Our two-week countdown of the top 100 high school football players in Tampa Bay culminates with the absolute cream of the crop.
No. 1 CB Vernon Hargreaves III, Wharton
2011 stats: 612 total yards, 13 TDs, 49 tackles, two INTs, 44.4-yard kick-return average, three blocked FGs
The breakdown: The football recruiting lingo that congests cyberspace has spawned a subset of terms — a Vernon-acular, if you will.
Read the recruitniks’ analyses of arguably the most versatile player in Wharton’s 15-year history, and the jargon starts repeating itself: swivel hips, great burst, high football IQ, higher ceiling. Did we mention swivel hips?
In many cases, such assessments nudge up to the border of hyperbole.
In the case of Hargreaves, the nation’s fourth-ranked senior recruit according to ESPN, they don’t go far enough.
Talk to the coaches who spend essentially every day with him, and to that flattering profile they’ll add soft hands, instinctiveness, sound blocking (he blocked three field goals last year), above-average arm, even the ability to pull on the power sweep.
“He’s just a pure athlete, man,” veteran Wharton offensive coordinator Craig Rainey said. “I think the kid could play anywhere on the field and would play anywhere on the field. I really, really think if you needed him to play guard he would play guard for you. He’s just that good.”
If only he were that big. As it stands, Hargreaves (5-11, 185 pounds) probably won’t be pressed into duty in the trenches. But at varying junctures of the 2012 season, the University of Florida commitment will be a lockdown corner, receiver, quarterback, tailback, return specialist and holder.
Yes, holder. “Basically, when you have an athlete you want to put the football in his hands,” Wildcats coach David Mitchell said. “So that’s another way to put the ball in his hands.”
Alas, the analysts have another attribute to place beside Hargreaves’ name.
2011 stats:1,171 yards, 140 carries, 15 TDs; 12 passes, 158 yards, one TD
The breakdown:Here’s a scary thought. Green ran for more than 1,000 yards behind one of the greenest offensive lines in Tampa Bay last season. This year? The only thing green on offense is the last name of the guy running with the ball. Better blockers should equal bigger numbers for Green (5-11, 195), a 4.3 back with lightning-like play-making ability. The Barons offense is going to be built around the FSU commitment, and if he delivers as expected, SPC will be one of the most improved teams around.
2011 stats:975 yards passing, 872 yards rushing, 404 yards receiving, 14 total TDs
The breakdown:Hargreaves is lockdown, Green is breakdown, and Bailey is downtown. He’s a threat to go the distance with every touch, but also does not shy away from making the tough catches over the middle. Last year, Bailey (6-1, 170) led Armwood in passing yards, and came within 100 combined yards of leading in rushing and receiving, too, an incredible feat. He was more like Alvin Bailed in 2011 after how many times he saved the Hawks, but should return to full-time pass catcher this season.
2011 stats:66 tackles, three INTs, nine pass breakups
The breakdown:McQuay (6-2, 175) roams centerfield like Willie Mays roamed the Polo Grounds, an old-school reference for a player with an old-school style. McQuay is a remarkable athlete, and while he fits the mold of a ball-hawking safety, his athleticism brings something different to the position. Teams will try not to throw in his direction, but Armwood's McQuay, who had an interception return for a TD is last year’s state title game, will find his way to most plays regardless.
2011 stats:59 carries, 443 yards; 48 catches, 960 yards; 22 total TDs
The breakdown:Grant (5-11, 186) is Pasco County’s version of Alvin Bailey. Or is it the other way around? He can play running back, wide receiver and defensive back, and in a pinch can step in under center. And from any one of those positions is a threat to turn a game. No one in Tampa Bay scores more different ways that Pasco's Grant, who ran, caught and returned punts, kickoffs and interceptions for touchdowns last season.
2011 stats:110 tackles, nine sacks, five fumble recoveries; 71 yards receiving, three TDs
The breakdown:Hillsborough's Sherit (6-5, 234) is a beast, able to dominate blockers with sheer power but quick enough to get around them as well. For a guy his size, the future Florida Gator can do a lot things on both sides of the ball for the Terriers thanks to his 4.7 speed, and he has drawn comparisons to former Alonso lineman and current Miami Hurricane Anthony Chickillo when it comes to his pass rushing abilities.
2011 stats:54 catches, 1,158 yards, 12 TDs
The breakdown:Scott (5-11, 180) is as pure an offensive playmaker as there is, and it’s hard to imagine the polished receiver not challenging the career pass receiving records in Pinellas County, if not all of Tampa Bay. He has a great rapport with East Lake quarterback Pete DiNovo (No. 13 in the HomeTeam 100), and the pair has grown together into the best pass-catch tandem in Tampa Bay. Entering only his third season, Scott continues to impress as he improves.
2011 stats:48 catches, 653 yards, four TDS; team-high seven INTs
The breakdown:Johnson (6-4, 200) is probably the one guy you want to throw the ball to in a must-catch situation. He is sure-handed and uses his body as well as any receiver in the area. Around the goal line, the University of Miami commitment is golden because he’s so physical, and can jump. One of the Jesuit’s team leaders, Johnson also showed his ball-catching skills on defense in pursuit of Jesuit’s single-season interception record.
2011 stats:53 tackles, eight sacks, two forced fumbles
The breakdown:Ivie (6-4, 270) beefed up in the offseason, going from a little-known defensive lineman to one of the state’s top recruits before committing to Florida. Far bigger and stronger than he was in 2011, Ivie should dominate opposing front lines and become one of the most disruptive defenders in Tampa Bay. His athletic ability means he will also line up in the backfield and at tight end as Pasco coach Tom McHugh finds ways to inflict his most imposing player on the opposition.
2011 stats:700 yards receiving, seven TDs
The breakdown:Adams (6-1, 166), formerly a Florida commitment but now looking around, is one of Tampa Bay’s top deep threats. Most of his touchdowns last year were long ones, as he used his deceptive speed to get behind defensive backs or split them down the middle on slants. Lakewood tried him at running back in the spring, and he could start at quarterback for many teams, but he is best catching Tracy Johnson’s passes.