Our second annual countdown of the top 100 football players in Tampa Bay — compiled after a spring and summer of evaluating talent, and a couple of brawls between staffers.
Class, school: Sr., St. Petersburg Catholic
Ht/wt: 6-2, 245
Breakdown: Halapio has done a little bit of everything for the Barons. He excels at defensive end, but can also play inside. He will see some action at linebacker. He starts at right tackle, and can also carry the ball. He can punt, and once even returned one for a touchdown. He had a breakout junior season, wreaking havoc on defense and leading his team with 15.5 sacks.
Class, school: Jr., Armwood
Ht/wt: 6-0, 170
Breakdown: Johnson did a little bit of everything for the Hawks last year, but has established himself as the starting quarterback heading into 2014. While 7-on-7 play may not be a fair judge of any player, Johnson earned MVP honors at the Battle of the Bay and drew plenty of praise from his coaches. His throwing motion is unorthodox, but Johnson has enough weapons to stabilize the quarterback position at Armwood for the first time in a few years.
Class, school: Sr., Palm Harbor University
Ht/wt: 6-0, 190
Breakdown: Too short to be a big-time prospect, but Kaminski is underrated and an excellent high school quarterback. His 10-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio last year was sterling, and he’s nimble enough to have added eight touchdowns rushing as well. The productive lefty throws a nice ball, but defections will deprive him of his top targets and make 2013 a huge challenge.
Class, school: Sr., Wesley Chapel
Ht/wt: 6-2, 220
Breakdown: Last year at East Bay, Bennett had 67 tackles, 10 for loss, and 12.5 sacks. Bennett, one of Hillsborough County’s top defensive ends in 2012, will still line up at end and tackle and linebacker, but he’ll also be taking his talents to fullback, tight end and wide receiver.
Class, school: So., Blake
Ht/wt: 6-3, 230
Breakdown: The sophomore has grown a few inches and put on 30 pounds since the beginning of his freshman year, which was a pretty impressive debut. Manuel had 10 sacks in 2012, including multiple-sack games against Wharton, Gibbs and Lennard. He also had 33 tackles. Manuel should be a force off the edge for years to come.
Class, school: Jr., Plant
Ht/wt: 6-1, 160
Breakdown: Baity is one of a number of relatively unknown Panthers expected to emerge this year as a top player. He has a nice frame and great instincts, and will team with Mazzi Wilkins to give the Panthers one of the best corner tandems in Tampa Bay. His big offseason led to an offer from USF, with more likely to come.
Class, school: Jr., St. Petersburg Catholic
Ht/wt: 5-9, 165
Breakdown:Stepped in for FSU-bound Ryan Green last fall and rushed for 104 yards against Crescent City and 230 (on 20 carries) against Lemon Bay before a season-ending injury. Fuller is the fastest Baron, and will be the speed element in a backfield that also possesses good power backs. Injuries have prevented a breakout season, which should come in 2013.
Class, school: Jr., Indian Rocks Christian
Ht/wt: 5-11, 165
Breakdown: King was a playmaker last season, averaging more than 10 yards a carry, 20 yards a catch and picking off six passes. He scored 10 TDs on 45 offensive touches, an impressive ratio. This year King can play wherever the Golden Eagles need him, including quarterback, where he started in the spring game. But the Golden Eagles know that one of their keys to success is making sure he touches the ball wherever he lines up.
Class, school: Sr., Seminole
Ht/wt: 5-9, 180
Breakdown: Stepped in as the starter halfway through last season and ran for more than 600 yards. This year, Dickens will run behind a more experienced offensive line and is on a mission. He rushed for 240 yards in the spring game, and new coach Chris Miller will feed this shifty, elusive runner the rock enough times in 2013 that we’d be surprised with anything less than 1,000 yards.
Class, school: Sr., East Bay
Ht/wt: 5-10, 200
Breakdown:Romeo may be undersized, but he is not under productive. The bowling ball linebacker had 119 tackles last season to lead the Indians, and headed into his fourth season as a starter, he should do so again. Coach Frank LaRosa says, simply put, Romeo is a baller and the one guy he would want having his back in a battle.