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. Puyallup High (Puyallup, Wash.) offensive tackle Joshua Garnett
ESPNU 150 rank: No. 43
Weight: 275 pounds
Traits: Run blocking, pass blocking, space blocking, toughness
ESPNU scouting report: "Garnett displays the playing strength necessary to dominate as a run blocker. Although he presently has the size and athleticism for the offensive tackle position at the major level of competition there is the need to add good body mass to his frame. This is a very good athlete who possesses the flexibility, balance and agility to handle speed and play on his feet in space."
2. Lakes High (Lakewood, Wash.) offensive tackle Zach Banner
ESPNU 150 rank: No. 123
Weight: 305 pounds
Traits: Run blocking, space blocking, strength, toughness
ESPNU scouting report: "Banner is a great size prospect demonstrating the athleticism necessary to play in space at the major level of competition. If his explosion and playing strength improve rapidly he could be in contention for early playing time. As a defensive lineman we see good quickness along with the ability to overpower blockers at his present level of competition."
3. Mercer Islad High (Mercer Island, Wash.) quaterback Jeff Lindquist
ESPNU 150 rank: No. 17 QB
Weight: 225 pounds
College: Washington (verbal)
Traits: Accuracy, arm strength, athleticism
ESPNU scouting report: "Lindquist is one of those prospects like a Trent Dilfer or Andrew Luck that is blessed with great height and bulk at this stage and the look of a pocket passer, but is much more than that athletically. We would not classify Lindquist as a dual-threat, but he is close and is also a very strong overall prospect with ideal measurables. He possesses outstanding arm strength and ball velocity that college coaches covet -- he can really zip it and fit the ball in tight areas or drive it deep downfield."
4. Mariner High (Everett, Wash.) position KeiVarae Russell
ESPNU 150 rank: No. 25 RB
Weight: 175 pounds
Testing results: 4.60 40-yard dash; 37.6 vertical jump
Traits: Elusiveness, vision, hands
ESPNU scouting report: "Russell is a quick and elusive package at the running back position who should see his recruiting stock rise into the spring. Could get recruited at either running back or corner but feel he has the natural skill-set to really produce on offense if he lands in an open offense. Has adequate size, lean and wiry and will need to add more compacted bulk. What stands out about this guy is his decisive yet elusive running style between the tackles."
5. Lakes High (Lakewood, Wash.) athlete Cedric Benson
ESPNU 150 rank: No. 53 ATH
Weight: 175 pounds
Traits: Versatility, speed
ESPNU scouting report: "Dozier is essentially a running back playing as a dual-threat, dangerous quarterback at the high school level. He will make the transition to either running back, wide receiver or cornerback at the next level and possesses the physical gifts to be a nice fit at all three. He is explosive and displays very good play speed. Has great feet and initial quickness."
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.