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.
15. Mori Savini, Taylorsville. Defensive tackle; fullback.
14. Koi Cook, Grand. Running back; defensive back.
Nitty-gritty: 6-foot-1, 175-pounds; undeclared.
Qualifications: Koi Cook is the “El Diablo” amongst the Red Devils. Last season, Cook led Grand in rushing with 94 carries for 868 yards and 12 touchdowns while adding two more offensive scores — one throw and one reception. However, where he shined not only apart from his teammates, but also in the entire 2A classification, was on defense.
Cook, who earned Deseret News First-Team All-State honors, topped 2A in tackles with 129 and also led Grand in interceptions with three. To put that into perspective, he averaged nearly 12 tackles every time he took the field. The next highest total on Grand was 61. Talk about a tackle hog…
Cook is very patient in the secondary; he takes advantage of quarterbacks mistakenly telegraphing the direction the play is flowing. He sits back, analyzes, and more times than not — as evident by the tackle total — he’s engulfed in the action. He’s not particularly fast — not to say he doesn’t have game speed — but because of his football IQ he’s very effective in run support. Ironically, his ability to hedge sweeps and options often exceeded the defensive end.
Grand returns a solid corps this season including Jacob Francis and Edgar Gomez, who were both named Deseret News First-Team All-State, along with Cameron Taylor and Austin Day, who garnished Second-Team and Honorable Mention recognition, respectively. The Red Devils are unusually positioned to crank up the heat while flying under the radar.
Despite the other contributors, Cook is the key. Considering Francis struggled with ball security in 2012, Cook needs to relieve pressure on the ground. To say Grand is challenging for the second state championship in school history would be careless, but this certainly is a team that could make a Cinderella-esk run in the postseason.