Mississippi Gridiron identifies the top ten players in the MAIS as we enter the 2011 season. This ranking is based on several factors and conversations with high school coaches and recruiting professionals, with an attempt to balance a player’s future potential as a college prospect while crediting their on-the-field production in high school.
1. Tip McKenzie (QB/ATH, 5’9, 180, SR) Trinity Episcopal Day
2010 Stats: 812 rushing yards on 58 carries, 35 catches for nearly 800 yards, 676 return yards.
McKenzie committed to Southern Mississippi over the summer. He led Trinity to a 15-0 season and a State Championship a year ago with over 2,958 all-purpose yards playing multiple positions. Trinity Head Coach David King says of McKenzie, “Tip is an electric high school athlete. He’s just a big time football player. He’s ready for a big senior season.”
2. Christian Keene (WR, 6’3, 195, SR) Brookhaven Academy
2010 Stats: caught 69 passes for 1,216 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Christian Keene is the state’s overall leading returning statistical receiver. Keene has put up big numbers for two straight seasons, and is on the recruiting radar of many college programs. “Bubba” reports interest from Louisiana Tech and Alabama, along with the in-state schools. He is also a standout baseball recruit. Brookhaven Academy Head Coach Trip McCarty says “His upside is through the roof…He works hard, he runs great routes, and he hasn’t even reached his potential yet.”
3. Tyler Sullivan (QB, 6’3, 250, SR) Winston Academy
2010 Stats: passed for 2,985 yards and 28 touchdowns, rushed for 547 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Tyler Sullivan led Winston to a 7-5 season a year ago, accounting for over 3,500 yards of total offense and 41 touchdowns. Sullivan caught the attention of recruiters with his numbers, and his blend of size and athleticism. Winston Academy Head Coach Harold Wisdom says “He’s legit, no doubt about it, he can play. He’s getting a lot of attention. He’s a better athlete than you think, he can go.”
4. Kelton Smith (RB, 6’1, 205, SR) Copiah Academy
2010 Stats: rushed for over 1,400 yards.
Kelton Smith is arguably the top running back in the MAIS this season after ranking among the leading rushers last year with over 1,400 yards. He opened eyes in the spring running a 10.9 100 meter time at the South State meet. Copiah Academy Head Coach Scotty Cline says “Kelton is a special player. He’s a leader on the field for us, he’s great in the classroom and a good role model for kids. I wouldn’t trade him, he can do it all.”
5. Jacob Berry (LB, 6’1, 205, SR) Jackson Academy
2010 Stats: totalled 140 tackles.
Jacob Berry led the Jackson Academy defense last season with 140 tackles, on their way to a State Championship. Berry was one of few juniors to earn First Team All-MAIS honors. Jackson Academy Head Coach David Sykes says “He is a great football player, and maybe our best athlete.”
6. Cade Eiland (RB/DB, 5’9, 185, SR) Simpson Academy
2010 Stats: regular season rushed for 1,522 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Running back Cade Eiland was the driving force last year for the Cougars as they rolled through the regular season. Eiland led all MAIS rushers during the regular season, but suffered an injury late in the year. He is expected to make a full recovery. Eiland’s best position might be in the defensive backfield, where he earned preseason First Team All-MAIS honors from Mississippi Gridiron.
7. Hull Bolls (QB, 5’11, 180, SR) Jackson Academy
2010 Stats: passed for nearly 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns..
Hull Bolls has already led his Raiders to back-to-back State Championships. He passed for nearly 1,500 yards last year with 15 touchdowns for Jackson Academy. Bolls’ size is an obstacle in recruiting, but a potential three-time State Championship quarterback deserves a slot on this list. JA Head Coach David Sykes describes Bolls as a “coach on the field” for the Raiders.
8. Whit Kendall (DE, 6’3, 220, SR) Jackson Prep
Whit Kendall was one of only five juniors to earn First Team All-MAIS honors last season. Kendall is arguably the top defensive end in the MAIS this season, and is also a standout on the baseball field.
9. Tyler Gray (DE/DT, 6’3, 245, SR) East Rankin Academy
Tyler Gray had a dominant junior season for a young East Rankin Academy team. He will anchor the defense for the Patriots this year. East Rankin Head Coach Matt Butts says “Last year Tyler caught people’s attention. He’s hard-working, and has natural talent. We’ll move him around this year at several positions so teams don’t focus on him.”
10. Hunter Hawkins (TE, 6’4, 222, SR) Presbyterian Christian
2010 Stats: 58 catches for over 1,000 yards as a sophomore and junior combined.
Hunter Hawkins is the top returning tight end in the MAIS, and one of the state’s best. Standing 6’4 and 220 pounds, Hawkins reports a 40 time in the 4.6’s. Hawkins was an All-Metro selection and is attracting some interest from most of the in-state schools.