Friday, August 17, 2012

Preseason Top 5 Player Ratings

Brad Strauss.  Lawrence Journal World.
Top 5 Player Ratings
Player Rating are subject to change on a weekly basis.

1. Brad Strauss, Quarterback, Lawrence

Strauss, last season's Offensive Player of the Year, starts 2012 as the top rated player in the Sunflower League.  What's there to like about Strauss' game?  Well, nearly everything.  This year will be his third running Lawrence's high-powered spread attack, and you'll also see him lining up on the defensive side of the ball at the cornerback position.  

2. Gabe Guild, Running Back, SM South

It's unfair to put these sorts of expectations on a player but I'll just say the number everyone is thinking: 2,000.  As in rushing yards.  As in the only players to have rushed for over 2,000 yards in a single season in the league since the year 2000 have been Simone Award winners Darren Sproles, Maurice Mack, Jim Bouknight and James Franklin.  Guild churned out 1,641 yards in only nine games last season.  Give him a clean bill of health and a playoff berth and 2,000 rushing yards is very much in the realm of possibility this year.

3. Jordan Darling, Quarterback, SM East

SM East is the most past-happy offense in the league and their style is perfect for a gunslinger like Darling.  His measurements (6-4, 235) and pedigree (a combined 26 games of starting quarterback experience in Ohio and Texas) make him the perfect candidate to lead the darkhorse Lancers to glory this year.  I'm really excited to see what kind of numbers he can put up, given the fact that SM East's previous two quarterbacks (John Schrock and Dakota Collins) did exceptionally well passing the football.  The key however, is truly staying healthy.  Neither Schrock nor Collins played their entire senior seasons due to major injuries.  

4. Kyle McFarland, Quarterback, Free State

McFarland could quietly be among the top two or three all-around players in the league.  His rangy size (6-3, 185) made him one of the top quarterbacks and defensive backs last year.  As far as 2012 goes, I can tell you one thing--a monstrous season is brewing from the talented senior.  A big year from McFarland could signify even bigger things from the Free State program.  Stay tuned.

5. Jason Randall, Running Back, Leavenworth

This five spot is always a toss-up but I elected to go with Randall, who as a junior enters his third season as a varsity starter.  He's not huge so I don't want to label him as a bruiser, but he's also not the Dee Bell or Devin Cummings type of player who can flat out burn you with his quickness and agility.  Honestly, I expect Randall to have a big season and you'll all have to make your own judgements on his running style--because he's going to have plenty of highlight type runs to be used for evaluation.

Honorable Mention: Frank Seurer, Olathe South; Braden Smith, Olathe South; Remington Whitley, Olathe South; Hayden Frazier, Olathe East; Brett Sterbach, SM West; Matt Elliott, Olathe South.


TheImpaler said...

Eli - Some love for the linemen? Surely Braden Smith deserves better than honorable mention? Are you a Heisman voter?

TheImpaler said...

Eli - Some love for the linemen? Surely Braden Smith deserves better than honorable mention? Are you a Heisman voter?

Eli Underwood said...

Meh... that's sort of the nature of the beast with these types of rankings. Pancake blocks aren't tracked for offensive lineman, and Smith's defensive numbers last year weren't what I would call "off the charts." Now, if he starts putting up Ndamukong Suh numbers circa 2009 (which very well could happen), then yeah he'll jump in the rankings. But it's hard to quantify a guy when a) there are no stats to track his offensive work and b) his defensive numbers weren't even tops in the league for defensive lineman last year.

That being said, Smith has and will continue to receive plenty of recognition on the blog in other formats because after all he may be the top rated offensive lineman in the class of 2014.

Govannon Grey said...

Here's some stats for Braden Smith: 6-6, 285lbs, 36" in vertical, a broad jump of 9'10" that exceeded any rookie offensive lineman that participated in the NFL combine, a 475lb bench press, 16 Division 1 offers, ranked #3 OVERALL prospect in the class of 2014 and 9 High School centers in eastern Kansas full of dread. I don't think we need much more statistical information to justify this kid as one of the top 5 players in the sunflower league.

Eli Underwood said...

Govannon and TheImpaler, I appreciate both of your inputs, so please take my comments as more of my personal reasoning for why I didn’t include Smith on the Preseason Top 5 Player Ratings. Please don’t take this as some sort of finger wagging sermon.

First off, Braden Smith could by all means be the top ranked player at the end of the season. I’m not in any way ruling that out and that’s why I put him on as honorable mention—it’s just that I don’t like using combine numbers or scholarship offers as justification for rating a kid (especially in a preseason format) among my top five players. If anything Smith’s teammate Remington Whitley should be pissed for not making the list—he recorded 162 tackles as a junior and was every bit as influential for Olathe South (he too could climb the ratings).

I want to see Smith dominate on the field as much as his numbers dominate the combines before I anoint him the next King of Egypt. Statistically on defense, he wasn’t even the top defensive lineman in the Sunflower League last year. That honor belonged to Olathe East’s Matthew Baltimore. And based on what I’ve seen historically, Smith’s production was pretty typical of a good, not great, defensive lineman. I’ve seen players half his size put up more sacks and tackles (i.e., Brent Sensenich, Andrew Patch, Zach Clithero, etc.) and have just as big of an impact defensively.

Offensively he’s likely the best offensive lineman, but how am I supposed to quantify jumping Smith in the rankings for offensive efforts alone? If Russell White rushes for 250 yards was it White or was it Smith or was it some other lineman who was most influential in that accomplishment? Most likely it was a combination of all of the above, and because of this it makes it very challenging to keep a player who’s most dominant efforts come along the offensive line afloat on the Top 5 Player Ratings (even though I’m sure Smith will dominate week in and week out). Without watching every single game in the league it’s also hard to rate out which offensive lineman is performing the best.

Please don’t take this as some bash on Smith. He was only a sophomore last season. He’s phenomenal. He’s the most highly recruited player the league has ever seen and he’s just entering his junior season. I’m grateful I’ll have the opportunity to cover his career at Olathe South. And if he produces on the field in a manner that I would consider to be among the best in the league given his positions, then I’ll have no problem bumping him up the list. I’m not going to hold him to higher standards just because he’s a great athlete—but I’m also not going to make concessions onto the list based on summer combine results.

Govannon Grey said...

I totally understand what you're saying with your rationale. Like you say, when a RB rushes for 250 yards, whose yard do they belong to the line? The Back? (I always say the first 5 go to the line, the rest to the back, but that's hard to separate). Same goes for Whitley, were all those tackles because he was a great LB, or maybe because Smith was demanding double, maybe even triple teams and allowed Whitley to be unblocked for all those tackles. What if all those tackles were made after an 8 yard gain, is that really that impressive? My point with all of that is Stats should never be the be all end all in the discussion of who is or is not a good football player, because it IS such a team sport.

Having said that, according to Smith's stats on MaxPreps, he had 60 tackles and 2 sacks coming from the nose guard position. In my humble opinion, you have to take the position one plays into account. DE's (like Matt Baltimore) are naturally going to have more sacks then anyone else on the team. LB's usually lead the team in tackles, DB's in INTs etc. Further more on interior lineman, 3 techs in a 40 front, like Ndamukong Suh was at Nebraska and is in Detroit, is going to have more tackles and more sacks then a nose in a 30 front. You can see that when Warren Sapp made that transition when moving from Tampa Bay to Oakland. 3 techs don't usually demand the doubles and combo blocks like a shade or a nose. Comparing a 3 tech and a Nose guard is like comparing a Full Back and a Half Back. Again, just my analysis as a football fan take it or leave it, is that 60 tackles from a Nose is as impressive of a feat as say 80 from a DE or 90 from a LB. Take a look at the Pro Bowl Nose guards from last year, the leading tackler from that group was Baltimore's Ngata who produced 64 tackles in 16 games, and had 5 sacks. So in sum of all this useless information and stat porn, is that yeah, I think even by stats, he merits a top 5 ranking.

But that's the fun about all of this, it's just a bunch of opinions from guys who love HS football. The kids will play it out on the field no matter what those opinions are.