May 28, 2009 at 3:42 pm

Sam Webb

Tate Forcier's U-M connection might tempt Brennan Clay

Brennan Clay had 1,486 rushing yards and 1,055 receiving yards last season for San Diego Scripps Ranch High School. (Brandon Huffman/Scout.com)

Michigan freshman signal-caller Tate Forcier triggered a prolific offense for San Diego Scripps Ranch High last year. As a matter of fact, he led the team to the most successful record in school history. With that kind of success, it should be of little surprise he was surrounded by a wealth of talent. One of his most gifted teammates lined up next to him on every play -- best friend and record-setting tailback Brennan Clay.

Hyperbole is embarrassingly frequent in many prospect evaluations, but in Clay's case, the numbers he posted warrant being mentioned in esteemed company.

"I would say that Brennan ranks in the top three to five running backs in California," said Scout.com West Coast recruiting manager Brandon Huffman. "It's going to be a great year for running backs out West and I would say that he is probably the best pure running back in San Diego. Ricky Williams, Terrell Davis, Reggie Bush and Marcus Allen -- all of those guys are running backs from San Diego. Brennan Clay is the only one that has gone for a 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season.

"When you're in the conversation with those four names -- a couple of Heisman Trophy winners, Super Bowl MVPs, and you've still got another year of high school football to play -- that's going to open some eyes. I think he is just barely scratching the surface on what kind of player he can be."

During his junior campaign the 6-foot, 191-pounder amassed an impressive 1,486 yards on 170 carries and 27 TDs on the ground. He added another 1,055 yards on 70 catches and six TDs through the air. Then for good measure he returned two kickoffs for TDs as well.

A threat to go the distance every time he touches the ball, Clay runs the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds, 100 meters in 10.91, and also boasts a 310-pound bench press, a 425-pound squat, and a 33-inch vertical.

Those statistics have caused interested suitors to flock in at a dizzying pace. To help keep it all straight, Clay is relying on support and guidance from family.

"My uncle, Scott Johnson, he's the one that I talk to the most and he's going to be with me by my side 100 percent," Clay reported. "He helps me out with this recruiting process."

One of the most important aspects of Johnson's advisory role has been helping his nephew establish a list of criteria by which each school can be evaluated. One of the earliest discussions centered around how Forcier's presence in Ann Arbor will factor into the decision-making process.

"It's going to be hard to block that out," Clay admitted. "That's one of my best friends and you're obviously going to miss playing with him. I do. I do (take) that into consideration, but that's something that I'm going to have to block out in making my final decision."

That said, Johnson knows that his nephew's relationship with Michigan's freshman signal-caller is a positive factor for the Wolverines.

"I think it will be huge," Johnson stated. "The thing with Brennan and Tate is that they know each other. They know what each other can do on the football field. Tate being at the school is a huge factor in (Brennan) wanting to (possibly) go to that school. Tate is a tremendous athlete and Brennan and Tate kind of fit (together) because they are playmakers. I figure that if Brennan goes to that school it would be a really good show just like how it was here at Scripps Ranch."

Other relationships that could play key roles in the paring down process are the ones he forges with prospective coaches.

"(Scripps Ranch) Coach (Sergio) Diaz and Brennan get along so well that it is almost like family," Johnson explained. "I think he likes that type of a feeling -- more of a family -- a coach that he can call on the weekend. He is more of a personable player that looks for those types of coaches."

Clay is working to connect on that level with all of his suitors, but he has already established that kind of rapport with his Michigan recruiter, Rod Smith. The Wolverines quarterbacks coach recruited Forcier last year, which afforded him a bit of a head start in getting to know Clay.

"Over the course of the time we've been getting together," Clay said of Smith. "We talk. I try to call him at least once every two weeks to get a scoop on him and how he's doing and what not. We just share thoughts -- not just recruiting process but life and everything. He's such a great guy and he's down to earth. I've said that before. I don't even see him as a recruiter. I honestly see him as one of my true friends or as a mentor."

While it's clear the Maize & Blue have a few factors residing strongly in their favor, they are by no means guaranteed to land Clay's services. Competition is mounting by the day -- both from those that have offered and from those that haven't.

USC hasnt extended a scholarship just yet, but they have definitely turned up the hea. Their increased interest resonates with Clay because he grew up a fan of the Trojans. He took a trip to the Land of Troy for a junior day and came away extremely impressed.

"It was great," Clay told Scout.com. "It was a real good experience. I like USC and the campus was real nice. I liked all the surroundings. Hopefully they will offer. (Assistant) Coach John Morton and I keep in touch. He says they definitely have high interest in me."

National championship runner-up Oklahoma is also giving chase and they have rapidly moved up in consideration.

"They're actually the latest school that offered me and they've been on me really hard," Clay said regarding the Sooners. "I love that they are such a powerhouse and that they always produce great running backs. It's a good offense for running the ball."

Then there's Oregon -- a team that at one point was rumored to be the leader.

"Their offense is just so powerful," said Clay of the Ducks. "They can score a lot of points with the spread they run and it's almost unfair to the defense. It's actually a similar offense to what we run."

That's just a small sampling of Clay's growing list of suitors. He also holds offers from Georgia, Stanford, Wisconsin, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State, hometown San Diego State and a host of others. Notre Dame has been a growing presence of late as well. In the face of all of that flattering attention Clay is doing his level best to not get caught up in the ephemeral feelings that often follow each new offer or noteworthy visit. He has devised a plan that he is intent on sticking to.

"I'm open to all the schools right now," he said. "I've told them all that I don't have a favorite yet and I'm showing them all interest. I'm gonna announce my top 10 before the season starts. I want to take a few official visits and hopefully I'll be able to commit during mid-season or before our playoffs start."

To date, Clay has already set up official visits to Oklahoma (Sept. 5), Oregon (Sept. 7), and Michigan (Sept. 19).

Sam Webb is managing editor of GoBlueWolverine magazine and GoBlueWolverine.com, and co-host of the "Michigan Insider" morning show weekdays on Sports Talk 1050 WTKA. His column appears every Thursday.

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