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 four 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. Cleveland High (Rio Rancho, N.M.) quarterback Cole Gautsche
Weight: 218 pounds
College: New Mexico State (verbal)
Testing results: 4.63 40-yard dash; 30.0 vertical jump
Traits: Accuracy, reads, athleticism
ESPNU scouting report: "What makes this guy attractive is that he has actually worked from under center on a consistent basis and had to drop from center, work through progressions, pull up and get the ball out on time. He is big, strong and has deceptive speed and elusiveness for the position."
2. Volcano Vista High (Albuquerque, N.M.) defensive lineman Timothy Hatfield Jr.
Weight: 233 pounds
Testing results: 4.90 40-yard dash; 36.4 vertical jump
ESPNU scouting report: "Hatfield is a defensive line prospect with some raw tools to potentially develop. He possesses good height and solid bulk and looks to have a frame that could support more good size with further physical development."
3. Aztec High (N.M.) defensive tackle Michael Cowden
Weight: 350 pounds
ESPNU scouting report: "Cowden is a big bodied kid who can clog things up in the interior of the trenches. He has adequate height, but carries a great deal of bulk on his frame. He will need to not only watch how he adds size, but could likely benefit we feel from reworking his frame some and playing a little lighter."
4. Rio Rancho High (N.M.) offensive lineman Josh Baggett
Weight: 292 pounds
College: New Mexico (verbal)
Testing results: 6.00 40-yard dash; 20.5 vertical jump
ESPNU scouting report: "Baggett is a tough road grader type run blocker who wins battles as a result of his upper body playing strength; will need to improve his initial quickness and flexibility. Although he is efficient as a tackle we feel his size and athleticism are better suited for the offensive guard position at the next level of competition."
Each Gatorade State Player of the Year is challenged by thousands of fellow high school athletes. These are a few of the returning football underclassmen that also contended in 2010-11 …
Adam Lucero JR QB Aztec; Rodney Holcomb SO QB Carlsbad
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.