USC, UCLA and the rest of the Pac 12 aren’t the only programs mining talent in the state of California–the SEC does a pretty good job too. Here are the best five Cali pickups of the past five seasons (2010 through 2014) who made the biggest splasht, in our opinion.
Editor’s note: Saturday Down South’s references to ratings follow the 247Sports.com composite rankings.
1. Ronald Powell, DE/LB, Moreno Valley (Calif.)
- California rank: No. 1 California prospect in 2010
- SEC school: Florida
- The skinny: Injuries plagued Powell, but his career was solid at Florida. The hype surrounding him may make some feel like he was a slight disappointment, but he has been a key contributor since 2010. He did have one year of eligibility left but decided to skip it and go into this year’s NFL draft. He had 11 career sacks and could be counted on to make plays at linebacker. Powell is projected as a mid-round pick in the NFL draft.
2. Tyler Bray, QB, Kingsburg (Calif.)
- California rank: No. 23 California prospect in 2010
- SEC school: Tennessee
- The skinny: In his final season with the Vols, he passed for 3,612 yards and 34 touchdowns and decided to go pro a year early. He went undrafted and spent the 2013 season on Kansas City’s roster, but did not see the field in the regular season. He finished his Tennessee career as fourth all time in touchdowns with 69 and fourth in passing yards with 7,444. Not too shabby for a guy who really only started 2.5 seasons.
3. Alonzo Williams, TE/DE/DT, Long Beach (Calif.)
- California rank: No. 63 California prospect in 2012
- SEC school: Texas A&M
- The skinny: Williams is heading into his junior season and he is one of those players you would think will flourish this fall. He played as a true freshman in 2012 and started in the Cotton Bowl, then elevated his game in 2013–even though he missed some time due to injury. He had 26 tackles and 2.5 as a sophomore last year and seems primed to explode in the next two years.
4. Maxwell Smith, QB, Granada Hills (Calif.)
- California rank: No. 99 California prospect in 2011
- SEC school: Kentucky
- The skinny: Most people ignored this three-star prospect back in 2011. While he hasn’t been an earth-shattering presence at Kentucky, he has certainly been solid during some rough times in Lexington. He has played in 21 games since his true freshman season, throwing for 3,070 yards and 21 touchdowns to only 9 interceptions. His career is certainly worthy of mention.
5. Nifae Lealao, DE, Sacramento (Calif.)
- California rank: No. 9 California prospect in 2014
- SEC school: Vanderbilt
- The skinny: Lealao hasn’t even played in the SEC yet, but his commitment was a huge victory for the Commodores and new coach Derek Mason–who wooed the defensive end to follow him from his Stanford commitment over to signing with Vanderbilt. Lealao will be an instant contributor for Vanderbilt, just watch–and he’s one of the most heralded Vandy signees in years.