Back on August 28 of last year, an item published by ESPN.com news services noted the following in a story about USC freshman Matt Barkley being named the Trojans' starter: "Barkley was named the Gatorade High School National Football Player of the Year for the 2007-08 season. The last five winners of this award have combined for just eight starts and 160 pass attempts in their college careers. (USC third-string quarterback Mitch) Mustain won the award for the 2005-06 season."
With the 2009 season complete, we thought it appropriate to reexamine the stat sheet for Gatorade National Football Player of the Year alumni. With Texas freshman Garrett Gilbert's courageous performance in the BCS championship game in the books, the numbers are trending in a much different direction. Barkley, a true freshman, and 2004-05 Gatorade winner Greg Paulus -- playing for a rebuilding Syracuse program in his first and only season of football eligibility after a four-year basketball career at Duke -- combined for a 13-12 record (and a bowl win) in 25 starts, completing 63 percent of a combined 637 pass attempts.
Meanwhile, 2006-07 winner John Brantley, who barring injury will make the first start of the post-Tim Tebow era at Florida, completed 75 percent of his passes for 410 yards and seven touchdowns against zero interceptions in mop-up duty for the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner. Throw in Gilbert's limited action as a true freshman this past season (until throwing 40 passes in the national championship game) and the last five winners of the Gatorade National Football Player of the Year award have acquitted themselves more impressively than last August's assessment suggests.
The two Gatorade alums who've logged the highest-profile playing time -- Barkley and Gilbert -- are still, respectively, 19 and 18 years old. Brantley has redshirted one season and backed up one of the greatest collegiate talents ever for two others. Paulus threw for more than 2,000 yards and completed 68 percent of his passes for a 4-8 team in the Big East. Even Mustain, who went 8-0 as a freshman starter at Arkansas in 2006, has been burdened only by the path he's chosen, which put him behind current NFL rookie playoff quarterback Marc Sanchez at USC in 2008 and behind fellow Gatorade winner Barkley in his redshirt junior season of 2009.
The last five Gatorade winners have combined for 33 starts and 927 pass attempts, throwing for 47 touchdowns. Gilbert, Barkley, Brantley and Paulus (only two of whom were starters) combined to pass for 5,480 yards this season. With those first three expected to start every game for a trio of BCS contenders in 2010, Gatorade National Football Player of the Year alums look poised to make some very loud noise.
It's gotta be pretty cool to be seated next to the American League MVP in front of a crowd and it's you that gets the standing O. That's exactly what happened to Oaks Christian School (Calif.) senior Malcolm Jones the other day when he was named the 2009-10 National Gatorade Player of the Year.
Naturally, the fans and media assembled at the press conference announcing Jones as the award program's 25th football winner since 1985 were awfully enthusiastic about Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer too. Mauer is inarguably one of most likeable, down-to-earth pros in recent memory. He deliberately hung back to encourage Jones to enjoy his moment in the spotlight, but stayed intensely engaged throughout the four or five hours he spent on campus.
Mauer, a three-sport star at Minnesota's Cretin-Derham High, won Gatorade's football POY trophy back in 2000-01. The three-time batting champ was charmingly touchy about the elapsed time since he received the honor, stressing multiple times that it was nine years ago, not a decade. Of course, standing next to high school kids, Mauer, 26, still looks young enough to need a hall pass.
After surprising Jones during his fourth-period Bible class with camera crews in tow, Mauer playfully defended Jones's choice of a loud argyle sweater when coeds questioned the teen's fashion sense as cameras rolled. When Jones was later informed he'd be Gatorade's guest at next summer's ESPY Awards in July, Mauer reversed field and kidded the newly crowned king of high school football: 'Just don't wear that sweater to the ESPYs, man,' Mauer whispered.
Jones may not end up as one of the best ever to play his position at the pro level, as Mauer is -- mind you, don't be surprised if the UCLA recruit ends up playing on Sundays -- but the two are a lot alike.
When a Gatorade sports marketing representative told the assembled crowd at Jones's press conference that Mauer possessed 'the sweetest swing in baseball,' I leaned over and mouthed, 'True?' Mauer smiled and theatrically raised his brow. Moments later, when Jones's head coach, the venerable and entertaining Bill Riddell, misspoke in mentioning Malcolm's 65-yard interception return for a touchdown in a postseason game 'as a freshman five years ago,' I turned to Jones and hissed, 'True?! Are you 22 years old or something?' Jones made a comically demonstrative denial.
You get the feeling that conveying his respect for others is supremely important to Malcolm Jones. He was first awed, then deeply appreciative by Mauer's presence. When his strength coach Jonathan Williams offhandedly informs him he'll only get a few days off after having his wisdom teeth pulled in a few weeks, Jones assures the fitness guru that he won't disappoint. When his stern but devoted dad, Marshall Sr., gives him a hard time about his headshot in the press release announcing Jones as the winner (dad is not pleased about the scruff evident on his chin), Jones absorbs the chiding in stride. And as his mom, Angie, reminds Jones that when he and his older brother, Marshall, a junior defensive back at USC, face each other next year, they are 'not allowed to hurt each other,' Jones nods dutifully.
In just a few hours of hanging out with both Mauer and Malcolm Jones, one gets the sense that they are in many ways cut from the same cloth. Besides, Jones really is the most deserving among the nation's 1.1 million high school football players this year. Just to be sure, I sent texts from the press conference to 2008-09 football POY Garrett Gilbert, who's busy practicing with teammates in preparation for the BCS title game, and 2007-08 football POY Matt Barkley, who became the first freshman signal-caller in USC history this fall. Their answers were short, decisive and identical: "Great choice!"
William Gholston is the cousin of former Ohio State standout linebacker and New York Jets 2008 first-round draft selection Vernon Gholston. The younger Gholston -- a 6-foot-7, 240-pound Michigan State-bound senior defensive end -- has recorded 123 tackles, 31 sacks and 10 forced fumbles in 11 games this season, leading Detroit Southeastern (Mich.) to a Division 1 state quarterfinal showdown with unbeaten ESPN RISE FAB 50 No. 45 Sterling Heights Stevenson on Saturday.
Jakhari Gore is the cousin of San Francisco 49ers Pro Bowl running back Frank Gore. The 5-foot-9, 175-pound Columbus (Fla.) senior running back is the leading ball-carrier in the Miami-Dade and Broward County area, rushing for 1,471 yards and 24 touchdowns on 129 carries (11.4 yards per carry) in nine games. His team faces ESPN RISE FAB 50 No. 29 Miami Central in the Class 6A regional quarterfinals on Nov. 20.
Barry Sanders Jr. is the son of the Heisman Trophy-winning Hall of Fame running back. Just a sophomore, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Heritage Hall (Okla.) running back has rushed for 1,331 yards and 15 touchdowns on 176 carries in addition to catching 13 passes for 167 yards and three scores in 10 games. His team faces Meeker in the first round of the Class 2A playoffs on Friday.
High school football: Where everybody knows your name.
It's an deep class of offensive linemen in the West, but it's a class lacking in that one bonafide superstar-type prospect. There's very little separating any of the players in our top five and it would not be a surprise if the top five was listed in reverse order at the end of the year.
Chris Ward plays tackle at the high school level but likely will move to guard in college. He needs to get stronger but is very sound technically and has a high understanding for how to play the game.
Ward is a good athlete who can move well in the box. He finishes his blocks well and has the ability to crash in a whole side of a defensive line at the HS level. Ward has battled injuries since his sophomore year but when healthy, has been a major difference maker for the Monarchs running game.
Nick Rowland has a similar frame as Ward and might play with even more of a mean streak. He's not as polished as Ward but has a similar upside due to his improving athleticism from a year ago.
Rowland is the kind of lineman that plays through the whistle and has the mentality where he wants to physically dominate his man rather than just block him. He's a strong kid and, like Ward, plays tackle at the high school level but projects best as a guard in college.
Giovanni Di Poalo is yet another high school tackle who projects at another position in college. Di Poalo was recruited to play center by the Trojans and has very good athleticism. He has a frame that he can grow in to and just needs to work on his overall strength before he's ready to make an impact at the next level.
Erik Kohler is the one player in our top five who will likely stay at tackle in college. He has a great frame and has worked hard on his body to improve both his strength and athleticism in the last year. His long arms make him look taller than he really is and the lineman does a nice job leading sweeps and he's an advanced pass blocker as well.
Alex Crosthwaite is a road grader of a lineman and is a tremendous run blocker. He's very strong in the lower body and gets great leverage to drive his man down the field. He has a wide frame, broad shoulders and has a chance to be a solid pass protector at the next level. He plays with a mean streak, is a tough kid and has as much upside as anyone on this list.
1. Chris Ward, 6-4, 285, Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei, undecided
When healthy, is one of the most dominant players in the region.
2. Nick Rowland, 6-4, 290, Peoria (Ariz.) Centennial, undecided
Could be the most physical lineman in this group.
3. Giovanni Di Poalo, 6-5, 255, Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure, USC
Athletic tackle who will transition to center in college.
4. Erik Kohler, 6-4, 255, Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian, Washington
Fundamentally sound player who has improved his strength in the last year.
5. Alex Crosthwaite, 6-4, 300, San Diego (Calif.) Cathedral Catholic, Cal
Road grader at guard who plays with a mean streak.
6. Micah Hatchie, 6-5, 290, Wailua (Hawaii), undecided
Top lineman on the Islands has ideal size and good strength as well.
7. Kody Innes, 6-4, 275, Scottsdale (Ariz.) Saguaro, undecided
The latest standout lineman from the strong Arizona program.
8. Sil Ajawara, 6-4, 305, Los Flores (Calif.) Tesoro, undecided
Moves well for a big man and has a nice upside to him.
9. Ben Riva, 6-6, 285, Seattle (Wash.) O'Dea, Washington
Strong run blocker and much more athletic than given credit for.
10. Hroniss Grasu, 6-3, 240, Encino (Calif.) Crespi, Oregon
Versatile lineman who could play on either side of the ball in college.
The Next 15:
(Players listed with height, weight, high school and college commitment in bold, if applicable)
11. Graham Rowley, 6-3, 260, Waialua (Hawaii), BYU
12. Wade Yandall, 6-4, 295, Carson (Calif.)
13. Michael Criste, 6-5, 285, Mission Viejo (Calif.)
14. Colin Porter, 6-4, 300, Bothell (Wash.), Washington
15. Geoff Gibson, 6-4, 325, Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman, California
16. Ben Gottschalk, 6-4, 250, Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame
17. Blair Tushaus, 6-3, 275, Scottsdale (Ariz.) Notre Dame Prep, BYU
18. Roman Sapolu, 6-1, 240, Huntington Beach (Calif.) Edison, Oregon State
19. Matthew Jakubiec, 6-8, 275, Anaheim (Calif.) Servite, Arizona
20. David Lefotu, 6-4, 280, Pearl City (Hawaii), Hawaii
2. Manu Mulitalo, 6-3, 305, West Valley City (Utah) Granger, BYU
22. John Fullington, 6-5, 275, Belfair (Wash.) North Mason, Washington State
23. Jordan Black, 6-7, 255, Sandy (Utah) Alta, BYU
24. Avery Poates, 6-4, 310, Moreno Valley (Calif.) Rancho Verde
25. Kaiwi Crabb, 6-5, 250, Honolulu (Hawaii) Punahou
Other Offensive Linemen of Note
(Players listed in alphabetical order with height, weight, high school and college commitment in bold, if applicable.)
Eric Alt, 6-5, 330, Ontario (Calif.) Colony
James Atoe, 6-7, 330, The Dalles (Ore.)
Jay Barlow, 6-2, 260, La Mesa (Calif.) Helix
Spencer Beale, 6-4, 301, Lewiston (Idaho), Idaho
Demetrius Beaver, 6-2, 280, Los Angeles (Calif.) Westchester
Emmanuel Beavers, 6-4, 310, Wilmington (Calif.) Banning
Troy Boyland, 6-2, 290, Palo Alto (Calif.)
Lamar Bratton, 6-1, 260, Riverside (Calif.) North
Corin Brooks, 6-4, 270, Riverside (Calif.) Arlington
Jase Butorac, 6-2, 270, Sammamish (Wash.) Skyline
Ben Cannon, 6-1, 270, Tucson (Ariz.) Tucson
Devin Dashnaw, 6-6, 315, Surprise (Ariz.) Willow Canyon
Daniel Fleischman, 6-6, 270, Issaquah (Wash.)
Joe Frank, 6-3, 285, Moorpark (Calif.), Air Force
Matthew Galas, 6-0, 265, Modesto (Calif.) Central Catholic
Jared Hansen, 6-5, 275, Tacoma (Wash.) Curtis
Kody Hartley, 6-6, 310, Prosser (Wash.)
Chandler Hubbard, 6-4, 260, Salinas (Calif.)
Marques Johnson, 6-1, 340, Los Angeles (Calif.) Westchester
Keli'I Kekuewa, 6-2, 315, Keaau (Hawaii) Kamehameha
Patrick Kim, 6-2, 290, Chino Hills (Calif.) Ayala
Kyle Lillie, 6-2, 270, Surprise (Ariz.) Valley Vista
Ben Loth, 6-5, 275, Encino (Calif.) Crespi
Frank Loyd, 6-3, 260, Honolulu (Hawaii) Moanalua, Hawaii
Dylan Lusk, 6-2, 270, Peoria (Ariz.) Centennial
Braden Lyons, 6-5, 275, Sonoma (Calif.) Sonoma Valley
Mike Marboe, 6-2, 295, Wenatchee (Wash.)
Michael Mitchell, 6-4, 275, Encino (Calif.) Crespi
Shane Moniz, 6-3, 260, Canyon Country (Calif.) Canyon
Daniel Munyer, 6-2, 265, Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame
Junior Nieves, 6-4, 290, Peoria (Ariz.) Centennial
Kjelby Oiland, 6-3, 265, Spokane (Wash.) Ferris
Dontrell Onuoha, 6-2, 265, La Quinta (Calif.)
Zach Perron, 6-6, 260, Santa Maria (Calif.) St. Joseph's
David Peterson, 6-4, 255, Redlands (Calif.) East Valley
William Poehls, 6-6, 290, Chandler (Ariz.)
Connor Rains, 6-6, 300, Shingle Springs (Calif.) Ponderosa
Billy Rone, 6-4, 285, Tempe (Ariz.) Marcos de Niza
Brian Roth, 6-5, 275, El Toro (Calif.)
Ty Sambraillo, 6-5, 255, Watsonville (Calif.) St. Francis
B.J. Sonboli, 6-3, 285, Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) Los Osos
Derek Stickney, 6-6, 300, Placentia (Calif.) El Dorado
Tyler Sulka, 6-5, 270, Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame
Colin Tanigawa, 6-3, 270, Los Angeles (Calif.) Loyola
David Vieru, 6-3, 275, Gresham (Ore.) Centennial
Bryce Walker, 6-7, 300, Pleasant Grove (Utah), Utah State
Georgia State Report
1. Lowndes (Valdosta, Ga.)
Another Friday night, another dominating performance as Lowndes trounced Tift County (Tifton, Ga.), 50-7. The Viking rushing attack gashed the Blue Devils for 409 yards behind junior RB Troy Braswell's 156 yards and two touchdowns. Senior LB Telvin Smith, a Florida State pledge, collected seven tackles and three for loss. Smith and company look are on the road next week against Northside-Warner Robins.
2. Grayson (Loganville, Ga.)
The Rams topped district foe, Parkview (Lilburn, Ga.), 33-27, on Friday night at the Big Orange Jungle. Grayson jumped out to a 17-0 lead before Parkview tied it at 20-20 late in third quarter. Senior RB Ean Pemberton led the ground game with 103 yards rushing on 23 carries and two TD's. Defensively, the Rams intercepted three passes, two by senior S Kori Gaines, a BYU commit. Grayson will host Shiloh this week.
3. North Gwinnett (Suwanee, Ga.)
North Gwinnett trailed 3-0 early before scoring thirty unanswered points against Mill Creek (Hoschton, Ga.) in a 30-3 victory. Junior QB CJ Uzomah threw a 50-yard TD pass and added a rushing score for the offense. The 'Dawgs are idle this week.
Florida State Report
1. St. Thomas Aquinas (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.)
St. Thomas easily handled Cardinal Gibbons on Friday night, 35-7. Aquinas senior RB James White racked up 130 yards of total offense and scored two touchdowns. The win sets up a national showdown with ESPN RISE FAB 50 # 2 Byrnes (Duncan, SC) this week at Lockhart Stadium on ESPNU.
2. Miami Northwestern (Miami, Fla.)
Junior QB Teddy Bridgewater threw for a Miami-Dade County record, seven touchdown passes on 19 of 24 passes for 327 yards in a 54-23 win over Hialeah-Miami Lakes. Bridgewater was able to share the wealth hitting five different receivers for touchdowns. The Bulls square off against Booker T. Washington (Miami, Fla.) in non-district action.
The 'Naughts stopped a two-point conversion in overtime to edge De La Salle (Concord, Calif.), 31-30, on ESPN2. Lakeland overcame penalties and turnovers to leave the Sunshine State with a big win. Junior WR Javares McRoy hauled in seven receptions for 102 yards and a pair of touchdowns. McRoy's TD run in overtime gave Lakeland and the defense held on the conversation attempt for the exciting win. The Dreadnaughts look to tackle Plantation (Plantation, Fla.) this week at Bryant Stadium.
4. Miami Central (Miami, Fla.)
The Rockets kept the scoreboard operator busy on Thursday night in a 70-24 thrashing of Miami Springs. Senior QB Jeff Godfrey was almost perfect completing 13 of 16 attempts for 332 yards and six touchdowns. Godfrey also rushed for 103 yards and a score. Central takes on city rival Carol City (Miami, FL) on Thursday at Traz Powell Stadium.
5. Bolles (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Bolles simply overmatched Interlachen in a 70-9 rout in district action. Junior QB Chandler Carr threw two touchdown passes his third straight multi-touchdown game. Next up for Bolles is a road tilt against Fernandina Beach.
ESPN RISE Georgia-Florida Performer of the Week
Northwestern (Miami, Fla.) junior QB Teddy Bridgewater threw for a Miami-Dade County record seven touchdown passes on 19 of 24 passes for 327 yards in a 54-23 win over Hialeah-Miami Lakes. Bridgewater was able to share the wealth hitting five different receivers for touchdowns.
Anticipation is building quite a bit for the lone FAB 50 head-to-head matchup this week, as The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that No. 30 St. Xavier's (Cincinnati, Ohio) visit to No. 27 Highlands' (Fort Thomas, Ky.) has already sold out. Highlands is expecting a capacity crowd of 5,200 in attendance.
The updated Florida state AP rankings are out. On Friday, ESPN RISE FAB 50 No. 10 Lakeland (Fla.) will battle national power De La Salle (Concord, Calif.) in a game that will be televised on ESPN2.
Georgia State Report
1. Lowndes (Valdosta, Ga.)
The Vikings opened district play with a convincing 31-6 road win against Colquitt County (Moultrie, GA). The defense picked off Colquitt County junior Tyler Brown three times, the first interceptions of the season for the young signal caller. Senior RB Robert Anderson ran for 141 yards and a score to pace the Vikings. Lowndes will host Tift County (Tifton, Ga.) in conference action on Friday.
2. Grayson (Loganville, Ga.)
Grayson survived a South Gwinnett upset bid escaping with a 27-16 win. Senior RB Ean Pemberton carried the load for the offense rushing for 177 yards on 37 attempts and two touchdowns. Pemberton's second TD run in the 4th quarter iced it for the Rams. Grayson travels across town for a battle with Parkview (Lilburn, Ga.).
3. North Gwinnett (Suwanee, Ga.)
Junior QB CJ Uzomah accounted for over 250 yards of total offense and two touchdowns in a 26-16 win over Norcross. The Bulldogs weathered an early 10-0 2nd quarter deficit. Uzomah and the offense got on track to take the lead before the half and never looked back. North Gwinnett is home this week against Mill Creek (Hoschton, Ga.).
Florida State Report
1. St. Thomas Aquinas (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.)
The Raiders enjoyed a bye week their second in as many weeks. Aquinas and ESPNU 150 member RB Giovanni Bernard return to action on Friday night against Cardinal Gibbons (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.).
Lakeland demolished the underdog Titans, 60-0, at Bryant Stadium. The 'Naughts seemingly used the game as an exhibition contest and inserted back-up players early in the first half. It was the 400th career game for Head Coach Bill Castle. Senior RB Ben McRoy rushed for two scores in the rout. Lakeland will travel cross-country to tackle national power De La Salle (Concord, Calif.) in an ESPN2 nationally televised game.
3. Miami Northwestern (Miami, Fla.)
It was close for a half before Northwestern pulled away with a 42-20 win over Hialeah in a Thursday night tilt. The Bulls led 28-20 at the break and tacked on two second half scores. Junior QB Teddy Bridgewater threw four touchdown passes and senior RB Corvin "Lamborghini" Lamb added an 85-yard touchdown burst. Northwestern tangles with Hialeah-Miami Lakes at Traz Powell Stadium on Friday.
4. Miami Central (Miami, Fla.)
It was another blowout for the Rockets, who crushed Miami Beach, 63-0 on Wednesday night. Senior QB Jeff Godfrey tossed three touchdowns on 17 of 21 attempts for 179 yards and added a 35-yard TD run. Central has pitched back-to-back shut outs and the defense hasn't allowed a touchdown through three games. The Rockets clash with Miami Springs and ESPNU 150 WR Willis Wright in non-district action on Thursday.
5. Bolles (Jacksonville, Fla)
The Bulldogs showed no rust coming off their bye week as they cruised past American Heritage (Plantation, FL), 42-6. Junior QB Chandler Carr completed three touchdown strikes, two to WR Jay Herndon and the other to junior RB Jawan Jamison to lead the offense. Bolles kicks off district action against Interlachen.
6. Pahokee (Pahokee, Fla.)
Pahokee fell in a turnover riddled second half to Dwyer (Palm Beach, FL), 34-6, at Anquan Boldin Stadium. The Blue Devils were intercepted four times and lost a fumble that was returned for a score. Senior QB De'Joshua Johnson connected with senior WR Fred Pickett, a West Virginia pledge, on a 56-yard touchdown pass to give Pahokee an early 6-0 lead. That was the only touchdown of the game for the Blue Devils as Johnson and his back-up each threw two INT's. Pahokee will look to rebound against Cardinal Newman (West Palm Beach, FL) this week.
ESPN RISE GA-FL Performer of the Week
Gainesville (Gainesville, GA) senior WR Tai-Ler Jones hauled in 10 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns in a 55-12 rout over North Hall. The talented pass-catcher, entered the game with one touchdown reception on the year. Jones, a Stanford commit, also returned a 47-yard fumble for a score while playing DB.
Most touchdown passes for one quarter is not a category widely reported in many record books, but it does exist in the National Federation compilations and last weekend was a crazy one for that category.
On Friday night, according to Robert Yates of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, junior quarterback Ryan Miller from Harrison High (Harrison, Ark.) threw for five touchdowns in the first quarter during his team's 52-14 victory over McDonald County (Anderson, Mo.). Miller, a converted wide receiver, finished with seven touchdown passes in the game with additional final totals of 18 completions in 29 attempts for 309 yards.
According to the National Federation's national record book, Miller's total of touchdown passes for one quarter ties the national record.
The only problem with Miller tying the national record is that later on in Arizona on the same night junior quarterback Rathen Ricedorff from Show Low High did even better with six touchdown passes in the first quarter of his team's 67-0 romp past Chinle.
According to the Arizona Republic, Ricedorff completed 18 of 25 passes in the game for 273 yards and nine touchdowns. His nine TD passes broke the previous state record of seven, which was held by three, including former NFL QB Tim Rattay.
With seven seconds left in the first quarter, Ricedorff threw his sixth TD pass for a 46-0 lead. The score was 53-0 at halftime and Ricedorff added two more TD passes in the third quarter to break the record before he came out for good.
Randy Ricedorff, Rathen's father, is the coach of the Show Low team.