Salpointe's Jake Casteel, trying to tackle Peoria's Xavier Villanueva last year, recorded 110 tackles for the Lancers in 2012.


Over the next 15 days, we will feature our picks of Southern Arizona's top preseason high school football players. Our countdown continues with Salpointe Catholic's Jake Casteel, a first-team All-Southern Arizona linebacker as a junior last season.

Jake Casteel

• The rundown: Jake Casteel, LB, 5-10, 205, Salpointe Catholic, senior

• Who he is: A disciplined, instinctual linebacker with a nose for the ball. Casteel emerged as a defensive anchor in his first season at Salpointe, recording 110 tackles for the 12-2 Lancers. Salpointe shut down its opponents last season, allowing less than 12.0 points per game, and should continue its dominance with Casteel back for his senior season. Casteel said he can't be satisfied with his success last season and has worked on improving his quickness over the offseason. Some added hop in Casteel's step should help the Lancers on offense as well, as coach Dennis Bene said he will be part of a four-back rotation this year as Salpointe tries to replace the graduated Johnny Peña.

• Proof he's good: His big-play ability. Inside linebackers are usually known for being tackle machines, but Casteel also brings with him some added flair. He had six sacks, five fumble recoveries and three interceptions last season and said the knack for the big play comes from his football instincts. This shouldn't come as a surprise since Jake's father, Jeff Casteel, is the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Arizona. So far, Jake has received no Div. I scholarship offers, but he's talked with several schools, including Cornell, and has an offer from Division II West Virginia Wesleyan.

• He said it: "We've had good athletes that weren't necessarily good football players. Jake is a really, really good football player. He understands the game, he understands his assignment, he's very disciplined and, you know, he's tough."- Bene