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. Blair High (Neb.) outside linebacker Jake Schany
ESPNU position rank: No. 75 OLB
Weight: 215 pounds
Testing results: 4.87 40-yard dash; 33.5 vertical jump
Traits: diagnosing skills, inside run support, outside run support, tackling
ESPNU scouting report: "Schany shows good toughness and production when playing against the run; flashes the playing speed to make plays from sideline to sideline. Possesses the size, athleticism and playing strength for the outside linebacker position at the major level of competition."
2. Lincoln Southwest High (Lincoln, Neb.) quarterback Tavarius Bender
ESPNU position rank: No. 54 QB
Weight: 210 pounds
College: Kansas State University (verbal)
Testing results: 4.47 40-yard dash; 34.5 vertical jump
Traits: arm strength, athleticism
ESPNU scouting report: "Bender is a pretty dynamic playmaker as a dual-threat quarterback with great measurables and strong build. He complements his athleticism with a powerful arm."
3. Lincoln Southeast High (Lincoln, Neb.) tight end Sam Cotton
ESPNU position rank: No. 48 TE
Weight: 230 pounds
College: University of Nebraska (verbal)
ESPNU scouting report: "Cotton is a college coach's son and has a pair of brothers playing college ball which should aid his transition to the next level. He possesses good overall size and looks to have a frame that can still support more good mass."
4. Cambridge High (Neb.) offensive tackle Mike Shoff
ESPNU position rank: No. 120 OT
Weight: 290 pounds
ESPNU scouting report: "Shoff is a good sized kid who plays on both sides of the ball in high school. He could potentially project as a defensive tackle though we feel a better fit for him will be on the offensive line. Regardless of which side of the ball he lands on he has the size."
5. Giltner High (Neb.) defensive end Drew Ott
ESPNU position rank: No. 154 DE
Weight: 212 pounds
College: University of Iowa (verbal)
Testing results: 5.12 40-yard dash; 26.0 vertical jump
ESPNU scouting report: "Ott is a small school kid as he plays eight-man ball at the high school level. He does show flashes of ability that could allow him to be successful in the eleven-man game at the FBS level."
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.