Top 20 prep football players countdown: Bingham’s Scott Nichols

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

Bingham's Scott Nichols, center, runs against Cottonwood.

Bingham’s Scott Nichols, center, runs against Cottonwood.

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.

Email: tphibbs@deseretnews.com

16 comments

  1. MUSE

    trev….is that a misprint? “the top-rated recruit at his respected position in the nation” I can’t find him on rivals list or espns list for top RB recruits for the class of 2014. Let alone #1…is this your opinion? If so, please enlighten us as to how you came to consider him the #1 RB recruit in the nation.

    • Trevor Phibbs

      @MUSE

      That sentence is referring to Dalton Schultz at tight end who is a four-star recruit, and the No.1 player at that position in the nation. I was pointing out that Bingham has an incredibly sought-after recruit, several offensive lineman and a three-year starting safety, but Scott Nichols is still more important to the success of the team than those standout players.

  2. Craig Sundrey

    Be interested in how you are qualifying your choices. These are all fine players, but seems you are picking players out of top tiered schools. Scott Nichols is surely a gamer, but there are similar players in not so “football dominant” schools that have the same stat lines or better and are the same size. A little more research into other schools players.

    • Trevor Phibbs

      @Craig Sundrey

      I’m not sure if you’ve been following along throughout the countdown or if you read the first two paragraphs of this particular post. Anyway, I’d be happy to clarify. I spent nearly 30 man hours researching individual players for this blog series. I originally narrowed it down to roughly 90 players. Then, I reevaluated and continued to slim the list until I got 20 players, which wasn’t easy.

      Through the 19 players already unveiled I’ve named a player from five classifications and players from Region Nos. 1-8, 3AA South and North, 2A South and 1A North. I can assure that I’ve researched all 103 schools in the state — which is an extremely tall task.

      In terms of naming players from only successful programs, I listed players from that have experienced decades of futility or habitually been first-round exit programs. But, yes, several players reside on successful programs.

      Then in response to, “have the same stat lines or better and are the same size” – if you please refer to the first two paragraphs you’ll understand why that isn’t a concern with the blog. This isn’t about which players produce the most stats or which players are being recruited the most. It’s about the best “high school” football players in the state that “influence” the outcome of each game on Friday nights the most. Therefore, considering Nichols will handle the majority of the carries for the rush-heavy, top-rated team in the state that is favored to win the state championship in the highest classification — I would consider he qualifies.

      Hopefully this clarifies your concerns.

  3. UteFootball1

    Im guessing this leaves out one of the two best football players in the state? and surely two of the biggest impact players in the state. Either Ula Tolutau or Austin Kafentzis? And in your words “It’s about the best “high school” football players in the state that “influence” the outcome of each game on Friday nights the most.” how could you leave either of them out? They most definitely both have the biggest impacts in the state every friday night.

    • Trevor Phibbs

      @UteFootball1

      That was the exact observation I was expecting today, so I’m glad that you pointed it out. As I was trimming the list I found myself in a dichotomy: “Do I potentially leave one of the Wisconsin commits off the list?” There were varying factors of why I ultimately did, but you’re absolutely correct that both of those players influence the game significantly. I couldn’t agree with you more.

      In the earlier explanation I provided in this post I mentioned how I narrowed down the list to roughly 90 players. Considering I evaluated 102 teams extensively (I didn’t take Corner Canyon into account), and estimating that teams vary anywhere between 50-85 players per roster, that’s 5000-8,700 registered players in the state. So, I think it goes without saying that there are deserving players that easily could have made the list, but I had only 20 spots.

      Tomorrow’s post will follow a slightly different format. I’ll write about the final player, but I’m also planning on briefly addressing several players that were on the fringe. The day before the first post was published I went back and forth between several players until I finalized everything. I felt those players deserved to have a brief explanation of why they deserve to be on the list, and the reason for ultimately being left off. It was an extremely tall order to comprise a list of only 20 with how many talented, influential players residing in Utah. Couple that with the fact that I embarked on this project entirely by myself, and I’m sure you can understand the teeter-totter I was riding.

      I must say that I’ve had a lot of fun with the countdown, and I hope that you’ve enjoyed it, too.

      • Craig Sundrey

        I look forward to seeing who was on the fringe and ultimately left off. All in all good work Trevor.

      • Trevor Phibbs

        @Craig Sundrey

        Thanks, Craig. I appreciate it. I’ve really enjoyed putting it together. Hopefully you agree with some of the selections!

  4. eagle

    Well, I suppose it will be Austin Kafentzis because I think he’s not only hands down the best player in the state but has the biggest impact on the game at QB.

    • Trevor Phibbs

      @Dave

      The attention part is irrelevant for the countdown. As stated in the first two paragraphs, recruiting interest didn’t play into effect. However, he’s one of the players I addressed in post that was just published 10 minutes ago. It’s at the bottom of the Austin Kafentzis write up. Hopefully that answers your question.

  5. Dave

    Thanks for the clarification. Did you see he was named the number one athlete to watch this year in the state of utah. Do you agree with that?

    • Trevor Phibbs

      @Dave

      I think he’s an amazing talent, and definitely a player that needs to be watched in person at least once.

  6. Stan

    Trevor,

    Which team in the state do you believe has the best offensive line? Last year I would of said Jordan and they ran away with the state title. Your thoughts?

    • Trevor Phibbs

      @Stan

      In terms of pure experience and combined starts it probably has to be Brighton at this point. Obviously Jackson Barton is a four-star recruit, but then you also have Tyson Aldridge and Nick Giles, who are both talented three-year starters, too. Bingham needs to be added to the equation as well with Aaron Amaama, Noa Taeatafa, Riley Culley and Austin Bunkall upfront.

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