This is an ongoing weekly series, examining the top Arizona high school football players who will be juniors in 2017 and heading off to college as part of the Class of 2019.
These are the state’s most recruited players. This list has as much to do with college interest and ‘projectability’ as last season’s performances.
Later, there will be position rankings, based on a combination of college recruiting, stats and how valuable they are for their team and the kind of impact they will have.
Editor’s note: Last year, Obert unveiled his top prospects for 2019 before the season. This is a new list, with new rankings. There will be a new batch of ten each week.
No. 70 Jett Kinsch, Liberty, RB, 6-1, 200
Big, speedy, powerful back who is capable of a 1,000-yard rushing season after running for nearly 500 yards last season. But he might have to miss first game after transferring from Glendale Mountain Ridge.
No. 69 Cameron Brown, Casteel, DB/WR, 5-11, 180
He is part of the nucleus laying the groundwork for Casteel football success. The Colts will be even better than last season when it lost only to Yuma Catholic. Brown’s speed and quickness separates him from others on the field.
No. 68 Hogan Hatten, Pinnacle, LB/TE, 6-3, 230
He is the twin brother of Hayden. He is an outstanding receiver, as well, who could be used myriad ways. He can play H-back, linebacker, tight end and out side. Versatile and strong.
No. 67 Louis Contreras, North Canyon, QB, 6-3, 188
This guy can fling it with accuracy and distance. Poised and athletic. But it may be half the season after transferring in for the spring semester from Goodyear Millennium. This guy can fling it with accuracy and distance. Poised and athletic. But it may be half the season after transferring in for the spring semester from Goodyear Millennium.
No. 66 Dakota Banning, Queen Creek, C, 6-1, 225
Could be the anchor of another strong offensive line that Queen Creek always rolls out under coach Travis Schureman, a former high school and college offensive lineman.
No. 65 Hayden Hatten, Pinnacle, WR, 6-3, 212
Big, physical receiver with good hands. Athletic. A top baseball player before devoting more time to football. Plays on basketball team. May end up as Spencer Rattler’s top target.
No. 64 Hendrix Johnson, Boulder Creek, QB/S, 6-0, 170
Saw varsity action at defensive back and quarterback. With a strong off-season, Johnson figures to be central to team’s success in 2017 with ability to impact both sides of the ball.
No. 63 Keegan Freid, Sunrise Mountain, QB, 6-3, 175
Was mentored by Boise State-bound Chase Cord. Ready to break out big his junior season. Good speed, smart, strong arm.
No. 62 Kohner Cullimore, Gilbert Highland, RB/DB, 6-1, 193
Great athlete who could be the team’s most valuable player on both sides of the ball. He had 664 rushing yards and 202 receiving yards and 21 solo tackles on varsity as a sophomore.
No. 61 Devin Larsen, Queen Creek, QB, 6-5, 200
Size alone will attract college recruiters. He had a breakthrough sophomore season, passing for 2,524 yards and 25 TDs with just six interceptions on a team that likes to run.
No. 60 Craig McFarland, Chaparral, OL, 6-6, 250
Has a chance to become a big-time defender. He can also play offensive line. He still is developing and oozes potential.
No. 59 Shawn Charles, Phoenix Camelback, Athlete, 6-0, 170
Game changer on both sides of the ball as a wide receiver and a defensive back. He had to fill in a few games last year at quarterback, but he projects to be a college receiver. Great hands, speed and moves.
No. 58 Connor Soelle, Saguaro, LB, 6-0, 180
Saw some spot duty on loaded state championship varsity team that was senior-laden. He’ll take on a big role this season at linebacker. Plays bigger than his size. He is the brother of Arizona State freshman outside linebacker Kyle Soelle, who played for Saguaro last season.
No. 57 Breaden Liebrock, Chandler, WR/TE, 6-5, 215
Big, long, athletic receiver who makes catches over the middle. Tough, physical play-maker who figures to be featured quite a bit this season.
No. 56 Logan Maxwell, Higley, DE, 6-4, 210
He had 41 tackles, eight for losses, and five sacks during his sophomore season. He also blocked two kicks and recovered a fumble. Explosive off the edge.
No. 55 Jordan Gray, Sunnyslope, Athlete, 6-1, 185
He could find himself making an impact on offense as a receiver and running back, but he already has established himself as a play maker as a linebacker with his speed and ball skills.
No. 54 Ty Siffermann, Basha, WR, 5-10, 160
He showed glimpses of greatness as a big-play threat. He’ll be a primary receiver this season with All-Arizona receiver Terrell Brown graduated. Siffermann had 34 catches for 564 yards last season.
No. 53 Jonathan Durand, Basha, OL/DL, 6-4, 240
Still filling into athletic body. Very tough, discipline, strong, good feet, long arms. Should get notice during big man competitions this summer.
No. 52 Jake Farrell, Notre Dame, QB, 6-4, 205
Coach George Prelock likes this guy’s arm and poise in the pocket. He had great games on JV last season. Just waiting his turn.
No. 51 Robert Miller, Copper Canyon, DL/OL, 6-3, 285
He still is under the radar but has a chance to emerge this summer. Hard worker who has a high motor and is will make plays on defense.
No. 50 David Eppinger, Perry, DB, 5-9, 160
Elite speed with good cover skills. Had five interceptions last season helping Perry reach the 6A semifinals. Had 46 tackles. Played varsity as a freshman when he had 47 tackles.
No. 49 Clayton Randall, Saguaro, LB, 6-1, 165
Coach Jason Mohns believes Randall will develop into a Division I player. He already has college coaches watching closely. Moves well from side to side. Playmaker on defense.
No. 48 Walter Fa’Apouli, Surprise Valley Vista, DE/OL/FB, 6-2, 270
Versatile athlete who will likely start on offensive line as well as defensive end. Explosive player with big, strong frame. Can also play fullback and tight end with his athletic abilities. Can grow into a Pac-12-type player his senior year.
No. 47 Xaomi Penn, Phoenix Sunnyslope, RB, 5-11, 180
Missed the first five games after transferring from Phoenix Pinnacle last year. Has increased his size and improved his speed. Strong between the tackles with outside speed.
No. 46 Kedon Slovis, Desert Mountain, QB, 6-3, 190
He should have a breakout season, as he patiently waits his turn. Has all the tools to become one of the state’s elite quarterbacks. Has Kurt Warner working with him.
No. 45 Trevor Kauer, Gilbert Campo Verde, DE/OLB, 6-4, 220
Coach Max Ragsdale calls him a “freak athlete,” who won 36 wrestling matches as a freshman and had 9 ½ sacks on the football team as a sophomore. He’ll be a big-time recruit if he recovers from micro-fracture surgery, Ragsdale believes.
No. 44 Gunner Cruz, Queen Creek Casteel, QB, 6-4, 205
Has measurables college coaches like. Big arm and can run. He was the 3A Metro Region Player of the Year last season when he passed for 2,600 yards and 30 TDs.
No. 43 Noa Pola-Gates, Williams Field, DB, 6-1, 180
Started on the championship team as a sophomore. Lock-down corner who had 62 tackles, five for losses, and two interceptions. Great athlete with tremendous ball skills.
No. 42 Zack Shepherd, Williams Field, QB, 6-2, 185
After a breakout sophomore season, leading the Black Hawks to their first state 5A football championship, expect more from Shepherd, who has a strong, accurate arm. Able to make difficult throws. Had nearly 2,800 yards and 25 TDs passing last season.
No. 41 Jacob Golden, Peoria, OL/TE, 6-6, 240
He started on varsity as a sophomore at tight end but he projects to be an offensive tackle in college. Getting bigger. Has room to fill out. Good athlete with strength and reach and leverage.
No. 40 Carson Keltner, Centennial, C, 6-2, 265
A starter on last year’s team that helped open holes for Zidane Thomas to put up more than 2,000 rushing yards. Big motor, strong, bulldog blocker.
No. 39 A.J. Jackson, Centennial, DB/WR, 5-11, 170
Played JV last season, but is ready to be a leader in what could be one of the best secondaries in the state. Should be entering his sophomore year. Outstanding student. Accelerated in the classroom. Athletic and fast. Will be a factor on offense, as well.
No. 38 Brandon Schenks, Hamilton, WR, 6-3, 190
One of the team’s more athletic players. Great size, excellent body control. Played some wildcat at quarterback as a sophomore. Smart, high football IQ. A coach’s son.
No. 37 Anthony Dedrick, Mountain Pointe, DE/TE, 6-4, 230
Missed his freshman year due to an injury. Coach Norris Vaughan expects him to a Division I prospect by his senior year.
No. 36 Terrell Hayward, Vail Cienega, DB, 5-8, 160
Great skills, fast, quick and high football IQ. He has tied a school record already for career interceptions with nine. He will move to cornerback after playing safety the last two years. He can play both the slot and wide out on offense. Get him in space and he’s gone.
No. 35 Nasir Simms, Desert Edge, DL, 6-4, 290
Has the size colleges look for in a bull rusher in the middle of the defensive line. Was voted by coaches as first-team all-region last season. Great combination of size and speed. Athletic. Had 70 tackles, seven for losses, at nose guard. Will blow up in recruiting this spring.
No. 34 Jake Smith, Notre Dame Prep, Athlete, 6-0, 185
He plays running back and free safety. An arm injury shortened his sophomore season. Big upside on athleticism and work ethic. Very explosive with top-end speed.
No. 33 Kenric Jameison, Chandler Basha, DB/RB, 5-9, 160
Versatile players who will keep defenses from keying on Collins. He also is a top cornerback with excellent ball skills and speed. Reacts fast and is able to lock down on big receivers.
No. 32 Colby Dickie, Gilbert Perry, WR, 5-9, 170
He became one of prolific quarterback Brock Purdy’s favorite targets last season on the way to the 6A semifinals. A big-play slot receiver who makes plays after catches, he had 61 catches for 1,039 yards and 12 TDs.
No. 31 Collin Collins, Chandler Basha, QB, 6-2, 180
He made a huge impact against Scottsdale Desert Mountain, his most extensive playing time on varsity last season, when he passed and ran the Bears to a victory. Coach Rich Wellbrock’s offense will adjust to Collins’ dual-threat talents.
No. 30 Lucas Wright, Mesa Desert Ridge, RB/LB, 6-2, 210
Still growing, Wright is a punishing runner and hitter. Versatile on offense and defense. Could play inside or outside linebacker. Great athlete. Strong. A workhorse in the weight room. An honors student.
No. 29 Ty Robinson, Gilbert Higley, DE/TE, 6-5, 255
Might project better as a defensive end in college. Very good athlete. Is on Pac-12 schools’ radar. Had five tackles for losses last season. Expect a breakout junior season.
No. 28 Bub Dixon, Phoenix Sunnyslope, LB, 6-1, 240
Bigger, stronger, faster than he was during his sophomore season, when he had 28 tackles, three sacks and two fumble recoveries.
No. 27 Chase Pope, Glendale Copper Canyon, QB, 6-1, 180
Passed for nearly 3,000 yards as a sophomore. Quick release. Reads the field well. Confident, cool in the pocket. Can run.
No. 26 Zack Enhelder, Surprise Willow Canyon, TE/WR, 6-4, 230
This hybrid receiver is an excellent blocker with sure hands. He had 11 catches for 119 yards on a run-oriented team last season.
No. 25 Brandon Shivers, Scottsdale Saguaro, DB, 6-1, 170
Receiving strong Pac-12 interest from Arizona, California, Oregon State and USC. Spring will give himself a chance to showcase his ball skills at cornerback to college scouts. Recruiting expected to blow up.
No. 24 Chase Killough, Phoenix North Canyon, OL/DL, 6-4, 280
He made all-district and all-region as a sophomore. Versatile lineman. Can play either side of the ball and either on the edge or inside. Tough, big motor, good feet.
No. 23 Andrew Blitzke, Cesar Chavez, LB, 6-2, 205
A hybrid defender who can play strong safety and inside and outside linebacker. He had 81 tackles, 18 for losses, as a sophomore. He also had 12 sacks.
No. 22 Declan Kyler, Mesa Skyline, OL/DL, 6-2, 300
Big cog in the interior defensive line and strong pass and rush blocker for a Skyline team that has a tradition of building strong linemen.
No. 21 Zach Bowers, Chandler, LB, 6-0, 215
Started as a sophomore on Chandler’s state championship team. He had 92 tackles, two sacks, two fumble recoveries and an interception. Strong inside linebacker who has the speed and lateral ability to cover on passes.
No. 20 DeCarlos Brooks, Chandler, Athlete, 5-10, 185
A track athlete who can play running back and defensive back. Had strong sophomore season on both sides of the ball. Will be more of a go-to guy in the offense this year. He is the son of former Cardinals defensive back Carlos Brooks.
No. 19 Nick Wallerstedt, Phoenix Mountain Pointe, QB/S, 6-3, 183
Son of former Arizona State linebacker Brett Wallerstedt, he filled in at quarterback last season when Noah Grover was out with an injury. He was 31-for-51 passing for 558 yards and 4 touchdowns. May project as a college safety.
No. 18 Milton Rodgers, Goodyear Desert Edge, LB, 5-10, 215
Led the defense as a sophomore with 90 tackles, including 10 for losses and four sacks. He made first-team all-region and projects to be one of the greatest players to come out of Desert Edge. Great motor, work habits. Will be on the radar in May.
No. 17 Josh Pena, Chandler, OL, 6-2, 275
A starting right tackle on last year’s 6A championship team, Pena has gotten bigger and strong with hard work in the weight room. One of the better sophomore offensive linemen in the state last season. He did 225-pound bench for 22 reps recently. Self-driven.
No. 16 Seth Robinson, Scottsdale Saguaro, OLB, 6-3, 190
He picked up his first offer on April 27 from Iowa State. He is a raw athlete with great length and speed. Has prototypical frame for a Division I outside linebacker. Competes in the 200 meters in track. Similar build and skill set as Kyle Soelle.
No. 15 Kaleb Covington, Phoenix Pinnacle, RB, 5-10, 170
Speedy back with darting moves that keeps defenders off balance. He recently was clocked electronically in the 40 at 4.55 seconds. Will be a big-play athlete with Spencer Rattler at the wheel next season.
No. 14 Mario Padilla, Tucson Salpointe Catholic, RB, 5-9, 170
He was the 4A Kino Region Player of the Year as a sophomore, rushing for 1,400 yards (eight yards a carry) and with 200 receiving yards. He had 400 yards in kick returns and a total of 23 touchdowns.
No. 13 Calib McRae, Marana Mountain View, LB, 6-1, 227
His season was cut short after four games because of an injury. But he had 39 tackles and two sacks. All of the Power 5 conferences have shown interest. Has been invited to multiple junior days and camps.
No. 12 Marques White, Phoenix Brophy Prep, DB, 6-1, 195
A strong safety, he had a huge sophomore season with 66 tackles, five interceptions and three fumble recoveries. He had six tackles and returned an interception for a touchdown in a 44-21 win over Hamilton.
No. 11 Javin Wright, Chandler Hamilton, DB, 6-3, 175
Good student with 3.5 GPA and comes from great athletic bloodlines. His father Toby played defensive back at Nebraska and in the NFL. He started last season on varsity and was put on opposing team’s top receiver each week. Good length and feet and technique.
No. 10 Aaron Wood, Mesa Skyline, RB, 5-9, 175
He ran for 1,000 yards as a sophomore, splitting time with a senior. Great work ethic and passion for the game. Has added 25 pounds since the end of last season.
No. 9 Nate Polk, Scottsdale Saguaro, S, 6-2, 190
A long, athletic, rangy defensive back who comes from tremendous football bloodlines. His father played in the NFL. His brother Ray played for Colorado. He is a dynamic defensive playmaker with great ball skills who could be the next Isaiah Pola-Mao to come through high school.
No. 8 Avery Carrington, Chandler, DB, 6-2, 180
He transferred from Hamilton in January. He is the brother of former Hamilton All-Arizona defensive back Devon Carrington, who went on to have a good career at Stanford. This Carrington could be just as good if not better. He anticipates well covering a lot of field. He had 41 tackles and three interceptions on Hamilton’s varsity as a sophomore.
No. 7 Ryan Puskas, Peoria Liberty, S, 6-2, 190
Great athlete who runs track. He covers the field really well. Makes plays on defense with his speed and physical play. He 54 tackles, five for losses, last season on varsity. He also blocked five punts. One of the more valuable special teams players in the state. He had three interceptions and eight pass breakups. His recruiting will blow up.
No. 6 D’Shayne James, Gilbert Perry, WR, 6-3, 210
Similar build as Arizona State wide receiver N’Keal Harry, James is getting serious looks from Nebraska. He had 58 catches for 823 yards and nine touchdowns last season. Big-play threat who makes plays after catches.
No. 5 JaCobby Dinwiddie, Mesa Mountain View, WR, 6-2, 180
He made a major impact as a sophomore when he caught 70 passes for 1,012 yards and six TDs. His offers will depend on his grades. Arizona, Arizona State and Washington State are on him. He’ll be getting great looks in spring ball. Excellent athlete. Big-play target.
No. 4 Dez Melton, Glendale Deer Valley, Athlete, 6-4, 210
Tremendous athlete who picked up his first offer from Arizona. He can play anywhere. The Skyhawks used him at running back and he ran for 1,362 yards and 15 touchdowns on 190 carries. He caught 17 passes for 271 yards. And his best position in college could be safety.
No. 3 Jacob Conover, Chandler, QB, 6-1, 196
He beat out two guys in grades above him to become the starting quarterback and led the Wolves to the 6A state championship, then a Georgia state championship team in Texas in late December. His stats were off the charts: 3,715 yards, 32 TDs passing with just five interceptions. He completed nearly 70 percent of his passes.
No. 2 Matthew Pola-Mao, Phoenix Mountain Pointe, DT, 6-2, 290
A four-star by Scout.com, he has started at nose tackle since his freshman year on varsity. He is the younger brother of senior safety Isaiah Pola-Mao, who signed with USC. Pola-Mao has offers from UA, ASU, Washington, among others.
No. 1 Spencer Rattler, Phoenix Pinnacle, QB, 6-2, 180
He started picking up football scholarship offers from Power 5 conferences after his freshman season. Rattler, also a talented basketball player, is up to 12 offers, five from the Pac-12, including both Arizona and Arizona State and UCLA, Colorado and Utah. He has grown a little more each year. His athleticism is off the charts and his arm strength and IQ only getting better. Watch for his best season yet in his third year as a varsity starter.
Suggest human interest stories to Richard Obert at [email protected] or 602-316-8827. Follow him at azc_obert.