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 21 through 30.
Position/school: ATH, Indian Rocks Christian
Why we ranked him: King is a dual threat on offense. He can run (89 carries, 903 yards, 12 TDs), and he can catch (33 catches, 615 yards, 10 TDs). He also returns kickoffs and punts, and had six interceptions as a defensive back. That kind of versatility has schools like Missouri, Indiana, Kansas State, Ball State and Liberty interested.
Position/school: QB, Clearwater Central Catholic
Why we ranked him: The Boston College recruit is just as much of a threat to run as he is to throw, so much so that he is the team’s top returning rusher (611 yards) despite being a full-time starter under center in just five regular-season games last year. He led the Marauders to the Class 3A state title game and should put up even bigger numbers with a deep, talented offense that is the strength of the program this year.
Position/school: RB/LB, Pinellas Park
Why we ranked him: He’s named after Superman and plays a little like him as well. This could be a huge year for Williams, who committed to Florida Atlantic in June. He gained 776 yards in 12 games last season as the Patriots’ pounding fullback. He is even bigger and stronger this season, and ran over Orlando Evans in the spring. With several fast backs around him, it will be Williams’ job to run through opponents. “If I get into the secondary, there isn’t a DB in the county who can tackle me,” Williams said. And if an opposing back gets past the front line, Williams will be there to lower the boom at linebacker.
Position/school: RB, Sunlake
Five reasons we dig Johnson
1. Productive! He ran for more than 1,500 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. And in every game but two, he had at least 100 yards and one score.
2. Strong and balanced! On his highlight tape, he has touchdown runs of 72, 23, 31, 25 and 32 yards after first contact, on plays he probably should have been tackled. But Johnson has an uncanny knack for regaining his balance and staying on his feet, churning through would-be tacklers for extra yards.
3. Speed and shiftiness! Look, Johnson isn’t running a 4.4 out there, but he doesn’t have to. He stays low, explodes through openings and once he gets going, he’s rarely run down from behind.
4. Consistency! Guess which running back has the longest streak of 100-yard games entering this season? No, no, and no. It’s Johnson. He goes into 2014 on a run of 10 straight 100-yard games.
5. He’s good! Johnson dominated the spring game against Wiregrass Ranch (he even caught a couple of passes), and there’s no reason he won’t be repeating that effort week after week this fall.
Position/school: DE, Tampa Catholic
Why we ranked him: As one of just two freshmen on the Crusaders’ roster two years ago, Barrow racked up 42 tackles. He’s only gotten better from there, and that’s good news for a Tampa Catholic team that graduated its leading tackler from the past two seasons. The Crusaders have lost talent on both sides of the ball, but Barrow — who has 13 college offers so far — will help anchor a defense aiming to prove it hasn’t skipped a beat.
Position/school: ATH, Indian Rocks Christian
By the numbers
1,090 Yards gained as a sophomore, most by any IRC rusher
10.58 Yards per carry, also a team high
88 Longest run last season, against Shorecrest
25 Touchdowns scored in two seasons (five as a freshman, 20 as a sophomore)
10 Sacks as a sophomore, also a team high
1,773 Projected yards Anderson could gain this season, factoring in his jump from freshman (407) to sophomore year
Position/school: QB, Largo
Why we ranked him: He might be the best two-sport athlete in the area, with solid offers in basketball (Florida State) and football (Virginia Tech, Louisville). The Packers, under new coach Marcus Paschal, seem content to put the ball in Hale’s hands and see what he can do. In the spring, Hale threw for nearly 300 yards and three touchdowns in three quarters against Palm Harbor University.
Position/school: TE/DL, Tarpon Springs
The two-sport star helped the Spongers reach the playoffs in both football and basketball (he averaged 10.2 points, 5.8 rebounds) last year. Last month, he committed to USF, where he’ll play tight end.
What is better, game-winning shot or game-winning touchdown? “Game-winning touchdown as time expires.”
Tarpon Springs will make the playoffs in football if… “We have (running back) Michael Ford ready to go. Brandon (Casler) and the receiving corps are on the same page, and the defense is tough.”
What’s worse, losing a district game or losing to (bitter rival) East Lake? “Losing to East Lake.”
Which team makes a deeper run in the playoffs: Tarpon football or Tarpon basketball? “Tarpon basketball. Final four.”
Position/school: OL, Clearwater Central Catholic
Why we ranked him: The three-year starter anchors a veteran offensive line that was particularly strong in the ground game with more than 3,500 yards rushing last season. His ability to open holes has attracted the attention of colleges since he was a sophomore. The three-star recruit has offers from 12 schools, including Syracuse, UCF and USF. He could make his decision before the start of the season.
Position/school: DB, Plant
Why we ranked him: Baity had to share the spotlight last season with college football-bound defensive backs Mazzi Wilkins and Bernard Rogers, but 2014 is Baity’s time to shine. The Panther — who has 15 offers, including ones from UCF, Wisconsin and Louisville — finished last season with 40 tackles, a fumble recovery and three interceptions. Now, as the undeniable star of Plant’s pass coverage, we’re expecting a whole lot more of where that came from.