POY Potential: Top 5 Ark. 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. Greenbrier High (Greenbrier, AR) Quarterback Neal Burcham

  • ESPNU rank: No. 20 QB

  • Height: 6-foot-2

  • Weight: 185 pounds

  • College: Undecided

  • Traits: Accuracy, delivery, reads

  • ESPNU scouting report: "This kid has a chance to really blossom at the next level. Burcham is long and lanky, but has the frame and physical tools to become a very crisp, polished passer with enough athleticism to buy time and get out of trouble. What stands out about him is his release and savvy feel for the game. Has the quick, smooth delivery to consistently beat the pass rush with his arm."

2. Pottsville High (Pottsville, AR) Guard Jeremy Ward

  • ESPNU rank: No. 11 G

  • Height: 6-foot-3

  • Weight: 280 pounds

  • College: Arkansas (verbal)

  • Testing results: 5.20 40-yard dash; 25.0 vertical jump

  • Traits: Strength, run blocking, space blocking

  • ESPNU scouting report: "Ward displays the explosion and playing strength necessary to dominate as a run blocker; although we see excellent production at tackle we feel his size and athleticism are better suited for the offensive guard position at the major level of competition. This prospect demonstrates good flexibility, balance and agility; from a three point stance he comes off the ball low and hard; his initial quickness, fit and pad level allow him to get under opponents pads with good leverage."

3. Jonesboro High (Jonesboro, AR) Running back/wide receiver Zac Brooks

  • ESPNU rank: No. 34 WR

  • Height: 6-foot-1

  • Weight: 180 pounds

  • College: Clemson (verbal)

  • Testing results: 4.53 40-yard dash; 34.7 vertical jump

  • Traits: Hands, yards after the catch, catch in traffic

  • ESPNU scouting report: "Brooks is a very competent, steady performer and a consistent playmaker in all three phases of the field. He is lean and wiry with good height and long arms. We would not classify him as being elite in any one area, but rather very good in all. He shows very good hands and can pluck the ball on the run without losing too much time in transition."

4. Warren High (Warren, AR) Wide receiver Jalen Cobb

  • ESPNU rank: No. 84 WR

  • Height: 6-foot-1

  • Weight: 185 pounds

  • College: Arkansas (verbal)

  • Traits: Hands

  • ESPNU scouting report: "Cobb is a sleek, athletic wide receiver with good overall speed and quickness. He has a wiry build with adequate bulk and height. He is a prospect that does a lot of things well, but may not be elite in any one area. Comes off the ball with good quickness and can attack DBs with good surge."

5. Bearden High (Bearden, AR) Quarterback Defonta Lowe

  • ESPNU rank: No. 83 ATH

  • Height: 6-foot-2

  • Weight: 185 pounds

  • College: Arkansas (verbal)

  • Traits: Versatility, playmaker

  • ESPNU scouting report: "Lowe is a two way athlete that is a playmaker on offense and a ball hawk on defense. High school quarterback that is a gun run specialist. Displays excellent wiggle and can make defenders miss in short space. Good size and length on a frame that has plenty of room to add strength without sacrificing speed."

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.