College football recruiting has changed significantly since the-late Dennis McCarthy of Lyndhurst started his McCarthy Report, which profiles and scouts New Jersey’s top high school prospects.
But even as prospects are getting recruited at a younger age and as the transfer portal and NIL create massive roster turnover at the college level, The McCarthy Report still remains a valuable tool used by more than 60 NCAA programs.
The report is truly the work of hundreds, led by David McCarthy, Dennis’ son. Mike Voza, a high school friend of David’s and a longtime baseball and football coach and former Hackensack High School and Rutgers star Cedric Brown are key confidants of David as well as his brother Ryan as well as countless coaches from all over the state.
“I have to keep my eye on the underclassmen more and earlier than before,” said David McCarthy, who now runs the company and publication his father started in 1991. “It’s been a trend for a while, but kids are getting pressured to commit earlier. Everything has moved up and I definitely have to keep an eye on the younger kids more than before.
“The recruiting game is as crazy as ever. I just try to keep my blinders on and just give colleges my opinion on who I think the best kids are.”
In McCarthy’s opinion, this year’s top senior in New Jersey is St. Joseph Regional running back Yasin Willis. The powerful, 6-foot-2, 210 pound Willis, who recently committed to play at Pitt, ran for 1,117 yards and 17 touchdowns last season.
Willis is followed on McCarthy’s list by Irvington safety and Penn State commit Vaboue Toure. Hun defensive lineman Owen Wafle, a Michigan commit, is ranked No. 3.
One of the biggest prospects – literally and figuratively – is Belleville native and Paramus Catholic offensive tackle Juan Minaya.
The 6-foot-6, 335 pound Minaya verbally committed to the University of Miami this spring and according to McCarthy, might have the biggest upside of any senior in the state.
“Juan is probably the lineman with the highest upside. He’s just gotten better and better,” said McCarthy, who has Minaya as his No. 3 offensive line prospect and among the top 15 in the state regardless of position. “His technique has gotten better and he’s grown into his frame. He’s well-coordinated now. He’s a beast. He’s a monster. And he has great potential.”
But what the McCarthy Report has always been most proud of is discovering prospects who aren’t nationally recognized like a Willis or a Toure.
“We pride ourselves the most on uncovering hidden gems who are a little under the radar,” McCarthy said. Anybody could identify the top kid or two from Don Bosco or Bergen Catholic. But that’s why I get around the state, my atenas are always up.
“We found a lot of under the radar kids over the years that turned out to be damn good players. That’s what we try to do.”
McCarthy sees quite a few potential under the radar gems in The Observer’s coverage area.
Headlining McCarthy’s list of the Top 10 High School Football Prospects in the area is North Arlington receiver/defensive back Ian Crudele. A three-year starter on both sides of the ball, Crudele had 36 catches for 583 yards and six touchdowns a season ago for the Vikings. McCarthy grades the 6-foot-1, 175 pound senior as a potential Division 1 FCS player.
“He’s a very skilled receiver with good size. He’s a great route runner, he knows how to get open against DB’s and he has tremendous hands,” McCarthy said. “He’s got a good overall package as a wide receiver.”
At No. 2 is Lyndhurst quarterback Shawn Bellenger, McCarthy’s top-ranked junior. Bellenger, who like Crudele is a multi-sport standout, threw for 1,011 yards and seven touchdowns while displaying superior off the field intangibles.
“I’m high on him. He’s a kid with a lot of starting experience. To have your quarterback and to have him back for the next two years is huge,” said McCarthy. “He’s a three-sport standout with outstanding tools and a 4.2 GPA, which is the icing on the cake. I like his arm and I expect him to have colleges interested in him.”
Belleville junior running back Jeremiah Cook comes in at No. 3 following a breakout sophomore year where he rushed for 1,149 yards and nine touchdowns.
“He’s quick,” McCathy said of Cook. “He’s a shifty, low-slung back with a good burst and nice run vision.”
Cook’s teammate, senior WR/LB Khalil Bey comes in as No. 4, followed by Nutley junior QB Clark Mohrbutter at five.
Lyndhurst junior RB/LB Roddy Morinho is at No. 6 followed by North Arlington’s Sean McGeehan who shifts over to quarterback after playing running back and linebacker.
Perhaps the most intriguing player on the list is Lyndhurst receiver Anthony Pizzuti. The 6-foot-4, 185 pound senior, a star basketball and baseball player, decided to try out for football this summer.
A pair of Bloomfield seniors round out the list with senior quarterback Trevor Frantantoni at No. 9 and lineman Will Cordero at 10.
Honorable mentions include Nutley seniors Joe Volpe and Sean McAloon, Belleville’s Elijah Pickering and Jordan Armstrong and North Arlington’s Robert Carselda.
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Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer
Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (nj.com, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)