Remember them when they were in high school? Some are still producing plenty at the college level.
And some might just be the next to go from the South Sound to starting in the NFL — just like Wilson graduate Desmond Trufant (Atlanta Falcons), Timberline’s Jonathan Stewart (Carolina Panthers), Lakes graduate Jermaine Kearse (New York Jets), Auburn’s Danny Shelton (Cleveland Browns) or Gig Harbor’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins (New York Jets) this year.
Here are 10 local athletes to watch in college football this season:
10 SOUTH SOUND PLAYERS TO WATCH
WR Chico McClatcher, Washington (Federal Way HS)
He’s shown off his hybrid capabilities as the Huskies starting receiver, who can also carry the ball and return kicks – much of what he did as the TNT All-Area player of the year at Federal Way and the 4A SPSL’s all-time single-season leader in all-purpose yards (2,448). He played in every game as a true freshman and in 13 of 14 games last year, including three starts. But with John Ross leaving for the NFL draft, that’s vaulted McCatcher into a greater role this season.
OL Kaleb McGary, Washington (Fife HS)
The 6-foot-7, 318-pound junior started every game at right tackle last season and that hasn’t changed this year, playing opposite of Wenatchee grad Trey Adams. But McGary did so much more at Fife, earning the 2A SPSL’s defensive lineman of the year in 2013 (just like UW commit MJ Ale did for Fife last year) with 76 tackles his senior season and was a TNT All-Area selection at tight end. He was also a standout basketball player for the Trojans. He originally went to UW as a defensive lineman, but quickly became a factor on the offensive line. He made his first start as a redshirt freshman two years ago against Utah State. He was also a member of The News Tribune’s Northwest Nuggest his senior year.
WR Connor Wedington, Stanford (Sumner HS)
He was a jack-of-all-trades at Sumner and he’s shown his versatility as a true freshman for the Cardinal so far, too. Wedington through three games leads Stanford in receiving with 10 catches for 119 yards, including six catches for 82 yards in the season opener against Rice. He was the TNT All-Area player of the year last season despite missing Sumner’s playoff run with a shoulder injury. He set school records for career rushing yards (4,035) and career rushing touchdowns (69), though he was also a threat on defense, special teams and receiving.
Andrzej Hughes-Murray, Oregon State (Federal Way HS)
Hughes-Murray (first name is pronounced “ON-jay”) has been the Beavers’ starting inside linebacker so far after starting four of the six games he appeared in last year as a true freshman. He blocked a field goal against Washington State. He was a TNT All-Area linebacker his senior year at Federal Way and a dominant athlete – he was 41-0 as a state-champion wrestler, too. He finished last year with 24 tackles, including three for loss, with eight tackles against UCLA. His first start came against UW.
Benning Potoa’e, Washington (Lakes HS)
He started against Colorado last year in the Pac-12 title game and finished his redshirt freshman season with 19 tackles. He’s seen more action this season as the Huskies starting “Buck” outside linebacker. And when Potoa’e didn’t start last year, he usually played, appearing in 13 of 14 games. He was a monster at Lakes when he was a TNT All-Area defensive lineman his senior year and three-team first-team 3A SPSL selection. He had 19 sacks, 72 tackles and five forced fumbles his senior year in 2014 and was also a standout tight end on offense. He spent this offseason battling for a starting role at UW alongside Lincoln graduate Jusstis Warren, who was an All-Area linebacker his senior year. Warren so far leads the Huskies in sacks (1.5) through three games and he’s forced a fumble.
Mitch Fettig, Eastern Washington (Olympia HS)
The Eagles’ starting safety (as he was all of last year) entered the season in the discussion for the Big Sky defensive player of the year. He’s EWU’s most experienced starter on defense and through three games has a team-best 26 tackles. The former TNT All-Area defensive back at Olympia set the school’s career record for single-season receiving touchdowns (12). He’s one of many South Sound graduates at EWU. Federal Way grad Albert Havili has been a force as a buck pass-rushing defensive end. Fellow Federal Way graduate D’londo Tucker and Steilacoom’s Josh Lewis have started at cornerback, and Lincoln’s Jayson Williams has enjoyed a bigger role at receiver this season.
OL Foster Sarell, Stanford (Graham-Kapowsin HS)
What a four years he had at Graham-Kapowsin. And now he’s been seeing playing time as a true freshman so far at Stanford – and maybe even more on the way. He started the season as the backup at left tackle, but Stanford coach David Shaw had said after the Cardinal’s win over Rice that Sarell was further along in his development as a college offensive tackle than the staff expected he’d be and was excited to see where he might be by game four or five. He was the 4A SPSL’s co-MVP alongside Wedington last year (and his G-K faces Wedington’s Sumner on Friday at Art Carte Field) and was a three-time TNT All-Area offensive lineman.
QB Gresch Jensen, Montana (Auburn Mountainview HS)
Guess who will be making his first career start this weekend? Jensen, a TNT All-Area selection as a multi-purpose quarterback his senior year, is a redshirt freshman for the Grizzlies and will start against 11th-ranked Eastern Washington after incumbent starter Reese Phillips went down with an ankle injury last week. When Jensen entered, he scored on a three-yard rushing TD on his debut drive and ended the day completing 11 of 15 passes for 178 yards and three touchdowns. “I felt pretty comfortable out there,” Jensen told montanasports.com. “It’s kind of what you prepare for and train all those months for, those late-night film sessions, that’s what it’s for — just go out there and play and execute the offense, and it’s just one game.” He’ll likely be throwing passes to Federal Way grad and starting receiver Keenan Curran (the former FW quarterback) and get blocking from starting right guard and Charles Wright grad Robert Luke.
Ezra Cleveland, Boise State (Bethel HS)
Was the Broncos’ offensive scout team player of the year when he redshirted as a freshman last year. Now? He’s Boise State’s 6-foot-6, 296-pound starting left tackle, protecting quarterback Brett Rypien’s blindside. Boise State’s sophomore running back Alexander Mattison simply called Cleveland “a beast.” He was a TNT All-Area defensive lineman two years ago at Bethel (and even played some running back), finishing with 20 tackles for loss and four sacks. Must have been all that dirt bike riding.
OC Beau Baldwin, Cal (Curtis HS)
OK, this isn’t a player. But it’s still a big deal to go from the South Sound to offensive coordinator at Cal. The former Curtis quarterback is in his first year in the Pac-12 after being Eastern Washington’s head coach the past nine years (where his offenses ranked among the top 10 in FCS in eight of his nine years), and before that at Central Washington, where he went after graduating high school. He’s also in charge of running backs and is the assistant head coach for Cal under former UW defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. Aaron Best, also a Curtis graduate, took over for Baldwin as the coach at EWU.