It shouldn't come as a surprise that this year's Cream of the Crop is topped by a star from De La Salle High.

The surprise is that Michael Hutchings is the first Spartan in nine years to lead the Bay Area News Group's annual ranking of top high school recruits. The rankings include players from high schools in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

"It's kind of stunning, just thinking back of all the great guys at the school," said Hutchings, who becomes the first De La Salle player since wide receiver Cameron Colvin topped the charts in 2004 when he went to Oregon. Finishing No. 2 that year was a running back from Oakland Tech named Marshawn Lynch.

Hutchings planned to sign with USC on Feb. 6, the first day recruits could sign their national letters of intent.

The 6-foot-1, 215-pound linebacker was a unanimous selection for the top spot during discussions with college coaches who recruit the area.

"No doubt," said a Mountain West recruiter. "Ballplayer. The complete package."

Hutchings was named Mr. Football by Cal-Hi Sports, its award that honors the state's top player.

Rated a four-star recruit by Scout, Rivals and ESPN, Hutchings had a team-leading 113 tackles for De La Salle, helping the Spartans win their fourth straight California Interscholastic Federation Open Division state title.


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Among the many schools to offer Hutchings were Cal, Miami, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, UCLA, Utah and Washington.

Hutchings is the best of what seems to be an area prototype this season: Big guys with speed.

"He's a freak of nature," another recruiter said. "Anybody that can run the 110 hurdles at that speed, he's just touching his potential."

The next four on the list, which is now in its 31st year of being published, also fit the profile of combining size with speed.

Freedom-Oakley wide receiver Darrell Daniels, a Washington commit, is 6-3, 210 pounds. ESPN.com calls him "a galloping horse of a weapon."

Daniels is followed by De La Salle's Austin Hooper, who will play tight end for Stanford but was also a pass-rushing weapon off the edge for the Spartans. At 6-4, 245, he's an athletic play-maker who is expected to thrive in the Cardinal's tight-end happy offense.

The player with the most upside comes in at No. 4 in Kennedy-Richmond's Takkarist McKinley, a Cal commit. He's 6-3, 240 pounds and will play defensive end in the 4-3 defense that new Bears' defensive coordinator Andy Buh is expected to install.

Football is still relatively new to him, but his speed can't be questioned. He won the 200 meters at the North Coast Section Meet of Champions last year in his first season running track, and is a sight to see when he gets running.

The top five is rounded out by another fast, physical specimen in Foothill-Pleasanton tight end Ray Hudson, who is bound for Cal. His 40-yard dash time has been reported as low as 4.6 seconds for the 6-4, 230-pound converted wide receiver.

  • The Pac-12 was, not surprisingly, the big winner with 12 of the 20 expected to sign with conference schools.

  • Cal leads the way with four commits, including a pair of top-five players in McKinley and Hudson. Washington and Colorado are the only other schools with multiple commitments from Cream of the Crop players.

  • San Jose State is the only Bay Area school to, as of now, not have any Crop selections. Valley Christian's Ryan Severson and Bellarmine College Prep's Kenneth Olugbode were one-time SJSU commits who flipped to Colorado when former Spartans coach Mike MacIntyre left for Boulder.

  • Hutchings' selection marks the first time since Drew McAllister (Monte Vista-Danville) in 2008 that USC landed the top Cream of the Crop player. Hutchings is the fourth straight East Bay Athletic League player to top the list. The last non-EBAL player was Las Lomas' Diante Jackson in 2009.

  • For the second straight year, there were no players from the Oakland Athletic League selected. The OAL had at least one player selected in each of the first 29 editions of the Cream of the Crop and at least two players from the OAL made the list for 27 straight years until last season. McClymonds defensive back Yusuf Sterling Lowe received the most consideration, with a Big Sky recruiter calling him "the best player in Oakland this year."

  • For the complete Cream of the Crop Top 20 list, please visit www.contracostatimes.com/high-school-sports

    Follow Jimmy Durkin at Twitter.com/Jimmy_Durkin.