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. Dowling Catholic High (West Des Moines, Iowa) wide receiver Amara Darboh
ESPNU position rank: No. 75 WR
Weight: 195 pounds
Traits: catch in traffic
ESPNU scouting report: "Darboh is a combination of strength and quickness as a big receiver with a sturdy build, long arms and nice height. He is part playmaker and part possession player and against this level of competition he can really stand out. He can be an imposing player off the line and shows some physicality when pressed at the line."
2. Cedar Falls High (Cedar Falls, Iowa) wide receiver James Harrington
ESPNU position rank: No. 139 WR
Weight: 170 pounds
Traits: yards after catch
ESPNU scouting report: "Harrington flashes big play ability as a receiver and a punt/kickoff return specialist. Has the size and athleticism for the wide receiver at the major level of competition. Will need to add some bulk to his frame along with improving his playing strength; this appears to be an attainable goal providing quickness and playing speed are not compromised."
3. Bishop Heelan Catholic High (Sioux City, Iowa) running back Michael Malloy
ESPNU position rank: No. 75 RB
Weight: 180 pounds
College: University of Iowa (verbal)
Traits: speed, hands
ESPNU scouting report: "Malloy is a tall, gifted athlete with very good top-end speed. Productive running back on the ground with good hands and receiving skills out of the backfield. Could actually get recruited to play running back or wide receiver at the college level; we feel he is a developmental prospect at each position."
4. Ankeny High (Iowa) kicker Cole Netten
ESPNU position rank: No. 33 K
Weight: 185 pounds
College: Iowa State University (verbal)
Traits: coverage, skills, etc.
ESPNU scouting report: "Cole is a refined ball striker who has shown well at multiple Kohl's events. He has physically developed a lot in the last 12-18 months. His repeatability and ability to hit a clean football are impressive for a young kicker. Cole's kickoffs have improved greatly, and he is consistently kicking off out of the end zone for his high school football team."
5. Grinnell High (Iowa) kicker Nathan Criswell
ESPNU position rank: No. 45 K
Weight: 170 pounds
ESPNU scouting report: "Nathan is a refined kicker. He has worked hard in his training and showcased his talents well at the 2011 Kohl's National Scholarship Camp. He gets good lift and solid trajectory on his kicks. He shows college potential in both kicking FG's as well as KO's."
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.