Monday, September 1, 2014

Week One Power Rankings, News & Notes

JD Woods and his LHS teammates are hoping to bring
home a victory in week one when they visit Blue
Valley West. Photo LJWorld.
Eli's Thoughts and Comments 

** Three of the Sunflower League's staple head coaches -- Free State's Bob Lisher, Lawrence's Dirk Wedd, and Olathe East's Jeff Meyers -- have yet to win state titles as head coaches. The trio have a combined 341 wins and 53 years of head coaching experience in the Sunflower League. You just get the feeling one of them is going to break the drought in the next few years.

**It's a bit surprising that SM East defensive end Kyle Ball hasn't received any FBS offers to date. The 2013 Sunflower League Defensive Player of the Year is coming off a season where he recorded 107 tackles (28 for loss) and eight sacks. Ball, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 235 pounds, also had stellar performances at the summer camps of various local universities. He reportedly logged a 4.58 forty at Iowa State's summer camp in June, and he was, according to many reports, the most impressive defensive lineman in attendance at Kansas' summer camp. Widely regarded as the most tenacious returning defender in the state, I'm sure Ball will eventually land an offer(s). Especially as his senior production backs up what he's done the past two years with the Lancers.

**There will be several content changes to The Sunflower League Football Blog this upcoming season. For one, I've done away with the the Weekly Player Ratings section. It was fun to keep tabs on which players were performing the best on paper, but overall I don't think it was the most efficient way to evaluate the league's top talents. And there was no real way to track lineman or strictly defensive players in the ratings. But I've also balanced things out by adding content. I plan on having weekly commentary overviews, such as this, in addition to more columns. I will also try to incorporate JV, Sophomore, and Freshman level team reports, where I see fit, if possible.

**Is there anything like Friday nights in the fall? Pregame tailgates. The band's drumline echoing throughout the parking lot. The changing leaves and temperatures creating the unique fall ambiance. The smell of the popcorn as you enter the stadium. The unbridled rush of enthusiasm from the crowds. The synopsis during the car rides home. Post-game celebrations with friends. Re-watching the highlights that night on TV... Enjoy the football season.

Trending Up

Open Scheduling: The Sunflower League coaches and athletic directors made the bullish move of allowing open scheduling in week one, and the result is more enthusiasm around opening week than we've had in years. Not only has this created more intrigue and excitement for the players, students, parents and fans, but it will also open the league to more exposure and potentially nationally televised games in the future.

FBS Recruiting: The Sunflower League will feature at least three FBS-bound seniors this fall -- Scott Frantz (Free State, committed to K-State), Josh Moore (Olathe North, committed to Ohio State) and Marcel Spears (Olathe North, committed to Iowa State), not to mention two juniors in Isaiah Simmons (Olathe North) and Amani Bledsoe (Lawrence) who already hold multiple FBS offers. More top-flight recruits means better competition, which means better play on the field, which means more college coaches will be in attendance this fall and in the years to come.

Turnovers and rushing yardage: This statistic shouldn't come as a shock to anyone who's been around Kansas high school football for any length of time, but in order to do well in 6A, you need a dominant rushing attack -- more specifically, a dominant running back. Since 1998, every Sunflower League team who's won a 6A state title has had a running back on their roster who rushed for 1,500 yards or more. Turnovers are also an excellent gauge for the slings and arrows of a team's fortunes. The past two seasons, the four Sunflower League teams who've made it to Sub-State have on average forced two turnovers a game.

Trending Down

The classic Sunflower League scheduling structure: For the first time in history, Free State and Lawrence won't face off the in City Showdown in districts. Instead they'll play in mid-September. Due to the influx of 6A East, Free State will be competing against 6A West teams in districts and in the playoffs if they qualify. Lawrence will remain in 6A East. The 6A East structure, which has been predominately Sunflower League teams, will now feature six non-league teams in 2014 -- Blue Valley, Blue Valley North, Blue Valley Northwest, Gardner-Edgerton, Harmon, and Wyandotte. Oh, and Leavenworth will be playing in 5A, marking the first time since 2005 a Sunflower League team has not played in 6A.

Dynasties: Class 6A tends to run in dynasties. From the late 1970s through the mid-1990s, Lawrence was the dynasty. Olathe North took over in 1997, and milked a dynasty through 2004. Hutchinson surfaced in 2003, and won seven state titles (six in 6A) in the eight years that followed, but the departure of head coach Randy Dreiling has seemingly opened things back up. So naturally we might be looking to the Sunflower League for the next dynasty. But I'm sorry, this isn't your father's or older brother's Sunflower League anymore. The coaching staffs are stacked, teams are more competitive, there are fewer punching bags, and there's no true "bully on the block." The evidence is in the fact the past three state title representatives from the Sunflower League have combined to go 14-13 in the seasons that followed.

Week One Power Rankings

1. Olathe North
The Eagles begin their "Drive for Nine" with a trip south to take on Rogers (Ark.) Heritage. Anything less than a comfortable victory and the naysayers will be out in full force.

2. SM East
The Lancers made headway as a program last fall making the 6A state title game, but mopping up what will be an inexperienced Gardner-Edgerton team would be yellow tape to the rest of league and state.

3. Olathe East
The Hawks' opponent, Garden City, will be playing on the heels of a six-hour bus ride. Olathe East can make its presence known with a what should be a solid home showing.

4. Lawrence
Traveling to play Blue Valley West will be unfamiliar territory for the young group of Chesties. New stadium, new opponent -- but this group of Lions is ready to prove themselves after going 3-6 in 2013.

5. Lawrence Free State
Maybe the best thing about a Bob Lisher coached football team is they don't seem to miss a beat from one season to the next, especially on offense. Expect their zone-read to be at mid-season form.

6. SM West
The Vikings will be bringing out one of their most inexperienced teams of the last decade. The good news is the newbies have chance to be very good; the bad news is the newbies are newbies.

7. Olathe South
The Falcons were twice routed by Hutchinson in state title games in 2004 and 2007. What would be a better "post-Dreiling" gift for the Salthawks than a big, fat 'L?'

8. SM South
If SM South is going to break their string of losing seasons (which dates back at least 16 years), this week one matchup with SM North is a must-win kind of game.

9. Olathe Northwest
The Ravens, like their neighbors to the east, will be hosting a travel weary opponent in Hays. Whether they can or can't capitalize on those circumstances will be a sign of things to come in 2014.

10. Leavenworth
The Pioneers might as well think of the six games leading up to district play as preparation for 5A football. This week one game against Great Bend will be their only taste of 5A in that time frame.

11. SM Northwest
The Cougs have the most difficult week one draw of any team in the league as they host the defending Class 5A champs Blue Valley. But I respect the heck out of them for scheduling the game.

12. SM North
The Indians haven't tasted a victory since week eight of 2011. Their current 19-game losing streak is two short of the 21-game streak set by Leavenworth in 2010 which is longest streak of its kind in the league since 2000. They need a win.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

2014 Player Spotlights: Josh Moore

Olathe North's Josh Moore.
Josh Moore
Olathe North

Position(s): Tight End/Defensive End
Height: 6-foot-5
Weight: 255 lbs.
Year: Senior
Film: Hudl

Player Comparisons
Christian Ballard, Lawrence Free State (2004-2006)

The Skinny
Moore's an interesting character. He's loathed by his opponents, adored by college coaches and recruitniks, and to this point, you could comfortably label him as either an underachiever, or a player who hasn't yet grasped his own potential. The label probably depends on the party.

If you want to know who's led the Sunflower League in trash talking the past two seasons, look no further than Moore. If you want to know which player in the league committed to Ohio State over offers from Auburn, Florida State, and Oklahoma, among others, look no further than Moore.

The enigmatic tight end was practically shunned by the league's coaches (on paper) as a sophomore, not earning even honorable mention all-league honors despite being the league's most gifted combination of size and athleticism. Of course, those attributes only counted when Moore wanted to make them count, which didn't seem like every game. In his junior season Moore stepped it up, catching 17 passes for 370 yards and two touchdowns as a tight end and recording 51 tackles, including 13 for loss, as a defensive end. And yet, the expectations remain that he's much more gifted than even those numbers, and he should be able to take it to the next level as a senior.

Truth be told, Moore is a carbon copy of former Free State and NFL alum, Christian Ballard. Ballard faced almost identical criticisms and praises during his tenure with the Firebirds, but it didn't stop schools like Georgia, Oklahoma and Michigan from offering. He ended up at Iowa where he was an All-Big Ten selection before he landed in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings. Then last year he famously became one of  the first players in NFL history to quit the league because it "wasn't fun for him."

Moore is an insanely talented player, playing on what will be an insanely loaded Olathe North roster. He's also one of the most intriguing players to keep an eye on this fall, for more than just his on-the-field performance. His efforts this offseason and in fall camp also suggest he's turned the corner, and could very well be a near-impossible force for opponents to contend with this fall.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

2014 Player Spotlights: Jalen Branson

Olathe East's Jalen Branson. Plank Photo.
Jalen Branson
Olathe East

Position: Running Back
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 180 lbs.
Year: Senior
Film: Hudl

Player Comparisons:
Brandon Willingham, Olathe East (2008-2010), Kendall Kelly, SM North/Olathe East (2009-2011),

The Skinny
While Olathe North's Venus Triplett will get most of the hype as the league's best running back, keep an eye on Branson as he matures into his senior season. He had a solid junior campaign, rushing for 852 yards and 10 touchdowns on 132 carries (6.45 ypc), while splitting backfield duties with Jordan Brown, who had 187 carries of his own.

Branson has the skill set and the offense to really go off this fall. He's timed in the 4.45 neighborhood in the forty, and he's now had two entire seasons of varsity experience to get the hang of things. What's more, he'll finally be the featured back in an offense that has produced some phenom running backs like Andre Jones, Dee Bell and Brandon Willingham. Even some of their average running backs have played above their ceilings because of the fullback eccentric offense the team runs.

Maybe the biggest take home point about Branson's prospects entering his senior season is that if Olathe East is going to do really well, Branson can't be just another Olathe East running back that has a solid season only to see the team fall short of a state title game. Branson has the ability to be a big-time running back on the league and state scene, and if he can find a way to be just a bit more dynamic, and help his team in more ways than some of their previous backs, the Hawks may just find a way to bring home that elusive state championship.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Q&A with Missouri Assistant Coach Mack Brown

Mack Brown, left, serves as an offensive GA and tight
ends coach at Missouri. Photo
The Sunflower League Football Blog recently sat down with Mack Brown, an Assistant Coach at Missouri, for a Q&A session. In the riveting interview, Brown, a SM North alum, shared insights into coaching in the SEC, tips on being recruited by FBS programs, and his experiences playing quarterback in the Sunflower League.  

Could you tell us about your current role at Missouri and your long-term aspirations?

My current role at the University of Missouri is Tight Ends Coach/Offensive Graduate Assistant. I am in an unbelievable position as a young coach to have our offensive coordinator (Josh Henson) and head football coach (Gary Pinkel) believe in my abilities as a person and as a football coach and allow me to have my own position group at this level.

As far as long term goes, I am obviously having an incredible time coaching at one of the premier college football programs in the country, but also have to be conscious about the next job and where that will be. I don’t have a great answer for you for the immediate future, but I do know my long-term aspirations is to continue to coach football and develop my group of players as overall people.

What's the perception of the Sunflower League among the Missouri coaching staff, and among SEC coaching staffs in general (if there is one at all)?

I don’t know if there is a perception of the Sunflower League specifically, but we do hold very high regards for football in the Kansas City area. The Sunflower League is obviously a league that you have to recruit if you are going to recruit Kansas City, and Coach Andy Hill does a fantastic job recruiting Kansas City for us as a program. We place a great emphasis on keeping the local talent that we feel can play in our league “at home," and the Sunflower League fits into that category. I also believe there is a good perception of Kansas City football nationwide as you see multiple BCS programs, from all five of the major conferences, offering and recruiting athletes out of the area on a yearly basis.

How does Missouri evaluate its recruiting targets? List the qualities you guys look for during the evaluation process.

We take great pride in our evaluation process at the University of Missouri, which includes being as thorough on each recruit as we possibly can. We have different measurable criteria for each position, but are not locked into those numbers if a coach has a great feel for a player's size development or athleticism. Obviously one of the most important characteristics any recruit can showcase is exceptional functional movement for their position. If you aren't an explosive, athletic athlete you are going to have a very difficult time playing at this level. Another characteristic that we take very seriously at Mizzou is the character of the individual. There are a couple of different ways we evaluate this including asking the player's head coach, position coach, teachers and guidance counselors, as well as monitoring their social media.

What's the best thing a recruit can do to get their name out to FBS coaching staffs? Dos and Donts?

The best thing a player can do to get recruited by any school FBS-DIII is to have productive game film. This sounds very cliché, but it really is the truth. With the way recruiting has evolved, recruits are more and more worried about getting an early offer and committing before their senior season. While this is an option for the elite prospects in the country, if you do not have an early offer (before your senior season), don’t worry about it, go play the best football of your career your senior year and everything will take care of itself.

Obviously going to different football camps in the summer can do a great deal for athletes as they are not only exposing their athleticism to different coaching staffs, but they are also getting the chance to work with those coaching staffs and put themselves in the shoes of a player at that school for the day and get a feel for the staff's personality. This obviously works the other way around as well, as coaching staffs are trying to feel out what it would be like to coach you as one of their players.

With that being said, keep in mind that it will be extremely difficult to get recruited if you aren't playing ball on Friday nights. Don’t attend so many football camps that you are missing a lot of your high school football team activities (weights, camp, etc.).

How much do stats play a role in a player recruitment, if any? 

I wouldn't say that stats specifically play a role in the recruitment of our athletes, but production does. If you are making a lot of plays and constantly around the ball you are acquiring stats within your highlights. We very rarely look at the raw stats of an individual such as tackles, catches, completions, etc. With that being said, having great stats will never hurt a player.

Brown was a highly recruited pro-style quarterback
during his time with the Indians. He graduated from
SM North in 2005.
You were heavily recruited by Colorado and Ole Miss (among others) out of high school. Any interesting stories from your recruitment? And how has FBS recruiting changed from 10 years ago?

Although I did have multiple BCS offers, my recruitment was not that hectic. I attended multiple summer camps prior to my senior season to gain more exposure to the schools that I had mutual interest with. As I mentioned previously I was able to work 1-on-1 with each coaching staff (position coach/coordinator) and get a great feel for the right fits. Once I camped at the University of Colorado, I knew exactly where I wanted to play my college ball. Recruiting has definitely changed in the past 5-10 years though as social media, and the overall exposure of high school student athletes has amplified to the point each BCS school has their own Rivals site and ESPN is broadcasting high school football all-star competitions in the summer.

What's one thing the public in general doesn't know about being a Graduate Assistant at an FBS program?

Being a graduate assistant at an FBS program is very demanding as you work anywhere from 12 to 20 hours a day, and have to be ready to roll the next day as if you had a day off the day before. It’s obviously something you have to be totally committed to in order to experience any kind of enjoyment or success. The easiest way to explain this is this profession is a production based business. If you are not producing on the tasks assigned to you, or your players are not producing at the level they are expected to be at, they will find someone else to do your job. Therefore you end up spending multiple hours making sure every task is done correctly, and you are doing everything possible to give yourself and your players every chance to succeed.

Who's the best player you ever faced in the Sunflower League and why?

Playing quarterback you never truly have the opportunity to go 1-on-1 with an individual play after play and get a great feel for overall strength or quickness. The thing you do get is a feel for a lot of different players athletic abilities as it relates to what area you are going to attack. Obviously, anyone who has played in the Sunflower League takes great pride in the quality of football that is played each year so I could name probably a couple of different individuals from each team I faced. With that being said, I’ll give you a name from the back two levels of the defense. Mike Rivera (SM Northwest) was a guy at linebacker who you always had to have a great idea where he was on each play, and Randy Shephard and Dustin Moomau (both Olathe North) were those same types of players in the secondary.

Who was the best team you ever faced in the Sunflower League and why?

I had the opportunity to play a lot of great teams in the Sunflower League. Olathe North was the class of the league when I was playing, but Olathe East was always extremely talented. Also, the Shawnee Mission Northwest team that featured Rivera and Ryan Torain (2003) was obviously one of the most talented teams we played against and a great environment due to the rivalry.

Favorite/best game you ever played in high school?

We took great pride in trying to be the best team in the Shawnee Mission School District, and we accomplished it a couple of years, but fell short a couple of years. Any time we played a Shawnee Mission school there was typically a great environment and a lot of pride on the line. Two games do stick in my mind though. In 2003, ending Olathe North’s 38-game winning streak the first game of the year, and the following week beating a very good Lawrence team on the last play of the game.

I also had the honor of coaching at Lawrence High School in the fall of 2011 and was able to experience the cross town rivalry between LHS and Free State. This is also one of my greatest game experiences from the Sunflower League as the environment was second to none, and we were able to find a way to overcome a couple of key injuries and win to get into the playoffs.

Wildest SEC experience?

I get this question a lot, as people want to know if the SEC conference is truly what it is built up to be. My answer to the questions is always, yes, it is everything you expect (or expected) and more. The football in this conference is truly a lifestyle for a lot of people, not just a social event you show up to on Saturday afternoons. If you have never had the chance to experience SEC football, make sure you find the time to attend a game in your lifetime.

I have a ton of great stories, but the wildest experiences probably came this year as we were making our run at the SEC Championship game. Going to Sanford Stadium undefeated (5-0) and playing a No. 6 ranked Georgia Bulldog team in front of 93,000 people, and ultimately winning, was an incredible experience. Our offensive coordinator calls the game from the press box so our communication is obviously over the headsets. On our first third down of the game, the noise level in that stadium was so loud there was absolutely no chance of hearing anything on the headsets, let alone the person next to you. Thankfully our quarterback coach started signaling in a play call and we all just replicated what he did.

Another great experience was our win at Ole Miss late last season. We had a great crowd on the road and finished the game very strong. The way their stadium is set up the visiting team walks underneath the stadium and is exposed to all of the fans as the exit, only separated by a fence. By the time we started walking back to our locker room it was a sea of Mizzou fans who were going nuts as we walked into the locker room. It was a really cool experience and one that helped.

My favorite SEC experience happened in Columbia, on the last regular season game last fall when we played Texas A&M with the SEC East Championship title on the line. Our fans were unbelievable and there wasn't a seat to be found as we came out for pregame. After we secured the fourth quarter victory the fans rushed the field to “Georgia On My Mind” by Ray Charles as that victory sent us to Atlanta to play in the SEC Championship game against Auburn.

You share a name with the former University of Texas head coach -- was that by design?

I wasn’t specifically named after Mack Brown, but my father's pre-existing relationship gave my parents the idea of the name. My father had a lot of talented players at Grandview (MO) High School when Coach Brown was an assistant coach and recruiting the Kansas City area. They developed a friendship throughout a couple of different players recruitment processes, but I don’t personally have a relationship with Coach Brown.

What has allowed Missouri to have success, so quickly, in the SEC?

What a lot of people don’t realize is since 2007, the University of Missouri football program is the eighth winningest BCS football program in the country, and has the fifth most First Round NFL Draft picks in that same time frame.

I do believe our recruiting evaluation process works, and we have a player development program that is second to none. Finally, Coach Pinkel and our staff have a plan that is obviously proven over time, and works. Our players compete with each other daily on a level that I had not seen before joining this staff, and have also created a family environment and culture that pulls the team together every Saturday afternoon and we play as one.

Any parting thoughts, shout outs, or words of wisdom you would like to share with the readers?

One of the biggest things I can tell players in high school football is to thoroughly enjoy the experience and put everything you have into your season. There is truly not much that even comes close to playing under the lights on Friday night for your school.

Would also love to give a shout out to anyone who coached me at Shawnee Mission North, obviously you all had an impact on my life, and career choice as I am trying to give back what so many others gave to me. Also, a quick shout out to Coach Wedd at LHS as he provided me with an unbelievable opportunity, as well as the rest of the LHS staff I was able to work with in the fall of 2011. Although my career is young, that was one of my favorite falls yet. Obviously I haven’t mentioned my parents but they have truly allowed me to be in the position I am and chase this dream.

Feel free to follow me on twitter @mgbrown211 or Coach Andy Hill @Coach_Hill_Miz who recruits the Kansas City area. As I mentioned previously, we take great pride in our recruitment of in-state athletes and keeping them at home (we consider all of Kansas City to be in-state), and that doesn't change with the Sunflower League.

Brown, alongside Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel, during Missouri's 28-21
home victory against Texas A&M last November.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Sunflower League Player Rankings by Position

Olathe North's Venus Triplett. 810 Varsity.
The following is a completely subjective look at some of the top returning players in the Sunflower League. As is the usual disclaimer, top talents emerge every fall who were relative unknowns heading into the season. There are also plenty of talented players who aren't listed below simply because I only included a top five at each position.

1. Cole Murphy, Olathe North
Combined for 2,209 yards of total offense and 19 touchdowns in '13.
2. Jake Seurer, Olathe South
Increased emphasis on accuracy could produce big senior season.
3. Bryce Torneden, Free State
Versatile athlete gained comfort on the varsity as a starting cornerback in '13.
4. Will Schneider, SM North
Impressive freshman production (1,478 passing yards, 12 touchdowns) should improve.
5. Landry Hodges, Leavenworth
Third-year starter has the necessary experience to rally the Pioneers into the playoffs.

Running Backs
1. Venus Triplett, Olathe North
Powerful and compact senior seeks to become Olathe North's seventh Simone winner.
2. Jalen Branson, Olathe East
League's fastest running back will be heavily leaned on to produce big numbers this fall.
3. Duron Lowe, SM Northwest
Strong and athletic running back will get the lion's share of the carries for Cougs.
4. JD Woods, Lawrence
Agile tailback who should excel in Lawrence's zone-read schemes.
5. Tarik Watson, SM West
Rushed for 618 yards and three touchdowns after becoming starter midway through '13.

Wide Receivers
1. Nick Perez, SM North
Led the Sunflower League in receiving yards (843) and receiving touchdowns (8) in '13.
2. Isaiah Ross, Leavenworth
Fourth-year starter can stretch a defense as well as any receiver in the league.
3. Alec Dean, SM East
Big target at 6-4, 210 pounds, who saves his best moments for the brightest spotlights.
4. Isaiah Macklin, SM West
Speedy athlete may become the league's best slot receiver this fall.
5. Mauricio Chio, Olathe North
Steady receiver has been a staple on the Sunflower League scene last two seasons.

Tight Ends
1. Josh Moore, Olathe North
Physical specimen who should be able to dominate as a blocker and pass-catcher.
2. Coleman Clanton, Olathe South
Prototypical tight end will be the Falcons top target in the passing game.
3. Price Morgan, Lawrence
Heralded junior should see offensive touches increase substantially.

Offensive Lineman
1. Scott Frantz,  Free State
Sunflower League's best offensive lineman has no problem blocking to the whistle.
2. James Wooldridge, SM East
Mobile tackle who plays and moves more like a tight end than an offensive lineman.
3. Devin Price, SM East
Athletic guard who plays low and is excellent at putting his hat on a defender.
4. Mitch Holsinger, Olathe Northwest
Third-year starter who could be the best offensive lineman among the Olathes.
5. Tyler Bacon, Olathe North
Strong left tackle who can drive defensive lineman into the secondary.

Defensive Lineman
1. Kyle Ball, SM East
Sunflower League Defensive Player of the Year returns after 28 tackles for loss.
2. Amani Bledsoe, Lawrence
Just scratching his potential, big-time junior holds four FBS offers.
3. Marcel Williams, Olathe North
Mobile and strong, will be key in anchoring D-line in front of outstanding linebackers.
4. Josh Moore, Olathe North
Size and speed will make him one of the league's elite pass rushers.
5. Carter Pembridge, SM West
Tough-nosed defensive end will look to bounce back from an ACL tear last fall.

Lawrence's Price Morgan. LJWorld.
1. Marcel Spears, Olathe North
Tenacious defender is a tackling machine, with a 37-inch vertical and 4.6 forty.
2. Adam Harter, Olathe Northwest
League's best outside linebacker is athletic enough to cover the entire field.
3. Price Morgan, Lawrence
Savvy junior showed a nose for the football in '13 and brings toughness to young team.
3. Jesse Kendricks, Olathe North
Solid tackler (118 tackles in '13) excels at moving laterally to chase down ballcarriers.
5. Stephen Miller, Olathe South
Dependable linebacker who will be at the core of the Falcons' defensive efforts.

Defensive Backs
1. Isaiah Simmons, Olathe North
Eagles' best defensive back since Dustin Moomau already holds multiple FBS offers.
2. Jake Seurer, Olathe South
Hard-hitting safety who plays like a linebacker in run support.
3. Chaz Burgess, Olathe North
Wiry senior might play the ball out of the air better than anyone in the league.
4. Joel Spain, Lawrence Free State
Could be the league's best defensive back in one-on-one coverage situations.
5. Charley White, SM East
Savvy secondary athlete who plays excellent coverage over the top.

1. Chris Diddle, Olathe East
Took home First Team All-Sunflower League honors as just a sophomore in '13.
2. Jake Boyce, Leavenworth
Connected on four of six field goal attempts last season.
3. Ellis Springe, Lawrence
LHS can attest to the benefits of having a (good) kicker, perhaps more than anyone.

Honey Badgers (players with a knack for creating turnovers)
1. Ethan Wall, Olathe Northwest
Rangy defensive back found a way to get in on nine turnovers in '13.
2. Marcel Spears, Olathe North
Top returning linebacker was in on seven turnovers and two blocked kicks last fall.
3. Adam Harter, Olathe Northwest
Athletic linebacker created five turnovers and a defensive touchdown as a junior.
4. Isaiah Simmons, Olathe North
Converted five interceptions to 157 yards and one touchdown as a sophomore.
5. Isaiah Ross, Leavenworth
The quickest secondary player in the league has snagged nine career interceptions.

Highlight Reels (the league's most exciting players to watch)
1. Venus Triplett, Olathe North
Eleven of 25 rushing touchdowns scored in '13 came on runs of 30 yards or longer.
2. Bryce Torneden, Free State
Dynamic dual-threat will be league's toughest quarterback to game plan around.
3. Jalen Branson, Olathe East
Tailback can turn the corner on any defense with legitimate speed in the 4.4 range.
4. Isaiah Ross, Leavenworth
Has shown the ability to produce big play after big play the past three seasons.
5. Marshall Bland, SM South
Jitterbug is tiny at 5-6, 155 pounds, but might be the league's most elusive back.

Potential Sleepers (under-the-radar but could have major impact in 2014)
1. Chase Latscha, Olathe South
Offensive tackle has FBS interest; finally out from under Braden Smith's shadow.
2. Shane Hofer, Lawrence Free State
Coming off an impressive junior campaign, could take his game to another level.
3. Alan Clothier, Lawrence
Quarterback friendly offense could mean a big season's in store for the signal-caller.
4. Anthony Hunt, Leavenworth
Should build on excellent junior year to be one of league's outstanding defenders.
5. Brycen Hinson, Olathe East
Hawks' offense will be geared towards running behind Hinson.
6. Ned Bingaman, SM South
Could place himself among the league's best defensive lineman by mid-season.
7. Sam Huffman, SM East
Will tote a big workload with the graduation of backs Luke Taylor and Mitchell Tyler.
8. Jeighlon Cornell, Olathe North
At 6-0, 195 pounds, has the tangibles to be league's most physical cornerback.
9. Zach Gerber, SM South
Has potential for big senior season after injury shortened junior campaign.
10. Michael Queen, Olathe East
Big defensive end prospect has garnered chatter; will be put to the test this fall.