For the past decade or so, the trend in football hotbeds across the South and West has been to put their best athletes on the defensive side of the ball. ¶ In 2012, it has reached the Minnesota high school scene, as well. With apologies to some extremely talented offensive players, the bulk of this fall's talent in the metro is on defense. ¶ The strongest position is defensive line, with at least 10 players with legitimate NCAA Division I potential. The position is so stacked that good players such as Birk Olson of Monticello and Shaun Schindler of Hutchinson didn't crack our list. ¶ Speed is in abundance at linebacker and defensive back, with players such as Wayzata linebacker Chris Wipson and Tartan cornerback Keelon Brookins defying conventional wisdom that Minnesota does not churn out players who can run. ¶ Here is the 2012 Star Tribune Metro Area Dream Team. Many of the names should seem very familiar by the time the postseason rolls around.
Reid Travis, DeLaSalle, junior (6-7, 227) A two-sport star who led the Islanders to the Class 3A basketball title in March and is getting loads of attention from Division I football programs. Passed for 1,694 yards and 18 TDs in 2011.
Mitch Underhill, Wayzata, senior (5-11, 180) A knee injury knocked the star of the 2010 Prep Bowl out of last season. A fiendish workout routine has the ultra-fast back ready to break out as a senior.
Jeff Jones, Minneapolis Washburn, junior (6-0, 190) Has the size and strength to break tackles and the speed to get to the corners. Rushed for 1,415 yards in 2011. Nearly every Big Ten school is vying for his attention.
Marley Allison, Edina, senior (5-11, 185) A speedy wide receiver with Division I talent. Had 36 catches for 405 yards and five TDs in 2011. Can create separation and excels in yards after catch. Also sees time at defensive back.
Malcom Moore, Minnetonka, senior (6-1, 180) A foot injury will keep Moore off the field until midseason, but the metro's top WR should be at top form for the playoffs. Has great body control, excellent hands and the ability to make tough catches in traffic.
Jordan Meyer, Elk River, senior (6-4, 245) Has the size at tight end to blow open holes in the Elks' sleight-of-hand rushing offense. Excels as a pass-catcher and has the speed to get downfield. Missouri is among the Division I schools interested.
Kyle Schmidt, Woodbury, senior (6-3, 265) Experienced and physical, with good lateral movement and the ability to lock out defensive linemen. Iowa State, Navy and North Dakota State all have shown interest.
Chandler Wright, Wayzata, senior (6-3, 270) A transfer from Louisiana before last season. Relishes contact and plays with a nasty streak. Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa have him in their sights.
Zach Ziemer, Lakeville North, senior (6-5, 280) Relentless blocker who manhandles opponents and never quits on a play. Long arms a bonus in pass protection. Weighing multiple Division I offers.
Chad Fahning, DeLaSalle, senior (6-6, 281) More than a dozen Division I schools, including his first choice of Minnesota, have expressed interest. Has decent speed and footwork. Physically overpowers opposing linemen.
Michael Warren, Providence Academy, senior (6-6, 275) Two-way player who dominates at the line and is extremely intelligent. Made his name as a defensive lineman, but many colleges believe his future is at center.
Tyson Reinke, Eden Prairie, senior (6-3, 260) A high-energy lineman who constantly faces schemes designed to slow him down. Great upper-body strength but runs like a linebacker, frequently chasing down plays away from him. Committed to Kent State last spring.
Akeem Roller, Cretin-Derham Hall, senior (6-4, 290) His bulk makes him difficult to move off the line, yet he has the speed and quickness to split the double-team and make plays in the backfield.
Daulton Olinger, Spring Lake Park, senior (6-0, 260) The 2011 North Suburban Conference Defensive Player of the Year is a stout run-stopper who commands double-teams yet still makes plays. Made 46 tackles and had 4 1/2 sacks last year.
Karl Finkel, Lakeville North, senior (6-0, 205) Undersized defensive end who makes up for it with speed, a nose for the ball and a tough-guy attitude. Offenses must account for his whereabouts on every play. Sixty tackles, 11 sacks in 2011.
Michael Redmond, Minnetonka, senior (6-4, 220) A strong and fast defensive end with the frame to handle larger opposing linemen. Has a rushing burst off the edge and the speed to chase down plays from the back side. North Dakota has made him an offer.
Jack Cottrell, Eden Prairie, senior (6-4, 215) Tall and rangy. Excels in pass coverage but is strong enough to fend off linemen and stuff the run. Committed to Boston College.
Dan Sargeant, Chisago Lakes, senior (6-1, 235) A big-hitting, hard-nosed throwback type of player with football instincts and a leadership attitude coaches yearn for. Also plays offensive line and kicks for the Wildcats.
Chris Wipson, Wayzata, senior (6-2, 220) The latest in a line of excellent Wayzata linebackers, Wipson's instincts allow him to play fast and attack the line of scrimmage. He's the only senior in the state committed to Minnesota.
Jamison Whiting, Minneapolis Washburn, senior (6-3, 175) His size allows him to support the run as well as make plays on the ball. Had 62 tackles, three interceptions and eight passes defensed in 2011. Projects as a safety in college.
Keelon Brookins, Tartan, senior (5-11, 185) Won the Class 2A 200-meter dash last spring. Originally committed to Minnesota but changed his mind and is headed to Wisconsin.
Malik Rucker, Cooper, senior (6-0, 175) Decent speed (4.48 40-yard dash), but his size and nose for the ball stand out. Unafraid to take on bigger running backs. Had 83 tackles and two interceptions in 2011. He's Iowa-bound.
James Onwualu, Cretin-Derham Hall, senior (6-1, 205) The state's top recruit already has committed to Notre Dame. A game-breaker who is versatile and elusive, he can run between the tackles. Electric when playing in space and a threat to score any time he touches the ball.
Wyatt Schmidt, St. Thomas Academy, senior The 6-3, 210-pounder is a starting linebacker for the Cadets, but his future is in his strong left leg. In 2011, he made 44 of 45 extra points and more than 80 percent of his kickoffs were touchbacks.
Mikias Alipate, Holy Angels, senior LB
Deon Dorvil, Edina, senior DL
Mitch Johnson, Lakeville North, senior LB
Conor Rhoda, Cretin-Derham Hall, senior QB
Bridge Tusler, Osseo, senior RB
Tag(s): North South Lake North Suburban St. Thomas Academy Tartan Wayzata Eden Prairie Edina Minnetonka Minneapolis Washburn Jordan Monticello Elk River Academy of Holy Angels Spring Lake Park Chisago Lakes Osseo Lakeville North Cretin-Derham Hall Park of Cottage Grove Woodbury DeLaSalle Hutchinson Providence Academy Class 3A Class 2A Class 3A Class 2A North South St. Thomas Academy Tartan Lake Eden Prairie Edina Minnetonka Wayzata Minneapolis Washburn Jordan Elk River Monticello Academy of Holy Angels North Suburban Chisago Lakes Spring Lake Park Osseo Lakeville North Cretin-Derham Hall Park of Cottage Grove Woodbury DeLaSalle Providence Academy Hutchinson