With the 2012 blue chippers put to rest — Nelson Agholor went wire-to-wire, unsurprisingly — and the next week heading into signing day certainly set to be devoted to their quests to find college homes, it’s time for a quick look ahead to 2013.
We’ve come up with a list of what we feel will be the best top 25 players in Tampa Bay.
Everyone on the list last year will be heading off to a Division I-A school, or at least have offers to.
The same should one day be said for the next group.
But whereas we all agreed last year on the order of our top three — Agholor, Dante Fowler and Tyriq McCord — our 2013 list was a struggle.
How do you choose the best between Wharton defensive back Vernon Hargreaves, Armwood safety Leon McQuay and wide receiver Alvin Bailey, and St. Petersburg Catholic running back Ryan Green?
For that matter, you can make a strong case that we’ve already erred if Lakewood wide receiver Rodney Adams isn’t in that group.
Bailey was our offensive Player of the Year last season. Of the Fab 5 we’ve mentioned, he is least flush with offers, but as good as anyone.
We started with Bailey at No. 1.
But Hargreaves projects better, and there is no better lockdown corner in the state than the Wildcat. No. 1 it was.
But McQuay has his supporters in the office, who made this point: he’s a freak athlete, the likes of which rarely come along. He can roll out of bed and qualify for state in the high jump, if he wants. Why isn’t he No. 1, asked one staffer.
So McQuay took his spin at No. 1.
And maybe this speaks to the depth of the class, but we seriously considered Pasco’s Janarion Grant, based on his performance last year — almost 500 yards rushing, 950 yards and 14 touchdowns receiving and deadly on kick returns. Next to Bailey, he was the most impressive player we saw last season.
But the Pirate was never tabbed to captain the 2013 ship, and we continue to be curious if one day he might.
In the end, we decided (and by decided, I mean made deadline, while the debate still rages) on Green, whose list of offers is almost identical to Hargreaves and McQuay and includes all the state schools.
Truthfully, you could make a list of the top four guys in any order, and we’d have no problem agreeing with it. With a quartet like this, you can’t go wrong.
Green, though, is our No. 1, for this reason: no one is a more a tireless worker, faster, or stronger for his 5-foot-10, 190-pound size. He is an electrifying back and gamebreaker in the return game as well, and looking ahead to what we presume will be an improved offensive line at SPC, it’s easy to imagine him becoming the second Pinellas County ever to rush for 2,000 yards (Largo’s Dexter
McCluster, now with the Kansas City Chiefs, was the first) and ending up with an offer list that stretches to every neck of the college woods.
He is clearly the area’s hottest recruit at the moment.
We like our list. We’ll expand it to 50 in the spring.
Chances are the debate won’t be any easier then.
Our top 25 (for now)
1. Ryan Green, St. Petersburg Catholic, RB, 5-11, 186
2. Vernon Hargreaves, Wharton, DB, 6-0, 160