To some it might seem early but as players begin hitting lifting PR’s and getting in shape- the season has never quite ended. The chase for a trip to Wheeling never ends, and we are taking Fridays in the current offseason to highlight the top five players returning per position in AAA and AA/A (combined). Not on the list? Good thing it’s not even preseason yet. Prove us right or prove us wrong.
Without further ado…
Nick Malone (2019)
Brandon Moran (Martinsburg) 2019
Dylan Wood (Wheeling Park) 2019
TIE – #5 Stephen Perrine
HT/WT: 6’2 / 215 lbs
Perrine didn’t get a large amount of off-season recognition, but it definitely wasn’t due to his effort. He is a little lighter for defensive end but fits into Huntington’s system great. He’s a menace off the edge and makes a lot of plays solely based on outworking his opposition. That type of play is integral in dominating defenses. Look for Perrine to be a leader of the perennial Highlander D.
TIE – #5 John Hicks
HT/WT: 6’1 / 240 lbs
We’re a big fan of Hicks. It’s hard to gain stock in the Panhandle if you don’t play for Martinsburg or Musselman, but we were able to catch wind of Hicks. He has excellent acceleration off the edge and uses his hands to bully offensive tackles. Perhaps his best skill is making the tackle on the quarterback/runningback in space. Hicks returns with some other good defensive lineman for the Trojans.
#4 Caydan Keeler
HT/WT: 6’0 / 260 lbs
Keeler is the definition of a run stopper. With decent height and a very dense build, he is a trip to move for offensive lineman. He goes up against some of the best in the state week-in and week-out. Though his strength shines, he has a good motor and speed. There’s plenty of times he leverages the line of scrimmage correctly and has the hustle to chase down runs. Keeler is ready for a big time year.
#3 Ben Gribble
HT/WT: 6’0 / 230 lbs
Gribble possesses linebacker-size at defensive end- something we’ve seen out of University in the recent years. However, regardless of size, Gribble doesn’t rely just on his quick burst but also can bull rush a tackle deep into the backfield. Getting an edge on him is stressful and can require a change in scheming. Gribble hopes to continue the University defensive tradition of recent times.
#2 Zeiqui Lawton
School: South Charleston
HT/WT: 6’1 / 240 lbs
Lawton accomplished many feats as a freshman whilst playing one of the hardest schedules in the state. A youngin with grown size, the ceiling for him is very high. His best trait right now is his ability to play the line of scrimmage and stay in position. There are college players who still cannot keep discipline inside the box. He also possesses great strength and decent agility. We’re excited to see his progression.
#1 Kalai Clark
HT/WT: 6’1 / 290 lbs
We aren’t sure what is more scary: blocking Clark or the fact that he also plays fullback. Clark gained attention his early years but still had holes in his game. This last year, he combined a lot of traits we’ve listed above. Strength, explosiveness, and discipline within the box. However, he has these with a near-300 build. Clark’s only hit is that his motor gets a little inconsistent but for the majority of snaps he plays with a lot of heart.
Who did we miss? Let us know! We never shy away from people telling us we’re missing out on kids! Our next Feature Five Friday will take on the top returning defensive lineman in AA/A! Let us know who should be in there!