As the regular season ends, there are two clearly out in front to be the 2014 Mr. Football State Player of the Year and we may get to see both of them on back-to-back nights at the CIF state bowl games. We write up 13 others considered in our top 15 and mention 15 more who seem to be in line for major individual all-state honors.
Note: The Cal-Hi Sports Mr. Football State Player of the Year selection dates back to 1890 and includes some of the greatest players in football history, including John Elway, Marcus Allen and Harold “Brick” Muller. It has been the anchor of our annual all-state teams honors program that has been chosen at the end of each season since 1979. Our founder, the late Nelson Tennis, made many of the older selections based on research in the 1970s.
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Here is a ranking of the leading Mr. Football candidates heading into the final week of the regular season for most schools (thanks to Paul Muyskens for assistance in doing these writeups):
1. Jake Browning (Folsom) QB
There are comparisons to the 2000 season when Ventura’s Tyler Ebell had such a ridiculous season – new national record 4,495 yards – that we just had no choice but to choose him. Browning has already set numerous state records and has 3,231 yards and 50 touchdowns through nine games with just four interceptions. His current career totals are 14,216 passing yards and 188 passing touchdowns. It’ll be very hard to deny him all the honors if Folsom goes 16-0 and he gets his third straight 5,000-yard season. He’s not just a system or stat guy, either. He is committed to Washington.
2. Josh Rosen (St. John Bosco, Bellflower) QB
Rounding out the two-horse race is the quarterback of the No. 1 team in the state who is looking to lead the Braves to back-to-back CIF Open Division state championships. On the year, he has passed for 1,991 yards and 21 touchdowns with just one interception in 206 pass attempts. Also a threat to run when needed he has gained 265 yards and scored five touchdowns on 59 carries. We picked Rosen as the State Junior of the Year last year over Browning basically because of how the two did against De La Salle plus he’s also ranked as one of the nation’s top college prospects. Just as Browning would be hard not to pick with a 16-0 team behind him, it might be even harder if Rosen leads Bosco to another Open Division title finish. He has committed to UCLA.
A two-way threat, Marshall has become more of an offensive presence this season with the Jackrabbits, including a game against Lakewood in which he caught four TD passes. He doesn’t have defensive stats because nobody – trust us nobody – tries to throw to his side of the field. There probably isn’t a cover corner in the country like him, which is why he’s one of the top recruits in the nation.
4. John Houston (Serra, Gardena) LB
The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder is one of the best linebackers we’ve seen in recent years and should garner tons of All-America honors. The leader of the Cavaliers’ defense, Houston leads the team with 126 total tackles while recording 52 solo tackles, six tackles for loss and three sacks. He doesn’t have any offensive stats to make him a legitimate threat for Mr. Football, but he’d be No. 1 for state defensive player of the year.
5. Trent Irwin (Hart, Newhall) WR
It does get tricky to rank candidates after the first few spots so we tend to look for those players who are making – or should make – the biggest dents in the state record book. Irwin recently became the 13th player in state history to catch six touchdown passes or more in a game and he should finish at least in the top three all-time for career TD catches, career receiving yards and career receptions. Irwin also plays on defense and has recorded an interception this season. Yes, we also know that his best friend, Brady White, the Hart quarterback, would also be a top honors candidate but for this ranking we just decided to limit it to one player per team.
6. Miles Harrison (Clayton Valley, Concord) RB
It was just a few weeks ago that we saw him go crazy during a 48-40 win over Concord as he returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and then rushed for 326 yards and five touchdowns. He has rushed for 1,500 yards and 20 touchdowns so far this season for the undefeated Ugly Eagles. If Clayton Valley were to go far in the NCS playoffs then potentially get to the CIF D2 state bowl game, Harrison’s numbers probably will be off the charts and should make him a leading candidate to be the Bay Area Player of the Year.
7. Sam Darnold (San Clemente) QB
Orange County is a tough place to pick for a top contender at this point. JSerra is a balanced group on offense but either QB Nick Robinson or RB Ed Vander could separate in the playoffs. Mater Dei’s defense has some studs but it’s hard to single out just one. And junior QB K.J. Costello has had some huge games. This brings us to Darnold, the USC commit who has had an outstanding season. He has passed for 1,945 yards and 26 touchdowns with just four interceptions while showing he can also run when needed as he has rushed for 414 yards and eight touchdowns on 74 carries. San Clemente isn’t in the Pac-Five, but if Darnold can lead them to a title in its division and keep up the season he’s having, he seems to us to have the inside track to be the OC Player of the Year.
8. Marcus Bruce (Bakersfield) RB/LB
You have to love players who shine on both sides of the ball like Marcus does for the Drillers. He leads the team with 648 yards on 70 carries and has scored eight touchdowns rushing with two more receiving. He also is leading the team with 80 tackles. If Bakersfield can get back to the CIF D1 bowl game this season and win again, Bruce’s two-way prowess will greatly enhance his postseason honors possibilities.
9. DeChaun Holiday (Mission Hills, San Marcos) WR/DB
San Diego also doesn’t appear to have a leading candidate yet for its player of the year with a group that includes Oceanside QB Matt Romero, Helix QB Michael Austin and El Capitan QB Brad Cagle. Probably the top recruit on a top team is Holiday and he’s having a strong season. Another two-way threat, it’s on the defensive side of the ball that has Holiday headed to play in the U.S. Army All-American Game and a four star recruit.
10. J.J. Taylor (Centennial, Corona) RB
Becoming a regular in our weekly state stat stars, the standout junior should end the regular season with over 1,500 rushing yards since he has rushed for 1,471 yards and 24 touchdowns so far this season. That includes back-to-back games in October that saw him rush for six touchdowns against Roosevelt of Eastvale and Santiago of Corona. Since Centennial is splitting its QB duties this year and its receivers are splitting catches, Taylor’s emergence at running back plus a strong showing in the upcoming CIFSS Pac-Five playoffs makes him a top contender for Riverside County and for the all-state team.
11. Antoine Custer (De La Salle, Concord) RB
You always have to have a De La Salle player on any tracker like this because of the possibility that the Spartans will be an undefeated CIF Open Division state champion. Although teammate and fellow junior Andrew Hernandez has been having the bigger games lately, Custer did the best against Servite and Byrnes and plays the position in the DLS veer that traditionally gets the most carries. So far, he has a team-high 1,114 yards on 105 carries and has scored 14 touchdowns for the Spartans. He also has caught four passes for 129 yards and one score.
12. Sean McGrew (St. John Bosco, Bellflower) RB
As the 2013 State Sophomore of the Year, it’s kind of hard to leave off McGrew on any list of state player of the year candidates. And if he were to have a game or two in the playoffs or bowl game like he had against Corona Centennial last year, he could conceivably become Bosco’s No. 1 player of the year contender instead of looking like No. 2 behind QB Josh Rosen.
13. Christian Rita (Milpitas) WR/DB
With last year’s CCS Player of the Year, Ben Burr-Kirven of Sacred Heart Prep, missing a lot of time with an injury, that honor for this year could be headed to Milpitas, especially if the Trojans keep winning and do it in the CCS Open Division. Rita was all over the field during a game that we were there to see on Halloween night when he caught a touchdown pass, his seventh of the season, and intercepted a pass on defense, his fifth interception on the year. He also has had some huge plays on special teams, especially returning punts.
14. Tyler Vaughns (Bishop Amat, La Puente) WR/DB
After a little bit of a slow start to the season, the Lancers’ passing attack has picked up and he is a big reason why as he leads the team with 51 receptions for 810 yards and 10 touchdowns. Vaughns, one of the state’s top-ranked juniors as a college recruit along with teammate Trevon Sidney, also plays on special teams and defense and has three interceptions so far this season. Vaughns at this point actually has more interceptions than Sidney so we decided to list him on the tracker. Both players are clearly in line for numerous honors.
15. Justice Shelton-Mosley (Capital Christian, Sacramento) WR/DB
We recently ranked Justice as the No. 1 DB in the Sac-Joaquin Section for our segment on the FOX 40 Final Quarter scoreboard show, but he’s more than that and as of now would be a solid No. 2 player of the year candidate from Sacramento behind anybody from Folsom. While his numbers at any one spot might not be overwhelming, this is due to Capital Christian’s huge leads at halftime. The team probably needs to win the D6 section title over Modesto Christian for him to finish this high in the tracker, but that could happen. He has offers from Cal and Colorado and many other D1 colleges.
MORE PLAYERS TO WATCH FOR MR. FOOTBALL
AND LEADING ALL-STATE CANDIDATES
•Beau Bisharat (Jesuit, Carmichael) RB Jr.
•Sheldon Croney (Ridgeview, Bakersfield) RB Sr.
•D.J. Beavers (Crespi, Encino) RB/LB Sr.
•Bailey Gaither (Paso Robles) RB/WR/MP Sr.
•Malik Henry (Westlake, Westlake Village) QB Jr.
•Tyler Hilinski (Upland) QB Sr.
•Freddy Holly (Norte Vista, Riverside) RB Jr.
•Isaiah Langley (Foothill, Pleasanton) WR/DB Sr.
•Malik Lovette (Redlands East Valley) WR/RB Sr.
•Jeremiah Martin (St. Francis, La Canada) QB/RB Sr.
•Mark Paule Jr. (Sierra, Manteca) RB Jr.
•Marvell Tell (Crespi, Encino) DB Sr.
•Ricky Town (St. Bonaventure, Ventura) QB Sr.
•Travis Waller (Servite, Anaheim) QB/RB Sr.
•LaVance Warren (McClymonds, Oakland) RB Sr.