Top 20 prep football players countdown: Granger’s Tani Lehauli

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.

13. Isaiah Holloway, Timpview. Defensive back.

12. Brandon Farmer, Herriman. Running back.

11. Drew Batchelor, Dixie. Receiver.

10. Kavika Fonua, Syracuse. Defensive back; running back.

9. Bryan Mone, Highland. Defensive line, offensive line.

8. Chase Christiansen, Stansbury. Quarterback; linebacker.

7. Tani Lehauli, Granger. Running back.

Granger's running back Tani Lehauli looks for space against Kearns.

Granger’s running back Tani Lehauli looks for space against Kearns.

Nitty-gritty: 6-feet, 180-pounds; undeclared.

Qualifications: For nine consecutive seasons from 2002-10, Granger finished below .500 and tallied an overall record of 19-75. Over the past two years, with a large influence from Tani Lehauli, the Lancers posted a 13-8 tally.

Now, entering 2013, the Lancers are the favorites in Region 2. To say Lehauli is influential to the program is an understatement.

Lehauli finished fourth in the state and led all juniors in rushing with 1,759 yards and 15 touchdowns on 199 carries last season — bumping his career total over the 2,000-yard plateau. With the departure of his running mate, James Elkins, and the emergence of Kenyon Frison on the offensive line, Lehauli’s carries could conceivably increase this year.

Lehauli is a second effort back who often emerges from the scrum with extra yardage just by keeping his boots churning. Although he’s capable of avoiding tackles by changing direction — frequently doubling back across the grain — Lehauli invites contact with small defenders in the secondary.

His maturation from his sophomore to junior season could be attributed to the guidance from running back coach Fahu Tahi. The former All-America Lancer and Minnesota Viking is the all-time leading rusher in Utah with 5,663 yards — 2,176 of which stemmed from his junior season alone. The two like-minded runners have meshed and the results are showing.

In an area of caution, however, Granger’s 11 opponents in 2012 combined for an overall record of 53-66, and excluding the teams Granger lost to (Juan Diego, Hunter, Kearns, Northridge) its wins occurred against teams with a 20-53 mark — not exactly murderers’ row. With Riverton, Brighton, Morgan, Bingham and Cottonwood on the slate this season, Granger needs to handle frequent looks of eight in the box to combat the run.

Despite the added attention, one thing is for certain: the Lancers can ill afford Lehauli’s 8.8 yard per carry average to decline too drastically if they expect to top Region 2.

Email: tphibbs@deseretnews.com

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