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 41 through 50.
Position/school: QB, Alonso
Oladokun threw 23 touchdowns against just three interceptions last season. Sure, those are big numbers, but where does the Ravens’ gunslinger rank among our favorite athletes whose last names begin with O-L-A?
1. Hakeem Olajuwon: The greatest post game of all time? Maybe. But the guy not only scored points, grabbed rebounds and blocked shots (the most in NBA history, by the way), he was the king of nicknames. They called him the Dream. He played for Phi Slama Jama. He was one half of the Twin Towers (with Ralph Sampson). Oladokun uses Young Grasshopper in his Twitter handle, but he needs to get his nickname game in gear.
2. Oladokun: We do kind of dig Young Grasshopper.
3. Jose Maria Olazabal: Won the Masters twice. Green jackets bring out the blue in his eyes.
4. Victor Oladipo: Orlando Magic’s top pick last year could be the centerpiece of a revival in O-town.
5. Michael Olajide: Nicknamed Silk, he was 27-5 as a No. 1 middleweight boxer, and fought Tommy Hearns and some guy named Ray Ray Gray (in case you were wondering if there had ever been any Ray Rays before the McClouds came along).
Position/school: QB, Berkeley Prep
Why we ranked him: Mayes has improved every season and seems to be poised for a breakout year. Heck, his career numbers for three seasons are 2,200 yards passing and 19 touchdowns. Who’s to say he doesn’t do that this year. Mayes has good protection, a nice stable of running backs and trusty hands like Jacob Mathis to catch his passes. Combine that with experience and smarts, and the Bucs could ride Mayes right into the playoffs this fall.
Position/school: WR, Armwood
Why we ranked him: Do you know how many players return for Armwood that had at least one touchdown catch last season? Yeah, just one: Laurent. The Hawks’ leading receiver with 36 catches for 580 yards and six touchdowns was, and will remain, Noah Johnson’s top target in 2014. With swift feet and reliable hands, he should be in any conversation about Tampa Bay’s best receivers. Why we really think he’s hitting his prep prime? In his final five games last season, Laurent had 17 catches, five for touchdowns, and 330 yards.
Position/school: DB, Gibbs
It seemed like it took an instant for Watts to go from an anonymous freshman in the Gibbs secondary to one of the most highly recruited players in the area. After a sophomore season at cornerback and running back, Watts caught the attention of college coaches.
He started getting offers from schools like Indiana, Iowa State, Connecticut and Marshall. Then over the spring came offers from Ohio State and Florida.
“Florida wants him badly,” coach Rick Kravitz said.
When the fall season begins, expect Watts to get even more interest. Watts will likely get carries at running back, return kicks, anchor the defensive backfield and could even handle kicking duties.
“I started on varsity my freshman year so I feel like I have a lot of experience,” Watts said. “I’ve been working very hard ever since I got here and I believe hard work is the key.”
As for where he would rather play in college?
“I’d prefer to stay on the defensive side of the ball because I like to hit,” Watts said. “It’s better to hit than get hit.’’
Position/school: RB, Clearwater Central Catholic
Five things we like about him
1. He made quite an impact last season, earning second-team honors on MaxPreps’ freshman All-American team.
2. Modest numbers from last season should improve considering he is the team’s top returning receiver (464 yards) and second-leading rusher (391 yards).
3. He will be catching passes from quarterback Jeff Smith (Boston College commit) and running behind offensive lineman Billy Atterbury (a Division I recruit).
4. Cotman’s best highlights could come in the return game, where he averaged 26 yards on kickoffs and 17 yards on punts in 2013.
5. He already has an offer from UCF and is expected to get more this year.
Position/school: QB, Armwood
Why we ranked him: He’s one of the best quarterbacks in the area, so it’s only fitting he’ll be leading the charge for arguably the best team in Tampa Bay. Last season Johnson led the Hawks all the way to the Class 6A state championship game, throwing for nearly 2,000 yards and 18 touchdowns while adding 809 yards and 14 TDs on the ground. The dual-threat quarterback is just one of Armwood’s many weapons that could bring the Hawks right back to the championship game.
Position/school: QB, Sickles
Why we ranked him: We’re pretty sure Holder is the most underrated quarterback in Tampa Bay, primarily because Sickles isn’t regarded as a passing team and because of some guy named Ray Ray McCloud. But Holder has vast potential, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see him throw for 2,000 yards and rush for another 1,000 this season. Lofty expectations, sure. But did you know Holder threw for 1,800 last year with a sterling 18-2 TD to INT ratio, and ran for 572? Probably not. See what we’re saying?
Position/school: ATH, Steinbrenner
By the numbers
2 Kickoff returns for touchdowns in one quarter vs. Tampa Bay Tech last year
88 Yards on the first
87 Yards on the second
24.75 Yards per punt return last year
35.75 Yards per kickoff return last year
35 Receptions last year, for 556 yards and six TDs
119 Receiving yards against Wharton last year, a career best
1,341 All-purpose yards last year, 588 more than the next best Warrior
Position/school: RB, Pinellas Park
Why we ranked him: If the Pinellas Park backfield was called Thunder and Lightning, Maxson would certainly be the lightning. He showed that in the spring, when he gained 74 yards on three carries against Orlando Boone and had a 50 yard TD run. Maxson gained 1,208 yards as a junior and he could get even more this year in the Patriots’ wing-T formation. Maxson has several mid-major and I-AA offers, including Air Force, Georgia State, Wofford and North Dakota State. His stock could go up even more this fall.
Position/school: WR, Berkeley Prep
Why we ranked him: Mathis has emerged as one of Tampa Bay’s top receiving prospects over the past few months, picking up offers from Florida, Miami and Ole Miss, to name a few. He led Berkeley Prep last season with 22 catches, 330 yards and three touchdowns, and those numbers should go up this season. Mathis is too big for your regular cornerback and also a good blocker. Whether he develops into a tight end or a big wideout, this much is clear: he should be virtually unstoppable this fall.