The Gatorade Player of the Year Program honors athletes who meet comprehensive and exacting criteria in high school sports. Candidates are judged on athletic production and impact in the current season. Contenders also must demonstrate high academic achievement and exemplary personal character, including volunteerism, sportsmanship and community leadership. Senior status has no bearing on a candidate’s merit and selections are made independent of ESPNU's recruit rankings.
That being said, the state’s top five football recruits as ranked by ESPNU are sure to enter the 2011-12 Gatorade Football Player of the Year conversation at some point. Here they are …
1. Windsor High (Colo.) offensive tackle Joey O'Connor
ESPNU 150 rank: 104
Weight: 280 pounds
College: Penn State (verbal)
Traits: Run blocking, pass blocking, space blocking, physicality
ESPNU scouting report: "O'Connor is a tough agile football player with the explosion and playing strength to dominate opponents. Has the size and athleticism for the offensive tackle position at the major level of competition."
2. Arvada West High (Arvada, Colo.) offensive tackle Paul Thurston
Weight: 275 pounds
College: Nebraska (verbal)
Testing results: 24.9 vertical jump
Traits: Run blocking, pass blocking, strength, physicality
ESPNU scouting report: "Although in need of some body mass, Thurston has the strength and explosion to dominate defenders as a run and pass blocker. Has the height and athleticism for the offensive tackle position at the major level of competition; his frame appears capable of handling additional bulk."
3. J.K. Mullen High (Denver, Colo.) athlete Cyler Miles
Weight: 210 pounds
College: Washington (verbal)
Traits: Versatility, playmaker, speed
ESPNU scouting report: "The more you watch Miles the more he impresses you as a football player. He has wonderful size and overall athleticism and while he is certainly a capable and dangerous dual-threat QB, he is clearly a passer first, runner second and is not just working from the shotgun dinking and dunking."
4. Chaparral High (Parker, Colo.) offensive tackle Shane Callahan
Weight: 280 pounds
College: Auburn (verbal)
Traits: Strength, physicality
ESPNU scouting report: "Callahan is a big strong prospect who uses his upper body playing strength to dominate lesser opponents. Has the size and athleticism for the offensive tackle position at the major level of competition."
5. Grandview High (Aurora, Colo.) tight end Evan Baylis
Weight: 220 pounds
College: Oregon (verbal)
Traits: Hands, speed, catch in traffic
ESPNU scouting report: "Baylis can seem like a skinny kid playing tight end, but as you watch him you realize he is not afraid to stick his nose in their as a blocker and he can catch the rock. He is a kid with good height, but is lean and will need to get into a college weight program and develop his frame and add bulk."
A dedicated POY team at ESPNHS manages the Gatorade Player of the Year program selection process and oversees all research, reporting, comparative analysis and criteria-compliance on the award program’s behalf.