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OCVarsity Hot 150: We rank O.C.'s top players
A new playoff alignment will be used this football season by the CIF-Southern Section, incorporating competitive equity into the postseason brackets.
But who will carry out the spirit of the idea to ensure the excitement arrives?
Leave it to the members of the OCVarsity Hot 150, a list of the Orange County players ranked on their projected impact this season.
The selections were made based on many factors, including input by coaches and players, analysis of video, recruiting interest and statistics.
All of our football preview content will be included in a 16-page special section - Kickoff ’16 - that will be included in Thursday’s edition of the Orange County Register.
Here is this year’s Hot 150:
1. Jack Sears, San Clemente, QB
The Duke commit and Elite 11 selection will pile up the passing and rushing yards, and plenty of victories, too.
2. Chase Garbers, Corona del Mar, QB
The Cal commit improved during the summer, and he has the weapons to post spectacular numbers. Division 4 be warned.
3. JT Daniels, Mater Dei, QB
Talk about opportunities. The sophomore has the best receivers in the county and will play against some of the best competition in the country.
4. Colin Schooler, Mission Viejo, RB/LB
In the playoffs last season, Schooler emerged as the best two-way player in the county. He could carry that title for an entire season, but defense is his calling card.
5. Amon-Ra St. Brown, Mater Dei, WR
The junior impressed observers at Edison’s 7-on-7 passing tournament in July. His athleticism and fiery desire soared above the competition. If that translates to Friday nights, brace yourself.
6. Osiris St. Brown, Mater Dei, WR
The Stanford commit was slowed by injury during the summer, but he showed at the Edison passing tournament in July that he is nearing top form. If he’s healthy and rolling, he could be the best player in the county.
7. Grant Calcaterra, Santa Margarita, WR/TE
The Oklahoma commit is a troublesome matchup at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds and with breakaway speed. Count new coach Rich Fisher among those he has impressed.
8. Brandon McKinney, Orange Lutheran, S/WR
The Washington commit is a strong challenger for Schooler’s crown as the top two-way player. McKinney is also one of the biggest hitters in the county.
9. Quentin Lake, Mater Dei, CB
Teams would be smart not to challenge the UCLA commit. He is the best corner in the county, but he might have to work extra hard to make as many plays as he wants to.
10. Brett Neilon, Santa Margarita, C
Look for the USC commit to return to his dominating ways now that he’s in the position he’ll play at the next level.
11. Camron Rivas, La Habra, LB
Simply one of the best leaders in the county. He powers the Highlanders with his tackling and vocal leadership.
12. Elijah Gates, Buena Park, WR/CB
The explosive senior stands out among a talented group of receivers/defensive backs at Buena Park because of his two-way contributions.
13. Olaijah Griffin, Mission Viejo, CB/WR
He delivered last season when the Diablos needed him to take on a bigger role. Keep your eyes on the junior on offense, defense and special teams. “Off the charts,” Coach Bob Johnson said.
14. John Stamos, Villa Park, LB/RB
The recent Navy commit is cast in the mold of Schooler and McKinney with his ability to dominate on both sides of the ball.
15. Jeremiah Hawkins, Buena Park, WR
No O.C. receiver has more moves than the Cal commit. He’s a highlight just waiting to roll.
16. Nick Sipe, Villa Park, QB
Coach Dusan Ancich believes the Purdue commit could emerge as the best quarterback in school history.
17. Tyler Lytle, Servite, QB
The Colorado commit has the size, experience and weapons to assemble a monster senior season. He duels with Villa Park and Nick Sipe on Sept. 16.
18. Austin Osborne, Mission Viejo, WR
The smooth wideout flourished with Brock Johnson and should do the same this season with Matt McDonald.
19. Keith Taylor, Servite, CB
Keep the 6-2 Taylor in mind when it comes to picking the best defensive back in the county. The Washington commit can hang with Lake, Gates and Griffin.
20. Fa’avae Fa’avae, Mater Dei, LB
The senior was one of the most disruptive defenders in the county in ’15. More big sack totals could follow him again.
21. Ryan Nelson, Buena Park, LT
Coach Anthony White calls the highly recruited senior the Coyotes’ cornerstone.
22. Tommy Brown, Mater Dei, LT
Big No. 75 (6-7, 323) flashed his potential last season, and this season he is ready to show his improvements in pass blocking.
23. Logan Montgomery, Laguna Hills, ATH
Call him Mr. Versatile. Expect the highly recruited and swift senior to play a major roll in the Hawks’ wing-T offense. He also plays safety and returns kicks.
24. Madison Wheeler, La Habra, S/RB
The Highlanders’ defense is talented and physical up the middle with Wheeler and Rivas. Wheeler can challenge McKinney in the hitting dept.
25. Bru McCoy, Mater Dei, WR
The sophomore showed in the summer that he is ready to play varsity. His size, athleticism and focus are why Alabama has already offered him a scholarship.
26. Devon Cooley, Buena Park, WR
Ranking the Coyotes’ wide receivers is no easy task, but the junior stands out with his combination of size and speed. UCLA has offered.
27. Taariq Johnson, Buena Park, WR
If you believe the Cal commit is the best Buena Park receiver, you might be right. And you have plenty of company.
28. Mike Saffell, Edison, C
It’s a great year for county centers and Saffell pushes Neilon for the No. 1 spot.
29. Shane Coleman, Tesoro, WR
The 6-foot-5 wide receiver doesn’t have Devon Modster lofting him passes anymore, but he is still among the toughest matchups in the county.
30. Jordan Leonard, Brethren Christian, RB
The senior averaged a staggering 13.7 yards per carry last season en route to 2,518 yards and 37 touchdowns. Those numbers will be tough to duplicate, especially with some newcomers on the line. Leonard is still a must-see player.
31. Isaac Rex, San Clemente, TE/LB
The Tritons like to call themselves “QBU,” but they also know tight ends. Rex, a BYU commit, looks like another standout.
32. Matthew Robinson, JSerra, QB
The athletic junior emerged as an exciting player to watch last season. Look for him to keep improving.
33. Matt McDonald, Mission Viejo, QB
The senior finally gets his shot to be the man, and steps into an offense with Osborne, Griffin and Schooler. Posting Brock Johnson-like numbers could be tough but expect high production.
34. Brandon Reaves, San Clemente, RB/CB
There might not be a running back with better hands than the senior. He cracked 600 yards in receiving and rushing last season.
35. Jalen Cole, Mater Dei, CB
Injuries have slowed the first-team All-County pick, but the Monarchs allowed him to wear Matt Grootegoed’s No. 6 jersey for a reason. He’s a playmaker.
36. Connor McBride, Woodbridge, RB/LB
The senior broke out last season with 1,931 yards, averaging 28 carries in his last eight games. The Warriors expect to be more balanced, but McBride will still be a handful for defenses.
37. Prince Ross, La Habra, WR
The senior doesn’t have Eric Barriere throwing him passes anymore, but he remains one of the slickest receivers in the county.
38. Travis Yates, Orange Lutheran, DL
Montana State swooped into the Trinity League and landed a commitment from arguably the top defensive lineman in the county. Big score for the Bobcats.
39. Austin Liles, Orange Lutheran, WR
The San Jose State commit blends athleticism with his 6-3 frame. And with the Lancers expected to pass more, he’s well-positioned for a lot of production.
40. Shaun Colamonico, Edison, WR/CB
If the senior builds on his standout effort at the Edison passing tournament in July, the Chargers have a two-way star.
41. Xavier Bell, Mater Dei, FS
The Arizona commit was slowed by injury last season but appears poised to be a multi-dimensional contributor at free safety.
42. Riley O’Brien, JSerra, ATH
The Penn commit does it all. He can run, pass and receive on offense and also is a key defensive back and return man.
43. Peslao Gauta, Garden Grove, LT
The 6-4, 320-pound junior gives the Argonauts a major force and intriguing college recruit.
44. Joey Noble, Los Alamitos, DE
The senior could challenge Yates for the top spot in the defensive linemen rankings.
45. Jacob Huff, San Juan Hills, WR
The sure-handed senior hauled in 82 receptions for 1,298 yards last season. QB Patrick O’Brien is now at Nebraska, but Huff knows how to get open.
46. Dominik Austin, Orange Lutheran, RB
The senior established himself as a force last season with 1,016 yards and 11 TDs.
47. Cedric Dashiell II, Buena Park, LB
The senior has collected a combined 26 sacks the past two seasons. That probably leads the county.
48. Drew Platt, Los Alamitos, LB/TE
The senior is the Griffins’ best two-way player and a great target for new quarterback Hayden Smith.
49. Jaydin Moses, Corona del Mar, RB/LB
The three-year starter and senior is a physical runner coming off 1,008 yards in 2015.
50. Nikko Remigio, Mater Dei, WR
The junior didn’t post big numbers last season but improved over the summer to draw offers from UCLA and USC.
51. Mase Funa, Santa Margarita, TE/DE
The transfer from Utah has major upside. Funa, who played youth football in Anaheim and Tustin, has been offered by Utah and BYU.
52. Darrius Outland, Villa Park, CB
The rising senior broke through last season and has committed to Fresno State. He’ll return kicks, too.
53. Marcus Carrasco, La Habra, LB
The senior is a force coming off the edge.
54. Austin Faoliu, Mater Dei, DL
The JSerra transfer is an important addition to the Monarchs’ defensive line, perhaps the only question mark for the county’s No. 1-ranked team.
55. Malone Mataele, Santa Margarita, CB
The junior from Orange Lutheran is on the rise with offers from Utah, BYU and Hawaii. Expect to see him on offense, too.
56. Issaiah Johnson, Los Alamitos, LB
The junior’s stock is climbing after making nearly 80 tackles as a sophomore.
57. Cole Kinder, Newport Harbor, RB
Kinder takes the term complete back to a new level. He’s a 1,000-yard rusher, can catch, block and he posts a 4.3 grade-point average.
58. E.J. Ginnis, Edison, WR/CB
The senior forms a stellar duo with Colamonico. Ginnis also was Edison’s fourth-leading tackler last season and shared for the team-lead in interceptions with three with Nick Warren.
59. Zelan Tupuola, JSerra, OL
The senior with quick feet has been offered by Fresno State.
60. Arwin Rahmatpanah, Corona del Mar, C
The senior anchors arguably the best offensive line in the county.
61. Andrew Cohen, Tesoro, DE
The senior goes from sidekick to the starring role after collecting 12.5 sacks last season playing with All-County lineman Chris Evagues.
62. Bryan Samudro, Corona del Mar, OL/DL
The senior is a standout on both sides of the ball.
63. Roman Kafentzis, Mater Dei, S/LB
Don’t be surprised to see the talented safety and team captain, who has been offered by Fresno State among others, end up at linebacker.
64. Christian LaValle, Mission Viejo, LB
The state champion Diablos are high on the junior, a second-team all-league pick last season.
65. Kevin Brown, Capistrano Valley, QB
The senior should show off his many improvements from the summer.
66. Josh Witherspoon, Orange Lutheran, DL
The physical interior lineman is a run-stopper who requires a double-team. That’s valuable.
67. JJ Glass, San Juan Hills, NG
The senior is a nightmare for centers. He uses a great get-off move and motor to find the ball.
68. Richard Wagner, Santa Margarita, QB
Look for the senior to emerge as the starter and utilize the team’s weapons.
69. Josiah Norwood, Troy, QB
The junior worked hard in the offseason to take his dual-threat game to the next level.
70. Bryan Ibarra, Godinez, QB/ATH
The senior is one of the best athletes in the county and a big reason for the Grizzlies emergence.
71. Ronnie Velasquez, Valencia, LB
The senior was a major reason why the Tigers won their first 11 games last season. He led the team with 105 tackles.
72. Tae Le, Corona del Mar, WR
The rising 6-4, 220-pound junior could emerge as one of QB Chase Garbers’ favorite targets. He also holds an offer from Yale.
73. Ryan Hilinski, Orange Lutheran, QB
It’s not clear who the Lancers starting quarterback will be, but the sophomore transfer from JSerra is a talent. Junior Cole Capen is another name to remember.
74. AJ Allen, Buena Park, WR/FS
Add the 6-2 junior to the list of wide outs/defensive backs to watch at Buena Park. Colorado has already offered.
75. Marwin Zaragoza, Tustin, FB/LB
The senior is a two-way force at 6-foot, 230 pounds.
76. Griffin O’Connor, Edison, QB
The 6-3 junior gained valuable experience last season. He is battling senior Bowen Blake, another talented passer to watch, for the starting job.
77. Stanley Berryhill, Orange Lutheran, WR
The transfer from Arizona helped the Lancers capture the Huntington Beach 7-on-7 passing tournament in July.
78. Jarrett Patterson, Mission Viejo, OL
The junior looks to be on track to be the Diablos’ next top offensive lineman.
79. Jake Parks, JSerra, OL
The junior brings size, strength and versatility to a school known for outstanding offensive linemen.
80. George Krantz, St. Margaret’s, QB
The senior threw for over 3,000 yards and 43 touchdowns as the Tartans reached the CIF-SS quarterfinals in 2015.
81. Shane Darsow, Villa Park, DE
The Spartans believe the senior is headed for a breakout campaign after posting 70 tackles last season.
82. Matthew Faupusa, Los Alamitos, DT
The Griffins hope the massive tackle (6-3, 315) from St. John Bosco helps anchor a strong defensive front.
83. Victor Bates, Buena Park, WR
The speedy senior from Lakewood gets his chance show his talent with the Coyotes.
84. Auston Locke, St. Margaret’s, WR
The senior holds offers from Army, Columbia and San Diego after piling up 1,085 yards and 19 TDs last season.
85. Nick Siatunu’u, Kennedy, DT/C
The senior earned strong reviews while training with Jesse Sapolu’s linemen academy.
86. Thomas Parker, Santa Margarita, OL
Coach Rich Fisher praised the under-the-radar senior for his consistently high-level of play.
87. Luke LaCilento, Servite, OL
The Friars’ offensive live is big and the junior could be the best of the group. He earned first-team honors at a West Coast exposure camp.
88. Chris Kane, San Clemente, TE
The junior is an under-the-radar player to watch, according to recruiting analyst Greg Biggins of Fox Sports and Scout.com
89. Malik McClain, Santa Margarita, DE/ATH
The junior (6-3, 215), a transfer from Georgia, forms an intriguing duo with fellow end Mase Funa. McClain’s brother, Munir, plays receiver for the Eagles.
90. Mario Moemoe, Garden Grove, CB
The All-County corner grabbed nine interceptions last season.
91. Cade Covarrubias, Mission Viejo, S
The senior has been steady and productive for the Diablos during their state-leading 28 game winning streak.
92. Delon Hurt, Servite, WR
The rising junior appears positioned to be a top target for Tyler Lytle.
93. Dylan Laurent, Los Alamitos, WR/CB
The versatile senior should be an exciting player to watch in Willy Puga’s offense. He’s also the Griffins’ top corner.
94. Jake Peters, Santa Margarita, TE
Remember the name of this 6-4, 230-pound junior. He’s coming back from an Achilles injury but holds an early offer from Washington.
95. James Magee, Fullerton, OL
The powerful lineman, who has picked up several small-school offers, can do big things for the Indians.
96. Jack Genova, Mater Dei, LB
Genova, another junior on the rise, showed his coverage skills while helping the Monarchs capture the Edison 7-on-7 passing tournament in July.
97. Isaac Togia, Pacifica, OLB
The junior played sideline-to-sideline last season with an impressive motor.
98. AJ Aguilar, El Toro, OLB
The Chargers’ top tackler from last season leads a defense that could stand out in the Sea View League.
99. Jahquon Speed, Valencia, RB
The senior rushed for 1,042 yards and 11 TDs for the Empire League champions last season.
100. Trey Green, Santa Margarita, RB
The senior faces stiff competition in the Trinity League but does feature an excellent line and an offer from Columbia. He rushed for almost 700 yards last season.
101. Jonathan Briseno, Santa Ana, QB/CB
The reigning Golden West League MVP is a major reason why the Saints are aiming for a league title. The senior rushed for 1,232 yards last season and passed for another 697.
102. Chase McGrath, Mater Dei, K
The second-team All-County pick captured the West Coast Kicking Academy head-to-head competition in July. The senior has an offer from Army.
103. Eli Anderson, La Habra, RB
The Southwest Division champs love to play physical football and the senior appears to be an ideal candidate to deliver the ground-and-pound.
104. Demarlo Cobbins, Mission Viejo, DB/RB
Cobbins, who was at El Toro last season, could emerge quickly for the Diablos on both sides of the ball.
105. Julius Irvin, Servite, S
The junior is a potential breakout performer. He received an offer from Kansas in the spring.
106. Mickey Quinn, Corona del Mar, MLB
Coach Dan O’Shea lists the senior as a major sleeper who might remind fans of former CdM linebacker Alex Moore.
107. Jorge Briseno, Santa Ana, RB
The other half of the Saints’ “Killer Bees” attack on offense. He rushed for almost 1,400 yards in just five game last season before being stopped by injury.
108. Michael Gazsi, Mission Viejo, RB/OLB
Speaking of sleepers, here is a senior (5-10, 180) to keep tabs on. Gazsi could be part of a RB rotation that keeps Colin Schooler rested for defense. Gazsi is also a top defensive player.
109. Cade Henjum, Saddleback Valley Christian, QB
The county’s small schools are deep at quarterback. Henjum had 38 TD passes a year ago, but he could have a tough time matching that following the transfer of one of his top targets, Savai’i Cravens (Linfield Christian of Temecula).
110. Dominique Thompson, Cypress, WR/CB
The athletic, 6-foot junior grabbed 45 receptions as a sophomore, so the Centurions are rightfully excited.
111. Sam Marrazzo, Aliso Niguel, OT
The 6-foot-4, 270-pound senior might not be well-known in the county, but college recruiters know him.
112. Matt Moslenko, Pacifica, WR
Another junior to watch at Pacifica. The 6-2, 185-pounder had 39 receptions for 612 yards last season, and he now teams with talented new QB Ben Jefferson.
113. Sam Winder, University, RB
The senior was a major reason for the Trojans’ turnaround in ’15. He rushed for 970 yards and seven TDs.
114. Kenneth Carr, Tustin, RB
Ground-attack guru Myron Miller is back coaching the Tillers, so pay attention to the team’s running backs. He says Carr, a junior, and Derek Soto, a senior, should be good.
115. Reece Perez, Corona del Mar, WR
The senior collected 54 catches last season and is now part of Chase Garbers’ big-three receiving corp with Tae Le and Cameron Kormos.
116. Sai Mikaio, Tustin, OL/NG
The all-league junior helps anchor the Tillers’ line.
117. Blake Culbert, Rancho Alamitos, QB
Culbert returns after throwing for almost 2,700 yards last season. How many yards will he pass for now that he is a senior?
118. Deshaun Harvey, Buena Park, QB
Harvey is another quarterback who could throw for a ton of yards. The Coyotes have one of the best receiving groups in the county. JD Rafkin, a senior, is another QB who could benefit.
119. Andre Cotton, Aliso Niguel, RB
Cotton’s talents compare well with San Clemente’s Brandon Reaves. The receiver/runner produced 1,025 yards last season.
120. Joseph Camarillo, Garden Grove, RB
The senior waited behind Jordan Antunez and now gets his chance to run behind Peslao Gauta and right tackle Darice Tavita. Life isn’t so bad. Camarillo is headed for a big season.
121. Cooper Jones, El Toro, QB
Before the transfer of Dawit Wilson, Jones – a junior -- was in a fierce competition for the starting position. Don’t feel too bad for the Chargers.
122. Brandon Warren, Orange, CB/RB
The Panthers have an under-the-radar recruit to be excited about in Warren.
123. Fabian Montes, Corona del Mar, CB
The senior is Coach Dan O’Shea’s No. 2 sleeper. After a stellar summer, the coach calls Montes the best cornerback he has coached at CdM
124. Tyler Romo, El Toro, LB
The senior forms an excellent duo with AJ Aguilar. He was the Chargers’ fifth-leading tackler last season with 63.
125. Alex Pourdanesh, University, ATH
The junior and his brother, Julian, are rising stars two-way stars for the Trojans. They are the sons of former NFL lineman and University coach Shar Pourdanesh.
126. Joey Gutierrez, Brethren Christian, QB
The former La Habra QB helped the Warriors capture a passing tournament in the summer. The senior is surrounded with enough skill players to post huge numbers.
127. Anthony Shipton, Villa Park, DT
Coach Dusan Ancich calls the 6-foot-4, 305-pound junior a “major D1 stud.” With Shane Darsow on the edge, the Spartans’ DL looks tough.
128. Josh Tarango, Canyon, DT
The Southern Division champs climb to the Crestview League, but Tarango (6-2, 265) should ease the transition. Tarango and DE/TE Christian Downey are well-regarded by Coach Mike Ogas.
129. Mason Winter, Yorba Linda, RB
The senior rushed for 1,000 yards last season and will benefit from the Mustangs’ all-senior line with size.
130. Brett Ferguson, Troy, SS
The all-league senior is one of eight returning starters on defense for the Warriors, who might be the third-best team in the Freeway. He was the team’s third-leading tackler in ’15.
131. Michael Martinson, Brea Olinda, RB
The senior could give North Hills League teams fits after rushing for 1,085 yards last season.
132. Dillon Keefe, El Modena, DE
The reigning North Hills lineman of the year could play DE/LB and might see action at running back. If the Vanguards contend again, the senior will be a big reason why.
133. Liki Seu, Orange Lutheran, OL
The senior transfer from Brethren Christian helped bust holes last season for Jordan Leonard. Lancers coach Chuck Petersen counts him as one of the team’s key senior linemen, along with Travis Yates, Josh Witherspoon and CJ Murray.
134. Noah Rivera, Brea Olinda, WR
The Wildcats used the 5-foot-7 Rivera well last season. He rushed for 430 yards, added 716 yards receiving and also returned kicks.
135. Chris Hernandez, Santa Ana Valley, RB
The senior rushed for almost 1,400 yards last season en route to being selected Orange League back of the years.
136. Jason Wilkinson, Santa Ana Valley, QB
The Falcons surged last season behind Wilkinson, who is now a promising junior.
137. Francisco Pineda, Katella, RB
The senior led the Orange League champions with 1,305 yards and 19 TDs last season.
138. James Faitasia, Katella, WR
The 6-foot-4 senior teamed well with Francisco Pineda, collecting 44 catches for almost 1,000 yards.
139. Geovanni Estrada, Saddleback, RB
The senior emerged as an Orange Coast standout with 890 yards rushing and 12 TDs.
140. Richy Tochihuitl, Godinez, MLB
QB Bryan Ibarra isn’t a one-man gang at Godinez. Tochihuitl, a senior, had 112 tackles last season.
141. Marcus Time, Calvary Chapel, DL/OL
Time (5-10, 310), the co-lineman of the year in the Orange Coast last season, gives the defending league champs a physical presence.
142. Cole Suchesk, San Juan Hills, RB
Will the Stallions surprise again? The speedy Suchesk is sharing the No. 1 running back position with fellow senior Brock Cazel.
143. Angel Hernandez, Fountain Valley, RB
New coach Jimmy Nolan believes the senior can be playmaker with a switch to running back from linebacker.
144. Alex Michaelsen, Newport Harbor, DE/LS
The senior offers a unique skill set: standout defensive end and top long snapper. The Sailors will take both.
145. Chase Ault, Mater Dei, SS
The senior teams with Xavier Bell to form an outstanding safety tandem.
146. Rene Palacios, La Habra, TE
Add the 6-foot-2, 225-pound senior to the list of top tight end targets in the county.
147. Kyle Ford, Servite, WR
The 6-foot-2 sophomore could emerge as top receiver as Tyler Lytle finds his stride.
148. Raphael Jones, Mater Dei, RB
The Monarchs are loaded at receiver but still need to run the ball. Jones could have a breakout season as defenses focus on stopping the pasing game.
149. Cooper Hingst, Foothill, OT
The senior tackle will help protect two of the Knights’ breakout performers: QB Bobby Garcia and RB Dante Swayne.
150. Quinn Commans, Whittier Christian, QB
Quarterback guru Steve Calhoun believes the junior has the makings of an elite passer.
Contact the writer: email@example.com