SIGNS OF THINGS TO COME LOCALS READY FOR LETTER-OF-INTENT DAY.
An area football recruiting class that falls just short of last year's stellar group will sign on the dotted line today, making its college dreams a reality.
National letter of intent day, the first day players can transfer their oral commitments to writing, could bring 11 local signatures to Pacific-10 Conference schools, three short of last year's total.
The biggest difference between this year's class and that of a year ago is the lack of a signature player, a five-star athlete who had his pick of any of the top football schools in the nation. Last year, it was receiver Steve Smith from Taft of Woodland Hills, who wound up at USC.
``(2002) was a great year for high school football in the area, with the All-Valley City championship,'' said Birmingham of Lake Balboa coach Ed Croson, who sent two players to Pac-10 schools last year and one more - Benny Ward to Washington State - this year.
``It was a special year. Hopefully, we'll have years like that again. I think the Valley is getting a lot better in football.''
This year's class is headlined by the three players who earned the chance to stay local: defensive end Jimmy Miller and receiver Michael Stuart of Westlake High, both of whom will sign with USC; and Chaminade of West Hills receiver/defensive back Marcus Everett, who will sign with UCLA.
``I feel very honored to be able to go to UCLA,'' Everett said. ``I grew up liking both the local schools, and just wished I could one day play for one of them. That dream came true.''
Rudy Carpenter, the Daily News Offensive Player of the Year after leading Westlake to the Southern Section Div. IV title, will take his quarterbacking skills to Arizona State. Nine Westlake players have made oral commitments.
Daily News Player of the Year Sean Norton from Hart of Newhall isn't one of the players going to a traditional big-name football program, but that's just fine with him.
Judged too small by college standards, Norton will sign with Fresno State. He becomes the fifth consecutive Hart quarterback to commit to a Division I school and will see a familiar face at Fresno: Hart receiver Kevin Ciccone.
``People have always doubted me and questioned whether I'd make it this far,'' said Norton, who is 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds. ``It's nice to sit back and say, 'Hey, look what I did and how far I am now.' It just puts a smile on my face.''
Houston Texans quarterback David Carr, a Fresno State product, was the first overall pick in the NFL draft two years ago.
``It worked out perfectly,'' Norton said. ``Fresno State is the place I want to be. If all of a sudden USC or some big-named school came in and said they wanted me, I'd say no. I'm proud to be a Bulldog.''
Norton's Santa Clarita rival, Nate Longshore of Canyon, finally will get to make official the commitment he gave to California early in the fall. There, the linebacker-sized quarterback will have the opportunity to learn from coach Jeff Tedford, one of the most respected quarterback gurus in college football.
Eight area players will head east and play at Ivy League universities.
``Since I love football, I'd love to get a scholarship to a Division I school,'' said Agoura receiver Braden Lepisto, who is going to Pennsylvania. ``But what us Ivy League guys will get from our education and experience will be notches above what a Division I player will get at a big football school.''
There won't be any big last-minute commitments from the area today, but there could be some surprises. Chaminade offensive lineman Adam Speer is strongly considering decommitting from Oregon State and signing with Navy. His father, Bill, said Adam would sleep on it.
There were some late oral commits Tuesday. Adrian Aye-Darko, a defensive back from Chaminade, decided on Duke despite the possibility of grayshirting and postponing the start of his eligibility.
Steve Gatena, an offensive lineman, and Ryan Ruel, a safety, from Westlake will be teammates once again at Air Force. Calabasas defensive lineman Rick Harrison will play for former USC assistant Nick Holt at Idaho.
Matthew Kredell, (818) 713-3607
4 photos, box
(1 -- 3 -- color) Westlake's Michael Stuart (above) and Jimmy Miller (far left) will sign today with USC, which is expected to grab the top recruiting class in the nation. Teammate Rudy Carpenter, who transferred to Westlake last season, will sign with Arizona State.
(4) Marcus Everett, who played at Chaminade, will sign with UCLA today. Everett played both receiver and defensive back.
Evan Yee/Staff Photographer