liberty’s best interior lineman since current New Mexico Lobo Aaron Blackwell. He’s not as disruptive as Blackwell was at tackle, but Clark is very stout and a good candidate to be an anchor at an FCS school.

Again, San Diego is the first offer for the defensive tackle but more should trickle in from FCS teams.

7. Jacob Franklin LB Centennial  6-3  210 lbs.

Offers: Columbia

Injuries robbed Franklin of most of his junior year, as he played in only three games as a junior. But the film against quality opponents Cienega, Desert Edge and Williams Field, combined with offseason workouts and , obviously, grades was enough for an Ivy League school to be interested.

Franklin is versatile, able to play defensive end, tight end or linebacker. For now the third of those positions is his home. More role definition, and more offers, should come with more game tape from the early season Centennial matchups.

8. Alex Escobar RB/Slot Centennial  5-8 180 lbs.

Offers: Amherst, Colorado School of Mines, Redlands

Centennial’s other tailback is gaining momentum, picking up offers on the last two days of July. That includes his first Division II school interested, Colorado School of the Mines.

His improved offseason speed was noted by the recruiters that always visit Coyote Country in the spring. Look for Escobar in the slot more this season, and more packages with him sharing the field, and touches, with Thomas.

9. Bronson Sanich FS Northwest Christian  5-10  180 lbs.

Offers: Arizona Christian, Bethany (WV), Central (Iowa), Iowa Wesleyan, Northwestern (Iowa), Ohio Wesleyan, Ripon, Simpson, Wisconsin-River Falls

As this Crusader’s Twitter page will attest, he is racking up offers from Division III schools in the Midwest.

On the field, the safety should take a larger role in what looks like a typically stingy Northwest Christian defense.

10. Xavier Robinson-Delgado OT/OG Deer Valley 6-5, 300 lbs.

Offer: Adams State

The attention paid to Ramos is shining a spotlight on fellow Skyhawk linemates. Maybe none have more raw potential than Robinson-Delgado.

He only began playing football as a freshman and has an ideal frame and strength. As usual with the more overlooked West Valley recruits, Adams State is first in line.

Cactus running back Damaria Norris (21) tries to fend off Dysart linebacker Simeon Rivera during the second half of their 4A playoff game on Friday, Nov. 4, 2016. [Ralph Freso for West Valley Preps]

Five senior sleepers:

Dallas Pena 6-4, 265 lbs. OG (Valley Vista) – Pena is the lone player from a school in Surprise to receive an offer, outside of local NAIA school Arizona Christian. Division III Ripon is the first on board. Pena will be the focal point of the Monsoon men in the trenches.

Damaria Norris 5-10, 195 lbs. TB (Cactus) – His massive production (2,209 rushing yards) as a junior would seem to warrant more scouting attention. But thus far only Arizona Christian has offered Norris and three Cobra teammates. That should change.

Brandon McCrea 6-3 270 lbs. OG (Deer Valley) – Also getting more looks thanks to Ramos, McCrea may not have Robinson-Delgado’s upside. But he is a technically sound lineman and a solid bet to land somewhere.

Nate Dobson QB 6-0 200 lbs. QB (Peoria) – One year after the pursuit of Chase Cord, things are mostly quiet on the quarterback front locally. Adams State has offered Centennial’s Ruben Beltran and Dobson. Beltran is steadier but Dobson is more dynamic and will be counted on to make plays more for the Panthers.

Scotty Nixon 5-4, 150 lbs. TB (Shadow Ridge) – Could Nixon’s senior year mirror that of 2017 grad and fellow Surprise product Vodrey Gates, who overcame bias against his height to land at Western New Mexico? Betting against him is not recommended.

Deer Valley’s Dez Melton (88) is dragged down by Queen Creek’s Kade Carrasco (1) during the second half of their 5A football game on Friday, Sept. 16, 2016. Melton is one of the top recruits in Arizona for the Class of 2019. [Ralph Freso for West Valley Preps]

Top 5 recruits of the Class of 2019:

1. Dez Melton 6-4 210 lbs. WR/TE (Deer Valley) – While Melton moonlights again as a tailback behind Deer Valley’s punishing offensive line, he is a natural big receiver who could play tight end in college if he adds some weight. Like Ramos, Melton is a consensus top 5 player in Arizona for his class. ASU, Arizona and Iowa State have already offered.

2. Ryan Puskas 6-3 210 lbs. SS/LB (Liberty) – Like Melton, Puskas burst onto the scene in the second half of his freshman year and projects as a bit of a hybrid if he bulks up. However, he has displayed a safety’s skill set since day one at Liberty. South Dakota State is the first to offer, with more to come.

3. Zack Enhelder 6-4 232 lbs. TE (Willow Canyon) – Recruiters are catching on to this ideally built tight end after his performances on the spring camp circuit. A breakout junior season looms.

4. Carson Keltner 6-2 270 lbs. C/OG (Centennial) – This interior lineman looks like the next to pick up the mantle for the Coyotes. Jacob Fyffe also started on the line as a sophomore and bears monitoring.

5. Jacob Golden 6-6 240 lbs. (Peoria) – He started at tight end as a sophomore but may already have outgrown that position.  The son of Panthers defensive coordinator and former Kellis head coach Jason Golden is well schooled at multiple line positions and could see some time at defensive end.

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