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. Lincoln High (Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.) outside linebacker Vince Biegel
ESPNU position rank: No. 13 OLB
Weight: 210 pounds
College: University of Wisconsin (verbal)
Traits: Diagnosing skills, outside run support, tackling, coverage skills
ESPNU scouting report: "Biegel's instincts and playing speed allow for excellent production against the run and pass. Has the size and athleticism for the outside linebacker position at the major level of competition. Displays the solid wrap tackling skills which should be productive as a special team's coverage player; also blocks well on kickoff returns while displaying the edge quickness necessary to block field goals. "
2. Bradford High (Kenosha, Wis.) running back Vonte Jackson
ESPNU position rank: No. 21 RB
Weight: 175 pounds
College: University of Wisconsin (verbal)
Testing results: 4.53 40-yard dash; 39.3 vertical jump
Traits: Speed, elusiveness, vision
ESPNU scouting report: "Jackson could be an early sleeper at the running back position and should emerge as one of the Midwest's best in 2012. A very solid back who can hurt defenses inside or out. Has good body composition and a sturdy frame that should only improve as he continues to fill out and adds more compacted bulk. Flashes very good play-speed and a second gear to separate. Runs with great vision, body control and balance. Can be patient and decisive when needed. Sees the small cutbacks and has the ability to burst through them."
3. Waukesha South High (Waukesha, Wis.) offensive guard Connor Stefanski
ESPNU position rank: No. 83 OG
Weight: 285 pounds
College: Ball State University (verbal)
ESPNU scouting report: "Stefanski is not a kid that will wow you in any particular way, but he does come across as a pretty solid and productive offensive lineman. A right tackle in high school he will likely move to guard in college which we feel will be a better fit for him. He has solid overall size, but will need to keep developing his frame and work to add some more good mass. As a run blocker he gets good hand placement. He generates some leg drive and displays the ability to create some push off the ball in the run game."
4. Muskego High (Muskego, Wis.) kicker Jordan Gruettner
ESPNU position rank: No. 26 K
Weight: 220 pounds
ESPNU scouting report: "Jordan is a very good athlete who is becoming a very good punter. He was a state champion wrestler at 215 in WI. He has a huge leg and hits 55-60 yard punts consistently when hitting clean balls. His technique still needs improvement. If he focuses and wants to punt at a D1 school he will be a D1 scholarship punter. He needs to have a great summer to capitalize on his talent. The ball explodes off his foot and his drop and leg swing are becoming cleaner. He is someone to watch for in the 2012 class."
5. Tremper High (Kenosha, Wis.) running back Toneo Gulley
ESPNU position rank: No. 87 RB
Weight: 190 pounds
Testing results: 4.80 40-yard dash; 32.6 vertical jump
Traits: Vision, hands
ESPNU scouting report: "Gulley is essentially an all-purpose package with between the tackles production. He is on the shorter side but stout and built low to the ground. Very productive back who is not elite in one particularly facet but good in all. Quick and elusive through the hole and does a good job finding the shortest path to the goal line and runs without a lot of hesitation."
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.