Outside the Huddle and Blitz are counting down who it feels are the top 50 individual players in northeast Indiana heading into the 2021 season.
Today, we begin the unveiling of the best players in the area with positions No. 50-46.
No. 50: S Jorge Valdes, junior, Carroll
While the pass defense of Carroll last year was much-maligned, Valdes was a bright spot in the secondary as a sophomore starter. He amassed 70 tackles, five pass breakups and one INT for the Chargers on the back end.
But it was Valdes in run defense where he truly showed his skill set. A violent player at the point of contact, Valdes forced four fumbles and recovered a pair in 2020 and was consistently one of the best in the SAC at playing the run from the defensive backfield.
Now a junior, Valdes is ready to show another year of growth and be a leader for a Chargers defense that is determined to be improved.
COACH’S QUOTE ON JORGE VALDES
“Jorge Valdes is an outstanding student athlete who is a returning starter at safety. Jorge will be a junior in 2021 and brings great leadership, athleticism and physically to the defense.” – Carroll coach Doug Dinan
No. 49: S/Slot Trey Richards, senior, Garrett
Already known as a dominant defender, what puts Richards over the top entering 2021 is his rising ability on offense.
The senior caught 12 passes and a pair of touchdowns last season for the Railroaders, but has shown in the offseason an ability to be a difference maker in the slot. His quick feet allow him to get off the line fast and is great at finding holes in a defense. While he won’t blow anyone away with his flat-line speed, he has enough of it to gain separation.
On defense, Richards will be a stalwart once again for Garrett. In 2020, he finished with 71 tackles and an INT along with two TFL.
COACH’S QUOTE ON TREY RICHARDS
“Trey is meticulous about his preparation week to week and his training in the offseason. He is a leader and playmaker on the field who also adds toughness and accountability to our team.” – Garrett coach Chris DePew
No. 48: WR/S Hunter Herron, senior, Columbia City
Herron was often overlooked on the Eagles’ offense a season ago, both by defenses and media. The former was all good for Herron and Columbia City, as the then-junior hauled in 23 passes for 415 yards and five touchdowns.
Last year, Herron did not see much action on defense, but did account for 16 tackles while also returning kicks.
Now a senior, Herron’s role will be magnified as he steps into the spotlight with so much talent having graduated. Herron immediately becomes a top two receiver for the Eagles and will be looked upon in the defensive backfield to be a leader with a lot of youth around him.
COACH’S QUOTE ON HUNTER HERRON
“Hunter was overshadowed last year on our offense, but he’s a key piece that continued to develop in the offseason. He’s ready to be a bigger piece on both sides of the ball and will be spending a majority of his Friday nights on the field.” – Columbia City coach Brett Fox
No. 47: DE/TE Trace Holliday, senior, East Noble
Versatility is Holliday’s strong point, and making an impact everywhere on the field is what the senior is set to do in 2021.
Holliday was one of the best disruptors off of the edge in the NE8 a year ago, accounting for 10 TFL, eight sacks and 83 tackles. At 6-foot-2 and a little over 200 pounds, the senior is spry enough to beat bigger players off the line of scrimmage and physical enough to fight off blocks if engaged.
On offense, Holliday is an exceptional blocking tight end who can be a threat to catch a pass or two. On top of that, the Knights are also considering Holliday for some quarterback packages if the need arises.
COACH’S QUOTE ON TRACE HOLLIDAY
“Trace is going to have a great senior season. He is such a versatile player and can play a lot of positions that really help the team. He’s a great defensive end, can play some tight end and even has played some quarterback for us. He will definitely be one of the best players in the NE8 this year”. – East Noble coach Luke Amstutz
No. 46: LB James Rusher, junior, Concordia Lutheran
There may be no more unassuming player on the defensive side of the ball in the SAC than Rusher. Last season, the linebacker finished with 76 tackles, four INT and 2.5 tackles for loss for the Cadets, all stat points he could improve upon this year.
With deceptive speed and a strong will to finish every play, Rusher cleans up a lot of plays at the middle level of the Concordia defense. With some inexperience around him in the lineup this year, Rusher’s leadership will be paramount, although his play will do plenty of talking as well.
COACH’S QUOTE ON JAMES RUSHER
“James is a perfect example of a ‘winner.’ He is a great leader, hard worker and outstanding student. – Concordia Lutheran coach Mike Eshbach