A year ago, we here at Outside the Huddle jumped into prep football coverage a tad late. It wasn’t until Week 4 that we started this whole enterprise, and since then it has grown and grown.
But one thing we regretted was not being able to properly preview the 2018 season.
We are in the midst of doing that over the last few weeks leading into Friday’s kickoff. While we are in our second year, this is the first time we have been able to unveil our “First Eleven”, the top players in our opinion regardless of position.
Linemen? You get just as much respect as the QBs. No skill position bias here.
Presenting, the first annual Outside the Huddle First Eleven.
S Ryan Brandt, senior, Angola
The Purdue commitment still gets frustrated when thinking about last season.
“Embarrassing interception total,” said Brandt about his two picks. “But (opponents) never threw my way.”
That tends to happen when you’re a speedy, athletic D1 safety that can close the gap quickly on skill players and can play the ball in the air as well as anyone around. Brandt also had 72 tackles, four punt blocks and a pair of forced fumbles in 2018.
While individual accolades are nice, Brandt is the ultimate team player. This year, he will see action on offense as the Hornets aim for greater heights after back-to-back NECC Big School Division and sectional titles.
“He does whatever we ask him to do,” Angola coach Andy Thomas said. “He is a freakishly athletic player. We are not going to wear him out on offense, but we feel like he has to get some touches and be involved.”
DL Gianini Belizaire, senior, Snider
People have about as much fun saying Belizaire’s name as he does wreaking havoc in the trenches for the Panthers. The 6-foot-2, 295-pound monster is one of those types of players that is so intimidating he has already won the majority of the battles against an offensive lineman before the ball is even snapped.
Last year, Belizaire accumulated 61 tackles, 15 TFL and eight sacks as a junior. Expect those stats to rise considerably in his final campaign punishing Snider opponents.
WR Griffin Little, senior, Homestead
Little has had a lot to overcome since last season, from a PCL injury at the end of his junior season to an ACL and meniscus while at a prospect camp in January.
With all that behind him, Little is ready to assault the SAC with his pass-catching ability. He finished with 53 receptions for 926 yards and 10 scores last year in 10 games for the Spartans. With an offense that feels like it could put up some monumental numbers, the Bowling Green commit may be the key in lifting Homestead into the SAC title conversation.
RB/LB Hayden Ellinger, senior, Bishop Dwenger
Ellinger is one of those kids that looks as intimidating as a chipmunk off the field, but has that swagger and tenacity between the lines that is impossible to coach up.
As a junior, Ellinger made 80 tackles, 12 TFL and 10 sacks while being a staple at outside linebacker for the 4A state champions. He also was an adept running back, rushing for nearly 300 yards and four scores.
Now a senior, Ellinger is one of four captains for the Saints, with no higher praise than what his coach said about him in preseason.
“Hayden is highly respected and the epitome of a Bishop Dwenger football player,” said Coach Jason Garrett.
RB Keshaun Fields, senior, Wayne
Derrick Moore doesn’t mince words when says the pressure is on Fields when it comes to both production and leadership in 2019.
“We talked about a 2,000-yard season. We are going to put a lot of responsibility on him offensively,” Moore said. “Being a leader, setting the example. By default, everyone looks up to him.”
The Generals lost a lot of production to graduate, but it is because of players like Fields that Wayne is not expected to drop too far in the SAC. Fields is equal part bruiser and speedster. He can go between the tackles for the tough yards or sweep around the edge for a big play. Versatility is his forte.
OL Randy Holtz, senior, Snider
There is big and then there is Randy Holtz big.
At 6-7 and 312 pounds, Holtz commands attention whether it be on the football field or walking down the hallway at Snider High.
Holtz can be that personable jokester out of the huddle, but in games he is as physical as they come in the SAC. With a Panthers team that has much in the way of unseen talent ready to burst onto the scene, it will be veterans like Holtz that will be opening the way to glory.
WR Jamic Johnson, senior, Bishop Luers
A season ago, Johnson shared the spotlight with Justin Gaston and Janarion Moore at the wide receiver spot yet still finished with 743 yards receiving and eight TDs.
Now, Johnson is the lone of the trio left and on the cusp of a big-time senior season. With the Knights grooming a new quarterback, expect Johnson to see plenty of looks as that steady pass catcher who can be relied upon.
When it comes to technique, Johnson’s coach believes no one is better.
“I would put Jamic up against anyone in terms of route running and getting in and out of his breaks,” said Coach Kyle Lindsay.
WR/LB Nick Miller, junior, South Adams
Familiarize yourself with this kid, who could turn some serious heads in the ACAC.
Miller was a destructive force on defense as a sophomore, amassing 67 tackles, 24.5 TFL and eight sacks. He was also South Adams’ top receiver at a tick above 500 yards and four scores.
The scary thing is that Miller is still developing as a player. He is already well on his way to being Logan Macklin-esque in the ACAC.
QB/DB Bailey Parker, senior, East Noble
What is it about East Noble quarterbacks and their versatility? Andrew McCormick was a stud at both QB and linebacker while with the Knights, now Parker is a two-way stud following in McCormick’s footsteps.
One thing you immediately recognize with Parker behind center is just how cerebral he is. He truly thinks about every decision he makes and you can almost see that brain working under the helmet. He threw for close to 1,600 yards last year and ran for another 800 yards.
On defense, he is just a straight ball hawk who enjoys when QBs think they can slip a pass by him in coverage.
RB/LB Brandon Pruitt, senior, West Noble
One reason the Chargers could be a threat in the NECC this season? Try Pruitt. Committed to the Naval Academy, Pruitt is a respectful teenager who is anything but on the football field.
As a junior, he rushed for 1,555 yards and 17 touchdowns, but was even more of a force on defense. He amassed 79 tackles, 23 TFL and 13 sacks for a West Noble team that gave Angola its toughest NECC test last season and has eyes on the Hornets in 2019.
LB/WR Cam Rogers, senior, Homestead
Rogers plays on that thin line between in control and maniacal on the football field. It is where so many players over the years have excelled, and Rogers thrives on the edge.
Officially, Rogers fell one tackle shy of the 100 mark last season, while also notching 14 TFL and seven sacks. Expect more of the same in 2019 and perhaps some added responsibilities on offense in the slot.
The Miami of Ohio commit is a huge piece for a Spartans squad that some believe can win the SAC.