Outside the Huddle and Blitz are counting down who it feels are the top 50 individual players in northeast Indiana heading into the 2020 season.
Today, we unveil five of the best in the area at positions No. 25-21.
No. 25: Luke Palmer, Homestead – Senior, LB
When talking about true menacing defensive players in the SAC, it is tough not to mention Palmer. While not physically imposing, he plays with a confidence and tenacity that endears him to his squad and makes him a big problem for opponents.
Palmer led Homestead with 97 tackles in 2019, while also adding 14 TFL, a sack and an INT. With Cam Rogers gone from the second level of the Spartans’ defense, expect Palmer to carry the leadership load as well as being one of Homestead’s leading tacklers once again.
COACH’S QUOTE ON LUKE PALMER
“Luke led the team in tackles last year. He has great speed and strength and is one of the best students of the game we have had at Homestead. We expect him to have a great year.” – Homestead coach Chad Zolman
No. 24: Cody Middlestedt, Bluffton – Senior, RB/CB
Middlestedt fits the category of another two-way player outside of Allen County that is vastly underappreciated. He will line up as the Tigers’ primary running back and one of its starting corners, bringing plenty of physicality to both spots.
As a junior, Middlestedt rushed for 717 yards and nine touchdowns while also hauling in 28 passes for 340 yards and a trio of TDs. He was also extremely dangerous in the return game, amassing nearly 450 yards in that category for the year. Look for Bluffton to move him around in a variety of sets and positions to take advantage of his playmaking capabilities.
Defensively, he finished with 30 tackles, three TFL and an INT.
COACH’S QUOTE ON CODY MIDDLESTEDT
“Cody is a dynamic playmaker in all three phases of the game. A big key to our success this season will be our ability to get him the ball in space so that he can use his God-given abilities to make plays. His biggest strength is his versatility. One play he can line up in the backfield, the next play in the slot, the play after that spread out wide. Add in the fact that he is a lock-don corner on defense and a huge threat in the return game and it’s no surprise to me that he makes this list.” – Bluffton coach Brent Kunkel
No. 23: Hunter Mertz, Carroll – Senior, RB/MLB
Mertz showcased his physicality in bunches a year ago on both sides of the ball.
On offense, he specialized as Carroll’s goal line and short-yardage back, carrying the ball just 46 times but scoring nine touchdowns.
Meanwhile on defense, Mertz lined up at outside linebacker and amassed 55 tackles, five TFL and four passes defended.
This season, Mertz is moving to the inside linebacker spot, becoming the centerpiece of the Carroll defense. Expect his stat line to improve, particularly on offense as he fills a more active role in the backfield.
COACH’S QUOTE ON HUNTER MERTZ
“Hunter Mertz is an outstanding player for us that will play on both sides of the ball. Last year he was an all-conference linebacker at outside linebacker. This year we will move him to inside linebacker. We are expecting great things out of him with leadership and great example.” – Carroll coach Doug Dinan
No. 22: Arieon McCarter, North Side – Senior, DB
There may be no louder defensive back in the area than McCarter – both when it comes to spouting confidence and directing his mates in the secondary.
McCarter’s football IQ is nearly as impressive as his athleticism and natural talent. He can line up at a multitude of positions in the defensive backfield and has a knack for the football that few in the SAC can match.
In 2019, McCarter finished with 40 tackles and a trio of INTs, numbers that should be eclipsed with ease this fall.
North Side is a trendy pick to make a move up the SAC standings this season. Players like McCarter are a big reason why.
COACH’S QUOTE ON AREION MCCARTER
“Arieon is a versatile defensive back with length and a knack for the ball. He has an excellent football IQ that allows him to diagnose plays quickly and communicate to his fellow defensive backs. We look forward to showcasing him at several positions in the secondary.” – North Side coach Mike Brevard
No. 21: Tanner Jack, DeKalb – Senior, RB/S
One of the better power backs around, Jack returns as one of the primary focal points of the Barons’ offense after rushing for 700 yards and seven touchdowns last season.
This year, Jack’s role will increase, seeing him get significant time on the defensive side of the ball as DeKalb looks to maximize his talents. Expect the same kind of tenacity and gusto on D as Jack plays with in the offensive backfield.
COACH’S QUOTE ON TANNER JACK
“Tanner Jack is an all-around playmaker. We are going to find ways to get him the ball in space so he can show off his strengths. He is also competing to see the field on defense this year too. He is a leader on this team. He is one of those players that is capable of a big play whenever he touches the ball. He is set for a big season this year..” – DeKalb coach Seth Wilcox
These opinions represent those of Blitz and Outside the Huddle. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. Follow Bounce on Twitter at Blitz_OTH
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