Catch it Kansas is counting down the 2019 football season by releasing the top players in the state at each position. While some players are standouts in more than one phase of the game, the objective is to list a player at no more than one position.
1. Turner Corcoran, Lawrence Free State – The consensus top recruit in Kansas, Corcoran is ranked third at his position in the country and is the No. 33 overall prospect regardless of position, according to 247 Sports, an industry recruiting leader. Corcoran has committed to Nebraska. A natural leader, the 6-foot-6, 280-pound Corcoran will be a three-year starter at left tackle this fall. Corcoran headlines one of the top classes, especially for linemen, in recent state history. Free State went 10-1 and averaged 43.5 points a contest.
2. Mason Richman, Blue Valley – Richman is ranked as the state’s fifth-best recruit by 247 Sports. He is listed at 6-6, 252 pounds and has committed to Iowa. BV had a rare down season and finished 4-5 in the challenging Eastern Kansas League. Richman posted 4.9 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Evan Taylor (6-1, 260) is also back for Blue Valley.
3. Hayden Pauls, Emporia – An Iowa State commit, Pauls is 6-4, 263 and helped Emporia improve last season to 5-5, a one-victory improvement after three consecutive four-win years. Emporia tallied 5.8 yards per play and 29.6 points per game, the program’s highest scoring output in four years. The Spartans are expected to have four offensive line starters back and all the linemen should be seniors. Pauls stands as the No. 6 player by 247 in Kansas.
4. Talor Warner, Gardner-Edgerton – Warner, ranked as the No. 8 prospect in Kansas, is a Kansas State commit. Warner started his career at Chapman and then transferred to Gardner-Edgerton. Last season, in his first as a starter, Warner collected first team all-state Class 6A. G-E improved from 0-9 to 10-1 under coach Ryan Cornelsen, the biggest one-season turnaround in Sunflower League history. Cornelsen previously enjoyed success at La Crosse, Hays High and Hutchinson. G-E was the state’s top rushing offense at 390 yards a game.
5. Alex Conn, Derby – Derby has enjoyed immense success in recent seasons with four state titles and a runner-up in the last six seasons, including a 13-0 season and Class 6A title last fall. However, the Panthers have rarely produced high-level Division I recruits and notably have sent several players to Fort Hays and Friends. Alex Conn, though, is the No. 9 prospect in the state and has committed to Nebraska. Conn started last fall at left tackle and is 6-6, 280. He helped Tre Washington rush for more than 1,800 yards and quarterback Hunter Igo earn Top 11 all-classes honors. Derby averaged 316 rushing yards a game.
6. Sam Shields, Manhattan – Shields started at tackle for Manhattan High last year and projects as a guard in college. Shields committed to Kansas State and is the No. 14 rated prospect in the state. He helped Manhattan to a 10-2 record and 39.5 points per contest, second most for the Indians from ’06-18. He helped Kevontae McDonald rush for 1,628 yards.
7. Hadley Panzer, Lakin – Panzer, also an undefeated wrestling champion, is the state’s No. 16 prospect and a K-State commit. Panzer collected multiple Division I scholarships, including Iowa State. Last year, Panzer helped Lakin to an 8-2 mark and first playoff win since 1999. Kayden Christiansen returns after Lakin’s line helped him clear 1,000 rushing yards. Panzer stands 6-3.5, 295 pounds. Lakin averaged 30 points and 246 rushing yards a contest.
8. Kyle Kelly, Mill Valley – Kelly (6-6, 245) is the state’s No. 17 ranked prospect and has committed to Arkansas State. Mill Valley finished 7-4 and averaged 24.9 points per contest. MV captured state titles in ’15-16, a semifinal in ’17 and quarterfinals in ’18. Also in the Eastern Kansas League, Aquinas’ Peyton Reeves has committed to Southern Illinois, and St. James’ Max Kalny has earned an Air Force offer.
9. Refujio Chairez, Garden City – It’s rare for a lineman to be a four-year starter – and rarer still that a linemen is one of the state’s more well-known players. That’s the case with Chairez, known for his 765-pound squat. Chairez has started for the Buffaloes since early his freshman year. He has committed to Division II Missouri Southern. Chairez is a two-time all-state player.
10. Kel Stroud, Chapman – A South Dakota commit, Stroud paved the way for Chapman’s power running attack. The Irish went from 1-8 to 7-3 and delivered 310 rushing yards a game last season. Chapman went 4-0 and won the North Central Kansas League.
11. Aaron Kurth, Colby – Kurth is a rare under-the-radar Power 5 prospect. Kurth started at center for 8-2 Colby last fall, a team that featured quarterback Jordan Schippers, a Western Illinois signing. Kurth should play both ways for the Eagles this season. He has picked up offers from Kansas, Western Illinois and South Dakota. Kurth looks to start at left tackle and defensive end this fall.
12. Cody Fayette/Zach Saville, Maize South – Maize South is loaded with top prospects, including quarterback Colin Shields, defensive back Trevion Mitchell and Fayette/Saville, both multi-year starters for the Mavericks. Maize South went 6-4 last season after a 0-3 start. Fayette committed to South Dakota on July 20. Fayette is 6-6, 290 and was a Top 100 Non-Senior player last year, while Saville stands 6-1, 295 and was honorable mention all-state. Saville, Fayette and Mitchell are all entering their third years as starters.
13. Charlie Timmons, Smith Center – Timmons, a junior, has started since his freshman year as the Redmen have captured back-to-back state championships. Last season, Smith Center rushed for 331 yards a game and 7.7 yards a carry. Three rushers cleared 660 yards and two had at least 1,280. Smith Center had just five turnovers last season. Timmons and Joel Montgomery, also a terrific defensive linemen, will anchor the Redmen front. Timmons was first team all-Mid-Continent League as a sophomore.
14. Brayden White, Louisburg – The 6-foot-3, 275-pound White was a first team all-state Class 4A pick for 10-1 Louisburg. White has collected offers from Butler CC, Nebraska-Kearney, Emporia State and Northwest Missouri State, among others.
15. Josh Hull, Humboldt – The 6-foot-6, 260-pound Hull helped Humboldt to an 11-1 record and Class 2A sub-state showing, the best finish in school history. Hull has earned offers from Garden City and Dodge City Community Colleges. Conor Haviland is back after he tallied 39 touchdowns.
16. Riley Philbern, Hoisington – Philbern picked up a Kansas Wesleyan offer in late June. He helped Wyatt Pedigo clear 2,000 rushing yards last fall. Hoisington is expected to be among the top 2A favorites.
17. Doug Grider, Halstead – The 6-3, 235-pound Grider, the son of Halstead head coach Jason Grider and brother to running back Scott, was the Dragons’ best offensive lineman last year. Halstead averaged 292 rushing yards a contest and 6.7 yards per carry.
18. Kody Davoren, Rossville – Davoren earned first team all-state Class 2A. Rossville went 8-3, average 28.8 points a contest, along with 106 passing and 237 rushing yards a game.
19. Carson Williams, Jackson Heights – Williams, a first team all-state pick, helped run-heavy Jackson Heights post a 9-2 record and average 27.9 points a contest. JH is expected to open the season in the top-5 in 1A.
20. Connor Allen/Nate Egan, Wichita Collegiate – Collegiate finished 6-3 in 2018 and returns virtually every key player, except at quarterback. The Spartans also bring back former head coach Bill Messamore as offensive coordinator. Allen and Egan each earned honorable mention all-conference, and Allen also picked up honors on defense. Allen was also honorable mention all-league as a sophomore. Collegiate could be a team to make a big jump this season after a 6-3 season and 30 points a game.
21. Jesse Baxter/Colton Neitzel, St. Francis – The top eight-men linemen were a senior heavy group last fall, but Baxter/Neitzel is one of the headliners this year. Baxter collected second team all-conference in the Northwest Kansas League, a conference that had Hoxie’s great senior lineman/end trio last fall. Baxter stands 6-4, 205, while center Colton Neitzel (6-4, 230) was an honorable mention all-league offensive linemen. They helped Jordan Raby rush for 1,425 yards and quarterback Brady Dinkel tally 1,049 yards in the single wing offense. Dinkel returns for a SF squad that went 11-1 and will be a preseason top-five team in Eight-Man, Division I. Otis-Bison returns seniors Kendall Steinert and Hunter Mitchell, who will be a three-year starter, for a team that averaged 223 rushing yards a game.