Stone Sander and Cole Hannum don't understand all the buzz about wanting to leave home to play college football.
Sander, a tight end from Placer High School, and Hannum, a linebacker from Nevada Union by way of Marysville, are playing close to home this season at Sacramento State.
So far, the foothills freshmen are enjoying every minute.
"A lot of high school recruits say they want to go far away, then they get there and realize after a month or so how much they miss home," Sander said. "I'm happy to be far enough away from home but close enough I can go see my family and friends and they can come see me play."
Added Hannum: "Most kids want to go away from home, but for me Sacramento is a bit of home away from home, with a different culture tossed in. I'm from the country. This is the city."
Sander and Hannum are part of arguably coach Marshall Sperbeck's best local recruiting class in his seven seasons at Sac State.
"Recruiting is always a big part of trying to build a program, and bringing in eight local kids is huge for us," Sperbeck said. "Some of those guys are capable of contributing this year."
After breaking camp Wednesday as the Hornets prepare to open the season next Thursday at San Jose State, Sander and Hannum, along with defensive back Marcus Green of Franklin and linebacker Russell Smith of Del Oro, are the best bets to see playing time this year.
Monterey Trail defensive lineman Taka Umufuke, Rio Americano linebacker Jordan Vinson, Rocklin quarterback Daniel Kniffin and Del Campo offensive lineman Kyle Evanski also are in the mix, though more likely to redshirt.
While Sander and Hannum weren't high-profile recruits, they had opportunities to leave the area.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Sander, an early verbal commit to Sac State, didn't stray despite post-commit nibbles from several Division I schools. He also got a close look at some of the excesses of big-time college recruiting.
His Placer teammate was Eddie Vanderdoes, the defensive lineman who signed with Notre Dame, reneged and is now at UCLA after winning an NCAA appeal.
"Eddie brought a lot of recruiters," Sander said. "There were some who came around and said they were going to offer me (a scholarship) but never did. I just got tired of their games. Sac State was honest, it's Division (I-AA) and it's a program on the rise."
Recruiting interest fell off for the 6-2, 250-pound Hannum after he was declared ineligible by the CIF for his senior season.
The 2010 and 2011 Golden Empire League MVP had left Marysville for Nevada Union after his junior year, but the CIF ruled that there had been undue influence in his transfer.
"I practiced four days a week, but on Fridays I didn't get to play," Hannum said. "On Fridays, I became a trainer-assistant. It wasn't too bad. It kept me busy."
It kept him hungry, too.
While Hannum only received scholarship offers from Sac State and Army, he once had interest from Oregon and several other major colleges. Hannum thought the Hornets offered the best opportunity to contribute right away.
"The coaches were straight-forward with me," Hannum said. "They never did the 'You're the Golden Child' thing, and that's what I like.
"But a goal of mine was to at least play on special teams this season because I didn't play last year. I look at last year as my redshirt year."
Sander has similar expectations.
"My goal is to get on that traveling team and try to make a difference," he said. "Obviously, the coaches are in charge and do what they feel is best. But I plan to play."
Hannum and Sander have held their own, physically, in practice and during scrimmages but still say the speed and strength of veteran teammates amazes them.
"Even a little wide receiver can come up and lay you out," Hannum said. "It doesn't matter. Everyone can hit."
That wasn't lost on Sander, either.
"I came from Placer, where we thought we had tempo, and for a high school team, we did," he said. "But college tempo is a whole different game - it's fast."
The Hornets also brought in 15 out-of-area freshman scholarship and walk-on players, including Los Angeles-area quarterback Jihad Vercher. He's played well enough in workouts that he may back up starter Garrett Safron this season.
The freshmen live together in the dorms, so bonding is already taking place. They all have the same goal. They want to help the Hornets be an impact team in the Big Sky Conference and land the school's first playoff berth since 1988.
Only a handful of the area players that Sperbeck has recruited as scholarship freshmen reached their senior seasons. Some dropped out, some transferred, others continue to attend Sac State but decided to give up football.
Hannum thinks this bunch will be different.
"I feel there's a real good chemistry (among) the guys," he said. "We see ourselves as a special class. We want to let people know who we are."
Call The Bee's Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.