I was very encouraged by the fact that even during the middle of the high school basketball season, when I was covering the heck out of NH high school hoops and there were 900 people a day checking the site talking basketball, there was actually still quite a bit of football discussion that was going on. Even during the months of January, February and March, there was still at least 5-10 comments per day being made on football topics. It shows that that there are definitely a lot of die hard football fans in this state.
I took down the football player rankings a couple of months ago, but I have updated them and will be re-releasing them this week. First up is the running back position...
Here are the Rankings
1. Jerickson Fedrick - Salem - 2012
2. Max Jacques - Salem - 2011
3. Andre Williams - Nashua North - 2011
4. Mike Kelly - Bishop Guertin - 2011
5. Sean O'Gorman - Londonderry - 2012
6. Jamar Gathright - Nashua North - 2011
7. Bill Lane - Portsmouth - 2012
8. Jesse Horn - Alvirne - 2011
9. Derek Paradis - Nashua South - 2012
10. Luke Somers - Pinkerton - 2011
11. Armond McRae - Nashua South - 2012
12. Khari Halliburton - Manchester Central - 2011
13. Bret Taylor - Winnacunnet - 2011
14. Sam Graham - Manchester Central - 2011
15. Nick Calvetti - Souhegan - 2011
16. Emmitt Smith - Pinkerton - 2012
17. Justin Bradley - Manchester Central - 2013
The Big Four
When you look at the rankings, you have 17 good players, but the first four names are the ones that really jump out at you. Fedrick, Jacques, Williams and Kelly. Any one of these kids could be the best player in the state this upcoming season. All four were dominating players last year and should only be better in 2010. Let's take a closer look at each:
Jerickson Fedrick: This kid is a beast. He is the kind of athlete you rarely see come out of New Hampshire. The kid is only a sophomore in high school, but he already has an excellent combination of size, strength, power and speed. He will be a Division I football player, the question is how high of a D-I program will he go to? And just how dominant will he be by the time he's a senior in 2011?
Max Jacques: Unreal combination of speed and athleticism. He has a strong build, but he does lack height at only about 5'5", 5'6" tops. Had some flat out monster games last season as a junior. I was at Stellos Stadium to witness his 331 yard 5 TD game against Nashua South.
Andre Williams: If anything Williams is more of a power back, as he will wear down teams little by little. A 5 yard gain here, a 10 yard run there. Not as many 40 or 50 yard runs as a Jacques or Kelly. But Williams will consistently get you 10-15 yard gains. He had a huge game last year vs. Central and I also saw him play very well late in the year at Pinkerton.
Mike Kelly: Kelly has crazy speed, I would pay to see him race Jacques in a 40 yard dash. Of the four backs highlighted here, Kelly is easily the most versatile. He runs it up the middle. He runs it outside the tackles. He catches screen passes. He catches passes downfield. He returns kicks and punts. And oh by the way he plays defensive back as well. It should be interesting to see how Guertin uses him this season. Last year they had Adam Hall taking most of the carries. And they also had other backs like Tommy Barille, Nick Phillips and Elias Kassis. So Kelly just got 3-5 carries a game and then the rest of the time he lined up as a wideout. But this year Kelly is the team's only returning ball carrier. Regardless of how they use him, Kelly and QB Steve Cuipa are just too talented for every defense that they will face in Division-II this season except for Winnacunnet.
Who Replaces Cavanaugh?
Should be interesting to see who gets carries at Central, with the graduation of star back Mike Cavanaugh. Last few years Cavanaugh has been the Central offense, and has gotten almost all of the carries. Sam Graham was a solid player for the Little Green last season, getting some carries and also going out for passes. Khari Halliburton is another player who got some carries last year. He was second on the team in rushing attempts behind Cavanaugh. And freshman Justin Bradley came on strong late in the year. Graham, Halliburton and Bradley will all battle for carries. Central knows they have a good QB in Jared Chandler and a very good young wideout in Junior Brown. Should be interesting to see how the carries are divided, because Central could be one of the top 2 or 3 teams in the division.
Can Calvetti Carry the Load?
Central isn't the only team that has to replace star back. Souhegan has to replace the 2009 Mr. Football winner Steven Jellison. Nick Calvetti got some carries last year as a junior, and had a few pretty long runs. He has plrnty of speed. But he lacks size, so the question is do they run him between the tackles consistienly even though he's more of an outside the tackles kind of back. And if Calvetti doesn't get the tough yards inside then who does?
Are they Backs or Receivers?
At this point you're not quite sure how BG will use Kelly offensively. Well he is by no means the only player that fits that description. There are a bunch of players who have the ability to play either halfback or receiver. In addition to the speedy Kelly, there's Portsmouth's Bill Lane, Londonderry's Sean O'Gorman, Pinkerton's Luke Somers, Nashua South's Armond McRae and Central's Sam Graham. Even Calvetti and Gathright from North will both "run it and catch it" for their teams. Having players with that kind of versatility is very nice to have for any coach. It's a new season though. Will these players continue to do "double duty" or will their teams need them to focus on just one position? It's only the beginning of April, we have a lot of time to find out...