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. Millbrook High (Raleigh, N.C.) running back Keith Marshall
ESPNU 150 rank: 6
Weight: 190 pounds
Testing results: 4.43 40-yard dash; 33.8 vertical jump
Traits: speed, elusiveness, vision, hands
ESPNU scouting report: "A projected every-down college back with game-breaking speed, Marshall is one of the premier backs in this class. Possesses very good size and body composition. Built low to the ground and runs behind his pads with good lean."
2. Mallard Creek High (Charlotte, N.C.) offensive tackle D.J. Humphries
ESPNU 150 rank: 7
Weight: 275 pounds
College: University of Florida (verbal)
Testing results: 5.17 40-yard dash; 27.6 vertical jump
Traits: pass blocking, space blocking, physicality
ESPNU scouting report: "You will have a hard time finding a better pure athlete than Humphries at the offensive tackle position in the 2012 class. He is long, lean and extremely agile. Looks and moves like a defensive end."
3. Western Guilford High (Greensboro, N.C.) offensive tackle Brock Stadnik
ESPNU 150 rank: 58
Weight: 290 pounds
College: University of South Carolina (verbal)
Testing results: 5.50 40-yard dash; 26.0 vertical jump
Traits: run blocking, space blocking, strength, physicality
ESPNU scouting report: "Stadnik is a dominant run blocker showing the ability to knock defenders off the line of scrimmage with his explosion and playing strength. Has the size and athleticism for the offensive tackle position at the major level of competition."
4. Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology (Charlotte, N.C.) wide receiver Germone Hopper
ESPNU 150 rank: 63
Weight: 170 pounds
College: Clemson University (verbal)
Testing results: 4.54 40-yard dash; 32.1 vertical jump
Traits: hands, speed, yards after catch
ESPNU scouting report: "This guy is one of the more smooth and fluid athletes this class has to offer. Hopper is an offensive utility weapon that splits time between running back and wide receiver. He looks like a WR, runs like one, but has RB vision and open awareness."
5. Crest High (Shelby, N.C.) defensive end Jonathan Bullard
ESPNU 150 rank: 82
Weight: 255 pounds
Traits: run defense, disruptiveness, strength
ESPNU scouting report: "Bullard should drop the 'ard' from his name and just go by Bull because the kid plays like one. He is a good sized defensive end with good height and bulk. He looks to have a nice reach for his build and big hands and a frame that could support more good size with further physical development."
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.