POY Potential: Top 5 Calif. football recruits

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. Pleasant Grove High (Elk Grove, Calif.) offensive tackle Arik Armstead

  • ESPNU 150 rank: 14

  • Height: 6-foot-7

  • Weight: 280 pounds

  • College: Southern California (verbal)

  • Traits: Run blocking, space blocking, strength, toughness

  • ESPNU scouting report: "Armstead is a dominant player both as an offensive and defensive lineman. Has great size and athleticism for the offensive tackle position at the major level of competition; it is quite possible with added bulk and improved technical skills this athlete could be an immediate impact player."

2. Grant High (Sacramento, Calif.) safety Shaq Thompson

  • ESPNU 150 rank: 22

  • Height: 6-foot-1

  • Weight: 210 pounds

  • College: Undecided

  • Testing results: 4.57 40-yard dash; 30.0 vertical jump

  • Traits: Man-to-man coverage, zone coverage, run support, instincts

  • ESPNU scouting report: "Thompson grows on you as a football player when you continue to watch how versatile and athletic he is on both sides of the ball. A very instinctive and active skill prospect with great production. Will most likely get recruited at defensive back and while he flashes the tools to play corner we feel his physical ability and skill-set project best at safety."

3. San Clemente High (San Clemente, Calif.) offensive tackle Kyle Murphy

  • ESPNU 150 rank: 26

  • Height: 6-foot-6

  • Weight: 270 pounds

  • College: Undecided

  • Traits: Run blocking, pass blocking, space blocking, toughness

  • ESPNU scouting report: "This athlete has very good flexibility, balance and agility; does a great job getting downfield and playing on his feet in space. Comes off the ball low and hard with good fit and explosion; can knock defenders off the ball when drive blocking and is able to sustain as a result of his excellent base and leg drive. Demonstrates good pull/trap technique; is quick out of his stance, can get to the edge and locate defenders on the move."

4. Downey High (Downey, Calif.) athlete Jabari Ruffin

  • ESPNU 150 rank: 38

  • Height: 6-foot-3

  • Weight: 225 pounds

  • College: Southern California (verbal)

  • Traits: Versatility, speed, ball skills

  • ESPNU scouting report: "Ruffin is a very talented and productive athlete; is effective as a linebacker, wide receiver and running back. Has the size and athleticism for all positions at the major level of competition. This is a tough, punishing tackler who can knock'em back where they came from; should be very productive as a special team's coverage player."

5. Monrovia High (Monrovia, Calif.) defensive tackle Ellis McCarthy

  • ESPNU 150 rank: 52

  • Height: 6-foot-4

  • Weight: 305 pounds

  • College: Undecided

  • Testing results: 5.33 40-yard dash; 27.5 vertical jump

  • Traits: Pass rushing, disruptiveness

  • ESPNU scouting report: "McCarthy is a big boy who can get after the quarterback. He has good size and looks to be a thickly built and pretty well put together kid who carries his weight well. He displays some ability as an interior pass rusher."

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.