2014 WR Mike Dudek - Neuqua Valley
Dudek has taken his game to another level this year. Last year, he was a consistent threat in the return game and was solid as a receiver. In the offseason, it was obvious that he hit the gym and did a lot of training to improve his game. Dudek played in a lot of 7 on 7 competitions, which drastically improved his route running skills. The most noticeable change in Dudek this year is his added strength. Last year, he played at just over 160 pounds most of the season. This year, he's playing at a lean 180 pounds, and the added strength has paid off.
Teams often try to jam Dudek at the line now to throw off his timing, but with the added strength, he's able to fight his way off of the line of scrimmage more effectively. The added lower body strength has improved his leaping ability, and despite being just 5'10", he can bring down a jump ball.
One of the little things that's been a big improvement for Dudek is how much better his hands are this year. Last year he was close on a lot of catches, but this year he rarely drops anything. His hands are magnets for the football and a lot of that can be attributed to practice and improved focus and concentration.
Illinois isn't exactly deep at wide receiver, and Dudek has college speed already, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him get right on the field next year as a slot receiver. His combination of crisp route running, football IQ, and playmaking instincts make him a threat to get to the endzone just about any time he touches the ball.
Player Comparison: DeSean Jackson
2016 RB Kentrail Moran - O'Fallon
I saw Moran warming up before the game and thought "this guy doesn't look like a sophomore at all." Moran already has the physical construction of a senior that's ready to play division one football. At about 5'10" tall and a solid 195 pounds, Moran is rock solid.
O'Fallon went to Moran early and often. The weather slowed him down quite a bit and he had trouble getting traction on the slick and muddy field, but when got downhill, he made someone pay on almost every play.
A lot of running backs his size don't use their advantages effectively and try to do too much juking and finesse moves, but Moran plants his foot and then turns into a steamroller. For a guy that's just a soph, he's an extremely tough runner, and in most cases, he didn't go down on first contact. Neuqua's game plan was clearly to gang tackle, and it took that to get Moran down.
Moran will need to continue to improve his vision, and that's something that will come with time. As he's able to better plant a foot, cut, and burst through the hole, he'll be both an inside and outside running threat.
One other thing about Moran that really impressed me was how natural he looked catching passes out of the backfield. Rarely did he drop a pass, looking them in and then securing the ball away. Some high school running backs are good rushers, some are good receivers, but Moran is both in one package.
Player Comparison: Matt Forte