In the past week, we’ve revealed 10 of the top football players to watch on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball in 2013. Sometimes, though, it’s the under-the-radar guys who make as big of an impact.
Queen Creek running back Matt Guida exploded onto the scene a season ago, leading the Bulldogs to the Division III state championship and earning the Tribune’s Player of the Year award.
Here are 10 players who could be this season’s breakout stars:
Jordan Hoyt, Sr., DL, Chandler
Hoyt showed glimpses of star potential as a sophomore in 2011, finishing the year with 25 tackles, two sacks and an interception on the Chandler varsity. He was expected to be a key contributor in 2012, but a knee injury forced him out for the season. The Wolves defense has been its Achilles’ heel in past years, and an impact defensive lineman can go a long way in changing that. If Hoyt can return to pre-injury form, he could have a big season and help the Wolves make a deep playoff run.
Emmanuel Butler, Sr., WR, Mountain Pointe
Jalen Brown gets the well-deserved acclaim at wide receiver for the Pride, but Butler could end up being a key piece. Brown should again be the focus of defenses, which will give Butler plenty of 1-on-1 opportunities in the passing game. He caught only eight passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns as a junior, but had a breakout spring to get on the radar of college coaches. If he can put together an impressive senior year, it will help both his scholarship options and Mountain Pointe’s title chances.
Kamron Johnson, Jr., RB/DB, Tempe
Even though he was stuck behind Division I running back recruit Mauriece Lee at Marcos de Niza last season, Johnson made his touches count. He carried the ball 22 times for 266 yards (a 12.09 yards-per-carry average) with three touchdowns and caught 12 passes for 265 yards and three more scores. Johnson would have been a big part of the Padres’ offense this season, but he instead transferred to Tempe. The Buffaloes had a five-win turnaround last year, and with Johnson added to the trio of quarterback Emanuel Gant and wide receivers Sebastian Watkins and Massiah Smith, the expectations are even higher in 2013.
Bryce Perkins, Jr., QB, Chandler
Perkins has been on the radar for awhile, but has yet to dominate at the varsity level. He was offered scholarships by Arizona State and UCLA as a sophomore, but played wide receiver last season because senior Darell Garretson was the incumbent signal caller. Now the quarterback position is Perkins’ for the taking, and he has several talented wide receivers to work with. Perkins showed flashes of his multi-dimensional ability a year ago, passing for 87 yards, rushing for 104, catching six passes for 61 yards and scoring four touchdowns. He is going to carry a much bigger load in 2013.
Juwan Jones, Sr., DB, Hamilton
Cole Luke had a huge 2012 season before moving on to Notre Dame, but the Huskies’ secondary is not expecting a dropoff. Hamilton has a deep defensive backs group, and Jones is expected to play a prominent role. He’s not as widely known as Luke or fellow defensive back Levi Sterling, but the talent is there. Jones has been offered scholarships by Colorado State, Hawaii, Montana, New Mexico, New Mexico State and San Diego State already. An impressive senior season could put him on the radar of bigger schools as well.
Richard Haywood, Sr., WR, Desert Vista
The Thunder’s offense had bit of an identity crisis last year as the power game became the focus, but Dan Hinds is a fly guy. He loves the play and emphasis it more in 2013. When it is working well like it did with Michael Ingrassia and Kaleb Germinaro in previous years it is hard to stop. Haywood, who had 212 yards on 17 carries with a TD, will step into that role this year and he has speed like you wouldn’t believe.
Trevor Wood, Sr., TE/DL, Chaparral
Wood’s been a widely-known name for more than a year as top colleges from around the country fought for his services. However, his high school experience hasn’t gone as hoped. He only played in two games last season before a shoulder injury sidelined him the rest of the way. Wood had a modest two catches for 21 yards and seven tackles (three for loss) as a junior, but is expected to be a big-time contributor this fall. He impressed colleges once again this spring, picking up scholarship offers from Alabama, Oklahoma, Oregon, UCLA and others before making a verbal commitment to Arizona. Wood has dealt with some bad luck thus far in his career, but is hoping to make his senior season one to remember.
Brian Woodward, Sr., QB, Brophy
Woodward had a nice year as a defensive back for the Broncos a season ago, finishing with 49 tackles and four interceptions. He’s transitioning to quarterback as a senior, and he has some big shoes to fill. Tyler Bruggman was a three-year starter for Brophy before moving on to Washington State this fall. The Broncos lost offensive weapons Devon Allen, Clarence Clark and Marche Dennard to graduation, so it will be a new group taking over. Brophy isn’t expected to be a state title contender like a year ago, but a good season from Woodward could make them a tough out in the postseason.
Taren Morrison, Jr., RB, Desert Ridge
The name is familiar, but moreso because of his twin brother’s numbers from a year ago. Quarterback Tarek Morrison was a fixture on offense for the Jaguars, ending the year with 861 yards passing, 1,404 yards rushing and 27 total touchdowns. Taren Morrison, though, battled injuries all year and finished with only 49 carries for 286 yards and a touchdown. He’s healthy now and ready to join Tarek and Danny Siaumau in Desert Ridge’s explosive offensive attack. Taren can run the ball or be split out wide, but wherever he is, defenses better be paying attention.
Brian Lewerke, Jr., QB, Pinnacle
The Pioneers are hoping to make a nice playoff run this season and have the pieces to do so, but much comes down to the play of Lewerke. He saw limited action as a sophomore last season behind Michael Sanders, completing 22-of-41 passes for 274 yards with four touchdowns and an interception. Lewerke was impressive at camps in the summer, picking up an early offer from Arizona State. The Pioneers return star running back Josh Hoekstra, so if Lewerke lives up to the billing as one of the East Valley’s better signal-callers, the team could be tough to beat.
• Staff writer Jason P. Skoda contributed to this story.