25 Players to Watch

Since I know there was a lot of interest in this list, I figured I would post it. It’s always a hard list to put together because it’s asking us to predict who will have great seasons, which isn’t always easy. A lot of very good players aren’t on the list. Every year we have guys who don’t make this list but end up having outstanding seasons. Two years ago, Encinal’s Jonathan Brown was a notable omission and he later was named East Bay Player of the Year so this certainly isn’t a comprehensive list of the players who will be the best in the area, but it’s a good start. Enjoy.

Jonathan Allen

Encinal, RB/LB

Allen will look to build off a solid junior season when he led the Jets’ balanced attack with 951 rushing yards and help Encinal get back to a third straight NCS Division III title game.

George Atkinson III

Granada, RB/DB

The 6-foot-2, 195-pound speedster is one of the East Bay’s hottest commodities in the recruiting game, with heavy interest from the likes of Alabama, USC, Notre Dame, Oregon, Cal and Miami.

Josh Atkinson

Granada, RB/DB

The twin brother of George checks in at 6-foot, 180, but possesses the same type of lightning speed and is generating a similar buzz on the recruiting trail.

Albert Bell

James Logan, LB

A second-team All-East Bay pick last year, the 6-foot, 190-pound Bell will lead a strong linebacking unit for the defending MVAL champions.

Javen Butler

Pittsburg, DB

After a junior season spent filling in at both safety and cornerback, Butler should emerge as one of the area’s best pure defensive backs as a senior.

Michael Cunningham II

Alameda, RB

Cunningham was one of the East Bay’s top rushers last year with 1,413 yards and is a big reason the Hornets believe they can contend in the ACCAL.

Travis Feeney

Pinole Valley, LB

A 6-foot-3, 200-pound athlete who can play anywhere from the defensive line to safety, Feeney already has committed to Arizona. He’ll lead a Spartans defense tasked with bringing an ACCAL title back to Jerry Deuker Stadium.

Roydon Fonua

Fremont, OL/DL

A monster at 6-foot-4, 290 pounds, Fonua is generating plenty of Pac-10 interest and will have a big role in the success of the defending Silver Bowl champions.

Isaiah Henderson

Berkeley, OL

Henderson was a first-team All-East Bay pick last year. The 6-foot-4, 295-pound offensive tackle with a bright future enters his third season as a starter for the Yellowjackets.

Bart Houston

De La Salle, QB

As a sophomore, Houston learned on the job and led the Spartans to the CIF Open Division title. This year, he enters as a highly recruited junior hoping to get his team back to the state title game.

Jared Leaf

Alhambra, RB/LB

Leaf averaged over 8 yards a carry as the second option in Alhambra’s running game last year. This year, the burly senior will carry the load in the backfield and also lead the defense from his spot at linebacker.

Ricky Lloyd

Concord, QB

Lloyd ranked third in the East Bay in passing yards last season, throwing for 2,449 yards and 32 touchdowns in his junior campaign. With a scholarship to Southern Mississippi already locked up, he’ll look to bring the Minutemen another DVAL title.

Lyonel Louis

El Cerrito, LB

A physical force in the middle of El Cerrito’s defense, Louis received interest from Pac-10 schools over the summer. He’ll look to build on a solid junior season and lead the Gauchos to the ACCAL title.

Bryce McGovern

Monte Vista, WR/DB

McGovern returns after a record-setting junior season with a Northern California-record 106 catches and a state-record 2,063 yards. He also had 17 touchdowns and was a first-team All-East Bay pick.

Julius Mozee

Pittsburg, QB

Mozee threw for 1,828 yards and 21 touchdowns in leading the Pirates to the NCS Division I championship game last year. This season, he’ll be a senior leader on a team with high expectations.

Chris Musni

San Leandro, QB

Musni was among the East Bay’s most efficient quarterbacks as a junior, throwing for 1,568 yards and 23 touchdowns against just eight interceptions. He’ll look to build on that and help the Pirates compete for another HAAL title.

Hardy Nickerson Jr.

Bishop O’Dowd, LB

The son of the former NFL and Cal star and new Dragons coach Hardy Nickerson comes off a sophomore season in which he was a first-team All-HAAL linebacker. He’s got the talent and pedigree to be among the area’s top defensive players.

Marcus Peters

McClymonds, WR/DB

Peters already has received numerous offers, including several from the Pac-10, and is ranked the No. 13 recruit in Northern California by Rivals. He was first-team All-City as a receiver but should make his biggest impact defensively.

Blake Renaud

De La Salle, LB/TE

The defending East Bay Defensive Player of the Year returns to his middle linebacker spot for this season after committing to Boise State in the offseason. An outwardly quiet but internally forceful leader, Renaud again will captain the Spartans defense.

Cameron Rowland

Foothill, WR/DB

Rowland enjoyed a phenomenal junior season, hauling in 59 passes for 897 yards and eight touchdowns in 2009. This year, he’ll be counted on to help a new quarterback take control of the Falcons offense.

Freddie Tagaloa

Salesian, OL/DL

The 6-foot-8, 300-pound junior has been on the radar of college coaches since his freshman year and again will anchor the line for a Salesian team in search of its ninth straight BFL title.

Tavita Taito

Deer Valley, DL

Highly recruited from the beginning of his sophomore season, Taito embarks on his junior year with hopes of helping the Wolverines win another BVAL championship.

Marquis Waters

Las Lomas, RB/DB

Waters finished the 2009 regular season tied with Berkeley’s Rickey Galvin as the East Bay’s scoring leader, finding the end zone 23 times as a junior. He returns this year as one of the region’s unquestioned top rushers.

Jacob Welter

Monte Vista, OL

Already a mammoth anchor on the Mustangs offensive line, Welter orally committed to Ohio over the summer. At 6-foot-5, 291 pounds, he’ll be counted on to protect the quarterback in Monte Vista’s pass-oriented offense.

Dylan Wynn

De La Salle, OL/DL

One of the most intense competitors in the area, Wynn was a first-team All-East Bay selection on both the offensive and defensive lines in 2009. He already has accepted a scholarship offer to Oregon State.

Jimmy Durkin

Jimmy Durkin is a sports writer for the Bay Area News Group.