One of the biggest individual honors a high school football player can receive is Mr. Football USA, the title bestowed upon the nation’s most outstanding player each fall by ESPNHS.
Below is a look at the top candidates in the chase for the 2011 Mr. Football USA. Every Tuesday during the regular season we’ll update the totals of many leading contenders as well as examine some of the new names that are emerging as strong contenders.
DE Mario Edwards Jr., Denton Ryan (Denton, Texas)
This week: Edwards, the top-ranked recruit nationwide by ESPNU, racked up a third straight multi-sack performance, totaling five tackles, two tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in a 49-14 rout of North Garland (Garland, Texas).
Season totals: 21 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and two forced fumbles; team is 3-0 and No. 36 in the POWERADE FAB 50
Stock – Same: Edwards continue to perform at a high level and back up his status as a top prospect.
RB Johnathan Gray, Aledo (Aledo, Texas)
This week: Ran 27 times for 257 yards and four touchdowns, breaking Traylon Shead’s Texas high school football record for career touchdowns of 146, but it was not nearly enough as FAB 50 ranked Lake Travis (Austin, Texas) slaughtered the Bearcats 62-35.
Season totals: 69 carries for 813 yards and 13 touchdowns rushing in two games; Aledo is 1-2
Stock – Slightly Up: Gray continues to shred Texas high school defenses and is now the Texas state record-holder for career TDs with 148 and counting.
QB Alec Morris, Allen (Allen, Texas)
This week: Morris was once again surgical in Allen’s 42-23 destruction of East Texas power Longview, completing 25-of-35 for 365 yards and five touchdowns while also rushing for 27 yards and a score.
Season totals: 60-of-95 for 935 yards and 13 touchdowns with no interceptions, 78 yards and two touchdowns rushing; team is 3-0 and No. 4 in the FAB 50.
Stock – Up: Morris is emerging as a serious, serious contender for this honor, putting huge numbers for a team that right now looks as good as any nationally.
ATH Stefon Diggs, Good Counsel (Olney, Md.)
This week: Diggs had a quiet night, catching two passes for 39 yards and rushing four times for 23 yards as FAB 50 No. 11 Good Counsel topped FAB 50 No. 42 Gilman (Baltimore, Md.).
Season totals: Eight receptions for 171 yards and two touchdowns, 23 yards rushing.
Stock – Down: After being the marquee player in Good Counsel’s big overtime win last week, Diggs was shut down as Wes Brown carried the load for the Falcons in another huge win versus a FAB 50 opponent.
WR Dorial Green-Beckham, Hillcrest (Springfield, Mo.)
This week: The nation’s No. 1 ranked WR by ESPNU was held to just six catches for 93 yards as the Joplin (Joplin, Mo.) defense focused most of their attention his way, but Hillcrest still prevailed 21-9.
Season Totals: 31 catches for 519 yards and five touchdowns; team is 2-1
Stock – Same: Green-Beckham put up big numbers the week prior in a loss but this week his presence alone opened up things for his teammates in a victory. Slightly lower numbers but more team wins might be better for his chances at Mr. Football USA, especially if Hillcrest can contend for a state title.
RB Duke Johnson, Miami Norland (Miami, Fla.)
This week: After missing Norland’s first game due to suspension, Johnson returned in a big way Saturday, rushing for 153 yards and two touchdowns while also returning a kickoff for for a TD in Norland’s big 27-15 win over South Florida power Northwestern (Miami).
Season Totals: 17 carries for 153 yards and two TDs, one kickoff return for a touchdown, team is 1-0 and No. 29 in FAB 50.
Stock – Up: Johnson further cemented his status as one of the nation’s most dynamic playmakers with a big-time outing against an established program like Miami Northwestern.
RB Rushel Shell, Hopewell (Aliquippa, Pa.)
This week: The nation’s third-ranked back by put his team on his back Friday night, carrying 38 times for 233 yards and two scores, including the game-winner late, in a 22-19 win over Montour (McKees Rocks, Pa.).
Season totals: 60 carries for 380 yards and three touchdowns; team is 2-0.
Stock – Up: Shell inspired observers Friday night, battling through injuries to literally carry his team to victory in a hard-fought contest.
ON THE RADAR
WR Gehrig Dieter, Washington (South Bend, Ind.)
This week: A week after establishing a new national single-game record for receiving yards, Dieter came crashing back down to earth. Hobbled by a leg bruise, he caught just one pass for 52 yards while also intercepting a pass on defense in Washington’s narrow 12-7 win over Adams (South Bend, Ind.).
Season Totals: 32 catches for 1,210 yards and 12 touchdowns in four games; team is 4-0
Stock – Slightly Down: Dieter’s numbers through four games are still eye-opening, but with added attention from opposing defenses, his run of 300+ yard receiving games was bound to end.
QB Bart Houston, De La Salle (Concord, Calif.)
This week: De La Salle did not play.
Season Totals: 4-of-11 for 108 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions and one touchdown rushing; team is 1-0 and ranked No. 3 in FAB 50.
Stock – Slightly Down: Having to look at Houston’s ugly stat line from the first game drops him slightly even though the Spartans didn’t play this week. He needs a big bounce back effort versus a solid St. Mary’s (Stockton, Calif.) squad this week to stay in the mix.
QB Gunner Kiel, Columbus East (Columbus, Ind.)
This week: Kiel completed just 8-of-19 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown with a score rushing as East trounced Jennings County (North Vernon, Ind.) 54-14.
Season Totals: 40-of-84 passing for 763 yards and nine touchdowns with one interception, with three rushing touchdowns; team is 3-1.
Stock – Slightly Down: Kiel is still under 50% passing on the year but a lot of that can be attributed to a young receiving corps. Still, he'll need to ratchet it up a few notches to stay in contention.
RB/DB Shaq Thompson, Grant (Sacramento, Calif.)
This week: Thompson ran for 158 yards and two touchdowns behind a line that featured three new starters due to injury, delivered several crunching hits at safety and even filled in at quarterback as Grant rolled Burbank (Sacramento, Calif.) 40-8.
Season Totals: 294 yards rushing and five touchdowns, one interception; team is 2-1
Stock – Up: Thompson is a do-it-all performer, so while some of his efforts don’t always show up in the box score, he carried the Pacers offense and team that is already dealing with numerous injuries early in the year.
QB Jameis Winston, Hueytown (Hueytown, Ala.)
This week: Winston threw for two touchdown passes and ran for another in just one quarter of action as Hueytown crushed Pleasant Grove (Pleasant Grove, Ala.) 59-6.
Season Totals: 48-of-75 for 725 yards and nine touchdowns with three interceptions, 250 yards and five touchdowns rushing; team is 4-0.
Stock – Same: Winston didn’t get a chance to do much this week as he was pulled after Hueytown took a 27-0 first quarter lead.
SMALL SCHOOL STAT KINGS
QB Neal Burcham, Greenbrier (Greenbrier, Ark.)
This week: Burcham was a perfect 10-for-10 for 213 yards and five touchdowns as Greenbrier easily dismissed over-matched Mayflower (Mayflower, Ark.) 55-14 Friday night.
Season Totals: 30-of-42 for 574 yards and eight touchdowns with one interception; team is 2-0
Stock – Slightly Up: He can’t do better than 10-of-10 passing with half of his completions going for TDs, but big numbers are expected against underwhelming competition. How Burcham does in tight contests and in the playoffs will determine his Mr. Football USA stock.
QB Maty Mauk, Kenton (Kenton, Ohio)
This week: Mauk savaged the hapless Van Wert (Van Wert, Ohio) defense to the tune of 497 yards and eight touchdowns passing with another 99 yards and a touchdown rushing, playing into the third quarter of a 66-13 rout.
Season Totals: 76-of-107 for 1,009 yards and 13 touchdowns with three interceptions, 50 carries for 378 yards and four touchdowns; team is 3-0
Stock – Slightly Up: The numbers – 596 yards of total offense and nine total touchdowns – are tough to ignore. Would be interesting to hear why Mauk was still in the game in the second half after Kenton led 52-0 at the half.
JUNIOR IN THE MIX
QB Riley Ferguson, Butler (Matthews, N.C.)
This week: Ferguson did most of his damage early, hitting 15-of-22 passes for 300 yards and three touchdowns as Butler jumped out to a 31-0 lead and beat Vance (Charlotte) 45-28.
Season Totals: 37-of-60 for 892 yards and 11 touchdowns; team is 2-1.
Stock – Same: Butler should roll through their next few opponents and Ferguson should continue to post monster numbers along the way.
NEW TO THE RACE
RB Jordan Walker, Rockhurst (Kansas City, Mo.)
This week: Walker, who earlier in the year had a 418-yard, five touchdown outing, ran for 166 yards and one touchdown on 27 carries as FAB 50 No. 38 Rockhurst topped Blue Springs South (Blue Springs, Mo.) 16-3.
Season totals: 77 carries, 734 yards, seven touchdowns rushing, one receiving touchdown; team is 3-0.
Stock - Slightly Up: Walker, who ran for just under 700 yards as part of a RB-by-committee crew for Rockhurst a year ago, has already topped that total through three games as a senior.
RB Trey Williams, Dekaney (Spring, Texas)
This week: Williams, the No. 131 overall prospect in the ESPNU 150, scored four second half touchdowns and totaled 249 yards rushing on 28 carries in Dekaney’s 41-14 win over College Park (The Woodlands, Texas).
Season totals: 71 carries for 643 yards and eight touchdowns with one receiving touchdown; team is 3-0.
Stock – Up: Williams, who ran for over 2,200 yards as a junior and 1,900 yards as a sophomore, is clearly on pace for another huge year. Can he keep it up when Dekaney gets into its tougher district games against Klein Collins and Westfield?
RB T.J. Yeldon, Daphne (Daphne, Ala.)
This week: Yeldon, the nation’s No. 8 rated back by ESPNU and an Auburn commit, rumbled 30 times for 319 yards and three touchdowns as Daphne powered past Foley (Foley, Ala.) 35-14
Season totals: 54 carries for 633 yards and seven touchdowns rushing; team is 3-0 and ranked No. 35 in the FAB 50.
Stock – Up: Yeldon is a big-time talent on the defending 6A state champions and arguably the top team in Alabama. The question is, will Daphne have enough competitive games for him to rack up big numbers all year?
MOVING OFF THE TRACKER:
QB Max Browne, Skyline (Sammamish, Wash.), Junior
Comments: Browne and the Spartans came up short in the biggest game on their schedule, falling to FAB 50 ranked Bellevue (Bellevue, Wash.) 31-17. Browne completed 24-of-34 passes for 300 yards in the game, but was intercepted twice, including one that returned for a touchdown in the third quarter. He should re-surface on this list next year as a senior.
QB Cyler Miles, Mullen (Denver, Colo.)
Comments: Miles needed a spectacular statistical year and undefeated season to seriously contend for Mr. Football USA as Mullen doesn’t play the greatest of competition in Colorado. All that went out the window Friday as the Mustangs were upset 12-7 at Grandview (Aurora, Colo.). Miles passed for 167 yards and a score with two picks in the loss.
RB Alex Ross, Jenks (Jenks, Okla.)
Comments: After missing the Trojans’ first game with an ankle injury, Ross returned for the Backyard Bowl showdown versus FAB 50 ranked Union (Tulsa, Okla.) with mixed results. While he broke out for an 86-yard TD score on his second carry, Ross ran for just 50 yards on his other 13 totes as Jenks was hammered 41-19.
QB Cord Sandberg, Manatee (Bradenton, Fla.), Junior
Comments: Sandberg hit 8-of-10 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown in Manatee’s 48-6 rout of Riverview (Sarasota, Fla.) this week, a solid performance, but one also indicative that he probably won’t be able to accumulate the numbers to stay in this race as a junior. However, a top showing and possibly leading Manatee to an upset win over FAB 50 No. 1 Don Bosco Prep next week could get him right back on this list.
Disagree with this list or have suggestions/comments of who should be added for consideration? Email Brian Stumpf at email@example.com, hit him up on Twitter @BrianStumpfESPN or post in the comments section below.