The debate has raged on for the last decade, which team produces more talent each year - Pennsylvania or New Jersey?
Prior to the last 10 years or so, this was never really in question as the Keystone State was amongst the top talent-producing states in the country and dwarfed Jersey overall. However, especially with seven first-round NFL Draft picks in 2009 and another three in this year's draft, the talent in New Jersey has increased exponentially and for the first time many feel the Garden State has the edge. Led by running back Savon Huggins, would Jersey beat Pennsylvania in a matchup of talent in the Class of 2011?
The simple answer to the question is a resounding yes. In a very down year for Pennsylvania and a strong year in Jersey, this would be one of the bigger blowouts when it comes to border battles. In fact, there are only a few areas where Pennsylvania has the edge over Jersey head-to-head.
New Jersey offense vs. Pennsylvania defense
Led by Huggins, a 6-foot, 190-pounder from Jersey City St. Peter's Prep and dominating speed at the skill positions, the New Jersey offense would dominate this game. Huggins is a big, physical back who will run behind a solid offensive line led by tackles Keith Lumpkin (Huggins' teammate) and Shane Mertz from Hazlet Raritan and interior studs Angelo Mangiro from Succasunna Roxbury and Josue Matias from Union City Union Hill. Charles Davis from Neptune would be a nice compliment to Huggins and the duo would set up a passing game that would be tough to handle.
Ramsey Don Bosco quarterback Gary Nova leads the passing game and has some athletic and speedy targets on offense. Both Long Branch athlete Miles Shuler and Sicklerville Timber Creek receiver Damiere Byrd each run a sub 10.4-second 100 meters and would easily stretch the field against the Pennsylvania secondary. The deep threats would open up the intermediate passing game for big targets Tanner McEvoy from Oradell Bergen Catholic and Red Bank Catholic tight end Jack Tabb.
The Pennsylvania defense would struggle in most areas against this Jersey offense. The one strength would be a strong outside pass rush with Philadelphia Northeast standout Deion Barnes and Landsdowne Penn Wood rush end Shawn Oakman coming off the edge. They would certainly be a challenge for the New Jersey offensive tackles and would need to harass Nova to give the rest of the defense a fighting chance against the passing game. Inside, Pennsylvania would struggle a bit against the strong running game with Mckeesport's Delvon Simmons New Castle Mohawk's Matt Vogel giving up a lot of weight.
The Pennsylvania linebackers are physical and strong, but they lack great lateral mobility. Dallastown's Ben Kline, Monroeville Gateway's Armstead Williams and Mechanicsburg Cumberland Valley's Kevin Snyder would be strong at the point of attack but they would struggle with outside running plays and especially checking Huggins, Davis, McEvoy and Tabb on shorter routes. However, the real mismatch here is the Jersey speed against a talented but limited Pennsylvania secondary.
East Stroudsburg South cornerback Kyshoen Jarrett has good size and can run, but he would struggle against the speed of Byrd and Shuler. And with Gateway's Dondi Kirby forced to play cornerback, a position he plays in high school but doesn't project at in college, the track stars from Jersey would have their way on the outside. Imperial West Allegheny safety Mike Caputo has good range and instincts, but he wouldn't be quick enough to make up for the speed difference and the Pottstown Pottsgrove duo of Terrell Chestnut and Maika Polamalu would also struggle containing the speed advantage.
Pennsylvania offense vs. New Jersey defense
The defensive disadvantage would put a lot of pressure on the Pennsylvania offense to produce and they do have some weapons. Harrisburg Bishop McDevitt running back Jameel Poteat would run behind huge fullback Brandon Cottom from Newtown Council Rock North and a strong offensive line led by Scranton Prep guard Kevin Reihner and Dunmore tackle Paul Gaughan. The running game would be the best hope Pennsylvania has as they try to grind out tough yardage, wear down the Jersey defense and work the clock.
The passing game is highlighted by Oil City Senior stud Ben Koyack but there isn't a lot of pure speed at wide receiver and Whitehall quarterback Chris Polony is serviceable but doesn't have the weapons Jersey has to work with. It would basically be three yards and a cloud of dust for the Pa. offense.
The problem for the Pa. running game is that the Jersey defense matches up well against it. Defensive tackle Marquise Wright from Paramus Catholic is quick and agile and is helped by Parlin Sayreville War Memorial tackle Daryl Stephenson who adds needed size. West Orange Seton Hall Prep defensive end Connor Wujciak has tackle size and the trio will free up Max Issaka from Woodbridge on the weak side. At linebacker, Absecon Holy Spirit speedster Anthony Sarao covers a lot of ground and is complimented by Timber Creek's Quinton Alston and Sparta Pope John XXIII star Cole Farrand who adds size.
Rounding out the defense is a secondary with good size and lays the lumber. St. Peter's Prep safety Sheldon Royster and Bergen Catholic's Shutang Mungwa both cover a lot of ground and make receivers pay when they come across the middle while Atco Winslow Township athlete Bill Belton is physical and very strong at cornerback. Belton could also be utilized on offense with his speed and change of direction, making this even more of a mismatch.
Picking a winner
Pennsylvania would try to keep the game in hand with ball control and the running game, but the big play ability of the Jersey offense would allow the Garden State to jump out to a lead and force Pa. to pass. That would lead to even more issues for the Keystone State and would cement a three-touchdown blowout by Jersey.
However, the real winner of this game could very well be the Pitt Panthers as the Big East power boasts an astonishing nine different players in the game - Wright, Belton, Alston and Nova from Jersey and Poteat, Chestnut, Kline, Lafayette Pitts from Woodland Hills and Artie Rowell from Central Dauphin.