With graduation comes the opportunity for a new group of high school football players to step into the spotlight left vacant on their teams. Here are several players projected to have some big shoes to fill.
Will Sherman, left tackle, Allen (Texas)
Sherman will move from right tackle to left in an effort to fill the void opened with the departure of Greg Little, now at Ole Miss. Little (6-5, 318) was ranked as the No. 2 player overall in the Class of 2016 by ESPN.com.
A Colorado commit who had 16 reported offers, Sherman is 6-3 and 295 pounds and will be an asset to Allen’s high-powered offense led by senior quarterback Mitchell Jonke and junior Kirby Bennett, one of the top running backs in the state.
The Eagles are ranked No. 18 in the Preseason Super 25.
Corey Bolds, defensive tackle, Paramus Catholic (New Jersey)
Bolds will be the key man in the defensive trenches for the Palladins following the graduation of Rashan Gary, the American Family Insurance ALL-USA Defensive Player of the Year and the nation’s No. 1 overall recruit. Gary is now at Michigan.
Bolds, one of New Jersey’s most sought-after recruits, is 6-3, 276 and has 17 offers, including Penn State, Michigan, Maryland, Tennessee, Alabama and in-state Rutgers. Bolds has said he hoped to announce on his birthday, Sept. 28.
PC, hoping to bounce back from a disappointing 3-6 season, also features linebacker Drew Singleton, ranked as the No. 1 recruit in the state.
Conor Bardue and Tre’ Long, quarterback, Lake Stevens (Wash.)
Lake Stevens has not named a starting quarterback yet, but the winner of the competition between Bardue and Long will play the spot occupied by Jacob Eason, the American Family Insurance ALL-USA Offensive Player of the Year.
Eason, now at Georgia, led Lake Stevens to a state 4A runner-up finish, throwing for 3,585 yards and 43 touchdowns with a 70% completion rate and six interceptions.
Bardue, now a junior, played in nine games last season behind Eason and completed 11 of 16 passes with one touchdown. Long, a sophomore this season, saw limited action in five games.
Along with Eason, Lake Stevens also loses leading receiver Riley Krenz and leading rusher Andrew Grimes. Hunter Eckstrom, who had more than 1,000 yards rushing and 12 TDs as a junior, returns.
Chase Young, defensive end, DeMatha Catholic (Md.)
Young, the No. 1 recruit in the state of Maryland and an Ohio State commit, is far from an unknown commodity. He is ranked as the No. 3 weak-side defensive end and No. 30 player overall in the Class of 2017.
Young had 19 sacks last season for a DeMatha team that outscored its opponents by more than double last season in winning a third consecutive WCAC title.
He replaces Shane Simmons, who signed with Penn State and was ranked as the No. 14 recruit overall in the Class of 2016 by ESPN.com.
Simmons worked the strong side with Young on the weak side. Expect Young to work mainly on the strong side for DeMatha, ranked No. 9 in the Preseason Super 25.
Re-al Mitchell, quarterback, St. John’s Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.)
They know how to develop quarterbacks at Bosco, including current UCLA star Josh Rosen and Quentin Davis, who threw 40 touchdowns against four interceptions last season.
Next up is Mitchell, who saw plenty of action last season as a sophomore and showed his mettle one of the biggest games of the season in high school football nationally. Mitchell came in with second-ranked Bosco trailing Corona Centennial 34-10 when Davis was injured. He threw two long touchdown passes and scored on a long TD run in a game Bosco eventually lost 62-52, but had his first scholarship offer the next day.
Mitchell takes the reins of a high-powered attack but will be test early by a difficult schedule for the Braves, ranked No. 20 in the Preseason Super 25.
Kellen Mond, quarterback, IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.)
The Texas A&M commit transfers to IMG Academy in Florida where he will replace Shea Patterson, who was ranked as the No. 1 pro-style quarterback and No. 4 recruit nationally. Patterson is now at Ole Miss.
Mond is ranked as the No. 3 dual-threat QB entering the season and will be tested by one of the nation’s most difficult schedules, including a season-opening game at No. 2 Grayson (Loganville, Ga.). He should also benefit from the massive amount of talent around him for the fourth-ranked Ascenders.
Bubba Thompson, quarterback, McGill-Toolen (Mobile, Ala.)
Thompson replaces Paris Chambers, who was a 7A All-State player, but Thompson looked ready while helping McGill-Toolen win the USA Football National 7on7 Championship last month.
Breydon Boyd, linebacker, Katy (Texas)
Katy had one of the most dominant defenses in America last season and posted 10 shutouts. Boyd was a big part of that effort, but the team loses multiple three- and four- year starters on defense so he could expect a bigger role this season. Among the players lost is leading tackler Paddy Fisher. A Boise State commit, Boyd is 6-4 and 215 and especially potent against the run.
Katy’s defense is far from a one-man show with a group that includes DT Corey Bethley; DE Ryder Anderson, an Arkansas commit; LB Raymond Randle, a Connecticut commit; junior DE Michael Matus; and senior S Keegan Otte.
Jacob Harris and Justin Golembiowski, linebackers, Torrance (Calif.) North
Four-star starter and Army All-American Mique Juarez has moved on to UCLA, opening up a big hole in the defense. Juarez was ranked as the No. 1 outside linebacker recruit in the nation and No. 11 player overall, along with being the No. 1 recruit in talent-rich California.
And the news got worse when top returning linebacker Jacob Jurado tore his ACL.
That means the returning Harris and Golembiowski will be key in the middle of the defense. Harris certainly has speed as he was part of the 4×100 relay team that set a school record last March.