Alex Adams, Canon-McMillan
Adams (suspension) won't play in the Big Macs' season opener against Trinity. Upon his return, Canon-McMillan hopes Adams can be a consistent presence on both sides of the football. There's no doubt that Adams has the skill, size and speed to be a good one.
Zach Barnes, Washington
The always-talented Prexies are unusually loaded with talented underclassmen. While those guys develop, steady players like Barnes are essential to a postseason return. An exceptional athlete who can rebound against players eight inches taller, Barnes should lead the High in tackles.
Nick Bolias, Monessen
Wide receiver/defensive back
Last year, opponents shied away from Monessen's ShelDon Miller. It turned out throwing in Bolias' direction was a big mistake. Bolias continually turned away would-be pass catchers, played the run well and earned Class A all-state honors.
Quentin Briggs, Charleroi
Running back/Defensive back
A cousin of Darrell Harding, Charleroi's all-time rushing leader, and Ken Griffey Jr., Briggs brings 2,295 rushing yards and a pair of 1,000-yard seasons into his junior year. The area's toughest runner to tackle after contact, Briggs puts up big-time stats in the fourth quarter.
Christian Brumbaugh, South Fayette
Brumbaugh is the reigning Observer-Reporter Player of the Year after he passed for 2,183 yards and 29 touchdowns as a junior. The 6-4 righty has scholarship offers from Akron, Bowling Green and Buffalo. William & Mary is high on Brumbaugh's list.
Andrew Erenberg, Peters Township
Running back/defensive back
Erenberg came back to Peters Townshp after spending his freshman year at Pittsburgh Central Catholic and helped the Indians to their first winning record since 2003. Erenberg rushed for nearly 900 yards last year and has an experienced line blocking in front of him.
Sal Faieta, Beth-Center
Beth-Center believes Faieta, who started as a sophomore, is prepared to elevate his game to a different level this year. Faieta passed for 1,109 yards and 10 touchdowns last year. He's also a hard-hitting linebacker and an emerging college prospect.
Derrick Fiore, Ringgold
Running back/receiver/defensive back
First-year Ringgold coach Matt Humbert believes Fiore could catch the eyes of some schools at the Mid-American Conference level this year. Fiore will get his chances on offense as he lines up next to the quarterback in Ringgold's version of the spread offense.
Austin Hancock, Peters Township
Hancock made his mark at quarterback for Peters Township, where he passed for 1,298 yards and rushed for 441 last year. Colleges are looking at Hancock as an outside linebacker, where he'll play this year on defense.
Jake Sofran, Beth-Center
Might be the area's toughest two-way player and certainly one of he strongest. As a sophomore, Sofran registered 129 tackles in leading a stout Beth-Center defense. He also paced a balanced offense with 500-plus rushing yards.
Nolan Spicer, South Fayette
Offensive line/defensive line
Spicer, the WPIAL Class AA shot put champion in the spring, figures to be the Lions top lineman in their dynamic spread offense. He's already accepted a scholarship to Division I-AA Liberty and will be the key blocker for Jeff Davis and Brumbaugh.
Two players not mentioned most likely to make this list at the end of the season – Jeff Davis, South Fayette; Jeff Tarley, Beth-Center
Player in line for breakout season – Quad Law, Ringgold
If only this were the Elite 22 or Elite 33 – Davis, Tarley, Law, Charleroi's Kyle Shannon, Fort Cherry's Corey Garry and Gary Kiefer, Wash High's Julien Anderson, Canon-McMillan's Alec Schram, Trinity's Ty Billie and Kyle McWreath, McGuffey's Derrick Whipkey, Ringgold's Dylan Patch, Monessen's Brett Crenshaw, Jefferson-Morgan's Brandon Kozich and Chartiers-Houston's Mykel Dorsey.