We've been talking about 2013 since last football season wrapped up. Now that the fall is upon us, these are the questions on our mind.
10. Who are the new stars on the horizon?
Well, you have obvious choices like Pasco's Nate Craig, but let's dig deeper and look at the freshmen.
Dunedin's Kane Taylor is ridiculously talented and ridicuously sized for a freshman at 6-2, 245 pounds (and teammate Janero Crankfield is supposed to be pretty good, too), Tampa Bay Tech's Doquan Green is a wide receiver and playmaker and already one of his quarterback's favorite targets, Tampa Catholic's Bentlee Sanders can play just about anywhere, and CCC running back C.J. Cotman might be the best freshman the Marauders have ever had.
The list doesn't end there; the rest just hasn't revealed itself.
Quick hit: Keep an eye on Jefferson sophomores Mondreas Lofton and Terence Verriet. Dragons wide receiver coach Lionel Bryant says Verriet is the next big thing at wide receiver for Jefferson, which was the same thing he said about Andre Davis and Jonathan Moore.
9. Who will lead Tampa Bay in passing?
These are always fun to pick at the beginning of the season, and the only one I feel relatively sure about is Deiondre Porter will lead the area in passing.
Because Jefferson is going to throw a lot, Porter has great receivers to throw to, the offensive line is going to give him time and young rising stud Lofton is going to keep defenses honest. Porter threw for 2,276 yards last year, and I think he’ll top 2,500 this fall. I don’t think Wharton’s Chase Litton will be too far behind, and Gaither’s Alex McGough and Lakewood’s Ryan Davis not too far behind that. If the Spartans' running game doesn’t deliver, Davis has the most weapons to throw to in Tampa Bay and could post huge numbers.
Quck hit: Keep an eye on Plant’s Colby Brown.
8. Who's the No. 2 team in the North Suncoast?
No, seriously, who? You tell us. I don’t think anyone unseats Pasco at the top — in fact, I know it — but the battle for second should be interesting and Zephyrhills, Anclote, Mitchell, Sunlake and Hernando can all lay claim. Maybe even Nature Coast, though after last week ...and you can never count out Springstead, Mitchell or Land O'Lakes.
See what I'm saying?
I think it’s the Bulldogs. You have to like the job Reggie Roberts is doing over there, and he’s got all kinds of athletes in his stable. There are always questions on the line, but with a little smoke and mirrors, the Bulldogs can head into their final three games with a 6-1 record. How they do against Hernando, Pasco and Sunlake will determine if they improve on last year’s 6-4 record and maybe, even head to the playoffs.
Quick hit: After 56-17, 45-0, 50-7, 48-7 and 24-0 wins the last five years, one of Tampa Bay’s best rivalries has morphed from the The 9-Mile War to The 9-Mile Snore. Maybe, this year…?
7. Who will lead Tampa Bay in rushing?
The area has a host of good running backs, and Largo’s Jarvis Stewart was our No. 5 guy in the HomeTeam 100, but I like Ray Ray McCloud at Sickles to lead the area. He’s running behind a better offensive line, and the Gryphons' offense is suited perfectly for a top back to get the ball 25 times a game.
McCloud will run right up to the 1,500-yard mark this season, if not beyond. That will be enough to surpass Plant’s Patrick Brooks and Alonso’s Ish Witter, who have experienced and highly recruited offensive lines to run behind.
Quick hit: A few guys I think could make me wrong — Durant’s John Hendricks or Tarpon Springs' Mike Ford.
6. Which new coach will have the best season?
Tampa Catholic’s Mike Gregory walks into a great situation. Heck, all he has to do now is beat Jesuit and win a state championship. No pressure, Coach.
Quick hit: Admiral Farragut may have enough talent to beat anyone in its district besides CCC. If new coach Ryan Hearn is as good as advertised, the Blue Jackets just might be a playoff team.
5. Who will lead Tampa Bay in receiving?
Receivers are tougher to pick, and East Lake's Artavis Scott and George Campbell are the top returners from last year’s crop. But the county’s all-time leading passer isn’t throwing them the ball anymore, so they are a tough pick.
I’m looking at Jefferson’s duo of Ventell Bryant and Derrick Ingram, I think Largo’s Raheem Harvey and Reggie Campbell will have special seasons, and I wonder how much Tampa Bay Tech’s Tajee Fullwood will get to play wide reciever. If he was a full-timer, I think he’d be the pick.
If Alonso's Marcus Mosely didn’t have a first-time varsity quarterback throwing his way, I’d be tempted. I think you have to look at Wharton’s Auden Tate (he could be Litton’s No. 1 target) and Dixie Hollins’ Marcus Smith. But in the end, and based on Jefferson’s recent history, it’s hard to pick against Bryant.
Quick hit: No Lakewood receivers here, but I’d bet the Spartans have about five who end up with the same stats: 22 catches, 387 yards, four TDs.
4. What transfer will have the biggest impact?
Clearwater Central Catholic’s Justus Reed (via Clearwater) destroyed Countryside last week in the preseason classic, and what he might do to Class 3A competition this year is just scary.
But for my money, Lakewood’s Ryan Davis (via Northeast) will have a bigger impact. Before Davis, the Spartans were looking at starting Joc Ellison, who isn’t a bad quarterback. But he’s a better wide receiver. And Tyrell Smith, another potential quarterback, moved to cornerback to strengthen the defensive backfield upon Davis’ arrival. And with Smith moving to the defensive backfield, that allows Albert Laskett, one of the county’s top cornerbacks for Gibbs the past two seasons, to move to running back, which was the one glaring hole the Spartans had. Davis has had an impact before the Spartans even play a game, and with him under center Lakewood becomes a legitimate state title contender.
Quick hit: Don't be surprised if Carrollwood Day quarterback Taylor King (via Freedom) posts mind-boggling numbers.
3. Who will be THE surprise team in 2012?
I think Admiral Farragut’s quick fall has been stemmed by the arrival of Hearn, I have a gut feeling on Calvary, I’m bullish on St. Petersburg Catholic having the second-most talent in its district behind CCC, there’s something to like about East Bay and King, and I don’t think Newsome or Durant roll as far downhill ans you might think.
But I’m going to go with Seminole.
The Warhawks have won more than two games just once since 2005, and their first three games are all winnable. Past that, I can see two more wins, so 5-5 is not out of the question.
Quick hit: If you're looking for more of an impact surprise team, don't bet against Sickles or Tampa Bay Tech making a state semifinal. Yeah, you heard me.
2. The game of the year is....?
Armwood and Plant! Oh...wait. Yeah, they aren’t playing this year.
In its place, fans can choose from CCC at Tampa Catholic (Sept. 6), Armwood at Jefferson (Sept. 27), Plant at Tampa Bay Tech (Sept. 27), Largo at Lakewood (Sept. 27) ...okay, let’s just stop right there.
Sept. 27, you are killing me.
I would suggest this that night: put all three games in a hat, and pull one out. Then kick yourself for not going to the other two games. Then put the names back in the hat, do it again, and continue until you can no longer stand on the leg you keep kicking.
I still think Lakewood-Largo is the Game of the Year in Tampa Bay. The place will be packed, the gums will be flapping and I’d estimate that there will be at least 10 Division I athletes on the field at all times, regardless of which offense or defense is out there.
Then again, can I say the same thing about Armwood-Jefferson, where tensions run high. Or even Plant-TBT, where the distaste for each other burns strong?
Nah, I’m stucking with Lakewood-Largo.
Quick hit: Then again, that Jefferson-Armwood game...
1. You'll just have to pick up Thursday's paper for this one.
Photo: Jefferson's Deiondre Porter