Patrick Ochs

9 Thoughts: Who is the front runner for the 2015 South Mississippi Player of the Year?

GLENN ANDREWS/SPECIAL TO THE SUN HERALD 
 East Central running back A.J. Davis has taken over the Coast lead in rushing after last week's performance against Pass Christian.
GLENN ANDREWS/SPECIAL TO THE SUN HERALD East Central running back A.J. Davis has taken over the Coast lead in rushing after last week's performance against Pass Christian.

What makes for a Most Valuable Player? Is it the athlete with the most eye-popping statistics? Does said player have to be on a winning team? What about an athlete on an undefeated team with only so-so baseball card numbers?

More than half way through the high school football season a handful of Coast athletes have emerged as frontrunners for the 2015 Sun Herald South Mississippi Player of the Year honor. That's not to say the following handful of standouts are the only ones who will be considered; more will undoubtedly emerge as the season progresses and teams make post-season pushes.

To me -- I suppose this is where a disclaimer about my thoughts and opinions do not represent those of the Sun Herald sports staff, or something along those lines... -- there's seven players who have started to separate themselves from their peers. A case could be made for any one of them, so I'll attempt to do that below (in alphabetical order).

1. DB Dwain Alford

The first is Ocean Springs defensive back Dwain Alford. Any number of Greyhounds could find their way onto this list but the senior has impacted the Coast's top defense in a number of different ways. There are the 31 tackles, but Alford also has two interceptions, a pick-six, four passes defended and three blocked kicks. In Ocean Springs' 17-13 victory over Hancock alone, Alford blocked a 29-yard field goal and later batted away a PAT.

2. QB Myles Brennan

The reigning Sun Herald Player of the Year seems like an obvious choice. He's already on MaxPreps.com's watch list for national player of the year and looks to be right on last year's record-setting pace. Brennan has completed 61 percent of his passes for 2,574 yards and 23 touchdowns. Both marks are good enough for second in Mississippi according to MaxPreps.com. He's also running more this season and has 247 yards and four scores. The Rockachaws have won four of their last five games. Is another 4A run in their future?

3. ATH Alton Conerly

Every game it seems Gulfport senior Alton Conerly steps up and does something big. Deon Cole is among the Coast's rushing leaders but Conerly gets my slight nod for Admirals representative. On a team that doesn't throw a ton, Conerly is averaging more than 30 yards per reception with 18 catches for 552 yards and six touchdowns. He also has 25 tackles, five passes defended and in the narrow win at George County, Conerly returned a kickoff 99 yards to help spark the Admirals. He's athletic and can change the game in an instant in any number of ways.

4. RB A.J. Davis

The East Central senior may be the toughest runner on the Coast. At 5-foot-10, 179 pounds, Davis isn't exactly an imposing figure but he sure is productive. Davis overtook another member of this list on Friday as the Coast's rushing leader with 1,546 yards and 11 touchdowns in seven games. He's been held under 156 yards just once this season and is averaging 220.9 yards per game. The Hornets are in the 4A hunt and Davis is a big reason why.

5. QB Jacquelle Green

A recent Louisville commit, D'Iberville's Jacquelle Green may be the best senior athlete on the Coast. Green has passed for 828 yards and nine touchdowns and rushed for another 1,144 yards and 13 touchdowns. He has also made his presence felt on defense for the inconsistent Warriors with 18 tackles, one interception, a forced fumble and fumble recovery. If D'Iberville can get a streak going, Green will likely be at the center of it.

6. RB Joshua Littles

Like Davis, Picayune junior running back Josh Littles isn't a brute of a running back, but he runs hard. Up until last week, Littles was leading the Coast in rushing. He's averaging more than 7 yards a carry with 1,495 yard and 15 touchdowns. A lot of times you'll see "the Little Train" run into the middle of a scrum at the line of scrimmage, disappear momentarily only to reappear streaking out the other side. Other times he's bouncing off of tacklers to get the tough yards. Littles' was injured Friday so his candidacy could take a hit depending on how long he's out.

7. ATH Tyler Polk

Several Yellow Jackets could get credit for St. Martin's historic start to the season. Senior Tyler Polk gets my nod as I'm not sure anyone else can affect the game in as many ways as he does. Polk is about as close to "Slash" as anyone in the state and is among South Mississippi's leaders in passing (585 yards, 11 TDs), rushing (856, 12) and receiving (227, 2). He has a fast first step and when he gets into the open field -- look out. I haven't seen another athlete screw a defender into the ground by turning him around quite like Polk. As an added bonus, he also sees action in the defensive backfield.

8. Duke apologizes

Too little, too late. Former Gulf Coast All-American receiver D'haquille "Duke" Williams, who was recently dismissed from the struggling Auburn Tigers, posted an apology on his Instagram account: "I just wanna thank Auburn for everything they done for me and the people that helped me I made mistake after mistake so it's only right I blame myself... I just wanna say sorry to my family my teammates and the auburn family/fans... Everybody love you when Yu on top but once you hit the bottom all the negativity come out but it's only human I wish my brothers the best of luck the rest of the season do work... Ima miss everything about AU from friends to teammates especially the fans but I can't hold back I got to live life I'm going get everything that I desire know matter what nobody or nothing will stop me from achieving my dreams and goals it's human I will learn from my mistakes #WDE"

With the NFL supposedly attempting to crack down on troublemakers, it'll be interesting to see what happens to Williams moving forward. There's always a team willing to take a chance on a troublemaker who is gifted at football (see Greg Hardy and the Cowboys). The $1 million question is just how much did the stock of the potential top receiver in the 2016 NFL draft take a hit?

9. The (Other) Patrick's Picks

For entertainment purposes only ... Auburn (-2 1/2, according to MGM Resorts International) has been anything but impressive this season but it's not like Kentucky has done much to garner favor. Even on the road I think the Tigers pick up a 10-point win Thursday ... Saturday's matchup in Starkville is intriguing with MSU DC Manny Diaz facing his former team. Former UF QB Jeff Driskel has played well but the Bulldogs (-13 1/2) should win by 17 ... I circled this game as a big one during my pre-season predictions: Aggies (+4 1/2) give the Tide their second loss of the season and effectively knock Alabama from post-season contention. Texas A&M by 7 ... I'm not sure it matters who Florida (+9 1/2) starts at QB. Leonard Fournette is a bad, bad man. As long as the Sports Illustrated jinx doesn't kick in immediately, the Tigers continue to roll. LSU by 14 ... We'll get a good look at Georgia's backup RBs against Missouri (+16). Sony Michel and Keith Marshall are a talented duo. As long as the Dawgs don't turn the ball over they should win by at least 10 ... Steve Spurrier is out at USC and the Gamecocks' offense is a mess. Still, it's Vanderbilt. USC by 7 ... Memphis (+10 1/2) isn't a team to sleep on, but on the eve of Laremy Tunsil's return a motivated Rebels team should win by 17 at the Liberty Bowl.

Patrick Ochs, a Sun Herald sports reporter can be reached at pochs@sunherald.com or followed on Twitter at PatrickOchs.

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