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 ado:
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.
6. Trent Roberts, Duchesne. Quarterback
5. Breckin Gunter, Box Elder. Linebacker; running back.
4. Taylor Compton, Logan. Receiver; cornerback.
3. Mack Richards, Alta. Receiver
2. Scott Nichols, Bingham. Running back
Nitty-gritty: 5-foot-10, 170-pounds; undeclared.
Qualifications: The No.1 ranked team in the state has the top-rated recruit at his respected position in the nation. It has several offensive lineman with extensive playing experience and a three-year starter in the defensive secondary. Yet, the most important player for the Bingham Miners this season is a 5-foot-10 running back.
Scott Nichols occupies the backfield this year following the most productive season for a secondary runner as a junior for Bingham since Sam Langi in 2006. The next season, Langi rushed for the 1,814 and 22 touchdowns — both high marks in the Dave Peck era.
For a program flooding in rushing legacy, Nichols has all the components for a breakout season if he simply follows the trend. Up until 2012, the featured back garnished Deseret News First-Team All-State honors for seven consecutive seasons, and at least qualified for any postseason list stretching back to 2002.
The last time the Miners didn’t produce a 1,000-yard rusher, apart from last season, was in 2004. During that stretch Jonathan Cuff, Doug Fiefia, Langi, Harvey Langi and Daniel Palepoi accounted for 9,994 yards and 128 touchdowns on 1,349 carries.
Bingham is going to feed Nichols down the throat of every defense in 2013. Despite his short stature, he doesn’t back down from a fistfight. He’ll mow over defenders who aren’t prepared. Peck described Nichols as having “freak athletic ability” in a preseason questionnaire, and that’s difficult to dispute.
He’s regularly clocked at 4.45 in the 40-yard dash, has a 31-inch vertical, 300-pound bench and 350-pound squat. As a junior he rushed for 615 yards and seven touchdowns on 79 carries and started to transition into the primary back over the final three games when he either shared or exceeded Tonga Manu in carries.
Bingham uses its power rushing attack to establish the passing game better than anyone. Over the years the program hasn’t manufactured elite quarterbacks, but behind the ground production, several signal callers enjoyed extremely successful seasons. If the Miners expect to capture their first title since 2010 — a drought in terms of the program — Nichols needs to run rampant.