Sahuaro's Cole Sterns, intercepting a pass against Rincon/University last season, had six pickoffs on defense and was a top all-purpose offensive threat with 16 touchdowns in 2012.


Over the next 17 days, we will feature our picks of Southern Arizona's top preseason high school football players.

Our countdown continues today with Sahuaro's Cole Sterns, who accounted for 16 total touchdowns and 1,030 all-purpose yards last year for the Cougars.

Cole Sterns

• The rundown: Cole Sterns, ATH, 5-10, 170, Sahuaro, senior

• Who he is: A two-way starter and do-it-all player. Sterns, who will also return kicks and punts again, will likely be the top target of senior quarterback Laramie Brown again after the two connected 26 times for 526 yards and 11 touchdowns in 11 games last year. Sterns said he and Brown are best friends and that they spent time this summer improving their chemistry, so they should be even more in check this season. While most of his production should come in the passing game, Sterns, who rushed 32 times for 206 yards and two scores, is also hoping to get a little more in on the running game. Defensively, Sahuaro coach Scott McKee said Sterns will rotate between cornerback and free safety. As a junior, Sterns registered 52 tackles and pulled in six interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns.

• Proof he's good: Over the offseason, Sterns got offers from Division I championship subdivision schools North Dakota and Northern Arizona and drew interest from the University of New Mexico after attending its camp, but has a chance to grab even more attention with a big senior year. He put on about 10 pounds of muscle mass by improving his power cleans from 225 to 250 pounds, and increasing his bench press and squat by 25 and 40 pounds, respectively. He also improved his route running and maintained his speed with a 4.5-second 40-yard dash earlier this summer.

• He said it: "Physically, Cole has gotten heavier, he's gotten stronger, and he's got a better idea of how to be a little more aggressive, to be more of a guy who can take over games. He's improved that a bunch, we're still working on him being more of a vocal leader for us … but he's gotten bigger, stronger and more explosive as the year has gone on." - McKee