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. Bishop McDevitt High (Harrisburg, Pa.) defensive end Noah Spence
ESPNU 150 rank: 4
Weight: 245 pounds
Traits: run defense, pass rushing, disruptiveness, pursuit
ESPNU scouting report: "There is a lot to like about Spence as you watch this kid play. He is a very good football player and can be a real disruptive presence. He is a prospect with good size. He has good height and bulk for a high school prospect and looks to carry his weight well."
2. Hopewell High (Aliquippa, Pa.) running back Rushel Shell
ESPNU 150 rank: 24
Weight: 215 pounds
Traits: power, elusiveness, vision, hands
ESPNU scouting report: "Shell is one of the more complete and productive running back prospects this class has to offer. Demonstrates workhorse type attributes. Has a great blend of size, speed and power. Strong, compact and durable. Has every-down body composition for the college level."
3. Archbishop Ward High (Warminster, Pa.) tight end Colin Thompson
ESPNU 150 rank: 84
Weight: 255 pounds
College: University of Florida (verbal)
Traits: hands, run blocking
ESPNU scouting report: "Thompson is a good sized tight end prospect who can help an offense. He is a big kid with good height and carries a good amount of bulk on his frame and should be able to add a little more good size with time in a college weight program."
4. Pennsbury High (Fairless Hills, Pa.) offensive tackle J.J. Denman
ESPNU position rank: No. 23 OT
Weight: 310 pounds
College: Penn State University (verbal)
Traits: run blocking, space blocking, strength, physicality
ESPNU scouting report: "Denman is a big athlete who dominates as a run blocker using his exceptional playing strength and explosion. Has the size and athleticism for the offensive tackle position at the major level of competition."
5. McDowell High (Erie, Pa.) athlete Greg Garmon
ESPNU position rank: No. 30 ATH
Weight: 200 pounds
Traits: versatility, playmaker, speed
ESPNU scouting report: "Garmon is an intriguing prospect to evaluate; a difference-maker at the high school level playing running back but may get recruited more as an athlete. Has a tall, well-built frame but still lean with a narrow base. Flashes great speed, can get the corner, but it is more of a straight-line back."
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.