It's not often that a defensive player is considered for a major award in football. The Heisman Trophy and the National Football League's MVP, for example usually goes to a quarterback, running back or a wide receiver. A player on the defensive side of the ball hasn't won Kentucky's Mr. Football award since 2005, when Fort Campbell's Micah Johnson took home the hardware. Boyle County's Lamar Dawson has a great shot of following in Johnson's footsteps.
Dawson, a 6-foot-2, 230 pound inside linebacker, is the top college prospect in the Bluegrass state this season. He is ranked No. 95 in the nation according to Rivals.com and he has a slew of scholarship offers from some of the nations top programs. Kentucky, Cincinnati, Florida, Illinois, Louisville, Northwestern, Oregon, Purdue, Stanford, Texas Tech, Southern California and Western Kentucky have all offered the Boyle County star. He racked up 176 tackles last season, as he helped lead the Rebels to a 15-0 record and a Class 4A state championship.
Dawson is the pre-season favorite but there are several players from Louisville that will give him a run for his money. One of those player is Eastern's Jon Davis. Davis, a 6-foot-4, 240 pounder, has committed to play college football for the University of Kentucky. As a sophomore Davis, who also had scholarship offers from Illinois, Louisville, Purdue and Stanford, carried the ball 93 times, for 636 yards and eight touchdowns. He also caught 40 passes, for 654 yards and six more scores. His numbers dipped some last season, as he only scored five touchdowns, but Eastern coach Ken Whalen expects Davis to have a banner senior season.
"The thing that makes Jon so special is his ability to play any position on the field," Whalen said. "He's 6-foot-4, 240 pounds and he was clocked 4.64 in the combines. He would be a top player in the state anywhere on the field. The recruiters love the way he can separate from defenders. He also has great hands."
Whalen feels his player is a great candidate for the 2010 Mr. Football award.
"Jon is a great choice," Whalen said. "He's not only a great football player but he's also a great person. He takes AP classes and he has qualified academically. He may be the most versatile player in the state. He is rated as one of the top tight ends in the nation. Most recruiters tell him's one of the top three in the nation. ESPN has him ranked in their top 150."
Seneca's DaMarcus Smith, a 6-foot-1, 185 pound quarterback, has been one of the state's top players since he was a freshman. As a sophomore, Smith completed 169-329 passes, for 3,227 yards and 32 touchdowns. He also ran for 457 yards and three more scores. Smith, who had scholarship offers from Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Purdue and Tennessee, committed to play for the University of Louisville. He tore his ACL in July of 2009 and was forced to watch from the sidelines for his entire junior season.
He will be back under center this season for the Redhawks and Seneca coach Louis Dover expects his star player to be 100 percent. "DaMarcus has done everything he needs to do to be back to where he wants to be," Dover said. "He worked very hard in rehab and he worked hard with his teammates as well. He feels very guilty about what happened last year. He hurt himself before the season started and he felt like he let teammates down."
Smith has a strong arm and a very nice follow-through. Winning the Mr. Football award would be nice but Dover says Smith is focused on helping his team win and not individual honors. "We talk about stuff like that and national rankings and he has told me that those are personal goals of his but that not what drives him," Dover said. "What drives him is he wants to win a state title. I know he is going to play hard and he's going to put up big numbers but is focusing on winning."
Another player from the Derby City to keep and eye on is Fern Creek's Jerrell Moore. Moore, a 5-foot-11, 175 pound running back, is one of the fastest players in the state. The University of Louisville commit has been clocked at 4.4 seconds in the forty yard dash. He had an outstanding junior season, racking up over 2,000 all-purpose yards and scoring 20 touchdowns.
Several other players to watch are Ballard wide receiver DeVante Parker, Ryle quarterback Conner Hempel and Owensbore quarterback Kal Prince. Parker, a University of Louisville commit, exploded on the scene last season and emerged as one of the top wide players in the state. Hempel and Prince both have a lot of ability and should put up big numbers this season.
Photo by Michael Johnston