Pueblo coach Brandon Sanders, left, says Omar Ibanez, right, will be even more physical as a senior this season.

Over the next three weeks, the Star is counting down Southern Arizona's top 22 football players. Up today: No. 16, Pueblo fullback and linebacker Omar Ibanez. 

Name: Omar Ibanez

The rundown: Ibanez is a 6-foot-1-inch, 215-pound fullback and linebacker at Pueblo High School.

Who he is: Ibanez is a three-year varsity player with his sights set on playing collegiately. Ibanez said he’d like the Warriors to go further than the first round of the state playoffs after falling to Salpointe Catholic in last year’s postseason.

Pueblo coach Brandon Sanders said Ibanez, who is one of the team’s better fullbacks, is very intelligent when it comes to the game.

Proof he’s good: Defensively, Ibanez piled up 35 solo tackles and 17 tackle assists last season while adding four sacks and returning two fumble recoveries for 83 yards . Offensively, Ibanez racked up 698 yards on 96 carries.

After scoring six touchdowns his sophomore year — one on a fumble recovery — Ibanez contributed nine touchdowns and three conversions last season. All nine touchdowns came on rushing plays.

Sanders said he’s going to look for Ibanez to be more physical this year at blocking and running the ball; the coach expects the incoming senior to beef up his stats.

“As far as trying to block and running the ball, he’s going to be even more physical this year than he’s been, probably since his freshman year,” Sanders said. “He just has that knack where he knows he only plays 10 games and he wants to push it.”

He said it: “Omar brings, one, his intelligence; two, his commitment; and three, he brings that strength. He brings that strength in our offense and our defense, I believe. The other thing, when you look at him as a student-athlete … he just has that leadership on and off the field. And he’s a good person. He’s not a nasty guy. He’s one of those guys that, if you talk about sportsmanship, someone that you can point at and say this is the guy you want to bring home to your mom. That’s him.” — Sanders