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. St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute (Buffalo, NY) Quarterback Chad Kelly
ESPNU 150 rank: 80
Weight: 205 pounds
College: Clemson (verbal)
Testing results: 5.05 40-yard dash; 28.1 vertical jump
Traits: Delivery, athleticism
ESPNU scouting report: "Kelly is a really intriguing overall prospect. It is easy to see he has an impressive skill set, but he is also very raw as a passer. He possesses ideal size and terrific overall athleticism, in fact he may be a better overall athlete with definitive traits than he is a quarterback prospect at this time. He has height, he has great feet and he can run."
2. Aquinas Institute (Rochester, NY) Tackle/Defensive Tackle Jarron James
ESPNU 150 rank: 96
Weight: 295 pounds
College: Notre Dame (verbal)
Traits: Strength, space blocking
ESPNU scouting report: "First there was Ed "Too Tall" Jones and now there could be Jarron "Too Tall" Jones. It is not as catchy, but the 2012 prospect is a big boy with plenty of height. He carries his weight well and looks to have plenty of room to continue to pack on good size. He looks to have a very nice wingspan as well. As defensive tackle he can be a tough run defender. He gets off the ball well. He uses his hands and reach very well."
3. Erasmus Hall High (Brooklyn, NY) Safety Wayne Morgan
ESPNU rank: No. 11 safety
Weight: 184 pounds
Testing results: 4.56 40-yard dash; 33.9 vertical jump
Traits: Instincts, man coverage, zone coverage
ESPNU scouting report: "Morgan is a physical safety prospect with great nose for the football. Lacks ideal height and body length but has a solid build with good strength. Plays bigger and more explosive than his measurable would indicate. Flashes great pursuit speed and range."
4. Eastport-South Manor High (Manorville, NY) Tackle Sean Karl
ESPNU rank: No. 75 tackle
Weight: 284 pounds
College: Virginia (verbal)
Testing results: 5.4 40-yard dash; 20.5 vertical jump
Traits: Physicality, space blocking
ESPNU scouting report: "Karl demonstrates the playing strength and quickness to dominate as a run blocker. Has the size and athleticism for the offensive tackle position at the major level of competition. It appears his frame can handle additional body mass as long as his athleticism is not compromised."
5. St. Francis High (Athol Springs, NY) Running back Akeel Lynch
ESPNU rank: No. 66 running back
Weight: 205 pounds
College: Boston College (verbal)
Traits: Vision, hands
ESPNU scouting report: "Potential sleeper, Lynch is a shifty, well-built back with quality running skill and load-carrier attributes. Sturdy, consistent runner without a lot of flash but moves the chains for good production. Has a solid build and very good body composition for a running back prospect. Hits the hole with urgency and is quick to square up and find the downhill cutback seam."
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.