In a new weekly feature, GHSF Daily will keep tabs on the state’s top players in their pursuit of state player-of-the-year recognition. Some media do a Heisman Watch for college football. Call this the POY Watch.
Our picks are based on this question: What are the chances that this player will be the all-classification player of the year? In the early season, it’s partly about reputation and last season, meaning a couple of mediocre games early won’t have much impact. As the season unfolds, it will be more about this season. The success of the player’s team is important, but not everything.
*Brad Butler, Darlington: He’s a junior, he plays in Class A, and he’s a long shot, but there’s a little Nick Marshall or maybe Tim Byerly in this 205-pound quarterback who can ran and pass. In a 42-35 victory over Dade Christian, Butler was 14-of-17 passing for 166 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 147 yards and three touchdowns on seven carries. The week before, he was 7-of-8 passing for 153 yards and two TDs. Darlington is ranked No. 9.
*Mike Davis, Stephenson: Davis rushed for 1,151 yards and 10 touchdowns last season in a Wing-T offense that didn’t allow him to dominate the carries. He rushed for 173 yards on 21 carries in the 14-3 victory over Parkview last week. Davis is committed to Florida. Stephenson is ranked No. 6 in AAAAA.
*Jonquel Dawson, M.L. King: Dawson passed for 3,612 yards and 41 touchdowns for an 8-4 team last season. He had 522 yards passing in the one-point loss to Colquitt County in the playoffs. M.L. King is ranked No. 7 in AAAAA. Dawson’s first game is Thursday against Collins Hill.
*Kenyan Drake, Hillgrove: Drake, an AJC Super 11 running back, had more than 1,000 yards rushing and 500 receiving in 2010. He was the star player in the upset of Camden County in the playoffs. Drake opened last week with 170 yards rushing and two touchdowns on just seven carries in a 41-21 victory against Sprayberry. Drake has committed to Alabama. Hillgrove is ranked No. 8 in Class AAAAA.
*Keyante Green, Eagle’s Landing Christian: Green is a junior in Class A, but so was ECI’s Washaun Ealey when he was the all-class POY in 2007. Green rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries last week against Briarwood Christian in a 21-18 loss. ELCA is ranked No. 2 despite the loss, which was to a No. 1-ranked Class 5A team from Alabama. Green rushed for 1,280 yards and made 115 tackles at linebacker last year.
*Josh Harvey-Clemons, Lowndes: Harvey-Clemons, an AJC Super 11 player, probably has the most impact on both sides of the ball of any Class AAAAA player. He plays safety, cornerback, linebacker, receiver, wingback and quarterback. He’s scored three touchdowns, caught a long pass, rushed for around 100 yards, intercepted a pass and had three tackles for losses in two games. His team is ranked No. 1.
*Mike Hilton, Sandy Creek: A two-way starter, Hilton was the best all-around player on Sandy Creek’s 2010 state championship team as a junior. He rushed for 106 yards and had more than 200 all-purpose yards in the 43-20 opening victory over Whitewater. He has committed to Ole Miss. Sandy Creek is ranked No. 1 and riding a 30-game winning streak.
*Dillon Lee, Buford: An AJC Super 11 pick, Lee is a linebacker and perhaps the best player on the team most likely to win a state championship this year. He’s also a blue-chip recruit who has committed to Alabama. In blowout games, Lee hasn’t put up much in the way of stats yet, but there is plenty of time for that.
*Robert Nkemdiche, Grayson: Nkemdiche is the most widely known junior player in Georgia, if not the nation. This defensive tackle’s team is ranked No. 3 in AAAAA and hasn’t allowed a point when the game was in question during a 2-0 start.
*Geno Smith, St. Pius: Smith is another AJC Super 11 player and a two-way starter who had more than 700 yards rushing on offense and seven interceptions on defense last year. He has committed to Alabama. In his opener against Westminster, he played like a Super 11 player as he rushed for 135 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries (converting one 4th-and-3 for a 12-yard TD run) and made six tackles on defense. St. Pius is ranked No. 5 in Class AAA.
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