Oct 20, 2020
Month: October 2020
The latest edition of the Xclusive Speed Top 45 Powered by West Coast Preps is here, with Nos. 40-36 for football being released today and followed by Nos. 35-31 coming out next Monday, Nov. 2.
The entire list will feature five players each week, culminating with the top five players in the Bay Area rounding out the preseason player rankings on Monday, Dec. 14.
All player rankings are based on their overall production on the field, past stats, their recruiting trail and their growth during this offseason. Stars do not matter on this list, which is important to note, the Top 45 list has been curated based on these given points above.
Be sure to also check out who made the cut at Nos. 45-41 here.
Disclaimer: This list only featured players from cities listed on the Bay Area Census. Additionally, multiple players have opted to enroll in their respective universities for the spring semester and will not play their senior years of high school. Some players may choose to enroll early as the list is being released weekly, and the list is dated as of Oct. 15 for players’ decisions as the rankings will not be able to change as they are being sent out every week.
No. 40: Antioch senior defensive end Jailen Weaver
Antioch defensive end Jailen Weaver has emerged into one of the premier players at his position across the entire country.
Weaver tallied 46 tackles in 2019 and was all over the backfield, posting impressive numbers in every regard in the form of 12.0 tackles for loss and 9.0 sacks for the Wildcats during his junior campaign.
Weaver recently announced his top three colleges to play collegiately at are a trio of Power Five programs in Indiana, Nebraska and Tennessee.
No. 39: Monte Vista senior linebacker Josh Zeising
Playing behind two Division I bound players did not stop Josh Zeising from dominating his junior season.
Zeising accumulated 102 tackles in 2019 in Monte Vista’s run to an 8-4 record and a trip to the North Coast Section Division Division I semifinals before falling to eventual state runner-up De La Salle. Zeising’s 102 tackles were the third-most on the team and only behind two current college players in Connor Shay (Wyoming) and Nate Rutchena (California).
George Fox, Puget Sound and Whittier have all offered Zeising.
No. 38: Vacaville Christian junior defensive lineman Zack Mercado
Zack Mercado’s production and dominance have keyed Vacaville Christian’s rise in the Sac-Joaquin Section.
Mercado dazzled every step of the way as a young sophomore in 2019, recording 119 tackles and a whopping 26.0 tackles for loss en route to Defensive Player of the Year honors in the region.
With Mercado on the roster, Vacaville Christian went 7-5 last season – a drastic improvement from a 1-9 campaign the year prior – and advanced to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII semifinals. It was Vacaville Christian’s first trip to the postseason since 2011.
No. 37: Cardinal Newman senior athlete Shane Moran
The do-it-all Cardinal Newman star could not be stopped on either side of the ball as a junior.
Moran racked up 108 tackles, 12.0 tackles for loss and a pair of interceptions defensively, adding another 750 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns – seven of which came in the postseason in Cardinal Newman’s run to a California Interscholastic Federation Division 3-AA state championship. In addition to those numbers, Moran had 318 receiving yards and one score.
Moran is committed to Long Beach State to play baseball.
No. 36: Acalanes senior quarterback Brady Huchingson
Brady Huchingson has been there every step of the way as a top-notch varsity player for Acalanes.
Hutchinson, a four-year starter, boasts a 22-11 career record and has improved his remarkable production each season. After throwing for 1,844 yards and 24 touchdowns – while running for five – as a freshman, he accelerated those numbers to 2,022 passing yards, 29 passing touchdowns and five rushing scores his sophomore year.
Fast forward to his junior season, and Huchingson delivered again by tossing for 2,646 yards, 29 touchdowns and just five picks while lifting Acalanes to a 9-3 record and a spot in the North Coast Section Division IV semifinals.
October 8, 2020/Chris Jackson
Zack Mercado’s father reached out to one of the most prominent line coaches, and there was no hesitation to work out with the young phenom from Vacaville Christian.
Aaron Day, a defensive line trainer who focuses on rushing the passer, saw it all when Mercado’s father connected with him, and he has seen why those around Mercado rave about the defensive lineman every chance they can.
“With him it’s the ability to pick up things quickly and to put them to use,” Day said. “I give him a couple moves, I try not to put too much on his plate, but he’s been able to surpass my expectations and just keep going. He’s very tenacious, really attacks things. He has an ability to bend and not only just bend, but he can put his hands in the ground and muscle people out of his way. He’s very strong.
“He’s a special talent.”– Aaron Day
Mercado’s first varsity campaign his sophomore season in 2019 said it all.
In Vacaville Christian’s run to a 7-5 record and a Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII semifinals appearance, which was the program’s first playoff appearance since 2014 and was also a year when it won its first playoff game since 2011, Mercado was dominant every step of the way. He registered 119 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, three forced fumbles, 28 hurries and one blocked punt, earning his way to Defensive Player of the Year honors in the region
And Mercado reminds Vacaville Christian head coach Manny Tarango of Armon Bailey, who is now a linebacker at Sacramento State and played for Tarango when Tarango was a defensive coordinator at Vanden.
Both players are intentional. They’re deliberate. They’re extremely hard on themselves, no matter how well they performed or what type of big play they just made.
“Zack pushes himself and holds himself to such a high standard,” Tarango said. “This is a guy that wakes up and watches film on a game and says, ‘My hand placement when I was holding that B gap was off six inches. And if I had got a little bit lower, I would have been able to push the pocket and I would have been able to get that sack instead of the quarterback hurry.’”
There is still so much more room for Mercado to grow, which is exactly what he has done during this extended offseason before his junior season officially rolls around in a few months.
Mercado is 6-2 and 245 pounds and has been a menace at every showcase he’s attended, displaying a burst right away that is tricky for any opposing offensive lineman to maneuver against.
“He has the athleticism to be able to move and pull, but he has the strength and the power to be able to just be, he can be like an Aaron Donald,” Tarango said. “He can hold a gap. He can change the direction of a game, and he’s only 6-2, 245. He’s still growing. But he plays like he’s much bigger. He’s super humble. He’s one of those guys that is very quiet in the classroom.
“He just gets in, does his work, 3.8 GPA, but he’s just so cognizant of what he’s doing and how he’s doing it, and he plays with such a reckless abandonment.”
The sky is only the limit from here going forward.
With 26 tackles for loss and 10 sacks as just a sophomore for a team that went as far as it did a year ago, the expectations are higher now. Once colleges can start recruiting in person again – the NCAA dead period was extended to Jan. 1, 2020 – Day sees the recruiting process taking off for Mercado.
“I think once they physically see the kid that they’ll see on film, especially this season, because his film is going to be very, very good,” Day said. “Once they see him in person, they can put somebody physically in front of them and see what he’s all about. He’s going to start taking off as far as offers come or just attention.”
“It’s going to help me with everything – recruiting, in game, just everything, the proper technique that he’s telling me to do,” Mercado said. “It’s just on the field, off the field, just me as a person – it’s going to help with everything.”
Maybe another Defensive Player of the Year award is on the way, too.
“I can’t say enough about Zack Mercado,” Tarango said.
“The kid has a motor. I think we might see our first two-time Defensive Player of the Year out of this season because I just don’t know if they’ll be able to block him. He’s bigger, stronger, faster, and he has an unrelentless will to succeed. I just love Zack.”– Coach Tarango