Over the next nine days, we will feature our picks of Southern Arizona's top preseason high school football players.
Our countdown continues today with Sunnyside's Steven Saenz, a smart and savvy safety who is hoping to also pick apart opposing defenses while on offense as a wide receiver.
• The rundown: Steven Saenz, WR/FS, 5-10, 160, Sunnyside, senior
• Who he is: A two-year starter at free safety and the centerpiece of the Blue Devils' multiple defensive schemes. After missing the final two games last year, Saenz has added 15 pounds of muscle to prepare for the rigors of a full season. In eight games as a junior, he had 63 tackles, one interception and nine pass deflections. After Sunnyside dropped a game in the UA's passing tournament this summer, Saenz pointed out to coach Glenn Posey the team lost not because of its play on the field, but because the camaraderie off the field was lacking. From that point, Saenz assumed the role of team leader. In addition to becoming a leader, he'll try playing receiver, too. His hands have been questionable in the past, but he spent countless hours this summer working on his hand-eye coordination, catching abilities and route-running. He'll line up in the slot or on the outside with favorable one-on-one matchups.
• Proof he's good: Although Saenz has no offers, he has drawn attention from some Division II schools and is hoping a big senior year could put him on the map. Over the summer, he worked with former UA tight end Glenn Howell, an elite SPARQ trainer for Nike. They worked out twice a day during weekends at Rillito Park. Saenz said he can notice a difference. He has improved on the fundamentals of running and his lateral quickness and can now run a 4.6-second 40-yard dash.
• He said it: "So far in practice I've noticed his ability to get to the football from center field. We're putting him in stressful situations and making it hard on him, and he's making plays. He's been a ball hawk with interceptions and tipped balls in the summer." - Posey