ESPNHS Underclass All-Americans
A bevy of underclassmen made their presence felt on the gridiron this fall, but none more so than Grayson (Loganville, Ga.) junior defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche. The 6-foot-5, 270-pounder was a terror on both sides of the ball for Rams and helped lead them to their first state title with a 24-0 win over Walton (Marietta, Ga.) in the Class AAAAA final.
Nkemdiche finished the season with 93 tackles, including 25 for loss, and 18 sacks despite facing double- and triple-teams every game. He also shined on the offensive side of the ball, rushing for 528 yards and 17 touchdowns, including one in the state championship.
So, it's no shock that Nkemdiche was one of 25 non-seniors to earn a spot on the ESPNHS Underclass All-American team.
The ESPNHS.com football staff, with input from ESPN Recruiting Nation and ESPNHS magazine, made the selections based on a combination of on-field performance, quality of competition and recruit ranking in terms of on-field performance. For instance, if a top recruit gets 12 sacks facing double- and triple-teams every game, he warranted a selection over a lower-level player who put up big numbers but wasn't facing the coverage the top recruit was.
Basically, if you see your name on this list, you earned it.
2011 High School Football Season Recap
Every day this week, ESPNHS.com recognizes the teams and individuals who made the 2011 high school football season one to remember.
Max Browne, Skyline (Sammamish, Wash.), Junior
Browne, who was named Gatorade State Player of the Year, completed 70 percent of his passes this season for 4,034 yards, 45 touchdowns and just seven picks while leading the Spartans to the Class 4A state title.
Greg Bryant, American Heritage (Delray Beach, Fla.), Junior
Bryant was a monster in the Class 3A state final, rushing for 243 yards and three touchdowns on 38 carries to lead the Stallions to the title. He finished the year with 2,180 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns on 224 carries.
Ty Isaac, Joliet Catholic (Joliet, Ill.), Junior
This 6-foot-2, 210-pounder made an impact all over the field this year. He ran for 2,629 yards and 42 touchdowns, including 515 yards and six scores in a Class 5A state championship loss, and added seven receiving touchdowns and two kickoff returns for scores.
Jake Oliver, Jesuit (Dallas), Junior
After snagging 85 passes for 1,302 yards and 13 touchdowns as a sophomore, Oliver somehow took it to another level this season, catching 108 balls for 1,637 yards and 24 scores.
James Quick, Trinity (Louisville, Ky.), Junior
The best player on one of the nation's top teams, Quick hauled in 82 passes for 1,434 yards and 21 touchdowns. Quick, who added a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, helped the Shamrocks to the Class 6A title and a No. 3 final ranking in the POWERADE FAB 50.
Adam Breneman, Cedar Cliff (Camp Hill, Pa.), Junior
This big target (6-5, 225) caught 72 passes for 1,120 yards and 12 touchdowns this season. He's got offers from the likes of Stanford, Notre Dame, Miami, Alabama, Florida State, Michigan and South Carolina.
Steven Elmer, Midland (Mich.), Junior
This 6-foot-6, 305-pounder's play scored him a spot on the Detroit Free Press Dream Team. He has already committed to Notre Dame.
Patrick Kugler, North Allegheny (Wexford, Pa.), Junior
Kugler definitely has the bloodlines to succeed in the trenches, as his father, Sean, is the offensive line coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Patrick's play this season was key to North Allegheny reaching the Class AAAA state semifinals and being ranked among the nation's top teams.
Bryce King, Dillon (S.C.), Junior
King opened holes up front for fellow junior Jabo Lee, who ran for 1,642 yards and 26 touchdowns, as Dillon advanced to the Class AA, Division I state semifinals. He has offers from LSU, South Carolina and Clemson.
Brandon Kublanow, Walton (Marietta, Ga.), Junior
Kublanow paved the way for stud junior running back Tyren Jones, who ran for 2,375 yards on the year. Walton finished the year 14-1 after falling to Grayson (Loganville, Ga.) in the Class AAAAA state championship.
Laremy Tunsil, Columbia (Lake City, Fla.), Junior
This 6-foot-6, 280-pounder already has offers from a number of elite programs, including USC, Florida, Arkansas, Florida State, Georgia and Notre Dame. His blocking helped Columbia to the Class 6A regional finals.
Jonathan Allen, Stone Bridge (Ashburn, Va.), Junior
One of the best pure pass rushers in the country, Allen had 15 sacks this season (he had 20 as a sophomore) to go with 102 tackles and was selected to The Washington Post All-Met first team for the second consecutive year.
Robert Nkemdiche, Grayson (Loganville, Ga.), Junior
Nkemdiche matched his sack total (18) from his sophomore season despite being the focal point of every opponent's game plan. His play was an integral to Grayson's run to its first state title and the Rams earning a No. 4 final ranking in the POWERADE FAB 50.
Henry Poggi, Gilman (Baltimore), Junior
Poggi, who has offers from the likes of Alabama, Ohio State, Stanford and Notre Dame, had 49 tackles (11 for loss) and 10 sacks in only 11 games for the Greyhounds, who finished No. 21 in the POWERADE FAB 50.
Kenny Bigelow, Red Lion Christian (Bear, Del.), Junior
Bigelow, who has already committed to USC, terrorized opposing backfields this season to the tune of 20 sacks and 40 tackles.
Reuben Foster, Troup County (LaGrange, Ga.), Junior
Arguably the nation's top linebacker, regardless of class, Foster showcased his considerable talents this season, recording 185 total tackles (144 solo), 32 tackles for loss and 14 sacks while rushing for four touchdowns on offense. He has committed to Alabama.
E.J. Levenberry, C.D. Hylton (Woodbridge, Va.), Junior
Levenberry showcased his all-around playmaking skills this season, registering 151 tackles, eight forced fumbles, four sacks and three picks to earn Washington Post All-Met first-team honors.
Tim Kimbrough, Warren Central (Indianapolis), Junior
An All-State first team selection for perennial power Warren Central, Kimbrough totaled 155 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks.
Will Likely, Glades Central (Belle Glade, Fla.), Junior
Likely was named Gatorade State Player of the Year after intercepting five passes, tallying 1,175 total yards of offense and scoring 20 total touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams.
Jabrill Peppers, Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.), Sophomore
Peppers was arguably the best player for the Ironmen this season, which is saying something considering Bosco finished No. 1 in the POWERADE FAB 50.
Antonio Conner, South Panola (Batesville, Miss.), Junior
An All-State first team selection for the second consecutive year, Conner excelled at running back and safety. He finished the year with 1,472 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns on offense and had two picks and 10 pass breakups on defense. He also threw two touchdown passes and returned a kickoff and a punt for scores.
Su'a Cravens, Vista Murrieta (Murrieta, Calif.), Junior
It's hard to put Cravens at just one position considering all he did for the Broncos. On defense, he tallied 96 tackles, 11 sacks and three interceptions, while on offense he ran for 15 scores and caught four touchdown passes to lead Vista Murrieta to the CIF Southern Section Inland Division title.
Robert Foster, Central Valley (Monaca, Pa.), Junior
One of the nation's top receivers in the Class of 2013, Foster caught 37 passes for 584 yards and 12 touchdowns. But he was especially dangerous on returns -- his 70-yard kickoff return set up the game-winning touchdown against Hopewell (Aliquippa, Pa.) on ESPNU.
Jake Elliott, Lyons Township (La Grange, Ill.), Junior
Elliott picked up All-State first team honors from the Chicago Tribune after making all 28 of his extra-point attempts and connecting on 12-of-13 field goals, including a 52-yarder.
Sean Covington, St. Petersburg (Fla.), Junior
Covington, who has one of the nation's strongest legs, averaged 43.2 yards on his punts and 27 of his kickoffs went for touchbacks. He added seven field goals.