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Top 20 prep football players countdown: Gaje Ferguson

The top 20 blueprint wasn’t necessarily based strictly on recruiting interest, although it did play into account, but rather a collection of players that influence the outcome each Friday night in the realm of Utah high school football.

I’ll publish a blog post each day unveiling the top 20 impact players in the state — in no particular order — in my unabashed opinion. All selections are entirely my own. Submit your feedback in the comment section below and I’ll respond accordingly.

Now, without further adieu:

20. Korey Rush, East. Defensive End.

19. Baron Gajkowski, Lone Peak. Quarterback.

18. Gaje Ferguson, Mountain Crest. Running back; outside linebacker.

Mountain Crest's Gaje Ferguson, No.23 right, dives for a tackle.

Mountain Crest’s Gaje Ferguson, No.23 right, dives for a tackle.

Nitty-gritty: 6-feet, 185-pounds; undeclared.

Qualifications: The best comparison for Ferguson is Tyrann Mathieu — on the field of course — he’s the honey badger of Utah high school football. He’s undersized — 6-feet is very generous — and currently overlooked in recruiting databases. However, Ferguson possesses that animalistic instinct that is often present in all great linebackers. In other words he’s a playmaker that can flip the switch for the Mustangs with a field-shifting sack, an interception, a deflected pass off the edge or a forced fumble.

As a junior he was named Deseret News First-Team All-State with 51 tackles, four sacks and two interceptions, and was arguably the best defender (Faimafili Laulu-Pututau wasn’t too shabby either) on a Mustangs defense that allowed 12.6 points per game last year.

What makes Ferguson special is his versatility. He spelled 4A MVP Eddy Hall occasionally in the backfield, and was slipperier than an amphibian in the open field. On 66 carries he rumbled for 334 yards and six touchdowns, but was most valuable in the blocking game at fullback.

In 2013, following the massive attrition rate from graduation, Ferguson inherits a more prominent role as the featured back on offense, which he’ll toggle with his primary linebacking responsibilities. With the uncertainties surrounding the offense — stripped of all contributing skill players except Ferguson and Nick Taylor — Mountain Crest is depending on Ferguson’s production, especially early on.

Many believe the Mustangs are poised to repeat as Region 5 champions, and for that prediction to come to fruition Ferguson may have to elevate his game to an even higher level his senior season.

Email: tphibbs@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @TPhibbsDNews

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