In 2015, Lanier DT Derrick Brown led GHSF Daily's POY Watch almost from start to finish. In 2014, Washington County QB/DB A.J. Gray had a firm lead going into the state playoffs and validated himself in the post-season. They were all-classification players of the year.
This year, the legitimate contenders extend beyond this list of 10. It's looking more like 2013, when Griffin QB Jaquez Parks came from off the charts to snatch the award from favorite Deshaun Watson of Gainesville after epic playoff and state-championship performances.
Here are those that we project have the best opportunity this year, still seven weeks out. Remember that the POY Watch isn't meant to rank the quality of each player's season to this point. Rather, it projects how attractive the player's POY candidacy will look after the championship games in December. Players of the year historically tend to get high marks if they are marquee players with big numbers who play high-profile positions for state-contending teams.
Consider Cartersville's Trevor Lawrence. Marquee player? Check. He's the No. 1 recruit nationally among juniors. Big numbers? Check, although they aren't the best. High-profile position? He's a quarerback. Check. State-contending team? Cartersville is ranked No. 1.
Here's a look at some leading contenders.
1. QB Trevor Lawrence, Cartersville: Lawrence was 15-of-28 passing for 258 yards and four touchdowns in a 48-7 victory last week over Chapel Hill. For the season, Lawrence is 154-of-250 (61.6 percent) for 2,432 yards and 31 touchdowns with seven interceptions. Cartersville is 9-0 and ranked No. 1 in Class AAAA. Lawrence is the consensus No. 1 junior recruit in the nation.
2. RB Zay Malcome, Westminster: Malcome rushed for 248 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries in a 17-10 victory over Lovett last week. On the season, Malcome has rushed for 1,205 yards and 14 touchdowns on 137 carries (8.8 ypc). He has 16 receptions for 187 yards and a touchdown. He has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns and averages 54.2 yards on four returns. He has intercepted two passes and returned them for 83 yards. Westminster is 6-2 and ranked No. 3 in Class AAA. Malcome, who stands only 5 feet, 4 inches, has offers from seven Ivy League schools and the three service academies.
3. QB Davis Mills, Greater Atlanta Christian: Mills threw six TD passes in a 42-14 victory over North Hall last week. He completed 23 of 30 attempts for 314 yards. Mills, who missed the first three games because of a knee injury originally thought potentially season-ending, is 86-of-125 passing on the season for 1,331 yards and 20 touchdowns. He has not thrown an interception. GAC is 8-1 and ranked No. 1 in Class AAA. Mills, the consensus No. 1 recruit in Georgia and No. 2 pro-style quarterback prospect nationally, is committed to Stanford.
4. QB Jake Fromm, Houston County: Fromm's team was idle last week. For the season, Fromm is 197-of-310 (63.5 percent) for 3,206 yards and 31 touchdowns with eight interceptions. He is on pace to break Hutson Mason's single-season passing record in the 12th game, but his team now is unlikely to make the playoffs. Houston County is 6-2 overall but 0-2 in region play. Fromm, who is committed to Georgia, is the consensus No. 4 pro-style quarterback prospect nationally.
5. QB K'hari Lane, Macon County: Lane threw five TD passes in a game for the sixth time this season in a 55-8 victory over Hawkinsville last week. He completed 8 of 10 attempts for 255 yards. For the season, Lane is 121-of-196 for 2,352 yards and 35 touchdowns for a 6-2 team that is ranked No. 2 in the Class A public-school division. Lane, list as 6 feet tall by 247Sports, is not yet a major-Division I prospect.
6. DB/WR/ATH Richard LeCounte, Liberty County: LeCounte caught seven passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns in a 39-12 victory over Long County last week. He also had seven tackles and returned an interception for a touchdown. For the season, LeCounte has scored 13 touchdowns - nine receiving, two returning kickoffs and one each on punts and interceptions. He has 867 all-purpose yards and 60 tackles. Liberty County is 7-1 and ranked No. 7 in AAA. LeCounte, the consensus No. 2 prospect in Georgia and No. 26 nationally, is committed to Georgia.
7. QB Tylan Morton, Griffin: Morton's team was idle last week. For the season, Morton is 185-of-250 passing (74.0 percent) for 3,093 yards and 29 touchdowns with six interceptions. Griffin is 7-1 and unranked in Class AAAAA. Morton, a lanky 6 feet, 4 inches, is not yet a major-Division I prospect largely for lack of film and exposure.
8. QB Caylin Newton, Grady: Newton passed for 370 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for 149 yards and a touchdown in a 57-30 victory over Jackson of Atlanta last week. For the season, Newton is 145-of-212 passing (68.4 percent) for 2,378 yards and 25 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He has rushed for 692 yards and 11 touchdowns. Grady is 7-1 and ranked No. 7 in Class AAAAA. Newton, who stands about 6 feet, has small-college offers.
9. QB Michael Barrett, Lowndes: Barrett rushed for 108 yards and passed for 77 in a 43-10 victory over Camden County last week. For the season, Barrett is 90-of-138 passing (65 percent) for 1,876 yards and 18 touchdowns with only three interceptions. He has rushed for 664 yards and 11 touchdowns on 94 carries (7.1 ypc). Lowndes is 8-1 and ranked No. 6 in AAAAAAA.
10. QB Ryan Glover, Woodward Academy: Glover was 10-of-16 passing for 172 yards and two touchdowns in a 56-0 victory over Luella last week. For the season, Glover is 105-of-160 passing for 2,051 yards and 25 touchdowns with just two interceptions. Woodward Academy is 7-1 and ranked No. 3 in Class AAAA. Glover is committed to Oklahoma State.
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