Top 6 quarterbacks to watch this season in Rockford-area high school football

Coming soon: Top 10 defensive backs to watch for in the area

Jay Taft Matt Trowbridge
Rockford Register Star
Hononegah's Isaac Whisenand, shown throwing against Boylan last season, is expected to be one of the Rockford area's top quarterbacks this fall.

The Illinois High School Association football season is right around the corner, kicking off around the state on Aug. 27. Practices begin statewide on Monday.

The Rockford Register Star's preseason coverage starts now.

Leading up to kickoff, we will not only take a look at the best teams from the NIC-10, Big Northern, NUIC and 8-man football, but we will also take a position-by-position look at the top players to watch in the entire area.

Today, we begin our series by spotlighting the quarterbacks. In alphabetical order, here are the Rockford area’s most intriguing quarterbacks:

More high school football:Here are 5 football matchups you won't want to miss this fall in the Rock River Valley

Large schools

Austin Redmond, Harlem

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound junior has some of the biggest shoes to fill in NIC-10 history, replacing the league’s all-time leading passer, James Cooper Jr., who in the spring led the Huskies to their first perfect season. The big question isn’t so much whether he has Cooper’s arm as whether he can make decisions as well as Cooper. The Huskies return most of their team — except for their QB and top three receivers.

“Whether we are running or passing depends on what the other team is doing. Whatever they are doing is how we react,” Harlem coach Bob Moynihan said. “We are 100 percent RPO (run-pass option). Austin has been learning the system for two years, and he is ready to take over the reins. He has got the keys to the Ferrari.

“He is a smart kid. And he’s accurate. Those are the two key components to what we are doing. We are not looking for 40-yard passes. We are looking for 20-yard passes that turn into 80-yard passes.”

Xzsaveon Segner, Freeport

The 6-foot-6, 205-pound junior has NFL size and a college arm. He also has experience after completing 22 of 51 passes for 235 yards, fourth in the NIC-10, with four interceptions and four TDs as a sophomore, when he led Freeport to a 3-3 record.

“He is everything a team could hope for,” Freeport coach Anthony Dedmond said. “I couldn’t tell you how strong his arm is, but it’s strong enough to throw a touchdown. He also has quick feet.

“He is still learning. That’s the problem. But he had a great summer camp. He has learned he can’t do it all and has matured overnight. And he has great young weapons around him. They have the whole team excited right now.”

Isaac Whisenand, Hononegah

The 6-foot-2, 170-pound senior ranked second in the NIC-10 in passing as a junior, completing 50 of 77 throws for 641 yards, seven TDs and five interceptions. He also ranked second for Hononegah in rushing with 169 yards and 3 TDs on only 21 carries. His dad, Kurt Whisenand, held Hononegah’s passing records for 30 years.

“Isaac thinks he has to follow in his dad’s footsteps a little bit,” Hononegah coach Brian Zimmerman said. “He has worked really hard and gone to a lot of camps this summer trying to get exposure.

“That position is so important for us. He is going to be the heart and soul of our offense, behind that big offensive line.”

Durand/Pecatonica's Hunter Hoffman led the NUIC in passing as a junior and was second as a sophomore and should be the league's top passer again as a senior.

Small schools

Chandler Alderman, North Boone

The junior has yet to throw a varsity pass, but in North Boone's spread offense, he's about to get real busy.

Following in the footsteps of both Britton Morris and Logan Emanuel, Alderman is the guy new coach Ryan Kelley looks to to keep the Vikings on top. North Boone won the Big Northern Conference title in the spring with a 4-0 record.

"He's following two of the most productive quarterbacks we've ever seen here, and that's not easy," Kelley said. "But (Alderman) has exemplified what it's all about to be the quarterback at North Boone these days. He's put in the work, and he's ready."

More football:North Boone finishes unbeaten, unofficial BNC champs; Stillman Valley goes out swinging

Hunter Hoffman, Durand/Pecatonica

After bursting onto the scene as a sophomore, Hoffman had 21 TDs and one interception in his six-game junior spring season, completing 110 of his 170 passes for 1,495 yards.

As a sophomore, he completed 124 of his 241 passes for 1,684 yards with 20 TD passes and six picks in 11 games. Throwing for more than 3,000 yards in less than two full seasons in the NUIC has put a pretty big target on his back, now.

"What he's done in this conference is different than what any other guy I've seen has been able to do," Lena-Winslow coach Ric Arand said of Hoffman, who threw for 235 yards and two TDs against the Panthers last season. "He's just a different animal. ... And if you give him some weapons to work with again, he'll just get better."

Braden Smith, Byron

The junior threw only 16 passes in his five games last season, completing seven of them for 48 yards with a touchdown. And for the first time in a decade, Byron struggled to produce on offense, losing its last game 6-0 to Lutheran to finish up 3-2.

But Byron is sure to be much improved this season, and Smith will be called upon to do a lot more in this offense. He did not throw any picks, which showed he can make the right decisions from the pocket, which should give the Tigers confidence to call more passing plays this year.

"He's a great kid, and a great leader, and now we'll see how far he's come since last season," Byron coach Jeff Boyer said. "He's got a very, very strong arm, and he's worked hard on his accuracy. I feel really confident in him leading our team now."

Jay Taft:; @JayTaft. Matt Trowbridge:; @matttrowbridge