As the season reaches the the halfway point or close to it around the nation, USA TODAY High School Sports is wrapping up our midseason report.
This installment features five breakout underclassmen to keep an eye on as the season moves forward. Of course, there is still plenty of football to be played and championships to be decided, any of which could change the future for these players who have made the most of their opportunities.
ALL-USA Offensive Player of the Year candidates
ALL-USA Defensive Player of the Year candidates
Five surprise teams
Check out our early underclass 5 worth watching below:
1. Palaie-Gaoteote, LB, Bishop Gorman, Las Vegas
Why him: A sophomore, Gaoteote has made the most of being in the spotlight with the nation’s top-ranked team. He has 32 total tackles, 18 of them solo, to complement two sacks and an interception.
Ahead of his time: Gaoteote is already a versatile beast at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds despite being shy of 16 years old.
Something to grow on: The linebacker could transition to a pass-rushing defensive end depending on his growth pattern.
2. Journey Brown, HB, Meadville, Pa.
Why him: The nation’s top-rushing junior, Brown ran for the second-most yards in the history of high school football, according to the National Federation record book, in a game earlier this season. He’s racked up an astounding 1,566 yards and 21 touchdowns in just six games, more than 550 yards more than the nation’s second-most prolific junior halfback has in seven games. His 722-yard performance is the standout result in his season, and any season for that matter.
Ahead of his time: Brown has topped 100 yards in each contest this season despite being the focus on the opposing team’s defense, especially after his huge game.
Something to grow on: Brown continues to adapt to life as a marked man, and his average yardage per carry has continued to decline as the season has moved on
3. Myles Brennan, QB, St. Stanislaus, Bay St. Louis, Miss.
Why him: Brennan has already surpassed the 2,500 yard mark just seven games into the season. He’s thrown for 23 touchdowns against just six interceptions, and has completed 162 of 265 attempts. The fact that his arm hasn’t fallen off after that many passes is an achievement in itself.
Ahead of his time: Brennan led the nation in passing while still a sophomore, so his prolific junior season isn’t a surprise. The fact that his efficiency has improved is a sign that he continues to learn on the field.
Something to grow on: The junior’s 113 passer rating is far from perfect, and shows that he could still become more efficient before heading to college football.
4. Chase Young, DE, DeMatha Catholic, Hyattsville, Md.
Why him: Young has been one of the brightest stars of DeMatha’s impressive season, wreaking havoc in opposing backfields every week. A chiseled 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, Young already looks like a Division I athlete. If he were on campus at in-state Maryland, he might very well be fighting for minutes on the field, too.
Ahead of his time: Young recorded a 4.4 shuttle and a 24-inch vertical, showcasing athleticism that belies his experience.
Something to grow on: With DeMatha’s big season, Young continues to get more attention. So far, he has risen to the occasion, and if he continues to do so he should be one of the top defensive end recruits in his class.
5. Trevis Hopper, DT, Memphis Central, Tenn.
Why him: No list of underclassmen would be complete without a breakout freshman, and few have been better than Hopper, who is both a physical specimen and student of the game. He stands 6-foot-3 and 260 pounds, and is still gaining steam and a more chiseled physique.
Ahead of his time: Hopper still has room to grow, but his frame and athleticism has already made him one of the most clear standouts on a Memphis Central team that is more talented than its 4-4 record indicates.
Something to grow on: He just needs more game time. If Hopper continues to grow both in physical stature and experience, he could be one of the most sought-after players in the Class of 2019.