One of the biggest individual honors a high school football player can receive is Mr. Football USA, the title bestowed upon the nation’s most outstanding player each fall by ESPNHS.
Below is a look at the top candidates in the chase for the 2011 Mr. Football USA. Every Tuesday during the regular season we’ll update the totals of many leading contenders as well as examine some of the new names that are emerging as strong contenders.
RB Johnathan Gray, Aledo (Aledo, Texas)
This week: Ran 15 times for 336 yards and five touchdowns, while also catching two passes for 21 yards in Aledo’s 50-7 rout of Weatherford (Weatherford, Texas).
Season totals: 42 carries for 556 yards and nine touchdowns rushing in two games; Aledo is 1-1
Stock – Up: Gray continues to shred Texas high school defenses and is now just three touchdowns away from the state record for career TDs of 146, held by current Univ. of Texas RB Traylon Shead.
WR Dorial Green-Beckham, Hillcrest (Springfield, Mo.)
This week: The nation’s No. 1 ranked WR by ESPNU posted big numbers again, catching seven passes for 142 yards and two scores, but it wasn’t enough as Hillcrest fell to Heritage (Rogers, Ark.), 37-20.
Season Totals: 25 catches for 426 yards and five touchdowns; team is 1-1
Stock – Slightly Down: His freakish talent is undeniable but it needs to translate into a lot of wins for Hillcrest for him to stay in top contention. Otherwise he’s just a big talent putting up big numbers, and there are a lot of those across the country in high school football where top players rarely face players across the line their equal.
ATH Stefon Diggs, Good Counsel (Olney, Md.)
This week: Diggs battled back from cramps to catch the game-winning 25-yard TD pass in overtime as Good Counsel topped Manatee (Bradenton, Fla .) 24-17 in a battle of two FAB 50 ranked teams. He also scored on an 80-yard reception earlier in the contest.
Season totals: Six receptions for 132 yards and two touchdowns.
Stock – Up: Big players make big plays in big games, and Diggs lived up to that addage this weekend.
DE Mario Edwards Jr., Denton Ryan (Denton, Texas)
This week: Edwards, the top-ranked recruit nationwide by ESPNU, was dominant for a second straight week, racking up five tackles for loss and two sacks in a 48-24 victory against Newman Smith (Carrollton, Texas).
Season totals: Four sacks and a forced fumble; team is 2-0 and No. 41 in the POWERADE FAB 50
Stock – Up: Edwards had a multi-sack outing for the second time in two games – if he keeps this up and Ryan has a deep run into the playoffs, a 20-25 sack season isn’t out of the question.
QB Alec Morris, Allen (Allen, Texas)
This week: Morris accounted for six touchdowns in three quarters of work in Allen’s 59-0 rout of Northwest (Justin, Texas). The Alabama-bound senior hit 18-of-32 passes for 320 yards and five touchdowns while also scoring on a one-yard rush.
Season totals: 35-of-60 for 570 yards and eight touchdowns with no interceptions, 51 yards and one touchdown rushing; team is 2-0 and No. 4 in the FAB 50.
Stock – Up: Allen is the consensus top team in Texas at this point and Morris is the driving force of the Eagles’ attack, having accounted for nine touchdowns in the first two games.
ON THE RADAR
QB Bart Houston, De La Salle (Concord, Calif.)
This week: Houston overcame two interceptions by passing for a score and then scoring the game winner in overtime on a one-yard quarterback sneak as De La Salle survived a major upset by holding off Bellarmine Prep (San Jose) 26-23 in double overtime.
Season Totals: 4-of-11 for 108 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions and one touchdown rushing; team is 1-0 and ranked No. 3 in FAB 50.
Stock – Down: De La Salle isn’t going to pass much or be in too many competitive games to begin with, so when Houston gets in a battle like this one, he can’t afford to not be at his best, turning the ball over three times (two picks and a lost fumble).
RB Duke Johnson, Miami Norland (Miami, Fla.)
This week: Johnson missed Thursday’s opener against American (Hialeah, Fla.), a 23-7 win, per a suspension from a fight in last year’s 3A state title game.
Season Totals: None to report.
Stock – Down: Missing a game that could have cost his team a victory as well as big stats needed to compete for the nation’s highest honor is very costly. However, it could be swept under the proverbial rug if Johnson comes out and dominates this weekend in a big showdown with Northwestern (Miami, Fla.).
QB Gunner Kiel, Columbus East (Columbus, Ind.)
This week: Kiel completed 14-of-24 passes for 173 yards and four touchdowns with a fifth score rushing as East trounced Seymour (Seymour, Ind.) 54-14.
Season Totals: 32-of-65 passes for 619 yards and eight touchdowns with two rushing touchdowns; team is 2-1.
Stock – Slightly Up: We’ll keep Kiel in the mix here as long as he continues to put up big numbers, but he’ll need to put East on his back for a serious playoff run to have a legitimate shot at this in the end.
QB Cyler Miles, Mullen (Denver, Colo.)
This week: Miles, a dynamite dual-threat quarterback committed to Washington, threw three touchdowns as Mullen extended its win streak to 34 games with a 27-0 victory over Chaparral (Parker, Colo.).
Season totals: 18-of-23 for 150 yards and three touchdowns; team is 1-0 and ranked No. 23 in the FAB 50.
Stock – Same: Miles had a solid showing in the Mustangs’ opener. His real measuring stick will come in the few games that Mullen is legitimately challenged.
RB Alex Ross, Jenks (Jenks, Okla.)
This week: Ross was held out of Jenks’ opener with Bixby (Okla.) with an ankle sprain in preparation of this weekend’s big Backyard Bowl matchup with rival and fellow FAB 50-ranked foe Union (Tulsa, Okla.).
Season totals: no stats to report
Stock – Slightly down: Missing a game doesn’t help the big picture in terms of being able to compile numbers and stats, but the bottom line is that if Ross goes out and dominates versus Tulsa Union this week, all is forgotten and forgiven.
RB Rushel Shell, Hopewell (Aliquippa, Pa.)
This week: Shell toted the rock 22 times for 147 tough yards including a 66-yard touchdown that turned out to be the game-winner in a 14-7 nail-biter over Belle Vernon Area (Belle Vernon, Pa.).
Season totals: 22 carries for 147 yards and one touchdown; team is 1-0.
Stock – Same: Shell didn’t go coo-coo for cocoa puffs in the season opener with big video game numbers, but he did carry his team to victory and has bigger games in his future as a rebuilt offensive line gets comfortable playing together.
RB/DB Shaq Thompson, Grant (Sacramento, Calif.)
This week: Thompson battled through injuries from week one but just wasn’t his normal self, rushing only six times for 16 yards at running back in a 24-23 loss to FAB 50-ranked Long Beach Poly (Long Beach, Calif.). Thompson did have a big second half interception that he returned 65 yards to setup a Grant score as well on defense.
Season Totals: 136 yards rushing and three touchdowns, one interception; team is 1-1
Stock – Down: Thompson wasn’t at 100 percent for this one after his spectacular three touchdown performance in week one against Folsom, but he’ll have a chance to bounce-back if healthy with marquee games in the playoffs and a state bowl berth still in the mix.
QB Jameis Winston, Hueytown (Hueytown, Ala.)
This week: Winston threw for five touchdown passes and 267 yards on 14-of-18 passing as Hueytown crushed Wenonah (Birmingham, Ala.).
Season Totals: 40-of-64 for 612 yards and seven touchdowns with three interceptions, 231 yards and four touchdowns rushing; team is 3-0.
Stock – Up: Winston is beginning to put it together on the field and put up the numbers, that along with his status as one of the nation’s top QB prospects, will make him a very viable candidate for this honor should his high level of play continue.
SMALL SCHOOL STAT KINGS
QB Neal Burcham, Greenbrier (Greenbrier, Ark.)
This week: Burcham hit 19-of-32 for 338 yards and three touchdowns as Greenbrier opened the season with a convincing 41-20 win over Beebe (Beebe, Ark.).
Season Totals: 19-of-32 for 338 yards and three touchdowns with one interception; team is 1-0
Stock – Same: This type of performance is expected from the Elite 11 co-MVP, he’ll need to continue it and even up it and lead Greenbrier deep into the playoffs to raise his stock in the Mr. Football USA chase.
QB Maty Mauk, Kenton (Kenton, Ohio)
This week: Mauk accounted for 414 yards of offense and five touchdowns, while also throwing three interceptions, in an easy 40-7 win over Memorial (St. Mary’s, Ohio).
Season Totals: 47-of-69 for 512 yards and five touchdowns with three interceptions, 40 carries for 279 yards and three touchdowns; team is 2-0
Stock – Same: The turnovers prevent this from being a stock up week for Mauk, but after a tough first game, this could be the start of a big roll for him statistically.
JUNIORS IN THE MIX
QB Max Browne, Skyline (Sammamish, Wash.)
This week: Browne was nearly perfect in a season-opening 62-27 thrashing of Liberty (Renton, Wash.), completing 16-of-18 passes for 190 yards and four touchdowns. Skyline beat the same Liberty team by just five points in last year’s opener.
Season Totals: 16-of-18 for 190 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions; team is 1-0.
Stock – Slightly Up: Browne is sneaky good – the junior actually took home QB MVP honors at the Washington Nike Camp back in June over Elite 11 finalists Jeff Lindquist and Cyler Miles, and this type of showing in the opener only validates his early standing as one of the top quarterbacks in the Class of 2013.
QB Cord Sandberg, Manatee (Bradenton, Fla.)
This week: Sandberg completed 21-of-32 passes for 244 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions while also rushing for 26 yards in a tight 24-17 overtime loss at FAB 50 No. 11 Good Counsel (Olney, Mary.).
Season totals: 21-of-32 for 244 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions, 26 yards rushing; team is 0-1
Stock – Down: For a junior to stay in the Mr. Football USA mix, he has to be pretty special, and while Sandberg had a solid showing against great competition this weekend, the end result really puts a damper on his chances for this type of honor.
QB Riley Ferguson, Butler (Matthews, N.C.)
This week: Ferguson and Butler had the week off after drilling Olympic (Charlotte, N.C.) the week prior 70-6 to even their record at 1-1.
Season Totals: 22-of-28 for 592 yards and eight touchdown passes through two games; team is 1-1.
Stock – Same: Butler’s winning streak is over, and while Ferguson should post monster numbers (he already has eight TD passes in two games), the Bulldogs need to get a long new streak started and probably win a state title for him to stay in this discussion.
NEW TO THE RACE
WR Gehrig Dieter, Washington (South Bend, Ind.)
This week: There are PlayStation numbers and then there are Gehrig Dieter numbers. The 6-2, 200 pound senior wideout established a new national single game receiving record with 447 yards on 12 catches Friday against Elkhart Central (Elkhart, Ind.) in Washington’s 63-10 win.
Season Totals: 31 catches for 1,158 yards and 12 touchdowns in three games; team is 3-0
Stock – Up: Dieter’s numbers through three games are better than 99% of high school receivers' that will be posted through a full season. He’s on track to shatter national single season receiving records for yardage and touchdowns.
MOVING OFF THE TRACKER:
QB Connor Brewer, Chaparral (Scottsdale, Ariz.)
Comments: Brewer and the Chaparral offense as a whole have gotten off to a slow start this fall, scoring just 68 points through three games. The Firebirds will still be favorites for a state title come December, but with just 495 yards passing through three games, Brewer currently doesn't have the numbers to stay in the Mr. Football USA mix.
RB Keith Marshall, Millbrook (Raleigh, N.C.)
Comments: The nation’s No. 1 ranked RB by ESPNU left Friday’s win over East Wake with a lower leg injury and has yet to top 130 yards in any of Millbrook’s first three games. He’s a great prospect with solid numbers but doesn’t have the on-field production this fall currently to stay in this race.
ATH Davonte' Neal, Chaparral (Scottsdale, Ariz.)
Comments: Neal has been Chaparral’s chief offensive weapon through three games, but like Brewer, the numbers just are not there (401 yards combined rushing and receiving and four TDs) to support this terrific prospect staying in the race for Mr. Football USA at this point in the season.
RB Jonathan Williams, Allen (Allen, Texas)
Comments: Williams injured his wrist early in Allen’s season-opener and did not play last week in a 59-0 win. QB Alec Morris has taken over the lead role in this offense in his absence.
Disagree with this list or have suggestions/comments of who should be added for consideration? Email Brian Stumpf at email@example.com, hit him up on Twitter @BrianStumpfESPN or post in the comments section below.