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2020 Mr. Football Preseason Watchlist (9/4)


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Welcome to the first installment of the 2020 Mr. Football Watchlist. Last year saw some real star power at the top, with Michael Mayer ultimately emerging as the winner over Reese Smith and Beau Allen. There might not be any Mayer caliber players around this season, but there is still an abundance of talent across the state. Among the names you'll see listed below: a record breaking running back, a trio of state champion quarterbacks, another bullish Bronco lineman, and ballers spanning Pike County to Bowling Green.

As has been the case in previous years, the names on the watchlist will be fluid from week to week. Players will come and go in accordance with their level of play and, partially, team performance. 

Without further ado (in alphabetical order)…


Jaylin Bross (RB), Male

2019: 226 carries for 1,658 yards and 23 touchdowns

Career: 268 carries for 1,978 yards and 26 touchdowns

Highlights: http://www.hudl.com/v/2CpVJs

In five games against ranked opponents (St. X twice, Fern Creek twice, and Manual), Bross averaged 160 yards per game and scored ten touchdowns. That's obviously excluding two sub-par outings against Trinity. A big game (or maybe two) against the Rocks is almost a necessity for Bross to stay in contention for Mr. Football.


Jager Burton (OL/DL), Frederick Douglass

2019: 32 tackles/12 tackles for loss/5 sacks/Helped anchor an offensive line that allowed only four sacks all season

Highlights: http://www.hudl.com/v/2CXUzH

Burton's status as Kentucky's top overall football prospect, and the buzz around his recent commitment to UK, earn him a spot on this list, despite how unlikely it is that an offensive lineman will win this award. Though, as you can see above, he plays a substantial role on Douglass' defense. A monster year on both sides of the ball - and possibly a state championship for the Broncos - could at least keep Burton in the mix this season.


Dekel Crowdus (WR), Frederick Douglass

2019: Spent last year with IMG Academy in Florida. Saw limited action in three games, catching 2 passes for 53 yards and a touchdown.

Career: 68 receptions for 1,227 yards and 15 touchdowns/4 rushing touchdowns/1 kick return touchdown

Highlights: http://www.hudl.com/v/2AvmC4

After establishing himself as one of Kentucky's brightest young stars in 2018, Crowdus left Lexington for Bradenton, Florida to spend a year with the prestigious IMG Academy. Unfortunately for Douglass' opponents, he's back in the green and orange for his senior season. After receiving offers from the likes of Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, Texas, and Auburn, he turned them all down and committed to UK. Trying to corral him in space is like trying to catch lightning in a bottle, and he could prove to be the missing piece of the championship puzzle Frederick Douglass is trying to put together.


Isaac Dixon (RB), Belfry

2019: 96 carries for 1,196 yards and 13 touchdowns/3 receiving touchdowns/2 kick return touchdowns

Career: 209 carries for 2,786 yards and 34 touchdowns/6 receiving touchdowns/3 kick return touchdowns/5 interceptions/3 pick-six's

Highlights: http://www.hudl.com/v/2CYUSX

The latest in a long line of explosive running backs in Belfry's seemingly endless stable, Dixon has been one of eastern Kentucky's top playmakers since his sophomore year. Last year's MVP performance in the 3A championship game announced his arrival to the rest of the state. His 224 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns propelled the Pirates to another state title. Dixon has averaged a whopping 13.3 yards per carry for his career, thus far.


Jantzen Dunn (WR/DB), South Warren

2019: 37 tackles/1 sack/1 interception/19 receptions for 324 yards and 6 touchdowns

Career: 67 tackles/23 reception for 392 yards and 7 touchdowns

Highlights: http://www.hudl.com/v/2BxDCK

Ignore the numbers for a moment, because on numbers alone, you might be wondering why Dunn's name appears on this watchlist. The eye test is a more appropriate measure here. Anyone who watched Dunn play last season can tell you he's one of the best football players in the Commonwealth. Count Ohio State, to whom Dunn has committed, among those watching last year. His presence, alone, on defense can take away half the field from opposing quarterbacks, and with a healthy Caden Veltkamp back at quarterback for the Spartans, look for an increase in offensive production for Dunn this season.


Caleb Jacob (QB), Covington Catholic

2019: 166/259 for 2,817 yards and 33 touchdowns/9 interceptions/6 rushing touchdowns

Career: 314/486 for 5,649 yards and 61 touchdowns/16 interceptions/10 rushing touchdowns

Highlights: http://www.hudl.com/v/2CqQXL

A consummate winner, Jacob has piloted CovCath to a 29-1 record as a starter, including two finals appearances and a state title. He's the epitome of a field general, exuding a steely calm that allows him to rise to the occasion when his team needs him most. This was never more evident than during last year's 5A title game, when Jacob fired a 4th down strike to Michael Mayer for a 37 yard gain to set up a 1st and goal for the Colonels, despite three Frederick Douglass defenders collapsing the pocket.


Nathan McElroy (QB), Trinity

2019 (also career): 175/284 for 2,597 yards and  31 touchdowns/9 interceptions

Highlights: http://www.hudl.com/v/2CY3jL

Being the quarterback at Trinity is the modern day equivalent of being the quarterback at Notre Dame 25+ years ago. No matter who's taking the snaps, their name is always, at the very least, in consideration for the Mr. Football/Heisman conversation. But McElroy's level of play in last year's postseason is why he's made the cut for this list. During Trinity's run to the program's 26th state championship, he completed 49 of 66 throws (74%) with 13 touchdown passes against zero interceptions.


Kaiya Sheron (QB), Somerset

2019: 178/260 for 3,218 yards and 28 touchdowns/5 interceptions/959 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns

Career: 302/462 for 5,064 yards and 41 touchdowns/11 interceptions/1,464 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns

Highlights: http://www.hudl.com/v/2CY0vy

Many considered the 6'4" UK commit a sure fire Mr. Football candidate even before Somerset's dramatic, last second, come from behind victory over Mayfield to secure the Briar Jumpers' first ever football state title. The title clinching touchdown pass with no time remaining, and the ensuing championship game MVP award just further bolstered Sheron's status as one of the front runners for this award. Last year, he fell just 41 rushing yards shy of achieving 3,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing in a single season.


Braedon Sloan (RB), Wayne County

2019: 277 carries for 2,804 yards and 48 touchdowns/20 receptions for 461 yards and 6 touchdowns/3,775 all-purpose yards/1 pick-six/1 kick return touchdown

Career: 417 carries for 4,161 yards and 65 touchdowns/34 receptions for 769 yards and 9 touchdowns

Highlights: http://www.hudl.com/v/2CV3Th

When you relegate Shaun Alexander to #2 on the single season touchdown list as a junior, you're a virtual lock to occupy a spot among the favorites to win Mr. Football the next season. Sloan sliced and diced his way through opposing front sevens, secondaries, and kick coverage units last year, en route to a state record 56 total touchdowns. Standing out as the crown jewel of his historic 2019 season, was a 408 yard, seven touchdown performance against Corbin in last season's playoffs.


Lavell Wright (RB), North Hardin

2019: 259 carries for 1,819 yards and 25 touchdowns/34 receptions for 553 yards and 3 touchdowns

Career: 558 carries for 3,512 yards and 45 touchdowns/73 receptions for 982 yards and 5 touchdowns

Highlights: http://www.hudl.com/v/2CXjHG

Wright has been North Hardin's workhorse over the past two seasons, quietly emerging as one of Kentucky's premier backs amidst several other FBS talents on the Trojans' roster. In the age of all-purpose "do it all" running backs, Wright excels at catching the ball out of the backfield, setting himself apart from most others at that position. He chose the University of Kentucky over several other Power-5 offers. Games against Frederick Douglass, Belfry, and South Warren will provide Wright with a few high profile opportunities to prove himself to Mr. Football voters.


Dark horse names to file away for future reference:

Brandt Babin (ATH), CAL

Hunter Bradley (RB), McCracken County

Nick Broyles (QB), Franklin County

Tristan Cox (RB/LB), Pulaski County

Jordan Dingle (TE), Bowling Green

Cam Hergott (QB), Beechwood

Kade Grundy (WR), Somerset

Azariah Israel (RB), GRC

Reese Jesse (WR), Hopkinsville

James Johnson (RB), DeSales

Keontae Pittman (RB), Ashland

Dylan Preston (RB/LB), Johnson Central

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I'm bias but I like Caleb Jacob. Three year starting QB, the nephew to the head coach Eddie Eviston who is a offensive genius.  He has great size 6'4 and probably 215 pds, strong arm, has a great touch and accuracy on his passes. He also has tall receivers in Reardon at 6'5 and that new Tight End they got coming Skyler Schmidt who is 6'8. 


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38 minutes ago, DevilMayCare said:

Is there an off the radar name that could be poised to break through this weekend? 

St. X quarterback Giles Pooler? North Bullitt running back Cole Durbin? Meade County running back Austin Oppel?


I would add Harold Hogg of Apollo as one to watch. Had 2142 yards and 23 tds last year. 

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15 minutes ago, Cheese said:

Sloan Is for real. I got to watch him twice last year. I really like him as my top choice. I like the comeback kid Sheron. I watched him 3 times last year. He is right there too. 

Sloan set his bar so incredibly high last year that he could still have a huge year and not come close to matching those numbers. If that turns out to be the case, I wonder what impact that might have on voters?

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I don’t know, but I will say this. If anyone can have a big season, Sloan can do it. He is just a highlight reel every time he touches the ball. Doesn’t matter where the offense is on the field, he is a threat to score. When I think of a football player who fits the description of a Mr Football, Sloan is the perfect description. It doesn’t do this kid justice seeing his stats. He is one that you have to see in person to see why he gets those stats. 

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2 hours ago, Herefortheunderdogs said:

So you guys are telling me Brandon McClendon from Covington Holy Cross has no chance at this? Even tho what he’s done with the teams he has played with? 

I don't think anybody is saying that. My assumption is that DMC doesn't know everything about every player in the state, and formed the list based on players he knows about. In DMC's 4th post in this thread, he asked "Is there an off the radar name that could be poised to break through this weekend?" If you feel that McClendon should be mentioned, state your case for him being on the list and maybe he will be on a future list. 

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26 minutes ago, Tones said:

I don't think anybody is saying that. My assumption is that DMC doesn't know everything about every player in the state, and formed the list based on players he knows about. In DMC's 4th post in this thread, he asked "Is there an off the radar name that could be poised to break through this weekend?" If you feel that McClendon should be mentioned, state your case for him being on the list and maybe he will be on a future list. 

@Tones gets it. 

McClendon was slightly off my radar, but I am familiar with him.

The formula to winning this award isn't exact, but you can see certain characteristics emerge in certain players that separate them from other, simply very good players. Being a high profile recruit with some big time college offers, impressive statistics, and team success are all a part of that formula. You don't have to check every box to win Mr. Football, but realistically, you've got to check most of them. Wandale Robinson is a good example of a player that didn't check every box (Western Hills wasn't great, or even good, really), but he was a generational talent that checked off all the others. I don't know that McClendon is in that kind of company, but he is a name that more people should know about.

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