Back row: St. Francis’ Travis Talianko (San Jose State), Monrovia’s Luke Williams (UC Davis); Arcadia’s Taylor Lagace (UCLA). Middle row: St. Francis’ Kristion Grbavac (USD, University of San Diego); Muir’s Kevon Seymour (USC); Arcadia’s Myles Carr (Fresno State) Front row: Monrovia’s Ellis McCarthy (UCLA)
The long, at times strenuous and even invasive, road to national signing day is over as 20 area athletes made their college choices official by signing letters of intent on Wednesday.
The West San Gabriel Valley’s impressive list was led by seven football players who will remain in the state of California.
At the forefront is Monrovia High School’s Ellis McCarthy, who signed with UCLA. The 6-foot-5, 305-pound defensive tackle heads UCLA’s list of commitments after decommitting from Cal a few weeks ago. He committed to Cal during an announcement at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Game earlier this month, but the USA Today All-American changed his name after the loss of Cal defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi, who went to Washington.
McCarthy narrowed his list to USC, Cal and Oregon (he said he was only allowed three hats at the podium, otherwise would have also included UCLA). McCarthy said he felt the full-court press from UCLA after it hired Jim Mora, who in turn brought in top coaches that included former Muir standout Demetrice Martin, a childhood friend of McCarthy’s father, Ed.
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Back row: Pasadena Poly’s Jack Birkenbeuel (UC Irvine); Flintridge Sacred Heart’s Lindsey Espe (Belmont). Third row: Flintridge Sacred Heart’s Tera Trujillo (New Mexico); Flintridge Sacred Heart’s Breaana Koemans (Northeastern); Flintridge Sacred Heart’s Alexa Montgomery (Arizona); Pasadena Poly’s Colin Woolway (Harvard). Second row: South Pasadena’s Taylor Colliau (Valparaiso); Flintridge Sacred Heart’s Katelyn Almeida (New Mexico); Flintridge Sacred Heart’s Jillian Jacobs (Loyola Marymount). Front row: Arcadia’s Hayley Greep (Cal State Northridge); Alverno’s Celina Minissian (St. Mary’s); Flintridge Sacred Heart’s Katie Johnson (USC). Not pictured: Pasadena’s Alegra Hueso (USC).
McCarthy, the only five-star recruit on UCLA’s list, is considered the nation’s top defensive tackle and the No. 2 overall recruit in California. After a decorated high school career that included two CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division championships, the two-time Star-News Defensive Player of the Year expects big things at UCLA.
“I want to go in there and be an impact player,” he said. “I don’t want to redshirt. I think if I work really hard I can go in there and start as a true freshman.”
McCarthy, who seamlessly can switch from tackle to end and often is compared to Detroit Lions star Ndamukong Suh, said UCLA’s new coaching staff made an impression with its relentless determination to get him.
“I know that if I go in there those coaches are really going to prepare me,” he said. “It’s been a dream of mine since I was a little kid to go to the NFL.”
How big a recruit was McCarthy? Martin called at 5 a.m. on signing day to make a final, though not necessary, push.
Muir’s Kevon Seymour, a four-star recruit ranked as the nation’s No. 9 cornerback, signed with USC. He made a verbal commitment on national television at the U.S. Army-All American game. Seymour is listed as an athlete but he’s expected to play a key role in returning punts and kickoffs.
For Seymour, a chance to stay close to home and earn a degree from a prestigious university was too good to pass up, never mind that USC still has not hired a defensive backs or cornerbacks coach.
“USC wants to win,” said Seymour, flanked by his family and girlfriend during a signing ceremony at Muir. “They’ll find coaches that’ll make the corners and DB’s progress. That’s why I’m not worried. The history, the vibe and the connections made it feel like it was a good place for me. My family can get to the games. I want my baby sister to experience the games and that’ll make her want to do good. I’m just trying to start a pipeline for my family.”
When Martin left Washington for UCLA, he persuaded his Washington recruits to do the same. Arcadia’s Taylor Lagace, projected to play safety, followed suit and signed with UCLA.
“Right when coach (Martin) left Washington he told me the day of to go with him,” Lagace said. “To play in my hometown was always a dream.”
That Lagace gets a chance to play alongside McCarthy and former area standouts Dietrich Riley (St. Francis) and Todd Golper (Arcadia) is an added bonus.
Arcadia quarterback Myles Carr (2,484 yards, 30 touchdowns, six interceptions) earlier committed to Stony Brook University in New York, but not long after he got a phone call from Fresno State offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Dave Schramm, who visited Carr at Arcadia and invited him on an official trip. Once there, Carr received an offer and signed with the Bulldogs. The distance also played a big factor in Carr’s decision.
“I wouldn’t want my parents to go all the way to New York to see me play,” he said. “It’s better when it’s a 3 1/2-hour drive.”
Monrovia’s Luke Williams drew interest from Arizona State and San Diego State, but it was UC Davis that showed more interest as its coaching staff made an effort to see Williams play. That vested interest is what made Williams, a 6-3 wide receiver, sign with the Aggies.
Williams received an offer over the weekend and saw the papers come through Wednesday morning.
“I just feel blessed,” Williams said. “I’m going to try to do very well in college so my family can continue to be proud of me.”
St. Francis’ Travis Talianko was a San Jose State commit for some time and kept his word by signing with the Spartans. That other schools showed little interest will fuel his motivation.
“I kind of take that personally,” said Talianko, a three-time Star-News All-Area honoree. “I’m definitely going up there with a chip on my shoulder and something to prove.”
St. Francis’ Kristion Grbavac rounds out the area football signees. Grbavac, a first-team All-Area lineman, signed with the University of San Diego.
There was a bit of a twist when Muir running back Tairen Owens did not sign as expected with UCLA.
Owens, who first committed to Washington, switched to UCLA but said on Wednesday during Seymour’s signing ceremony he’s exploring his options. Among the school’s he’s also considering are Arizona State and San Diego State.
Flintridge Sacred Heart’s soccer team, a national powerhouse that was ranked No. 1 this season, is sending seven athletes to Division I schools: Katie Johnson (USC), Alexa Montgomery (Arizona), Breeana Koemans (Northeastern), Lindsey Espe (Belmont), Jillian Jacobs (Loyola Marymount), Tera Trujillo (New Mexico) and Katelyn Almeida (New Mexico).
South Pasadena’s Taylor Colliau signed with Valparaiso and Arcadia’s Hayle Greep signed with Cal State Northridge. Alverno’s Celina Minissian signed withSt. Mary’s.
In water polo, Pasadena standout Alegra Hueso signed with USC while Pasadena Poly’s Colin Woolway is headed to Harvard.
Pasadena Poly’s Jack Birkenbeuel will continue his soccer career at UC Irvine, which is ranked in the top 10 nationally this season.