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 71 through 80.
Position/school: RB, Nature Coast
Five reasons we like him
1. Smith had 719 yards rushing last season, 377 more than any other returning back on the team.
2. His 50-yard game-winning run against Pasco last season was considered one of the top plays nationally.
3. He came on strong at the end of 2013, rushing for more than 100 yards in three of his last five games.
4. Smith gets to run behind lineman Christian Pellage, a four-star recruit.
5. In the spring game, Smith rushed for 80 yards and scored in a half to beat Astronaut 7-0.
Position/school: WR, Spoto
Did you know? McCoy lights it up on the football field — he had a team-leading 578 yards receiving and three touchdowns last season — but he’s also made a name for himself in track and field. The senior finished second at the Class 3A track meet in the triple jump this year. When he’s not playing a sport, McCoy said his favorite thing to do is hang out with his three young nephews, two of whom have already taken to the track. “I’ve been trying to help them,” the proud uncle said.
Position/school: WR, Largo
Why we ranked him: The diminutive receiver has a flair for the dramatic, hauling in Hail Mary passes for winning touchdowns in each of the past two seasons. He doesn’t just wait until the last moment to make an impact. Campbell is the team’s top returning receiver in receptions (28) and yards (428). He also can make things happen in the return game with a 27-yard average on kickoffs.
Position/school: RB, Plant
Why we ranked him: The small but speedy running back was Plant’s leading rusher last season, accruing nearly 1,000 yards — and that was while sharing touches with ATH Alex “Buda” Jackson. Now that Jackson’s graduated, we expect Brooks could do even more. The senior had some big touchdowns down the stretch, including the winner in the Panthers’ overtime thriller against Dr. Phillips. Brooks said he’s ready to be the go-to guy, and he’s already got a big goal in mind: hit the 2,000-yard mark. “I think it’s possible with the line we have this year,” Brooks said.
Position/school: WR/FS, Blake
Juwan Burgess has been an Andre “Freakshow” Davis fan since he was just a kid. He went to school with Andre’s little sister, Alise, and while Davis was leading Jefferson to the 2010 state championship, the two followed along closely and talked about it in the hallways.
And, of course, he loved the nickname.
But not everyone can just be called Freakshow. You have to earn it.
Next season, Burgess did just that. After “mossing two people” in the end zone to catch a touchdown pass in a little league game, the announcer declared that “Freakshow Joe” had done it again.
“Ever since that catch, I always went by Freakshow Joe,” Burgess said.
And why not? Though just a sophomore, Burgess is a talented athlete with a wealth of potential. He is very good in pass coverage, mercurial on kick returns and electric as a wide receiver.
“Juwan can do a little bit of everything, and do it well,” said Blake coach Darryl Gordon.
Last year, Freakshow Joe had 712 all-purpose yards, eight catches and a touchdown, averaged 31 yards a kick return, 17 on punt returns, had 40 tackles and a team-high five interceptions.
Defensive back is his favorite position, because with his flash comes some fury: “I like making hits,’’ he said.
His versatility has already convinced Kentucky to offer him, and more will come as Burgess develops.
“I know I have work to do,” Burgess said. “By the time I’m done, everyone will have noticed the difference.”
Position/school: OL/DL, Berkeley Prep
Why we ranked him: Peek had quarterbacks singing Miley Cyrus last season: “He came in like a wrecking ball!” A major force on the interior line, Peek can overpower offensive linemen, and once past them, chase down the quarterback or ball carrier. He’s already picked up offers from USF, UCF, Ole Miss and Syracuse, to name a few.
Position/school: RB, Armwood
Most memorable game last season? “(Against Bartram Trail in the state semifinals.) It went into overtime and I came in the clutch and was able to give my team a boost in the third quarter with a 10-yard touchdown.”
If you could play another position, what would it be? “Cornerback.”
Who is the best player in Tampa Bay? “It has to be (Sickles RB) Ray Ray McCloud.”
Who do you look up to in football? “Marshawn Lynch for the Seattle Seahawks.”
What NFL player do you feel you play like? “Probably Giovani Bernard, who plays for the Bengals.”
What is your biggest goal in 2014? “My biggest goal is to take my team back to the state championship. My personal goal is to get over 1,000 yards and help my team out.”
Position/school: ATH, Alonso
By the numbers
2 Career touchdowns at Alonso
8 Varsity games played
51 Rushing yards in a 2012 game against Sickles
54 Career carries
184 Rushing yards in seven games last season
Position/school: OL, Palm Harbor University
Why we ranked him: The younger brother of Stanford-bound Reilly Gibbons, Dillan could potentially be even better. He is nearly as big as Reilly already and has a bit of a mean streak on the field. Gibbons played varsity as a freshman last season for St. Petersburg Catholic on both the offensive and defensive lines. His future is on the offensive line. He has already gained more than 50 pounds since his freshman year. Expect the Hurricanes to run behind Gibbons for the next three years.
Position/school: DB/WR, Largo
Why we ranked him: This has more to do with potential. Drayton was an afterthought in the passing game with one reception for 8 yards a year ago. Of course that catch was for a touchdown. We expect Drayton to find the end zone more often as productive target in a passing game capable of big plays. He also will be just as valuable as a defensive back after causing two fumbles and recovering one last season.