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. Columbus East High (Columbus, Ind.) quarterback Gunner Kiel
ESPNU 150 rank: No. 20
Weight: 215 pounds
College: Indiana (verbal)
Traits: Accuracy, Arm strength, reads, athleticism
ESPNU scouting report: "Kiel is one of the stronger-armed pocket passers this class has to offer and he is a deceptively good athlete. This offense surprisingly features him as a runner more than you might think and he is up to the task with both power and speed to fall forward and keep defenses off balance. He has terrific size and already possesses good bulk and strength."
2. Warren Central High (Indianapolis, Ind.) defensive tackle Sheldon Day
ESPNU 150 rank: No. 143
Weight: 275 pounds
College: Notre Dame (verbal)
Traits: Pass rushing, disruptiveness
ESPNU scouting report: "Day is a good defensive tackle prospect who can be active and disruptive. He displays a good get-off and is a player capable of getting some penetration. Day is a kid who seems at his best playing on the move. He is productive when asked to slant and can quickly get into the gap, come tight to the blocker, and sink in a rip. He can get up-field and also displays the ability to get re-directed and flat down the line as well."
3. Washington High (South Bend, Ind.) athlete David Perkins
ESPNU 150 rank: No. 42 ATH
Weight: 210 pounds
College: Notre Dame (verbal)
Testing results: 4.43 40-yard dash; 36.5 vertical jump
Traits: Versatility, speed
ESPNU scouting report: "Perkins is not only a good athlete, he is a good overall football player that is fast, rugged, aggressive and extremely versatile. He looks great on the hoof; an intimidating presence with size, strength and well defined bulk. Offensively he is a big, slashing power back with nimble feet. He shows good change of direction skills and plays with good vision. He makes quick decisions and often falls forward for positive yardage."
4. Carmel High (Carmel, Ind.) defensive end Langston Newton
ESPNU 150 rank: No. 69 DE
Weight: 240 pounds
College: Kentucky (verbal)
Traits: Run defense, disruptiveness, strength, pursuit
ESPNU scouting report: "Newton is a defensive prospect who certainly seems to look the part. He is an end with good height and bulk and looks to have the room to add additional good size with time in a college weight program. He displays a good burst off the ball. He has a good combination of size and strength and can be tough taking on blockers."
5. Eastern High (Greentown, Ind.) defensive end Josiah Price
ESPNU 150 rank: No. 75 DE
Weight: 239 pounds
College: Michigan State (verbal)
Testing results: 4.97 40-yard dash; 28.0 vertical jump
Traits: Disruptiveness, pursuit
ESPNU scouting report: "Price is a prospect who could be recruited for either side of the ball in college. He will fill a few different roles for his high school team, but at the college level he could project to either tight end or defensive end. He has good size for either position and displays a frame that could support more bulk with time in a college weight program. He displays the ability to be a productive and possibly well-rounded tight end. He displays good hands and flashes the ability to extend for the ball though at times in can catch into his body."
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.