As we travel the state watching games we will break down the state's top players. We hope these evaluations by the 24-7 staff will bring attention to the ever growing talent of Arizona high school football.
Aaron Gentry - RB Millennium High School - 5'8 166. I have watched the young man multiple times and each time I watch him I'm more impressed. Gentry lacks the size and maybe even the flat out speed that D1 programs crave but he is one of the most instinctive runners in the state. What makes him special is his vision and patience. Often high school backs pick their hole and go. Gentry waits for the play to develop uses his blockers and sets up the next move. His quickness and change of pace allows him to do this. Add in his ability to line up in the slot and become an effective receiver and you have Arizona's high school version of Brian Westbrook. Thus far this season Gentry has scored fifteen times in multiple formats. He may not be D1 but the right school will pick up one heck of a player.
Mike Smith - RB Sunnyside High School - 5'8 170. Showed great footwork and a quick burst of speed. Runs a lot bigger than his frame and has the ability to break the long run. Also showed good vision with some nice cutbacks and is a tremendous north and south runner. He is the brother of former Sunnyside RB and now Arizona Wildcat Xavier Smith.
Brooks Reed - FB/DE Sabino High School - 6'4 225. Showed deceptive speed for a kid of his size. He had two runs of 40+ yards. He's a tough load to bring down once he gets going and is pretty light on his feet for a big man.
Ridge Nielsen- FB/DE Mt.View - Listed at 6'2 220. I think he is more in the 6' 205-210 range. Undersized now but could put on some weight and get to that 225 range and have more prototypical D1 size. I really like this kid's hustle on both sides of the ball. He is a relentless pass rusher and will never give up on a play. He is a very tough runner and showed deceptive speed against Gilbert. In that game he had nearly 300 yards rushing and runs of 95 and 80 yards. He is also a willing blocker. I think he is too small to play on the DL in college but if he adds some weight, I could see him getting D1 attention at H-Back, similar to that of Sabino stud Brooks Reed. He has the hustle that every coach loves and plays the game with a passion. He could be the best two-player in AZ right now.
Micah Parker – FB Gilbert - In the 6'2 230 range. Moves well and is athletic. Had a solid summer at combines and gained some attention. For someone his size, I did not see him plow through the LOS or make any big blocks as a lead blocker. Right now I would say he has potential but is not D1 right now. JUCO prospect.
Kyle Newhall-Caballero – QB Gilbert - Remember this name. The kid is a stud. 6'3 180 with a frame to grow. Showed great accuracy, was 24-38 for 293 in the game versus Mt. View. Showed great poise in the pocket and great field awareness. Throws a very catch able ball but still has zip on it. Doesn't float many balls or make many bad throws. Not the most mobile QB but shows some escape ability. Keep an eye on him as I think he could be a national type recruit.
Bryan McDaniel – WR Gilbert - Great hands and good speed. Will catch anything thrown at him at will go over the middle. Had 13 grabs in Mt. View game. One flaw is his size. Right around 5'9 and 160. Also plays corner but really impressed me at WR. Size limitations hurts his D1 chances but will put up big numbers with Caballero at QB over the next two seasons.
Brice Wilkins - QB/DB Westwood High School - 6'2 185. The kid is an athlete! He is probably the most athletic player on the team and one of the top athletes in the state. He has Michael Vick like tendencies regarding his ability to run and throw. He is listed at 6'2 maybe closer to 6'0. He has below average QB mechanics. Being a good athlete lets him get by. Not clean with hand offs, does not set body to throw. But his throwing statistics have been impressive the past two weeks, throwing for over 400 yards. He is quick and is not afraid to run with the ball and take on tacklers. He may get recruited as a DB. Westwood uses him as a DB in special situations such as important and long downs.
Keaton Kristick - FB/LB St. Mary's High School - 6'3 225. He looks his size! Further, he wants to hit. Any team would love to have him. He played middle LB. Has great movement side to side and on the blitz. He kept Westwood in check as best as one player can. I did not like his technique. He does not have a traditional stance of a Mike LB. He tends to walk or shuffle around. But bottom line he gets there and makes plays. I can see him playing outside LB or DE at next level. Some schools may see him as an H-back.
Ryan Lush - QB Canyon del Oro High School - 5'11 180. If Lush was a little bigger he would have schools knocking on his door. He is an impressive QB that has multiple skills coaches look for in a QB. First, he has a quick compact release that allows him to get rid of the ball. Second, I would not call him a scrambler but he has pocket awareness. Multiple times against Millennium he was close to getting sacked but moved just enough in either direction or into the pocket to buy him added time. Third, he is a very cool customer. All night long while fighting back against the Tigers he converted on third down and even on fourth down.
Aaron Tevis - TE/DE Canyon del Oro High School 6'3 190. Tevis was the top Junior on the field against Millennium. He caught my eye early in the game he is a long 6'3 and has the ability to make catches in traffic. Although listed as a TE he is a tweener and normally lines up split out or in the slot of CDO's spread formation. For a young receiver he does a very good job of catching the ball with his hands, coming back for the ball or going up and getting it. He shows he is well coached. Defensively although skinny for a DE he showed toughness and a willingness to mix it up.