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. McPherson High (Kan.) quarterback Tyler Matthews
Weight: 195 pounds
College: TCU (verbal)
Testing results: 4.95 40-yard dash; 24.0 vertical jump
Traits: Accuracy, arm strength, delivery, reads
ESPNU scouting report: "This kid is a really sharp, precise passer with fundamentally sound technique and very productive results. He has good size and already possesses above average bulk. Plays in a multiple set both under center and out of the shotgun and is extremely efficient both in his methods and productivity."
2. Wichita Collegiate School (Wichita, Kan.) defensive end Trace Clark
Weight: 235 pounds
Testing results: 5.11 40-yard dash; 26.0 vertical jump
Traits: Run defense, disruptiveness
ESPNU scouting report: "Clark brings some good genes to the table as a prospect as his father and brother both played on the defensive line at a high level. That background seems to help as he plays the game like a kid who has had some extra insight to playing the position."
3. Sumner Academy of Arts & Science (Kansas City, Kan.) wide receiver Vernon Vaughn
Weight: 190 pounds
College: Kansas State (verbal)
Traits: Hands, catch in traffic
ESPNU scouting report: "Vaughn is an extremely productive guy as a flex tight end that could be considered a wide receiver due to his overall athleticism, but we feel he will be best suited for an H-back role at the next level. He is a smooth athlete with good initial quickness and fluid overall movements."
4. Blue Valley West High (Overland Park, Kan.) offensive guard Brian Beckmann
Weight: 280 pounds
College: Kansas (verbal)
ESPNU scouting report: "Beckmann uses his upper body playing strength to dominate as a run blocker. Has the size and athleticism for the offensive guard position at the major level of competition. If initial quickness and agility improves, offensive tackle is a possibility."
5. Wichita Collegiate School (Wichita, Kan.) inside linebacker Myles Copeland
Weight: 217 pounds
Testing results: 4.85 40-yard dash; 24.0 vertical jump
Traits: Diagnosing skills, inside run support, tackling
ESPNU scouting report: "Copeland displays very good playing strength defending against the run, showing good sideline to sideline ability. Has the size and athleticism for the inside linebacker position at the major level of competition. This prospect is a tough, knock'em back tackler with the balance and agility necessary to be productive as a special team's coverage player."
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.