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: DT, Plant
Why we ranked him: Henderson, who recently committed to Georgia Tech, was tied for fourth on the Panthers last season with 67 tackles, including 19 for loss. As the leading returning tackler, though, the future Yellow Jacket will be relied on heavily in 2014. Plant might undergo somewhat of a rebuilding season on defense, but with Henderson anchoring the line, we think the Panthers will be all right.
Position/school: DB, Lakewood
Why we ranked him: The Boca Ciega transfer is getting interest from major colleges like Ohio State, Florida, Florida State, Michigan State and Clemson, who have all offered. He played all over the field for the Pirates last season, but expect Smith to see time mostly at cornerback with the Spartans. His size, speed and physical play will make life miserable for receivers and quarterbacks.
Position/school: DB, Pinellas Park
Why we ranked him: Watson showed last season that he can cover the best wide receivers around, and he is not shy about mixing it up with pass catchers at the line of scrimmage and letting his speed do the rest. He had 72 tackles in 2013, with four interceptions and 16 passes defended. Pinellas County is flush with strong defensive backs this season, and we think Watson, who has 10 college offers, belongs in any discussion about which one is the best.
Position/school: ATH, Zephyrhills
We asked some of Pickett’s peers what they thought of him. They DM’d us on Twitter:
Brad Mayes, Berkeley Prep QB: “Jaylen’s the man. He was always the one telling the jokes and making us laugh on Team Tampa. He made me buy him fries tho at dinner once.”
Nathan Johnson, Sunlake RB: “Hard worker and can kill you with his quickness.”
Shane Bucenell, Wiregrass Ranch QB: “Jaylen is relentless and explosive, and in my opinion one of the best athletes that not just zhills has ever seen but all of Tampa. He will blow up this year.”
Jacob Mathis, Berkeley Prep WR: “Jaylen is a clown but when it comes to football its all business.”
Jordan Griffin, Armwood LB: “Jaylen is someone who makes players around him better.”
Position/school: RB, Ridgewood
Wilson ran for 1,518 yards last year, scoring 14 times. And he carried the ball more than 30 times in three games, making him, well, pretty unbreakable Glass. While we know he is the No. 1 player in Tampa Bay named Glass, where does he rank among other glass?
1. Heart of Glass: Sorry, Mr. Wilson, but you’re edged out here by Blondie’s 1979 hit off her Parallel Lines album. You weren’t born yet, but I’m pretty sure your parents may have left the club humming her tune.
2. Glass Wilson
3. Ira Glass: The This American Life host might be the most famous Glass, and his voice is certainly the most soothing. But the last name Glass loses out to the first name Glass.
4. Glass houses: They have a great view, but what’s the point if you can’t throw stones?
5. The Glass Menagerie: This play made Tennessee Williams famous. The CliffsNotes version we read in high school wasn’t bad either.
6. Google Glass: Maybe one day, when you Google “Glass,” Glass Wilson will come up first. For now, though, it’s those goofy specs.
Position/school: RB, St. Petersburg Catholic
Why we ranked him: Fuller gained 1,258 yards last season — and that was after sharing carries with Tony Jones and Stephon Williams. This season, Fuller will be the main focus in new coach Dave Cleppe’s offense. He will be used not only as a runner but as a receiver out of the backfield and a kick returner. “This is my year to make a big impact on the team,” he said.
Position/school: RB, Jesuit
Why we ranked him: Newman is a repeat selection in the HT100 (No. 71 last year) and we think he’s headed toward a big finale to his high school career. He had four touchdowns and more than 100 yards in one half of the Tigers’ spring game. Newman may not have elite speed, but he is smooth, shifty, powerful and has a knack for shaking off would-be tacklers. His soft hands make him a valuable weapon in the passing game as well. We expected big things last year. This year, we expect even bigger things.
Position/school: DB/WR, Tampa Catholic
Why we ranked him: As a freshman, Sanders played a pretty mean defensive back for the Crusaders. He had 31 tackles, 12 passes defended and an interception, while amassing more than 350 return yards on special teams. But that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg for Sanders, who will continue being a lockdown corner. He also possesses great hands and speed for the wide receiver position. As a slot, we think he projects as one of the best in Tampa Bay. The 2017 prospect will be hot in recruiting circles next spring.
Position/school: LB, Wiregrass Ranch
What was your most memorable game in 2013? “It would probably be Ridgewood (a 37-14 win). I had the most tackles in that game that I’ve ever had, 25.”
If you had to play another position, what would it be? “Probably quarterback.”
If you could steal any other Tampa Bay player to put on your team, who would it be? “(Tampa Bay Tech’s) Deon Cain. He’s just a really good athlete overall.”
When you’re not playing football, what’s your favorite thing to do? “Going to the beach.”
What was the first football team you played on? “The New Tampa Wildcats. I was 7.”
How many games will Wiregrass Ranch (4-6 in 2013) win this season? “Seven.”
Position/school: DL, Lakewood
Why we ranked him: Edwards, who has interest from mid-major schools, is not physically dominant. At first glance he looks like he belongs in the secondary. But on game days, he spends most of his time in the backfield. With so many athletes around him, Edwards could get lost in the shuffle, but he came up big during the Spartans’ playoff run last season. He had 26 sacks in 13 games, then added five sacks in the spring game against Ocala Vanguard. “I’m telling you, Jordan Edwards is going to have a big season,” coach Cory Moore said.