Putting together a top-10 list for football is incredibly hard because there are so many talented returners in southeastern Minnesota and differentiating between certain positions and the competition level is tricky.
So we reached out to coaches to get their input.
This would be a really fun exercise to try and do after the season, but this will have to quench our football fever for the moment.
The season isn't far away.
MORE FROM ISAAC TROTTER: Trotter's Lists: The Big 9's top 10 boys basketball players
1. Eli King, Caledonia
King is the most dangerous playmaker in southeastern Minnesota. He'll likely be back at quarterback for Caledonia this year but he's proven himself to also be an elite wideout. No one in the area is more explosive in the return game. King had eight punt returns for 135 yards and one touchdown last year. Then, as a kick returner, King averaged 36.2 yards per return with another touchdown. And he did it all in just three games. He's absolutely electric. Oh, and he also passed for 592 yards and eight touchdowns to go along with 201 rushing yards and four more touchdowns. King will play basketball at Iowa State but he had numerous Power 5 offers for his prowess on the gridiron.
2. Logan Banse, Caledonia
Banse was one of the best defensive ends in the state last season, and he's garnering plenty of looks from Division I programs. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound beast is absolutely jacked and a monster both in the weight room and on the field. Good luck, opposing offensive coordinators.
3. Cayden Holcomb, Rochester Mayo
Holcomb is a superstar everywhere he lines up. He's so refined with his route-running at wide receiver, and he's got that track speed to zoom past defensive backs. On defense, he's an absolute ballhawk, and then he's a dangerous returner on special teams. He had 34 catches for 533 yards and three touchdowns in 2020. Holcomb also led Mayo in tackles and had a team-high five interceptions. The dude is a baller.
4. Drew Kittelson, Blooming Prairie
Kittelson owns a bazooka for a right arm and he's super accurate, too. He threw for 1,318 yards and 22 touchdowns in five games last year. He only had one interception in 128 attempts. But he's also a big threat on the ground. He runs Blooming Prairie's zone-read scheme to perfection and rushed 41 times for 284 yards (6.9 yards per carry) with three touchdowns. Kittelson is a veteran stud. Blooming Prairie will be one of the best teams in Class A this year because its quarterback is the best player on the field.
5. Sam Backer, Chatfield
You'd be hard-pressed to find another running back as tough as Backer. The Chatfield junior rushed for 782 yards and 10 touchdowns in five games last season, and he'll be even tougher as an upperclassman. Backer's a weight-room warrior and it shows on the gridiron when he barrels through arm tackles and sprints away from everybody. His vision is exceptional and he shows terrific receiving skills out of the backfield. He's the complete package at running back.
6. Bennett Ellsworth, Rochester Mayo
Ellsworth looked like a veteran in his first season under center for Mayo. The Spartans have big plans for the upcoming season and Ellsworth will look to continue his climb after a really good junior season (1,511 passing yards, 13 TDs, 2 INTs, 3 rushing TDs). He's got some of his favorite targets back. Everything points towards Ellsworth having a monster senior season. His rocket arm and pinpoint accuracy on the move makes him a special talent.
7. Matt Donovan, Kasson-Mantorville
Donovan racked up 558 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns last season, and the smooth, shifty QB is nearly impossible to tackle in the open field. Donovan makes the right read almost every single time and is the straw that stirs the drink for a very talented Kasson-Mantorville program.
8. Chase Johnson, LeRoy-Ostrander
Johnson is incredibly hard to put on the ground. The LeRoy-Ostrander quarterback can make dazzling plays with his feet and with his arm. He's only 5-foot-5, but he's a ghost in the open field and has the speed to run away from everyone. He finished with 1,899 yards of total offense and 19 touchdowns in 2020.
9. Brendan Kennedy, Southland
Kennedy is one of the most dominant two-way players in 9-man football. Kennedy will be relied on heavily by a Southland team that is losing some talent. He'll likely lead the team in rushing and tackles. There aren't many football players better than Kennedy.
10. Anthony Moe-Tucker, Kasson-Mantorville
Moe-Tucker gives Kasson-Mantorville coach Joel Swanson a weapon that he can use anywhere. Moe-Tucker is a bruising running back who can also serve as a road-grating lead blocker in K-M's run-heavy scheme. And then on defense, he can play anywhere in the front seven. Moe-Tucker is in line for a monster senior season and has a great chance to play at the next level.
WR Isaac Matti, Hayfield: Matti is a terrific athlete and was dominant for Hayfield last year. He had 372 receiving yards and six touchdowns and showcased a terrific all-around game.
OL/DL Tanner Olson, LeRoy-Ostrander: He had 71 tackles and 8.5 sacks in just seven games last season. The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder is going to be a handful this fall.
RB/WR Dustin Copley, Grand Meadow: Copley is a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball. He's a terrific running back, an even better wideout and an elite return man.
DL Christian Connelly, Byron: Colton Douglas was the star for the Bears' defense last year, but Connelly also had a really good year. He's due for a big breakout campaign, and he's already on the radars of plenty of good Division II programs.
RB Jarod White, Pine Island: White is a high-level track and field star but he's also a monster on the gridiron.
QB Malachi Bunke, Rushford-Peterson: Bunke is really polished and smooth. He had an impressive 14:3 touchdown-to-interception ratio last season.
RB/LB Braxton Munnikhuysen, Triton: Munnikhuysen is an absolute beast on both sides of the ball and could put up some of the best rushing numbers in the area this fall.
RB Alex Wood, Stewartville: Wood is terrific and showcased how dangerous he can be with two huge performances in the first two games of the season a year ago. He's battled injuries, but when he's right, he's a polished runner who can do it all.