Adoree’ and JuJu are clearly starting at 1A and 1B at the start of the 2013 season to be the next Mr. Football State Player of the Year. We’ve figured out our top 10 in order for the preseason and there could be a few surprises.
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It was a close decision for the 2012 State Junior of the Year honor among the trio of Adoree’ Jackson (Serra, Gardena); John “JuJu” Smith (Long Beach Poly); and Robert Webber (Centennial, Corona). Jackson had a spectacular CIF state bowl game outing, but Smith had better numbers in leading Poly to the CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division title and was given the nod. Webber, who doesn’t have nearly the college recruiting attention as the other two because he lacks height, was nonetheless close to those two after operating a Centennial offense that crushed the state total offense record with more than 8,500 yards.
Throw in the 2012 State Sophomore of Year, quarterback Jake Browning of Folsom, who set a new state record with 5,248 yards and had 61 TD passes in 15 games, and there is the potential for a memorable race to see who will end up as the 2013 Mr. Football State Player of the Year.
All four of those players occupy the first four slots in a top 10 preseason look at the top candidates for this year’s selection.
CAL-HI SPORTS MR. FOOTBALL STATE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
PRESEASON 2013 TOP 10 TRACKER
1. Adoree’ Jackson (Serra, Gardena) WR/RB/DB Sr.
Since Serra is starting higher in the rankings than Smith’s team at Long Beach Poly, he was slotted at No. 1 in the state and also No. 2 in the first Student Sports Mr. Football USA player tracker. He found the end zone on three spectacular touchdowns in the CIF Division II state bowl game and then in the spring led Serra to the team title at the CIF state track meet. He may have to play a lot more running back than was thought due to injuries in the Serra backfield, but that just means he might get his hands on the ball more often.
2. John “JuJu” Smith (Long Beach Poly, Long Beach) WR/KR/DB Sr.
With 49 catches for 752 yards and nine touchdowns on offense plus six interceptions on defense and some other eye-opening plays on special teams, Smith fits right in with some of the top players that Poly has ever had. To top the race for Mr. Football, he’ll likely need to shine from the first week on and Poly also may need to win or at least get to the final of the loaded CIFSS Pac-5 Division.
3. Jake Browning (Folsom) QB Jr.
With most of Folsom’s other starters from last year also back, Browning figures to pile up stats close to what he did last year. Barring injury or a divergence from what Folsom’s offense has been all about in recent years, Browning is on track to shatter numerous state career records. How he does in a possible rematch with De La Salle in the CIF NorCal Open Division bowl game will be key for Mr. Football consideration.
4. Robert Webber (Centennial, Corona) QB Sr.
Last year’s first team all-state quarterback (based on his amazing numbers) and the Riverside Press-Enterprise Player of the Year (over some other very hotly recruited players) will have to get consideration for the top state honor if he simply repeats what he did last year, which was to pass for 3,967 yards and 43 touchdowns and lead Centennial to the CIF Open Division state bowl game.
5. Damien Mama (St. John Bosco, Bellflower) OL Sr.
Dominating lineman have won Mr. Football before and there’s a scenario that could vault the massive 370-pound Mama that high. As managing editor Ronnie Flores points out, “How about if Bosco goes 16-0 and he dominates the open game and is clearly the best player on the team?” Damien could be that good and he definitely will be the one player on the field that may be most noticeable in just about every game the Braves will play.
6. Keller Chryst (Palo Alto) QB Sr.
Chryst shined at numerous summer camps, including the Elite 11, and has emerged as one of the nation’s top quarterback recruits. He has committed to Stanford and will have a number of top teammates back at Paly as well. All that does is improve Chryst’s chances to lead the Vikings to a championship season.
7. K.J. Carta-Samuels (Bellarmine, San Jose) QB/RB Sr.
He was ranked higher than CCS compatriot Keller Chryst by the Elite 11 quarterback coaches coming out of the NorCal tryout at Santa Clara and the Nike camp at Laney College. He continued to rank higher after the Elite 11 finals by those coaches, although Chryst seems to remain higher-ranked by most scouting services. Carta-Samuels, of course, has an easy way to move past Chryst and others on the tracker and that’s lead Bellarmine to the CCS Open Division final. A Paly-Bells final could happen and that would be a quarterback matchup that would attract national interest.
8. Royce Freeman (Imperial) RB Sr.
He’s possibly one of the best small school running backs that the state has seen in many years. He could put up some phenomenal totals and he proved over the summer he’s one of the nation’s top running backs.
9. Das Tautalatasi (De La Salle, Concord) RB/DB Sr.
Since the Spartans have won four straight CIF Open Division titles and have had a strong candidate for Mr. Football in each of those seasons (including 2012 winner Michael Hutchings), it looks like Tautalatasi could be that player coming up. He’ll likely be the No. 1 running back on offense where he’ll score a lot of touchdowns, but he also figures to be a feature player in the secondary as a safety. He’s the type of player who could score three times and come up with two picks in a CIF Open Division final and that type of outing could go far in determining post-season honors.
10. Brad Kaaya (Chaminade, West Hills) QB Sr.
Like Keller Chryst and K.J. Carta-Samuels, Kaaya had a sensational spring and summer mainly through the Elite 11 and Nike events. He has committed to Miami and has the athletic and throwing skills to possibly give league rival and higher-ranked Gardena Serra fits when those two play. Kaaya’s team at Chaminade also is ranked higher in the preseason than either Palo Alto or Bellarmine. Kaaya also could have a teammate, however, in Donovan Lee who could end up as Chaminade’s top honors candidate.
Other possible Mr. Football candidates
Brandon Dawkins (Oaks Christian, Westlake Village): He was the State Sophomore Player of the Year from two seasons ago and could move back into consideration after a disappointing finish to the 2012 season.
Coltin Gerhart (Vista Murrieta, Murrieta): We certainly can see him having a great season, but obviously weren’t going to list him too high since he’s yet to play a game for the Broncos.
Jalen Greene (Serra, Gardena): It’s easy to see a scenario in which Adoree’ Jackson doesn’t post the kind of overall season stats to be Mr. Football, but Greene does as the leader on offense of a Serra team that also could end up with the top overall ranking in the state.
Jonathan Lockett (Mater Dei, Santa Ana): A returning all-state talent for the Monarchs, Lockett would need to do many of the things that an Adoree’ Jackson or a JuJu Smith does for their teams for a Mr. Football run. He’s got the team around him, though, to perhaps do just that.
Morgan Mahalak (Marin Catholic, Kentfield): With the talent to land an offer from Oregon and with the other returning players for his team, it’s easy to see a scenario in which Mahalak has a huge season.
Joe Mixon (Freedom, Oakley): He’s ranked even higher nationally as a prospect than Royce Freeman and many others in the top 10. What could hold back Mixon’s chances for Mr. Football is that Freedom may not have the depth to do much damage in the CIF North Coast Section Class 4A playoffs.
Josh Rosen (St. John Bosco, Bellflower): Putting Rosen this high is mostly a reflection of him being the quarterback on a talent-laden squad that could potentially win the CIF Open Division state bowl game. Rosen also is regarded as one of the top juniors among quarterbacks in the nation.
Ainuu Taua (Lompoc): The state’s No. 1 defensive lineman according to our own top 25 position rankings, Taua was sensational at The Opening in July. Also one of the top interior tackles in the nation.
Ricky Town (St. Bonaventure, Ventura): The junior quarterback already has committed to Alabama and will play the type of schedule that could only see his stock continue to climb.
P.J. Walker (Citrus Hill, Perris): Another 14-0 season for the Hawks (and possibly even more) plus more big-time totals from Walker as the running back could be the formula to get him much higher in the tracker.