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HomeTeam 100: Players 21-30

By Times Staff
TAMPA - Jesuit linebacker Anthony Nelson will help lead the Tigers into the 2017 season. Taken 5-17-17 by Scott Purks

Our sixth annual countdown of the top 100 football players in Tampa Bay — consisting of athletes who attend a public or private school in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco or Hernando counties. Past performances — spanning the fall, spring and summer — and promise of big things to come are all taken into consideration. Today: players 21-30.

21. Anthony Nelson, Jesuit

Position: Linebacker

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 6-2, 230

With 81 tackles last season, 35 for loss, Nelson was a huge part of a Jesuit defense that helped take the Tigers to the Class 5A state semifinal in 2016. Being on the line, Nelson said, has been quite routine for him, as the Tampa native joined his first football team at the age of 5, playing both offensive and defensive lines the majority of the time.

But now that he's got one last high school season left, Nelson and his coaches thought it was time for a change.

Because his coaches saw him as a better fit at linebacker at the college level, Nelson will be making the jump to a linebacking corps that returns four starters from last season. And though it's an entirely different position from what he's used to, Nelson said the transition has been relatively seamless.

"At first I thought it was going to be hard, but after working with my agility coach, he's really helped me with the footwork," Nelson said. "It wasn't as hard, but I still need to get some in-game experience so I can get a feel for it."

That's exactly what Nelson will get when Jesuit opens its season next month, but in the meantime, Nelson said he's been working on learning how to play in open space and make the most out of his athleticism. On Wednesday he committed to play at Harvard over a variety of offers, including ones from USF, Air Force and West Point. Now that he's made that decision, Nelson's got other goals on his mind.

"I want to be the best I can be at linebacker," he said. "I don't have that much experience, but I'm aiming to be all-state at linebacker."

HIGHLIGHTS: Anthony Nelson.

Scott Purks | Special to the Times

LB Anthony Nelson

22. Treshaun Ward, Plant City

Position: Running back

Year: Junior

Height/weight: 5-11, 185

In eight games as a sophomore, Ward was nothing short of spectacular, rushing 118 times for 1,082 yards and 13 touchdowns. One of his most impressive nights came against powerhouse Armwood, which struggled to hold Ward to 169 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. Even though he's heading into his junior season, Ward already has offers from East Carolina and USF. With a little more speed and muscle, Ward's stock could shoot sky high.

HIGHLIGHTS: Treshaun Ward.

Charlie Kaijo | Times

RB Treshaun Ward

23. Jarius Williams, Clearwater

Position: Running back/defensive back

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 5-11, 175

We asked some of Williams' peers what they think of him after a breakout season in which he rushed for 887 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Logan Doublin, LB, Largo: "I've played with Jarius since youth league. He was probably the best running back we faced last year and we had a pretty good defense. He's real elusive, fast and can see the holes open up."

Deandre Fitz-Henley, LB, Clearwater Central Catholic: "He is a patient runner. That's what makes him so good. He always sees the cutback lanes, waits for the play to develop and follows his blockers."

Colin Wray, QB, Clearwater: "He has great vision and speed and can also catch the ball out of the backfield, which helps me out. He's just quiet and works hard on the field which makes others work just as hard so he really makes the whole team better. He's also very positive."

HIGHLIGHTS: Jarius Williams.

Douglas R. Clifford | Times

RB/DB Jarius Williams

24. Anthony Johnson, St. Petersburg

Position: Defensive back/wide receiver

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 6-1, 165

Johnson is excited about this season for many reasons. Here are four of them:

1. He is going to get to play offense as a wide receiver or running back. "When I first came into the school as a freshman I played running back and wide receiver and barely played defensive back. I looked at the wide receivers we had and said, 'Dang, they ain't that good. I know I can make it there.' Then I went to DB and kind of got stuck there. I like it there, but who would've thought I'd stay there."

2. Because St. Petersburg is playing a tough schedule with teams like East Lake, South Sumter and Braden River, Johnson figures he may actually get some action in the secondary. "I don't think people are going to throw away from me, which is crazy. We play dudes who have offers, so they're going to try me. I'm like, 'Yeah, come on. I'm going to get this money.' "

3. Having already committed to Iowa State in June, Johnson doesn't have to spend his senior season worrying about his college choice. "Now it's just about having a monster season. I'm trying to make the all-state team."

4. This is the last season he can have a Twitter war with friends on other teams. "Everybody wants to make a name for themselves this year. It's all over Twitter. Kids are talking about how they're going to do this or that. You can't come at me like that. I've been doing this since Day 1."

HIGHLIGHTS: Anthony Johnson.

Dirk Shadd | Times

DB/WR Anthony Johnson

25. Jerome Ford, Armwood

Position: Wide receiver/defensive back

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 5-11, 197

Charlie Kaijo | Times

WR/DB Jerome Ford

A running back in youth leagues, Ford was switched to a receiver once he got to Armwood.

He had the speed and athleticism to play the position. But he lacked perhaps the most important trait needed for a wideout.

"I couldn't catch the ball," Ford said

So Ford worked at getting better. He caught passes from teammates in practice, and from family and friends in workouts. He even threw a football to himself at home.

Ford developed good hands and put them on display last season with 17 catches for 271 yards and three touchdowns.

He is now a three-star recruit who is projected to be an all-purpose back in college. Ford has 17 offers, the biggest coming from Alabama. Last month, he had a chance to talk to Tide coach Nick Saban during a camp at USF.

This season, he will get a chance to run the ball more, like he did in youth leagues.

But his primary position is receiver, where he now thrives as a speedy, dependable target.

"I feel like I've become a lot more confident and become a good receiver," Ford said. "I'm not into stats, so I don't have a lot of personal goals. Basically, I want to focus on each game and make my team better."

HIGHLIGHTS: Jerome Ford.

26. Micah McFadden, Plant

Position: Linebacker

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 6-1, 220

Loren Elliott | Times

LB Micah McFadden

Buried on the depth chart, McFadden rose from obscurity to become a starter in the coveted role of "Panther" last season. Given ample opportunities to make plays as a roaming linebacker/defensive end. McFadden posted big numbers with 116 tackles, 14 sacks and an interception. This season he will anchor a veteran linebacking unit that will be the team's strength. Thanks to his stellar season, McFadden has picked up offers from schools such as Boston College, Indiana and Southern Miss.

HIGHLIGHTS: Micah McFadden.

27. TroyVon Johnson, Lakewood

Position: Wide receiver/defensive back

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 5-9, 155

Johnson learned very early in his youth league football days that he needed to run away from opponents instead of through them. Barely topping 150 pounds, he would have to avoid getting hit to be successful at football.

He's managed to do that very well. Johnson, who played some quarterback for the past two years, will be the slot receiver this season. He caught 21 passes and scored three touchdowns last season in that role.

"I love it," Johnson said. "I love being out there where I can make guys miss and get in the end zone."

That's not to say Johnson won't have to hit a little as well. He'll also play defensive back. In preparation for the upcoming season, Johnson is taking the offseason seriously. He works out at Lakewood from 8 a.m.-noon most weekdays. He then works with a personal trainer for another hour in the afternoons.

Between all that, he watches game film and has a part-time job at Dairy Queen. And he tries to fit in as many meals as possible.

"It's hard for me to put weight on," Johnson said. "I try to eat as much as I can. Probably a little less than an offensive lineman, but I'm trying to put on as much weight as I can."

HIGHLIGHTS: TroyVon Johnson.

Dirk Shadd | Times

WR/DB TroyVon Johnson

28. John Dixon, Wharton

Position: Defensive back

Year: Junior

Height/weight: 5-11, 170

Why we ranked him: With two years of high school football still ahead of him, Dixon has offers from many major college programs, including Alabama, Florida, Auburn, Ohio State, Tennessee, South Carolina, USF and Maryland. That's because after his sophomore season, Dixon appeared to be the total package of speed (4.5 seconds in the 40), strength, instincts, knowledge and intensity. Dixon's upside looks so encouraging that by this time next year, he could be the most sought after recruit in the Tampa Bay area. As of now, he says his college options remain "wide open."

HIGHLIGHTS: John Dixon.

Scott Purks | Special to the Times

DB John Dixon

29. Ken Montgomery, Hillsborough

Position: Cornerback

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 6-2, 175

You have dozens of college offers, including Alabama, Ohio State and USF. Any idea where you want to go or when you'll make that decision?

"I will be making my decision on Spectrum Sports (on Thursday). Right now I've been looking for a good coaching staff, of course, and then playing time, and just that feeling where I want to be at for the next four years."

Your father and grandfather used to play for coach Earl Garcia at Hillsborough, so what's it like to follow in their footsteps?

"They come to a lot of my games, and my uncle played quarterback for Coach G, so it's like a family tradition, pretty much. Everybody played for Hillsborough, so it's pretty fun. Coach G's got a real funny sense of humor."

What's one thing about you that may surprise people?

"My sense of humor. I'm pretty fun, funny and nice. I just like everybody, I love everybody, I like talking to everybody. I love movies and Martin Lawrence."

HIGHLIGHTS: Ken Montgomery.

Andres Leiva | Times

CB Ken Montgomery

30. Zion Roland, Admiral Farragut

Position: Wide receiver/defensive back

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 6-1, 185

Roland originally committed to Louisville but has since reopened his recruiting. USF, UCF, Marshall, FIU and FAU are being considered. Roland started at Lakewood but transferred to Farragut in his sophomore year. He's had more than 20 catches in each of the past two seasons and will be the main receiver for the Blue Jackets this fall. AFA coach Rick Kravitz likes his sure hands and his speed. He also has an ability to gain yards after the catch. Roland will also see time at defensive back.

HIGHLIGHTS: Zion Roland.

David W. Doonan | Special to the Times

WR/DB Zion Roland

Compiled by staff writers Rodney Page and Bob Putnam, and correspondents Kelly Parsons and Scott Purks.