Hometown Report

Time for college football spring games; these Sac-area players come up big at big schools

USC linebacker Cameron Smith, who won a CIF state championship with Granite Bay High School, was the fourth-ranked linebacker at the NFL Scouting Combine. A four-year starter and two-time team captain at USC, he’s now looking for a home in the NFL.
USC linebacker Cameron Smith, who won a CIF state championship with Granite Bay High School, was the fourth-ranked linebacker at the NFL Scouting Combine. A four-year starter and two-time team captain at USC, he’s now looking for a home in the NFL. AP

Bouncing around the regions in a forward lean, football style:

Book is big in Notre Dame Spring Game

Ian Book is still rolling. The Oak Ridge High School graduate impressed in Notre Dame’s Blue-Gold game on Saturday, the 90th annual all-Irish clash.

Book passed for 220 yards and a touchdown. He went for 2,628 yards and 19 touchdowns last fall as a junior in securing the job. Book is fueled by a 30-3 loss to eventual champion Clemson that halted Notre Dame’s 12-0 season. He’s clearly on the NFL radar now, too.

“I expected a lot from Ian this spring,” Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chip Long told reporters. “I told him, ‘Hey, challenge it. Challenge the offense. Test your arm.’

“Ian has been challenging himself with all of his throws. There hasn’t been a fear to turn it loose. You’ve got to push yourself to do that if you want to be considered an elite quarterback.”

Sacramento State to hold open practice

Sacramento State coach Troy Taylor and his staff have been implementing a new offense in spring drills, rain or shine.

There will not be a spring game, per se, but on April 27, there will be an open practice to cap the drills. It will include game-like situations. It’s also Sac State’s “Junior Day” for high school prospects, as the Hornets have become an increasingly attractive stop.

Ngata turns 60,000 heads at Clemson

Joe Ngata turned heads in Clemson’s Spring Game, just weeks removed from his final days at Folsom High.

He had five receptions for 127 yards in front of a crowd of some 60,000. He and fellow incoming freshman Frank Ladson impressed coach Dabo Swinney, who told reporters, “I’m not going to keep a secret on those guys. They’re ready. They’re going to be outstanding.”

Bennett in Boise

Kaiden Bennett, The Bee Player of the Year last fall at Folsom, had good moments in Boise State’s Spring Game in front of 6,841 fans.

A midyear enrollee, Bennett tossed a touchdown. He’s in the depth-chart mix with four other prospects.

Tackling machine rises from Roseville, ARC, Cal

Jordan Kunaszyk of Roseville, American River College and Cal is an NFL hopeful, too, lauded for his leadership and linebacker prowess.

At 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, Kunaszyk posted 273 career tackles in 34 games at Cal. As a senior captain, he had 148 stops.

Kunaszyk was presented with the Tiny Bates award, presented annually to a Cal senior from the Sacramento area, based on performance and good citizenship.

QB Browning shows off a stronger arm

Jake Browning of Folsom started 53 games as a four-year starter at Washington, setting scores of career records.

He checks off every NFL box — leadership, football IQ, tenacity — except one. That arm. How strong?

Browning looked strong enough in his Pro Day workout, saying, “I wanted to show my arm’s gotten stronger. I’ve done a bunch of different stuff to work on that.”

Browning has thrown for a ton in his life, a state-record 16,775 yards to go with a national-record 229 touchdowns at Folsom, and Washington records of 12,296 yards and 94 TDs in college.

LB Smith impressed at Senior Bowl, NFL Combine

Cameron Smith’s relentless pursuit to ransack backfields will get him into an NFL camp. How high he’s drafted is the question.

The 6-2, 240-pound powerhouse USC linebacker by way of Granite Bay impressed at the Senior Bowl. He ranked fourth among all linebackers at the NFL Combine, and he has visited NFL teams after USC’s Pro Day. Smith was a four-year starter at USC and a two-time team captain.

Stoppers

The NFL will always have an endless pursuit for guys who can pursue the ball. That’s why these regional prospects figure to be in NFL camps soon: defensive back Mister Harriel of Sac State (Antelope), defensive tackle PJ Johnson of Sac State and Arizona (Burbank) and UNLV linebacker Bailey Laolagi (Folsom).

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