The greatest Football Player of the Year race ever

Stephen Spiewak | MaxPreps.com Thursday, December 01, 2011

Three historically outstanding candidates have emerged as favorites for the U.S. Air Force National Player of the Year award.

Three offensive stars have set themselves above the rest, and they're making the choice for U.S. Air Force National Player of the Year a tough one.
Graphic by Ryan Escobar
Three offensive stars have set themselves above the rest, and they're making the choice for U.S. Air Force National Player of the Year a tough one.
The Heisman Trophy race has nothing on the race for the U.S. Air Force National Player of the Year award.

This season features what is likely the greatest Player of the Year chase of all-time, as three candidates (a quarterback, running back and receiver) have capped off historic careers with tremendous senior seasons.

Quarterback Maty Mauk from Kenton (Ohio) holds a plethora of passing records, including the all-time national record for passing yards. He's on the verge of winning a state title. As far as running backs go, they hardly get any better than Johnathan Gray, the do-it-all back from Aledo (Texas) who has a legitimate chance to surpass Ken Hall's all-time rushing record of 11,232 yards. The nation's No. 1 recruit Dorial Green-Beckham, who earned National Player of the Year honors as a sophomore, has more receiving yards than any one else ever to play high school football, and it's not even close.

All three have been superb this season, the barometer for this year's award.

MaxPreps takes a look at the pros and cons of each as the greatest Player of the Year race ever nears its completion.

The Quarterback
Maty Mauk is the nation's all-time
leading passer.
Photo by Nick Falzerano/Miamivalleysports.com
Maty Mauk is the nation's all-time leading passer.
Maty Mauk
6-2, 195
Kenton

The case for Mauk
It's pretty simple. Out of the hundreds of thousands of young men who have lined up behind center on high school football teams, no one has thrown for more yards than Mauk, who's registered 18,613 of them. He owns national records for total yards, completions and touchdown passes. Evaluating on a single-season basis, there's a good chance Mauk finishes with more than 7,000 total yards and 90 total touchdowns. Kenton plays for the Division IV state championship on Saturday.

The case against Mauk
While it's impossible to deny the talent of the Missouri-bound signal caller, some have questioned how much Kenton's offensive system, pioneered by Maty's father Mike, is responsible for the team's prodigious offensive output. Brother Ben Mauk had a very similar career to Maty. In fact, it was Ben's national passing record that Maty surpassed this season.

The Running back
Gray is still chasing Ken Hall.
File photo by Kyle Dantzler
Gray is still chasing Ken Hall.
Johnathan Gray
5-10, 185
Aledo

The case for Gray
Having earned National Sophomore and Junior of the Year honors over the last two seasons respectively, Gray entered the season as the favorite to capture the overall National Player of the Year award and has not disappointed. He's rushed 278 times for 3,252 yards and an astounding 58 touchdowns while adding five receiving scores. If Aledo can get past Stephenville this weekend, Gray has a shot to overtake Ken Hall's prestigious title as the nation's all-time leading rusher and could lead Aledo to another state title in the process.

The case against Gray
Gray has had a Herculean effort individually this season, but to date, Aledo has been somewhat of a disappointment. Aledo entered the season in the Preseason Top 25, riding a 29-game winning streak. Both of those distinctions came to a crashing halt with a season-opening loss, followed by a 27-point loss to Lake Travis two weeks later. Additionally, Aledo's regular-season schedule, which features four teams that won a combined 12 games, was relatively easy after the Stephenville and Lake Travis games.

The Wide Receiver
Dorial Green-Beckham closed out his
career with a 2,000-yard season.
Photo by Sam Soliday
Dorial Green-Beckham closed out his career with a 2,000-yard season.
Dorial Green-Beckham
6-6, 265
Hillcrest

The case for Green-Beckham
It's hard to envision a better high school receiver than Green-Beckham, who boats the complete package: size, speed, agility, leaping ability and soft hands. For four years, opposing defenses have struggled to defend the nation's No. 1 recruit. His senior statistics were eye-popping: 119 catches for 2,233 yards and 24 scores. He shattered Abram Booty's career receiving record by more than 500 yards, finishing with 6,456 yards. He led his team to an 11-2 record, a huge turnaround from the 2-9 season the team endured during his freshman year.

The case against Green-Beckham
Missouri football does not have the same depth of quality teams that Ohio and Texas do, so Green-Beckham's numbers largely came against an inferior level of competition. Perhaps the biggest knock on Green-Beckham, relative to Mauk and potentially Gray, is that Hillcrest did not enjoy a deep playoff run, getting bounced in the Class 4A quarterfinals by Webb City 49-0.