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. Morton High (Miss.) defensive tackle Quay Evans
ESPNU 150 rank: 33
Weight: 312 pounds
Traits: Run defense, pass rushing, disruptiveness, strength
ESPNU scouting report: "Evans is a big dude who can move and cause problems. He has very good size and looks to carry the weight he has well though he may need to watch how he adds additional size. He can be an explosive kid who flashes the ability to fire out of his stance low, get under blockers pads, and generate good power from his lower body."
2. South Panola High (Batesville, Miss.) defensive tackle Issac Gross
ESPNU 150 rank: 37
Weight: 265 pounds
College: Ole Miss (verbal)
Traits: Run defense, pass rushing, disruptiveness
ESPNU scouting report: "Gross is a kid that can be a disruptive interior pass rusher. He has good height and adequate bulk, but displays a frame that could support more good size with time in a college weight program. He doesn't always utilize it and you would like to see more consistency, but this is a kid with a very good first step."
3. Aberdeen High (Miss.) defensive end Channing Ward
ESPNU 150 rank: 93
Weight: 230 pounds
Traits: Run defense, pass rushing
ESPNU scouting report: "Ward can be a tough defender from the defensive end spot. He has good size and looks to have a solid and sturdy build and displays a frame that can support more good size with time in a college weight program. He has a solid get-off and will show flashes, but is not a consistently explosive kid off the ball."
4. Petal High (Miss.) quarterback and returning Gatorade Mississippi Football Player of the Year Anthony Alford
ESPNU 150 rank: 98
Weight: 210 pounds
Traits: Playmaker, speed
ESPNU scouting report: "This guy is a really good athlete and a dynamic dual-threat quarterback, but he would need to be in the spread offense to flourish and maximize his talents under center. If Alford does not sign with a spread team he will likely get moved to wide receiver or corner because he is very gifted with his feet and would not see his talent exposed in a pro-style set."
5. Lafayette High (Oxford, Miss.) quarterback Jeremy Liggins
ESPNU 150 rank: 121
Weight: 270 pounds
Traits: Versatility, playmaker
ESPNU scouting report: "Liggins is a monster athlete as a dual-threat quarterback with a live, big arm. He has the appearance of a Daunte Culpepper and if he does not remain at QB at the next level we could see him as a tight end/defenisve end given his measurables and overall athleticism. He is quick, fast and agile."
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.