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. Davidson High (Mobile, Ala.) defensive end Chris Casher
ESPNU 150 rank: 10
Weight: 236 pounds
College: Florida State (verbal)
Traits: Run defense, pass rushing, disruptiveness, pursuit
ESPNU scouting report: "There is plenty to like about Casher. This athlete fills a few different roles for his high school team and could be recruited to play on either side of the ball in college. He will likely land at either tight end or defensive end."
2. Hueytown High (Ala.) quarterback Jameis Winston
ESPNU 150 rank: 11
Weight: 195 pounds
College: Florida State (verbal)
Traits: Arm strength, Athleticism
ESPNU scouting report: "This guy is extremely talented, but also extremely raw. Winston has loads of upside not just as a dual-threat guy, but also as a passer that can beat you from within pocket if he continues to develop that side of his game."
3. Oxford High (Ala.) outside linebacker Kwon Alexander
ESPNU 150 rank: 15
Weight: 210 pounds
Traits: Diagnosing skills, Outside run support, Tackling, Coverage skills
ESPNU scouting report: "Alexander is very productive as a run defender and pass rusher; his acceleration and closing speed are capable of creating game changing turnovers. Has the size and athleticism for the outside linebacker position at the major level of competition."
4. Auburn High (Ala.) offensive guard Caleb Peterson
ESPNU 150 rank: 75
Weight: 300 pounds
College: Southern Miss (verbal)
Testing results: 5.45 40-yard dash; 19.0 vertical jump
Traits: Run blocking, Space blocking, Strength, Physicality
ESPNU scouting report: "Peterson is one of the best inline blockers we've seen; displays the explosion and dominant playing strength to knock defenders off the line of scrimmage. Although we see a very productive blocker at the tackle spot we feel his size and athleticism are better suited for the offensive guard position at the major level of competition; his experience at tackle definitely offers depth along the offensive line."
5. Bob Jones High (Madison, Ala.) inside linebacker Reggie Ragland
ESPNU 150 rank: 110
College: Alabama (verbal)
Traits: Inside run support, Tackling
ESPNU scouting report: "Ragland is a big, bull in a china shop linebacker/DE 'tweener that is at his best as a between the tackles plugger and downhill player. He has very good overall measurables, functional size and strength and can anchor at the point of attack."
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.