Our third annual countdown of the top 100 football players in Tampa Bay. Past performances — spanning the fall, spring and summer — and promise of big things to come are all taken into consideration. Today: players 11 through 20
Position/school: OL, Plant
Why we ranked him: 2013 might have been the year of the offensive lineman, but one of Tampa Bay’s best has one more year left with the Panthers. Plant graduated two Division I offensive linemen — a group that helped quarterback Colby Brown throw for nearly 3,000 yards and 31 touchdowns. Fruhmorgen, a Clemson commit, should be the center of attention come August, and not only because of his size.
Position/school: WR, Wharton
Tate had 49 catches for 815 yards last year, one of the best seasons of any receiver in Tampa Bay. You’ll never believe what gets him relaxed before a game.
Who’s the best player in Tampa Bay? “I’d probably say (Sickles RB) Ray Ray McCloud.”
What makes you one of the best? “I’m real physical, and I’m going to go up and get the ball in midair.”
How does someone stop you from doing that? “Triple coverage and a press.”
Best game you’ve ever played? “Steinbrenner last year (seven catches, 164 yards, and a touchdown).”
Best catch you’ve ever made? “Against Bloomingdale it was 30-15, and winner goes to playoffs, and needed a first down. I ran a comeback route, and Chase (Litton) threw it right to me for the first.”
Can Vernon Hargreaves cover you? “(Laughs) Sometimes.”
Goals for upcoming season? “I want to beat Plant, and I want to make to state.”
What’s the one college offer that blew you away? “Michigan, that was a dream school of mine since I grew up as kid.”
What’s your summertime jam? What gets you going? “True, by Spandau Ballet.”
Pardon? “Spandau Ballet. I’m a little old school. Sometimes I like to listen to George Michael, too. Careless Whisper.”
Wow. I mean …wow? “Ask my teammates. I like to be relaxed for games. That relaxes me.”
So when I see you warming up before a game with your headphones on, wondering what kind of nasty beats you are listening to, it’s Careless Whisper. Careless Whisper?! “Absolutely.”
Position/school: OL, Nature Coast
Why we ranked him: Most offensive linemen go largely unnoticed. Not Pellage. He is a proven, durable starter who has become a four-star recruit with offers from 30 schools, including Alabama, FSU and Ohio State. He is the centerpiece of a line that will be counted on to open holes for DeShawn Smith in what could be a devastating rushing attack. Whoever emerges at quarterback will also have the luxury of having Pellage as his personal protector.
Position/school: LB, Armwood
Why we ranked him: Jordan Griffin is pretty much everything you want in a kid. He’s smart, polite, gregarious and a leader. He just happens to be a really good football player, too. Swift feet, great pass coverage skills and an innate ability to read plays, Griffin had 150 tackles last season, four sacks, two interceptions and enough big hits to fill Santa’s sleigh. He had 22 tackles — tying his career high — in a playoff win, and 18 in another. He’s a big reason Armwood’s defense ranks among the state’s best.
Position/school: LB, East Lake
Five reasons we like Lydon
1. You’ll never walk away from an East Lake game wondering, “Did Carson Lydon play tonight”? You’re going to see No. 3 quite a bit, sacking, rushing, defending, intercepting. And we hear he might add rushing for a TD or pass reception to that list this fall.
2. He had 149 tackles last season to lead East Lake. And many of those hurt. We don’t know this from first-hand experience, and having seen many of them in person, we’re thankful for that.
3. Lydon makes big plays. He ran an interception in for a score. Blocked a field goal. Blocked a punt, grabbed the ball and ran it in for a touchdown last season. Grabbed another blocked punt and ran that in, too.
4. Do you know how many nine- and 10-minute highlight videos we watched while putting this list together? Too many. Lydon’s is just under six minutes. So we watched it twice. Lydon had eight sacks, seven quarterback hurries, two interceptions and three blocked kicks, so he had some highlights to choose from.
5. Lydon is headed to Virginia Tech to play college football, his choice among more than a dozen BCS schools seeking his services.
Position/school: DL, East Bay
We asked coach Frank LaRosa to tell us why Ford is No. 16.
“Marques is a special talent, on and off the field. Off the field, a true leader. Has never missed a practice or workout and is one of the most competitive young men I’ve ever coached. On the field, long and explosive! He is fast-twitched and combines it with a high motor. Marques’ length and athleticism can be a burden for most high school offensive linemen trying to block him. Only 16 years old, he can develop into a great player because of his superior effort and attitude!”
Position/school: OL/DL, Pasco
Why we ranked him: Much like his older brother Joey, Ivie just keeps growing and getting stronger. He had 62 tackles and two sacks last season on defense. He’s big and strong enough to dominate inside, and fast enough to play defensive end as well, and shows remarkable quickness at both. Heck, he’s so athletic and quick, that despite his size, he’ll play a role on offense as the fullback in Pasco’s power packages.
Position/school: DB, Armwood
Why we ranked him: Covington has exceptional cover skills, so much so that if we needed just one stop on any wide receiver to save the planet, we’ve got his number on speed dial. He had 35 tackles and four interceptions last year, and scored three times. Covington is a rare breed that not only welcomes the pressure of being a shutdown corner, but thrives on it.
Position/school: S/LB, Largo
Largo football is a family affair for Crawford.
His uncle, Jesse Bennett, played for the Packers and was a teammate of new Largo coach Marcus Paschal.
Crawford’s first cousin is Largo quarterback Donavan Hale. They have played on the same football teams since they were 6 and basketball teams since they were 10.
Crawford always has been catching passes from Hale. This season, that combination could become prolific. After being used primarily as a third-down receiver, Crawford will have a more prominent role in Largo’s new spread offense. In the spring game against Palm Harbor University, Crawford had seven catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns.
“It should be fun this season on offense,” he said.
Crawford also will be a force in the Packers’ secondary. Most colleges want him as a defensive back, but Crawford said he would like to be a receiver at the next level. He has offers from Indiana, Iowa and Wake Forest that would allow him to do that. And he would like to keep catching passes from Hale.
“Donavan and I have talked about playing together in college,” Crawford said. “We have a lot of the same offers to make that happen. Hopefully, it works out.”
Position/school: WR, Robinson
By the numbers
6 Catches, a career high, vs. Sickles
182 Yards, a career high, vs. Sickles
8 Touchdowns last season, a team high
17.1 Yards per catch
20 College offers, before committing to Maryland
135 Yards on three kickoff returns
829 All-purpose yards
9.7 On a scale of 1-10, our ranking of his highlight video