Top 20 prep football players countdown: Orem’s Nolan Gray

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. Stay up to date with Utah high school football on Twitter by following me @TPhibbsDNews.

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.

16. Nolan Gray, Orem. Receiver

Orem's Nolan Gray shakes off a would-be defender after making a catch.

Orem’s Nolan Gray shakes off a would-be defender after making a catch.

Nitty-gritty: 6-foot-4, 173-pounds; undeclared.

Qualifications: Every time Orem’s Nolan Gray caught a touchdown pass during his junior season he elevated and chest-bumped in celebration with one of his teammates.

He did that 17 times in 2012.

That touchdown mark is tied for the seventh most in history. Then add 83 receptions for 1,514 yards to the mix, and it’s one of the best seasons that’s slipped beneath the cracks.

It’s rather astonishing that despite the numbers, Gray’s success on the gridiron continues to be unpublicized. Yes, he was named to Deseret News First-Team, and that’s hard to dispute, but he’s yet to receive the recruiting notoriety that usually accompanies a 6-foot-4 receiver with reportedly 4.5 40-yard speed who puts up those type of numbers.

The chances of that trend continuing into the 2013 season is less likely than a zombie apocalypse.  Gray has very strong mittens, and with his tall frame he’s able to corral jump balls at the pinnacle of flight. The majority of his targets were either on quick slants or middle screens, which baited defenders into allowing him to sneak behind on an occasional streak.

The characteristics of his game that will bode will at the next level, however, is his willingness to go across the middle, and his ability to maintain concentration in traffic.

Orem is favored to enter the postseason as the No.1 seed from Region 7. The departure of quarterback Taylor Camp, who threw for 3,480 yards and 36 scores last season, shines an even brighter light on Gray. He’ll likely see more double teams than he did last season, and he usually had several eyes on him to begin with. The Tigers have the “suns up, guns up” mentality, and aren’t afraid to throw on any down and distance. If Gray continues to produce gaudy numbers, it’ll allow new additions on offense to acclimate properly.

If that happens, Orem could be awfully hard to stop.

Email: tphibbs@deseretnews.com

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