POY Watch: Cartersville’s Lawrence could become first to win award twice

Cartersville’s Trevor Lawrence is within reach of the state career records for passing yards and passing touchdowns. (Chad Rhym/ Chad.Rhym@ajc.com)

For the seventh season, GHSF Daily will be keeping track of the race for state player of the year.

Unlike the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Super 11 or all-state teams, which reflect the players’ individual talents, the POY Top 10 is more about a player’s projected impact on his team and the state as a whole this year.

Georgia’s all-classification players of the year are more likely to be quarterbacks and running backs than linemen, although there have been exceptions. They are more likely to play on state-contending teams. These subjective rankings reflect the players’ chances of having the best POY resume in December.

The POY Watch is designed to be a fun look at some of the best players. Players naturally will drift in and out, and that should not be taken as a critique of their season. It is an honor to appear in the POW Watch even for a single week.

1. QB Trevor Lawrence, Cartersville: Lawrence, a Clemson commit, is the reigning all-class POY and the consensus No. 1 recruit nationally. He threw for 3,904 yards and 51 touchdowns in 2016. His record as a starting QB is 40-1 with two state titles. Lawrence needs 2,477 yards and 40 touchdown passes to break the Georgia career records of 13,077 and 159 held by Deshaun Watson. No player has won the all-class POY award twice. The honor was first awarded in 1981. The last junior to win was Robert Nkemdicke of Grayson.

2. QB Justin Fields, Harrison: Fields is the consensus No. 1 dual-threat QB prospect in the country. In 2016, he was 158-of-231 passing (68.4 percent) for 2,278 yards and 19 touchdowns with only five interceptions. He rushed for 851 yards and 13 touchdowns. He led Harrison to its first winning season since 2008 and first 10-win campaign since 2002. Fields is a serious threat to unseat Lawrence because of his potential to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 on a state-contending team.

3. QB Michael Barrett, Lowndes: Barrett was a more productive dual-threat QB than even Fields last season – passing for 2,753 yards and rushing for 1,170 – and he did it against a tougher schedule. With Barrett behind center, Lowndes put up 594 points (45.7). Lowndes is expected to be a Top 10 team this season. Barrett has offers from Georgia Tech, LSU, Michigan and Tennessee, among others.

4. DL Adam Anderson, Rome: Anderson is the best player on a defending state-championship team that is probably more talented than it was in 2016. Rome placed five players on GHSF Daily’s position-by-position top 10 (90 players in all), more than any other school.  Anderson had some 30 tackles for losses last season and is the consensus No. 2 OLB prospect nationally. Linemen are rarely all-class players of the year, but great prospects on great teams with greats statistics are a threat.

5. DL Brenton Cox, Stockbridge: Cox’s argument is the same as Anderson’s, except that Cox is a slightly higher-rated recruit, and Stockbridge is a slightly less viable state-title contender in Class AAAAA. Cox, the Region 4-AAAAA defensive player of the year and first-team all-state, is committed to Ohio State. In 2016, he had 18 sacks and another eight tackles for losses on a team that went 13-1. He’s rated the consensus No. 2 strongside DE prospect nationally.

6. WR/DB Jadon Haselwood, Cedar Grove: Cedar Grove is the defending Class AAA champion, and Haselwood is now the team’s best all-around player and the consensus No. 1 WR prospect nationally among juniors. He is committed to Georgia. Haselwood had 53 tackles as a strong safety and 46 receptions for 811 yards as a receiver.

7. RB/LB Anthony Grant, Buford: Buford, the AAAAA runner-up last season, has reached 10 consecutive state finals. The best player at Buford is always a top contender for postseason awards. That’s where Grant comes in. In 2016, Grant rushed for 1,484 yards and 24 touchdowns, caught 21 passes for 226 yards and three touchdowns and had 47 tackles, three sacks and eight QB pressures. Rated the consensus No. 21 RB prospect nationally, Grant is committed to Tennessee.

8. QB Harrison Bailey, Marietta: Marietta was 3-7 last season, but this is likely to be the most improved team in Class AAAAAAA, if not the state. If those expectations are realized, watch out for Bailey, who broke Lawrence’s freshman state record for passing yards (2,812) in just 10 games. Marietta has picked up a couple of top-rated receiving prospects to complement all-state WR Ramel Keyton. Bailey is a potential five-star recruit in the class of 2020.

9. WR Josh Vann, Tucker: Vann is a long shot, but he might be the best player on the most talented team in Georgia. Tucker, the AAAAAA runner-up last season, has five first-team preseason all-state players and potentially 10 major Division I signees in its senior class. Vann, an SEC recruit, had 63 receptions for 1,286 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.

10. WR/RB/KR Matthew Hill, Brookwood: Hill would need his Brookwood team to return as a major state contender to have a shot. Brookwood was 8-4 last season, probably its best team since the 2010 state title. If the Broncos get to the title game, he’d have a shot. Hill had more than 2,000 all-purpose yards last season. A top-175 recruit nationally, he is expected to choose among Alabama, Auburn and South Carolina this month.

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