The top 20 blueprint wasn’t necessarily based strictly on recruiting interest, although it did play into account, but rather a collection of players that influence the outcome each Friday night in the realm of Utah high school football.
I’ll publish a blog post each day unveiling the top 20 impact players in the state — in no particular order — in my unabashed opinion. All selections are entirely my own. Submit your feedback in the comment section below, and I’ll respond accordingly.
Now, without further adieu:
20. Korey Rush, East. Defensive End.
19. Baron Gajkowski, Lone Peak. Quarterback.
18. Gaje Ferguson, Mountain Crest. Running back; outside linebacker.
17. Cole Nelson, Juan Diego. Quarterback; safety.
Nitty-gritty: 6-foot-1, 195-pounds; undeclared.
Qualifications: An interesting way of thinking about the importance of the quarterback is envisioning him as the ringmaster. He conducts the offense with the elephants upfront, and the tigers in the backfield. Without the quarterback the circus would cease to exist. The importance of savvy, instinctive signal caller exponentially increases in the triple-option. Typically, in other schemes, quarterbacks are granted a margin of error, albeit small, where they’ll still escape with minimal damage. If a quarterback makes the wrong read in the option it results in loss of yardage or a turnover more times than not.
This is what makes Cole Nelson nonexpendable for Juan Diego in 2013. Nelson was named Deseret News Honorable Mention last season purely for his contributions as a ball-hawking safety. In his second year starting for the Soaring Eagle defense, he tallied 42 tackles with two fumble recoveries, five interceptions and one pick-six.
Nelson, who is gaining considerable interest from several Ivy League schools and option-based programs, has a knack for anticipating the play as it develops, which has translated into his effectiveness in the return game. He racked up 585 yards in kick returns including a 95-yard house call, and averaged a disgusting 43 yards per return along with 383 punt return yards and two touchdowns.
The left-handed gunner also guided Juan Diego behind center in incumbent starter Nick Markosian’s period of injury last season. During that time period he completed 22 of 29 passes for 397 yards and three touchdowns while adding 306 yards and five scores on the ground.
Now, Nelson has full-time responsibilities in the huddle, and for the first time in years Juan Diego isn’t projected as the top team in its own region — let alone in the 3AA classification. The Soaring Eagle statistically has been the most successful team in the past decade, and for that to continue he’ll need to maintain his high level of play.