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. Bridgeport High (Bridgeport, W.V.) kicker Connor Kornbrath
ESPNU position rank: No. 29 K
Weight: 208 pounds
College: University of Iowa (verbal)
ESPNU scouting report: "Connor has a D1 frame as a punter. He has a short punting approach will should help with his snap to foot times. He has a fairly consistent drop, but his hands need work in catching the ball. His levers are long and leg speed is solid. He has a 4.7-4.8 'A' ball currently and is solid on kickoffs."
2. Cabell Midland High (Ona, W.V.) inside linebacker Ryan Riedel
ESPNU position rank: No. 48 ILB
Weight: 220 pounds
College: Marshall University (verbal)
Testing results: 4.88 40-yard dash; 31.5 vertical jump
Traits: Diagnosing skills, tackling
ESPNU scouting report: "Riedel is a tough and rugged inside linebacker prospect that lacks ideal height, but is stoutly built with good overall play strength and toughness. Looks and plays the part with a great motor and overall passion for the game. Is a very solid tackle-to-tackle defensive football player. He has good lateral quickness and downhill play speed. Very tough and aggressive downhill player that stays square with bent knees and fills the creases."
3. Nitro High (W.V.) running back Michael Hall
ESPNU position rank: No. 204 RB
Weight: 181 pounds
ESPNU scouting report: "Hall is a good sized running back prospect with some well-rounded attributes. He has a muscular, well-built frame that should continue to add some bulk and allow him to play at the 200-pound range. Speed is competitive at the school level but we do not see a difference maker in the open field when projecting for the college. Quick to and through the hole and runs with some urgency between the tackles."
4. Woodrow Wilson High (Beckley, W.V.) cornerback Zachary Tilley
Weight: 165 pounds
Testing results: 4.51 40-yard dash; 27.3 vertical jump
5. Robert C. Bird High (Clarksburg, W.V.) defensive tackle Vinnie Fusco
Weight: 280 pounds
Testing results: 5.40 40-yard dash; 27.0 vertical jump
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.